Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000 16:19:43 EST
Subject: Letter to LC re:Son of Camp Trans
The following is a letter which I have just sent to Lesbian Connection
regarding the “Son of Camp Trans” controversy. I don’t know if it will
be published or not, so I’d like to share it with ya’ll in advance.
Please feel free to pass it along to anyone you deem appropriate.
27 January 2000
This is in response to the renewed controversy regarding transsexual
attendance at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival sparked by the aptly
named group “Son of Camp Trans.” This controversy was initially
created by the expulsion of Nancy Burkholder from the festival in
I helped to organize and participated in a series of actions
protesting the festival’s “womyn-born-womyn” only policy in the four
years (1992-1995) following Nancy’s expulsion, and was the only
transsexual woman to both organize and participate in all four
actions. I was also the founder, editor and publisher of TransSisters:
the Journal of Transsexual Feminism.
Our stated intent from the very beginning was to persuade the
organizers to change the festival policy to allow postoperative — but
not preoperative — male-to-female transsexuals to attend. The reason
that we advocated only postoperative admission was that we believed
that the vast majority of the women who attend the festival would
support the inclusion of postop, but not preop, MTF transsexuals, and
we intended to respect the wishes of the women there. This belief was
subsequently confirmed by a survey we conducted in 1992, and by
numerous discussions held at workshops conducted at the festival.
The primary reason that these actions were discontinued after 1995 was
the concerted effort by Riki Anne Wilchins to both put herself in
charge of them and to force us to also advocate for the admission of
preoperative MTF transsexuals. Soon after the 1995 action, I dropped
out of all involement in the “transgender movement” in disgust because
I saw that it was increasingly moving in a very hostile and beligerent
direction of advocating that women who don’t want to have to see a
penis at a women’s festival should just get over it. Also, I felt that
the festival had moved to a de facto policy of allowing postop
transsexual women to attend; and while I would have preferred that
this be the festival’s ex officio policy, I was willing to settle for
a de facto policy if that was the price of keeping persons with
penises out of the festival and keeping people like Riki from
exploiting our actions.
I was deeply saddened and disturbed, but not surprised, to learn that
Riki had finally achieved her phallocentric objective of putting
penises in women’s faces that she has long been advocating and working
toward. I regard this as confirmation that I was correct in my
assessment of the “transgender movement” when I dropped out of it, as
well as of my claim that Riki is deeply misogynistic — a claim which
has been highly disputed within the “transgender movement.” Riki’s
actions remove all doubt of the veracity of my assertion.
I was at least somewhat gratified to learn that the preoperative
individuals whom Riki persuaded to expose themselves at the festival
were eventually persuaded to not re-enter the festival after meeting
with Lisa Vogel; and I hope that they have also come to realize just
how much they were exploited by Riki in order to further her own
insatiable ego trip.
Several letters have characteized not allowing anyone who identifies
as a woman to attend the festival as “transphobia.,” which it most
surely is not. I can say that it is not with such assurance because I
happen to be the person who initially coined the term “transphobia”
back in 1989, and I challenge anyone to find a prior useage of this
term. When I coined this term I certainly did not intend it to refer
to the desire to not have to see a penis at a women’s festival.
Other women have claimed that the process of gender deconstruction
inevitably leads to a position of having to allow anyone who
identifies as a woman to attend the festival. This is also not true.
One woman made the assertion in the previous issue that “Gender
deconstruction means precisely that people are to be responsible for
claiming thier own gender identity, and are not to rely on others to
define it for them.” This statement is nothing but self-serving
balderdash. The objective of any kind of deconstructionism is to
distinguish between what is socially constructed and what is not; it
is not to arrive at whatever preconceived conclusion that one wishes
to arrive at.
I was also quite disappointed to learn of the support provided to “Son
of Camp Trans” by the Lesbian Avengers; and have come to realize that
they are simply another organization that is more concerned about
playing that tired old discredited “more-radical-than-thou” game than
they are with the legitimate concerns of women at MWMF.
MWMF has a perfectly legitimate reason for excluding preoperative MTF
transsexuals; that is, that allowing them in would also open the door
to drag queens and anyone else who just wanted to enter. However,
allowing postoperative transsexual women to attend would not result in
such consequences. I hope that this will someday become its official
policy. The actions of groups like “Son of Camp Trans” only further
impede this goal.
Davina Anne Gabriel