Homesick: Reflections from a Divided Family

A place for folks who can't (or won't) return to that place called "home" - a visual depiction of the many, many faces that will be missing from Michfest until it becomes a safe and affirming community for trans women too.

Miriam/Dino

I’m not there. I’m not taking a walk to familiarize myself with the lay of the land along Lois lane and fern lined woodchip covered paths. I’m not listening to the bugs in their Midwestern lexicon, singing the loudest they’ll sing all week. Before all the wyms arrive. I’m not sitting next to the fire pit, rehashing my crazy year and growth and hurdles and successes. I’m not so excited that I can’t sleep. I’m not sore from setting up camp, and helping setup tents with forgotten directions. I’m not in a sea of womyn, feeling all the feelings on the land that I have called home for years. I’m not sitting in the sun, listening to the distant sounds of drums and tractors while eating a fudgesicle. I’m not strutting about wearing a dinosaur tail and spurs. I’m sitting here in Albuquerque, shedding a tear for home, and hoping for progress, acceptance, love and a place for ALL womyn to find empowerment, solidarity and a family that catapults one toward growth. I’m homesick, but will always be a part of this incredible tribe of womyn with strong voices, muscles, opinions, and ethics. The heart that beats within my chest is my home for now, and i feel good about that.

Inky
2010, the 1st & last time I attended MWMF. Many of my friends had often told me the fun tales of camping in northern MI wilderness with loads of womyn, the workshops, the concerts, the parties…sounded like an ethereal event I could not miss! My gf & I arrived the day after the Fest was vandalized. As I walked onto the land, eyes full of wonderment, I was also confronted by many friends & soon to be friends questioning me about a friend who is trans, the supposed person who vandalized Fest. To this day my heart is torn on the subject. Do I believe my friend committed these acts? No. Do I believe someone did? Yes. Neither here nor there the uprising that was bore from these incidents began vibrating throughout the land…some of the things I over heard & witnessed left my heart broken. Eye for an eye makes the world blind. I also know the horrible feeling of being violated in a safe space…Once leaving the land, I could not bring myself to go again….the healing wonderment of the land had become tainted for me…and until all womyn are accepted, I will not change my mind!

Inky

2010, the 1st & last time I attended MWMF. Many of my friends had often told me the fun tales of camping in northern MI wilderness with loads of womyn, the workshops, the concerts, the parties…sounded like an ethereal event I could not miss! My gf & I arrived the day after the Fest was vandalized. As I walked onto the land, eyes full of wonderment, I was also confronted by many friends & soon to be friends questioning me about a friend who is trans, the supposed person who vandalized Fest. To this day my heart is torn on the subject. Do I believe my friend committed these acts? No. Do I believe someone did? Yes. Neither here nor there the uprising that was bore from these incidents began vibrating throughout the land…some of the things I over heard & witnessed left my heart broken. Eye for an eye makes the world blind. I also know the horrible feeling of being violated in a safe space…Once leaving the land, I could not bring myself to go again….the healing wonderment of the land had become tainted for me…and until all womyn are accepted, I will not change my mind!

MARCY
I have attended Fest five times in the last 9 years, always camping with my die-hard, dedicated, fun, radical sisters in the Twilight Zone. Fest and the Zone family changed my life forever, revolutionizing my relationship with myself and with other women. But the magic I experienced at Fest has been tainted by the hateful words and actions of many of those who want to exclude trans women from this community. This is no longer a safe space, not only for trans women, but for their allies, lovers, and friends. It breaks my heart, but so long as Fest excludes women then I can no longer call it home. Feminism that excludes certain women is no feminism at all. I stand in solidarity with my trans sisters. 

MARCY

I have attended Fest five times in the last 9 years, always camping with my die-hard, dedicated, fun, radical sisters in the Twilight Zone. Fest and the Zone family changed my life forever, revolutionizing my relationship with myself and with other women. But the magic I experienced at Fest has been tainted by the hateful words and actions of many of those who want to exclude trans women from this community. This is no longer a safe space, not only for trans women, but for their allies, lovers, and friends. It breaks my heart, but so long as Fest excludes women then I can no longer call it home. Feminism that excludes certain women is no feminism at all. I stand in solidarity with my trans sisters. 

