With a heart full of love, sadness and hope I am writing to announce my decision to cancel my performance at the 2013 Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Since the announcement of my intended participation several weeks ago I have received a great deal of heartfelt feedback that in light of the festival’s policy of not welcoming trans women, my decision to attend is one that is causing pain within our community, and that is truly the opposite of what I had hoped to create by attending.
Because there are many voices in this conversation that are yet to be heard, most of them more informed, relevant, and necessary than my own, I want to preface everything I say here by acknowledging the privilege of having a platform to speak my opinions, the privilege of having an audience, and the privilege it was to have had the choice to attend the festival in the first place.
In 2011 after a great deal of thought, conversation, and consideration of the policies in place I chose to perform at the festival. I did so deciding that speaking my heart on stage at the festival would be the way I would best be able to support a change in the policy of trans exclusion at a festival I knew had been deeply healing for many women. When my stage time came, however, I did not speak to the issue. It was my first and only time at the festival and while I found the space to be alive with art and celebration, I had wrongly assumed that all of the work around trans inclusion was happening on the outside, and I was naively surprised to find so many people in painful conflict around trans inclusion at the festival itself. It was my perception that year that the festival community was torn down the middle in its opinions, that that torn place was a heartbreaking place where no one felt good, and what I had prepared to say on stage, and how I had planned to say it, would only cause more tearing.
In deciding to accept this year’s invitation to perform I did so because I believe the festival is like no other space in its potential to be a space that empowers and supports women, because I truly love the festival and want it to continue, and because I want the festival to welcome ALL women. I believe in the power of art more than I believe in the power of most anything, and it was my intention to create a performance piece to be performed on stage at the festival that talked about the issue in a new way, sort of a poetic mediation, one primarily focused on speaking one’s heart-centered truth, and listening, listening, listening. That said, in listening to the voices of thoughtful people in our community, in feeling heartbreak because of the hurt people have been feeling, and in further unpacking my own privilege in terms of my freedom of choices in this issue, I now believe it is primarily important that I do not perform at a festival that does not welcome trans women, and when I write the piece that addresses this issue directly, I will find stages for its presence that all women have access to.
My dream for the festival and our community is that this conversation could be successfully mediated to a place of healing and co-creation. Throughout the past weeks as this has been weighing very heavy on my heart, I have been seeking consistent perspective from a mentor who does work in the world of conflict mediation. She often says, “I wonder how everyone can get what they want?” And what she means by that “want” is not, “I want the festival to welcome trans women” or “I don’t want the festival to welcome trans women.” Instead, it is searching for the deeper “want” beneath each of those statements. What is a truer, more revealing statement we can share with each other? My guess is most women in this conversation have a similar want that sounds something like, “I want to feel heard, seen, safe, respected and celebrated.” I am curious about how ALL of the women involved can feel heard, seen, safe, respected and celebrated, and I am curious about the ways art itself can help uncover some of those answers. I would be honored and moved to collaborate artistically on that project.
Earlier this year a loved one told me whenever she makes a major decision she asks herself, “Is this an act of war, or is it an act of love?” When considering how to ensure my next step is an act of love I remind myself that I do not believe any person engaged in this discussion is an enemy to the intention of creating safe space. I remind myself that we are all trying very hard to be allies to the cause of making the world a kinder place, and while our minds have been in conflict as to how to do that, I believe our hearts are aligned in intention. I have faith in what we can create together.
I very much appreciate you taking the time to read this.
With Respect and Gratitude,
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