Atlanta Pride serenader Amy Ray and her Indigo Girls’ other half, Emily Saliers, are mad at organizers of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and their “aggressive” trans exclusion. Just not mad enough to skip their scheduled performance.
The popular lesbian musicians from Atlanta chided festival organizers in a message posted Thursday on their website and urged them to allow transgender people to attend the event. The festival for “womyn-born womyn,” set for Aug. 6-11, bans transgender women and has been criticized for its lack of inclusion. An online petition signed by more than 1,400 people calls the festival transphobic and asks fans and entertainers to skip it in protest.
The Indigo Girls, who have performed at the festival in the past, say they will do so again on Aug. 7. But any money raised will be donated to trans activism, according to the group’s statement.
“We have made it clear that this will be our last time at the Festival until MWMF shows visible and concrete signs of changing their intention,” according to the statement. “We have no animosity towards anyone in this case but see the deep and fearless legacy that MWMF has had during its existence and we honor that. We also honor the prayerfulness that has been a part of this struggle on both sides. This is not an easy path, so we empathize with all who struggle to make their decisions.”
Ray has been supportive of trans issues and artists in the past. In December, she performed at transgender author T. Cooper’s book tour launch at Atlanta’s Star Bar. The event was also a fundraiser for Charis Circle, the non-profit programming arm of gay Atlanta’s own Charis Books & More, the nation’s oldest lesbian-feminist book store.
The full statement from the Indigo Girls:
To our community in regards to Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival
We want you to know some of our thoughts about our participation in Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Indigo Girls have a lot of respect for protest and dialogue in our feminist and queer movements, and we want to do our part to encourage growth and evolution in our community. We care about MWMF deeply, and in our years of playing the Festival, we have evolved and benefited from the experience. We have received many gifts from this unique and powerful gathering.
Our hope for all the past years has been that the Festival would move towards an intention of Trans-Inclusion. We have continued to search our selves and look at both sides of this issue and truly respect the different points of view, but have always come back to our core belief that Trans Womyn should be included in the Festival, and their womynhood should be honored by the intentions of MWMF. The current intention for the Festival to be for “Womyn born Womyn” only grew out of an important necessity to honor the idea that womyn have a variety of self expression and appearance and they need a safe space where their womynhood is not in question as they stand in many different places on the spectrum from femininity to masculinity. This intention has a very important historic basis and has kept the space safe for many womyn over the years. But we strongly feel that the time is long overdue for a change of intention, to one that states very plainly the inclusion of Trans Womyn. To us, this change of intention is the only path to a truly “safe space” for womyn.
We are in a time of struggle and rapid changes in our movement and we would be remiss to not recognize that many of the strides that have been made are a result of Trans Activism and the strength and perspective they have brought to the queer and feminist revolutions. We feel that if someone identifies as a womyn, they are a womyn and should be welcomed into our community with open arms. We will only be stronger for it.
We will be playing the Festival this year in the spirit of change. We encourage the Founders and the community of MWMF to find the bravery and compassion that we are all endowed with to create a space that is Trans Inclusive. We know these changes are complex and take time and careful consideration. MWMF has a long and important history of being on the cutting edge of positive change- a torchbearer for the hard transitions within the feminist and queer movements. This is the time to fulfill MWMF’s most vital role in our community and help to honor the Trans Community out in the world, by honoring them within the world of Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. We hope in the end that we can all find our “safe space” and comfort on the sacred land of MWMF.
We understand that there are many folks who feel passionately about these issues, but we encourage people on both sides to act peacefully when they express themselves. There is nothing to be gained from hateful rhetoric or aggressive actions. All over the world queer, and specifically Trans folks are beaten and killed for being who they are. The community of MWMF has a responsibility to fight this hate and be a beacon of love and light for all womyn suffering under hate and oppression, and this includes our Trans Sisters. If you are against Trans Inclusion at MWMF, that is your prerogative, but that does not mean you have to be aggressive towards the Trans community. This kind of hate and aggression will rip our community apart and we all know who benefits from “divide and conquer” and it’s not womyn or queers.
Although we are playing the festival, we honor the current protest against MWMF and hope that it will help move the community towards change. Any money that we make playing the Festival will go towards Trans Activism. We will make a statement from stage at the Festival in support of Trans Inclusion. We have made it clear that this will be our last time at the Festival until MWMF shows visible and concrete signs of changing their intention. We have no animosity towards anyone in this case but see the deep and fearless legacy that MWMF has had during its existence and we honor that. We also honor the prayerfulness that has been a part of this struggle on both sides. This is not an easy path, so we empathize with all who struggle to make their decisions. We love Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and hope for it’s continued presence and power in our lives.
Amy and Emily
[Ray photo by Sher Pruitt | Huffington Post]