I am not going to the Michigan Womyn’s Festival this year. To say “I will miss the Land so much” is an understatement. I have attended Fest for 15 (16?) years, and it has been my emotional “recharge” each August. I have watched my daughter Devin grow up there. She has been to Fest every year for her 13 years. I hoped that we would attend together into her adulthood. I had been looking forward to taking my second daughter, Lyric as well. I have met the most wonderful group of friends on the Land, and I know I will love them for the rest of my life (Snatch Trap!!!). I had an experience recently where I visited the land in my mind, while doing some intensely emotional work during a therapy session. I am so happy that it served me as a safe place, one more time. While I envisioned running along Lois Lane, I said goodbye to every little bit of the Land I have come to know and love. Triangle, One World, Sprouts (sssshhhh! children are sleeping!), Family Camping, Gaia, the wonderful camps, (my fave, the one with the aprons), Community Center, the womyn who chill at their tents and smile & wave, Day Stage, Night Stage, Kitchen, Acoustic Stage… I have experienced so much healing there. I love and need the space. I also need to know that I am not not participating in the oppression of my trans* sisters. I will not return until the Festival’s founder & organizers welcome ALL womyn. My decision to seek justice for my trans* sisters comes late, and I do apologize from the bottom of my heart for that. I have struggled with the policy for years, yet have still attended, because I needed the healing so badly. My trans* sisters, my healing will no longer be at your expense, but in solidarity with you. 

I am not going to the Michigan Womyn’s Festival this year. To say “I will miss the Land so much” is an understatement. I have attended Fest for 15 (16?) years, and it has been my emotional “recharge” each August. I have watched my daughter Devin grow up there. She has been to Fest every year for her 13 years. I hoped that we would attend together into her adulthood. I had been looking forward to taking my second daughter, Lyric as well. I have met the most wonderful group of friends on the Land, and I know I will love them for the rest of my life (Snatch Trap!!!). I had an experience recently where I visited the land in my mind, while doing some intensely emotional work during a therapy session. I am so happy that it served me as a safe place, one more time. While I envisioned running along Lois Lane, I said goodbye to every little bit of the Land I have come to know and love. Triangle, One World, Sprouts (sssshhhh! children are sleeping!), Family Camping, Gaia, the wonderful camps, (my fave, the one with the aprons), Community Center, the womyn who chill at their tents and smile & wave, Day Stage, Night Stage, Kitchen, Acoustic Stage… I have experienced so much healing there. I love and need the space. I also need to know that I am not not participating in the oppression of my trans* sisters. I will not return until the Festival’s founder & organizers welcome ALL womyn. My decision to seek justice for my trans* sisters comes late, and I do apologize from the bottom of my heart for that. I have struggled with the policy for years, yet have still attended, because I needed the healing so badly. My trans* sisters, my healing will no longer be at your expense, but in solidarity with you. 

MatieI first attended MWMF in 2000. Except for 2006 I’ve attended every year since. Home has meant Michigan for my entire adult life and I hoped to grow old on the land.
My first year and every year thereafter I promised myself and others to work for change from within. I attended meetings, had hard conversations, wore tshirts and armbands and honestly felt like change was happening. At times it felt inevitable that this land we called home would be a safe space for all womyn. After all, the sexy tractor drivers were wearing trans womyn belong here tshirts - that had to mean something….
But, when womyn who are trans started to be more open about their experiences fest changed. 
The call to ‘respect the intention’ has made womyn very protective of the land. A hit list was published, violence was threatened, womyn were told their bodies made the land unsafe. A sea of red at opening ceremonies last year told me that the change I hoped for was not the intention for the future. The womyn on the land that are trans (or perceived to be trans) that I knew were treated horribly by countless festies. I held the hand of a friend walking down a path and she confessed that she had never felt more alone or more in need of touch. Another wbw identified womyn spoke of carrying a knife ‘just in case.’ I can’t honestly say at this point that I believe fest is a safe place for trans womyn. This fact is deeply painful and I yearn for a space where sisterhood includes ALL WOMYN.  
At this point I also feel that voicing a desire for change also deeply hurts the womyn asking for space.  For 13 years I was told there was room for change at Fest, that we were allies in understanding, that through discussion we could get to a harmonious place. Now, I truly don’t believe that change is wanted and I want to honor what women have told me they need. The tickets sold for the 40th anniversary seem to be a promise from the office that the intention will stand, regardless of the consequences. 
I am not burnt out. I am choosing to do activism in the best way I know how. 
So, I’m not coming home. Like many before me the concept of home and family will change because of a lack of ability on all sides to connect around hurt.

