Grief (Non kiddo related)
My heart is really heavy and I need to talk through it. I’ve been processing it with other people and need to get some things out and well, this is my blog so I am putting it here. I know that things I am about to say are unpopular – feel free to move along. Know I am writing and not editing – I may not get everything completely right with this. Forgive me. I emotionally can’t handle rereading to edit.
This August will be the last Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MWMF). MWMF is a 40 year old festival that takes place in the woods of Michigan each year and because of ongoing controversy it can’t continue. MWMF’s purpose (my words, not theirs) is to be a place for women and girls to recover from a patriarchal society and celebrate womanhood. It is come under fire because it is not trans* inclusive. The last statement festival organizers made asked that folks just respect the intention of the festival – meaning that if trans* women come, understand that the focus is on women who have survived girlhood.
I’m not going to debate it here. Years ago festival organizers stated that it is for “womyn born womyn”. Yeah, that’s shitty language. It was years ago. They didn’t have it right. The HRC pushed to have gender identity removed from ENDA and folks still support them. I’m moving past verbiage here.
I’m heartbroken about MWMF ending. I’m heartbroken because the reason it is opposed is because it is not trans* inclusive. It is not trans* inclusive because the purpose of the festival is to recover from being a girl in a patriarchal society and, for the most part, trans* women did not experience being socialized female as a child (I understand that this is increasingly not true and that’s an issue with this idea).
Being a girl is hard. Living in the patriarchy is hard. And I strongly believe that there is a shared experience in girlhood. I’ve talked to my friends. I’ve talked to girls. There are common themes of not feeling good enough and not being enough and depression and failed friendships and body image and femininity. Girls with conservative parents experience this. Girls with liberal parents experience this. Girls across the globe experience this. And MWMF was a place where some of that was undone. Where girls and women were free.
There is an assumption that because I go I do not think trans* women are women. That is wrong. There is an assumption that because I go I think trans* women are less than. That is wrong. What I believe is that I have a shared experience with the women there and we are there to heal together.
Festival ending says to me that girlhood and womanhood do not matter. That in order to be accepting of all we cannot be accepting of our different life herstories. That there is no need for people to heal from and celebrate this life experience.
MWMF saved my life. From 14 to 22 I had periods of time where I actively tried to kill myself. Going to festival saved me. I understood. I felt not alone. I recovered. It saved the lives of my best friends. It saved the life of a 14 year old girl I know and love. These are not statements to be dramatic – they are true. MWMF has saved the lives of hundreds and thousands of women – we had a place to go where we were heard and understood and where we felt worthy. And there has never been another place I have felt that kind of protection.
The goal of MWMF was to focus on women and girls recovering from girlhood. It was asked that the focus be on those who lived that experience. And it’s gone because in our culture that experience is not important. I understand that in the past trans* exclusionary statements had been made. At this point, it was just asked that the focus stayed where it needed to be. But asking for women and girls to be the primary focus of something was too much. Asking that my life herstory and the life herstories of my friends could be the focus of something was too much. In our current society to ask that we focus on the history of a woman who has lived as a girl and now lives as a woman somehow takes away from other women’s experiences and because my experience does not mirror theirs I am not deserving of a place to gather with my sisters who share my herstory. Because my herstory is a more dominate one in our culture celebrating it is oppressing others. I just don’t understand. I honestly don’t understand why I cannot have a place to gather with folks who share my story and heal together.
I’ve lost friends over this in the past and am continuing to do so. For ten years I have asked people who feel MWMF is wrong to talk to me about it – to help me understand what I am missing. No one ever has. I’m watching friendships go now and while I grieve those I am more focused on grieving the lives that won’t be saved by MWMF. I’m grieving the loss of a place where I first felt okay. To walk away from a friendship with me over my support of a place that saved my life is saying that my life does not matter and in that I feel so much anger. That’s why this festival existed in the first place.