An Open Letter to Alix Olson

I found this open letter (via video) to Alix Olson at Questioning Transphobia.

It’s also appropriate because this week marks the beginning of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (aka Michfest). It’s a festival that has been going on for 33 years, an intentional community that is built out of nothing in Michigan and creates a space for womyn to come together and celebrate music.

I’ve never been, but the festival has also caused a lot of controversy around it’s gender policy. Specifically, trans women feel they are being kept from attending the festival via the “womyn born womyn” policy. There was an incident in the past where a trans woman was removed from the festival when it was discovered (in the communal shower area) that her genitalia did not match the festival goers idea of female genitalia.

In response, Camp Trans was founded, a concurrent festival and protest of Michfest. It happens right across the road and many trans people and allies attend that festival instead. Julia Serrano has written extensively about this exclusion (including in the piece I linked last week) as have other feminists and activists.

Alix Olson, along with many other female artists and musicians perform at Michfest every year, which I assume is the reason she is the audience for this open letter. I actually had the opportunity to meet her at a performance she gave at American University last year, and I asked her about the Michfest controversy. Her response was that of all the conversations she had heard over the years about trans exclusion at the festival, the most productive or important ones had actually happened AT Michigan.

That might be a cop-out, and I know from talking to friends who have gone to the festival that it’s complicated since many of them really appreciate the space and community it creates. I personally think the festival should be open to people who identify as women (or womyn), and if there are issues with safety or harrassment (which seems to be a fear) then they should be dealt with directly, not via discriminatory policies.

Cross-posted at Feministing


One thought on “An Open Letter to Alix Olson

  1. belledame222 August 30, 2008 / 1:50 am

    It’s sort of telling that the “most productive conversations” she found were at MWMF, since essentially she’s saying that those were the conversations where no actual trans women were present, see. A bit like saying, I don’t know, the most productive conversations about whether to let population x into the country club took place at the country club. It does go a lot more smoothly when you don’t have to talk -to- any of the angry excluded people…

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