Matie

I first attended MWMF in 2000. Except for 2006 I’ve attended every year since. Home has meant Michigan for my entire adult life and I hoped to grow old on the land.

My first year and every year thereafter I promised myself and others to work for change from within. I attended meetings, had hard conversations, wore tshirts and armbands and honestly felt like change was happening. At times it felt inevitable that this land we called home would be a safe space for all womyn. After all, the sexy tractor drivers were wearing trans womyn belong here tshirts - that had to mean something….

But, when womyn who are trans started to be more open about their experiences fest changed. 

The call to ‘respect the intention’ has made womyn very protective of the land. A hit list was published, violence was threatened, womyn were told their bodies made the land unsafe. A sea of red at opening ceremonies last year told me that the change I hoped for was not the intention for the future. The womyn on the land that are trans (or perceived to be trans) that I knew were treated horribly by countless festies. I held the hand of a friend walking down a path and she confessed that she had never felt more alone or more in need of touch. Another wbw identified womyn spoke of carrying a knife ‘just in case.’ I can’t honestly say at this point that I believe fest is a safe place for trans womyn. This fact is deeply painful and I yearn for a space where sisterhood includes ALL WOMYN.  

At this point I also feel that voicing a desire for change also deeply hurts the womyn asking for space.  For 13 years I was told there was room for change at Fest, that we were allies in understanding, that through discussion we could get to a harmonious place. Now, I truly don’t believe that change is wanted and I want to honor what women have told me they need. The tickets sold for the 40th anniversary seem to be a promise from the office that the intention will stand, regardless of the consequences. 

I am not burnt out. I am choosing to do activism in the best way I know how. 

So, I’m not coming home. Like many before me the concept of home and family will change because of a lack of ability on all sides to connect around hurt.

avery//yellowpants

oh michfest, you awaked such strength, delight, inspiration, self love, insight, and sense of belonging in me. i hope to be able to return when ALL womyn are truly welcomed to the land. the richer and more diverse our paths and stories into what it is to be womyn, the more fierce, flexible, and unbreakable our spirit…

I first arrived on the land in 2008 as a festie.  It was an empowering andspiritual experience.  That year I also heard of Camp Trans and attended aworkshop and performance.  From 2009-2011, I worked both short and longcrews.  My last year I devoted more time helping out with Trans WomynBelong Here.
In certain ways I found it hard to leave the magical container of Fest,but as time went on I was able to see patriarchy, transphobia, sexism andracism that existed and did not belong there.  I was seeking out moreinclusive spaces within myself and outside of Fest.If I choose to return, I hope that I can with all my diverse sisters whowant to be there and be able to receive and share the healing.

I first arrived on the land in 2008 as a festie.  It was an empowering and
spiritual experience.  That year I also heard of Camp Trans and attended a
workshop and performance.  From 2009-2011, I worked both short and long
crews.  My last year I devoted more time helping out with Trans Womyn
Belong Here.

In certain ways I found it hard to leave the magical container of Fest,
but as time went on I was able to see patriarchy, transphobia, sexism and
racism that existed and did not belong there.  I was seeking out more
inclusive spaces within myself and outside of Fest.

If I choose to return, I hope that I can with all my diverse sisters who
want to be there and be able to receive and share the healing.

For 13 years fest has been the reason for summer and the place the fills my dreams the rest of the year. it’s where I refill my soul, laugh, love, make dreams come true and be able to be fully present under a blanket of stars. It is a large part of what has made me the person that I am. Over the years I learned to be ok with my body, how I love, my spiritually. It’s where I met a large chunk my chosen family from all over the world,  I’ve loved no single place more and no place has given me as much. It’s also where I was first awaken to trans issues-it’s the place that gave me the strength to embrace my little gender queer self. I’ve worn yellow bands, hung signs on my camp, worn white t-shirts, had good conversations, had bad conversations for 10 of my 13 years. This year I’m taking a break. I say a break because I can’t imagine my life without fest, it hurts too much. I’m taking this break because I can’t handle the stagnation and aggressiveness on both sides of the conversation. I fight the good fight all year at my job in my community. Call me selfish but my week vacation I just want to be peaceful. Last year I went to my fav alter to refill my spirit and worship. I found the alter wrapped in red string… I cried not only because of intolerance,  but because fest is becoming something I don’t even recognize anymore.I hope to be able to sleep to the sounds of cicadas and women’s laughter again soon but this year I will be finding my peace somewhere else..but my heart will be in the ferns and I will howl at the moon I hope the land can hear me. 

