Transsexuals Expelled from MWMF

Davina Anne Gabriel Background | Davina Anne Gabriel Memorial | Letter to Lesbian Connection | 1993 Press Release

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Reply-To: Nancy Jean Burkholder
From: Nancy Jean Burkholder

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Transsexual Womyn Expelled From Michigan Womyn’s Music

WALHALLA, MI — Four postoperative male-to-female
transsexual lesbians were expelled from the 18th annual
Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MWMF) by festival security
staff on the third day of the event. The four womyn, who
had undergone sex change surgery from 2 to 14 years
earlier, and a nontranssexual supporter attended the
festival to raise consciousness among participants about
the festival’s policy of excluding transsexual womyn, the
unclear and contradictory statement of policy in the
festival literature, and issues of gender in general.
Womyn opposed to transsexuals at MWMF attempted to silence
them by destroying their educational materials.

The five womyn arrived at the festival on Monday, August 9,
and none encountered any difficulty gaining admittance to
the festival. One of the transsexual womyn was Nancy
Burkholder of New Hampshire, who had been expelled from the
festival in 1991; she purchased her ticket at the front
gate without incident. The other transsexual womyn were
Davina Gabriel of Missouri, Wendi Kaiser of Maine, and Rica
Fredrickson of Pennsylvania.

The next day, the five womyn set up a table at which they
distributed literature and buttons and asked womyn who
opposed the exclusionary policy to sign a petition seeking
its repeal. The four transsexual womyn freely discussed
their experiences as transsexuals with festival
participants who approached the table.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the five womyn did workshifts in
the kitchen, at the medical and emotional support areas,
and at the Sober Support tent. Transsexual womyn provided
medical care, including taking a hemorrhaging womon to an
area hospital in the middle of the night, extended a
helping hand to those in need of friendly support, and
prepared food. They also attended concerts, ate meals,
took showers, and shopped in the crafts bazaar with other
festival participants, without incident.

At approximately 4:30 pm on Thursday, Janis Walworth of
Massachusetts, the nontranssexual member of the party, and
Kaiser, who were staffing the literature table, were
approached by two womyn, one of whom identified herself as
MWMF security coordinator. She told Walworth that the
transsexual womyn were in violation of the festival’s
“womyn-born womyn” only policy, and that they must
therefore leave the festival. Walworth replied that it was
not clear that the transsexual womyn were in violation of
the policy as stated, since they all identify as womyn-born

The security coordinator went on to say that some festival
participants had complained about the presence of
transsexual womyn at the festival, asking security to
remove the transsexual womyn from the land and vowing to
take matters into their own hands if security did not do
so. Security felt, therefore, that it could no longer
guarantee the safety of the transsexual womyn. In
addition, the security womyn were reluctant to assure
Walworth that she would continue to be safe at the
festival, since she had been seen staffing the literature
table and associating with the transsexual womyn.

The festival catalogue calls upon womyn who attend the
festival to dialogue and listen to one another and
explicitly states that “violence against womyn in any form
is not acceptable in this community, on this land.”
However, no apparent action was taken against the womyn who
threatened Walworth and the transsexual womyn.

The security coordinator pointed out that members of the
party had been openly discussing their transsexuality at
the literature table, thus alerting many womyn to the fact
that there were transsexuals on the land. She implied that
if they had not revealed their transsexuality to anyone,
they would not have been asked to leave–in effect, “don’t
ask, don’t tell.”

The four transsexual womyn returned to their campsite and
packed up their belongings. However, they were delayed in
leaving the festival grounds until approximately 11:00 pm
because so many womyn stopped them on their way out to
express support. A contingent of leatherwomyn offered to
guarantee the safety of the transsexual womyn at their
campsite for the duration of the festival and strongly
attempted to dissuade them from leaving. However, the
transsexual womyn collectively decided to honor their
agreement to cooperate with security and declined the

Upon leaving the festival site, the transsexual womyn set
up camp across the road on National Forest land. The
following morning, they set up another literature table,
along with neon pink banners proclaiming “Transsexual Womyn
Expelled From Festival” and “Too Out To Be In!” A steady
stream of womyn came out from the festival to spend time
with the transsexual womyn and to express their support;
they brought vegetables, soda, hamburgers, fried chicken,
flowers, and encouragement. Throughout the remainder of
the festival, the transsexual womyn continued to distribute
literature and buttons and to talk with womyn about gender
issues and the exclusionary policy. Festival participants
who visited the transsexual womyn reported that sentiment
inside the festival was overwhelmingly supportive of their
participation in MWMF, and there was outrage at their

Inside the festival, nontranssexual womyn helped staff the
inside literature table, and Walworth conducted two
sessions of a workshop entitled “Confronting Transphobia,”
as well as a workshop on gender and shamanism which had
been scheduled to be presented by Gabriel.

On Friday evening, the transsexual womyn were joined by a
fifth transsexual womon, Riki Anne Wilchins of New York
City, who flew in to present her workshop, “21 Things You
Don’t Say to a Transsexual.” Although Wilchins had
originally planned to enter the festival, she chose to
remain outside with the four expelled transsexual womyn.
Womyn inside the festival who wanted to attend Wilchins’
workshop unanimously agreed to move the location to the
area outside the front gate. Approximately 75 womyn walked
the mile to attend the two workshop sessions.

Saturday morning, when the literature table inside the
festival was left unattended for a short time, all
literature, buttons, display racks, signed petitions, and
completed survey forms, as well as a donation can and
personal property, were stolen by undetermined
individuals. A womon reported seeing some of the buttons
deposited in a portable toilet, which Walworth reported to
MWMF security in hopes of avoiding damage to sewage pumps.

Also on Saturday, Walworth and Laura Ervin of
Massachusetts, who had traveled to the festival with
Burkholder in 1991, met with feminist author Kay Leigh
Hagan, who was acting as an official representative of the
festival producers, and the security coordinator. At that
meeting, Hagan disclosed that the festival producers,
Barbara Price and Lisa Vogel, are the sole determiners of
festival policy and that she did not anticipate that they
would change the antitranssexual policy in the near

* * * * * * * * *

Contacts: For more information, interviews with the womyn
involved, copies of literature distributed at the festival,
and photographs, contact:

Davina Anne Gabriel (816) 753-7816
Janis Walworth (508) 386-7737.

Available on disk.


“Good people are always so sure they’re right.”

–Barbara Graham’s last words
Executed June 3, 1955 at San Quentin