GLAAD President/CEO Sarah Kate Ellis and wife pen op-ed supporting trans inclusion at Michfest

August 8, 2014

GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis and her wife, Kristen Henderson, today penned an op-ed for The Advocate that urges support for the inclusion of transgender women at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. Henderson, who is a founding member of rock group Antigone Rising, says the band will not appear at the festival until it is inclusive of trans women. 

We’re writing today as two women — lesbians and  feminists — who want to see greater support and respect for all women, including those who are transgender.

The New Yorker recently profiled a group that identifies themselves as “trans exclusionary radical feminists,” people who reject the womanhood of trans women. The piece outlines a decades-old tension and gives a platform to those who wish to denigrate and exclude transgender women from feminist circles and society in general. It’s heartbreaking that trans women, who already face staggering rates of discrimination, harassment, and violence in this world, are now also rejected from women’s spaces.

The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, a feminist music festival held annually since 1976, garners media attention at this time of year for the exclusion of transgender women, touting a rule that welcomes only so-called womyn-born-womyn. Michfest has touched our lives directly, since Kristen’s band, Antigone Rising, has performed there in the past. But she won’t be playing there anymore.

Some festival attendees see Kristen’s decision as a mean-spirited boycott that aims to harm the festival and its organizers. In reality, however, she was simply left with no other choice. You see, Michfest’s rule is unwelcoming not only of trans women, but also of the cis women (i.e. not trans) who respect them — women like us.

In addition to the op-ed, GLAAD today signed Equality Michigan's online petition calling on Michfest to end transgender exclusion. The petition will be delivered to Michfest co-founder and owner Lisa Vogel, artists performing at this year's festival, entertainment venues in Michigan, artists participating in LGBT events in Michigan, and any known vendors at this year's festival.

You can read Ellis and Henderson's full op-ed at The Advocate.