I refute and repudiate….
The following two public letters from Davina Anne Gabriel give you the words of a male-to-transsexual person who worked locally and nationally for three decades to force women only events to accept male to transsexual persons as women.
In the first letter, written in January 2000 to Lesbian Connection, he describes the activism he helped initiate to harass and intimidate Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, an important national festival and resource for women-only community events. (Note, (From the beginning to the end MWMF has used this alternative spelling.) In early 2016, the year of his death by his own hand, he wrote, “Please do not remember me as a ‘pioneer’ for transsexuals, or for any transgender causes. I refute and repudiate all of that now, as I no longer believe in any of it. The fact is that I utterly despise everything about being a transsexual, and I consider having been one to be a curse on my life that has brought nothing but pain and misery into it, and prevented me from realizing my full potential as a human being.”
In this farewell letter, he apologized “for any wrong I may have done to any of you, or for ever having offended you or hurt your feelings”. That hurt and that apology includes all the women and girls he injured with his decades of activism to destroy both small and large gatherings for women born women, for all of us XX Amazons.
Davina lived and worked in Kansas City, Missouri, where Jeanne and Paula encountered him as a male to transsexual person pressuring for inclusion in lesbian events. The Lesbian center, Lavender Umbrella, that we helped start in the mid-1980s in Kansas City closed, in large part because of disagreements among the lesbians about inclusion of male to transgender persons.
Susan first encountered Davina at a women’s spirituality event held west of Kansas City where Davina’s presence was again a disruptive factor. Susan attended every August gathering of women born women at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival for forty years, from 1976 to 2015!
Since the 1980s transgender activists applied a variety of strategies to force a change in the women only policy including economic pressure on any performer who worked at this festival. (Note: festival organizers never claimed to have a “policy”. Instead the organizers referred to the “intention” of the festival being for womyn.) Once again, the division among women over the issue of allowing men to define themselves as women and as lesbians severely divided our community. For many women and lesbians, Michigan was a central part of women’s culture and a breeding ground for women’s liberation. We believed it vital to preserve the festival for women and girls only.
Let’s start with a press release from 1993 written by Nancy Burkholder, a transsexual activist.
Nancy described in detail the ongoing efforts to gain entrance into the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MWMF). This included a “successful” attempt on the 18th annual MWMF by Davina and three other male to transsexual persons. The press release describes how the four invaders and one female supporter set up and staffed a literature table, did workshops, and attended events for several days. They were eventually asked by MWMF security to leave and did so. They then set up camp on National Forest land across the road from MWMF and put up a neon pink banner reading “Transsexual Womyn Expelled from Festival”.
Davina wrote a letter to Lesbian Connection (and published it elsewhere), dated January, 2000, which describes in detail the ongoing efforts to gain entrance into the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
Davina wrote, “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 (Burkholder) 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.”
Davina further explained, “The primary reason that these actions were discontinued after 1995 was the concerted effort by Riki Anne Wilchins to both put herself (sic) 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 involvement in the ‘transgender movement’ in disgust because I saw that it was increasingly moving in a very hostile and belligerent direction of advocating that women who don’t want to see a penis at a women’s festival should just get over it.”
A corroborating source adds to this information: from 1993 until 1995 Davina published the quarterly journal, mentioned earlier, TransSisters: The Journal of Transsexual Feminism, until he retired for “health reasons”. Jessica Xavier, who self-described as a staff writer for the journal, wrote an article in 1996 called “A Look back at TransSisters” (XX Amazons accessed this document in December, 2017) lamenting the loss of the journal. In describing the journal, Xavier wrote, “Indeed, with its in-depth coverage, TSisters came to embody our obsession with access to women-only space and particularly with Michigan’s infamous ‘womyn-born-womyn’ only policy.” Xavier also wrote that Davina stated in a March, 1996 letter to former subscribers that beyond the health concerns, Davina had become “increasingly disillusioned with the course of the ‘transgender movement'” and that “the overwhelming majority of the transsexual community is simply not interested in feminism or feminist values.”
True pro-feminist male allies would not ignore the desires of women and girls to camp in the woods free of any male attentions. To attempt to destroy our sacred space was clearly the goal of those activists. They succeeded. The last Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival was held in August, 2015. We, as a community, have lost much.
Too many lesbians, too many women, are drawn into the viewpoint of transgender activists while ignoring the needs and desires of those of us who declare women only space as vital and necessary for our well-being.
Here are the words Davina used in his last letter, “I also regret all of my previous activism on behalf of transgender causes, because I regret doing anything that might have encouraged anyone to follow in the same mistaken path that I have taken. Transgender persons are deluding themselves into believing they are empowering themselves by making it easier for them to change their sex, or by de-stigmatizing gender dysphoria…”
“Furthermore, I have come to the conclusion that transsexualism is a delusion, a psychological disorder, and a form of self-hatred. Rather than opening up new possibilities for me, it as constricted my life at every stage and in every way.
I say this because I have come to realize that all the causes of gender dysphoria are sociological in nature, and not biological. That means I no longer believe that anyone is in the ‘wrong body’, or is the ‘wrong sex’. The body into which nature places persons, and the sex it gives to them is always the right one. All feelings of being in the ‘wrong body’ or the ’wrong sex’ are caused by sociological factors, specifically the way in which sex and sexuality are socially constructed in this society. It is only because people internalize these social constructions that they experience conflict between minds and bodies.”
Read his words for yourself—there is much more in the letters. This strong language will not change his actions of the last decades. But perhaps his words will be educational to all who read them. As you can see in his final letter, he clearly expressed his wish for the entire letter to be posted on his Facebook page. This has not happened!
Davina’s Facebook page exists, but as of January, 2018 his wishes have not been honored. The letter was read to the crowd who attended the memorial service held on April 23, 2016 at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City. He clearly wanted all of this letter to be public knowledge. We found access to the farewelll letter at the University of Missouri, K.C. archives. The letter to Lesbian Connection is available online http://eminism.org/michigan/20000127-gabriel.txt.
We honor the effort it took for Davina to write that last letter refuting and repudiating his transsexual activism by publishing it here. We honor his last request to “remember me as someone who never gave up my search for truth or accepted a comfortable illusion instead of truth.”