For 13 years fest has been the reason for summer and the place the fills my dreams the rest of the year. it’s where I refill my soul, laugh, love, make dreams come true and be able to be fully present under a blanket of stars. It is a large part of what has made me the person that I am. Over the years I learned to be ok with my body, how I love, my spiritually. It’s where I met a large chunk my chosen family from all over the world,  I’ve loved no single place more and no place has given me as much. It’s also where I was first awaken to trans issues-it’s the place that gave me the strength to embrace my little gender queer self. I’ve worn yellow bands, hung signs on my camp, worn white t-shirts, had good conversations, had bad conversations for 10 of my 13 years. This year I’m taking a break. I say a break because I can’t imagine my life without fest, it hurts too much. I’m taking this break because I can’t handle the stagnation and aggressiveness on both sides of the conversation. I fight the good fight all year at my job in my community. Call me selfish but my week vacation I just want to be peaceful. Last year I went to my fav alter to refill my spirit and worship. I found the alter wrapped in red string… I cried not only because of intolerance,  but because fest is becoming something I don’t even recognize anymore.I hope to be able to sleep to the sounds of cicadas and women’s laughter again soon but this year I will be finding my peace somewhere else..but my heart will be in the ferns and I will howl at the moon I hope the land can hear me. 

Violet
I first heard about the Festival online as a baby femme dyke survivor, long before I could afford even a fraction of the ticket price. How marvelous to realize such a rare haven was there all along, nestled among the second-growth deciduous forests and fern gullies of lower Michigan, the landscape that for me has always felt closest to home. Billed as a feminist utopia, and a safe space for dykes specifically, the Festival was the fantasy of a radical community of women, right in my backyard.
It must’ve been 2006, the first year members of my chosen family attended, when we learned about the Festival’s intention and the exclusion of trans women. It must’ve been one of the brilliant trans feminist youth from the community center where I then worked who, walking the line, looked me in the eyes and handed me a flier about MichFest’s policy of exclusion. It would’ve been a gut feeling, telling us not to participate in a space with discriminatory policies at the expense of other women, no matter how necessary the space is for our own healing and rest. It would’ve been a gut feeling telling us not to cross the line. It would’ve been our socialization as girls that taught us to ignore those wise, bodily instincts, the very thing Fest is designed to teach us to unlearn.
Until Fest is safe and inclusive for all women, it’s not safe for me. Longing for a time when we can walk those wood chip paths together.

Violet

I first heard about the Festival online as a baby femme dyke survivor, long before I could afford even a fraction of the ticket price. How marvelous to realize such a rare haven was there all along, nestled among the second-growth deciduous forests and fern gullies of lower Michigan, the landscape that for me has always felt closest to home. Billed as a feminist utopia, and a safe space for dykes specifically, the Festival was the fantasy of a radical community of women, right in my backyard.

It must’ve been 2006, the first year members of my chosen family attended, when we learned about the Festival’s intention and the exclusion of trans women. It must’ve been one of the brilliant trans feminist youth from the community center where I then worked who, walking the line, looked me in the eyes and handed me a flier about MichFest’s policy of exclusion. It would’ve been a gut feeling, telling us not to participate in a space with discriminatory policies at the expense of other women, no matter how necessary the space is for our own healing and rest. It would’ve been a gut feeling telling us not to cross the line. It would’ve been our socialization as girls that taught us to ignore those wise, bodily instincts, the very thing Fest is designed to teach us to unlearn.

Until Fest is safe and inclusive for all women, it’s not safe for me. Longing for a time when we can walk those wood chip paths together.

Still hoping for change

I was gifted a ticket to MWMF in 2005 and 2006, my first two years attending. I proudly proclaimed to anyone that asked, “I’m a lifer. I will attend forever, this is my home.” 

This is no longer true for me. I can not attend the festival again until significant changes happen, until my trans sisters are welcome to share my home. I am sad to leave a place that sustained me, that allowed me to contribute to a community, and that helped me (and many others) embrace their womanhood.In the Twilight Zone