Every August for the past 27 years, women from all over the country have gathered in the woods of western Michigan to listen to music, attend workshops, and celebrate being women. In the late 1970s, when transgender and transsexual identity issues began to arise in feminist and academic discussions, the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (MWMF) closed its gates to transpeople by defining "womyn" as a person who was born, raised and still identifies as female.
This "womyn-born-womyn only" policy has been challenged by Camp Trans, the protest camp-out across the lane from the festival. In its fourth consecutive year, Camp Trans welcomes any and all people to camp out or visit, and to learn about trans issues and issues of inclusion at the festival and in greater society. It is also a space that trans and genderqueer people can claim as their own.
Camp Trans is also dedicated to political action and to educating MWMF attendees about why we want trans inclusion. In 2000, our action inside the festival led to eight transpeople's eviction from the festival. MWMF has a "no panty check" clause when it comes to buying tickets at the gate. They won't ask your gender at the gate, but if you come out as a transsexual to a security guard as we did, you will be told to leave.
In 2000, we demonstrated that MWMF has a "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to gender. Last year, Camp Trans organizers led a candlelight vigil to remember victims of anti-trans violence that began in the festival and led out to Camp Trans. Nearly 300 people joined the march chanting "Trans Inclusion Now!" and ended the evening at a drag show and dance party out at Camp Trans.
One very important difference between Camp Trans and MWMF is cost. Namely, Camp Trans doesn't have one, and MWMF costs over $300 to attend for six days. Organizers of Camp Trans fundraise for months before August to buy food and cooking supplies, photocopy our yearly zine, and silkscreen our t-shirts. We offer these accommodations free to any attendees because we believe that one way to ensure access to as many trans and genderqueer people is to remove money from the equation.
In order to increase our fundraising efforts to put on a better Camp Trans, a Mid-Year Meeting has been organized in St. Louis to not only strategize about fundraising, but also to begin discussions about actions in August and the future of Camp Trans. The Mid-Year Meeting will be held March 1-3 and includes: a panel discussion, featuring Daphne Scholinski, on transgender identity and experience at 100 Lucas Hall on the UMSL campus on Friday, March 1 at 1 p.m.; a drag show by the St. Louis Bent Boyz at the V, 17 S. Vandeventer on Friday, March 1 at 10 p.m.; and a basement punk show, featuring The Star Death, Sex Cabaret and open mic on Saturday night. For more information, please contact Simon Strikeback at email@example.com or 314-664-8633.
Simon Strikeback is a 23-year-old trans-activist and organizer. He recently moved to St. Louis from Chicago, and this will be his fourth Camp Trans.