We recently met with some wonderful colleagues here in Southern Vermont wherein we learned that BETTY would be playing a show in our area in the not-too-distant future. As an organization, we have elected not to promote this show to our local LGBTQ community. It is important to us to share why, despite generally supporting the work of our neighbors and colleagues, we are choosing to issue this statement and to boycott BETTY’s upcoming local performance.
BETTY, along with many other groups and individuals, have continued to perform at and profit from the Michigan Women’s Music Festival (MWMF), a space that has for decades explicitly denied entrance to trans women contributing significantly to anti-trans rhetoric and violence. As an organization, we cannot stand behind an endorsement of this performance.
BETTY, this is an invitation as you enter our small and vibrant Southern Vermont LGBTQ community to come forward and make a statement specifically in support of trans women and in line with demands in the original call for boycott referenced below. We hope that you do!
In 1991, trans woman Nancy Jean Burkholder was expelled from MWMF, which led to MWMF codifying their “womyn born womyn only” policy, which specifically denied trans women entrance to the Festival and continued building a legacy of anti-trans violence. Burkholder’s experience also paved the way for a new resistance in the form of Camp Trans. Of course, 1991 was not the start of trans women’s resistance, far from it. At the time, it was just the latest incarnation of community fighting back. Although MWMF officially ended last summer, after 40 years, the need for resistance to its policies and legacy lives on; the clear need to fight with and for trans women remains.
In 2013, after years of organizing at Camp Trans, comedian, author, and activist Red Durkin gained new traction with an online petition calling for all attendees and performers to boycott MWMF until they: “amend the [womyn born womyn] policy to explicitly welcome all self-identified women… recognize the destructive impact that 20+ years of transphobic policies have had on our feminist and queer communities and issue a formal statement acknowledging and apologizing for this injustice…[and] program at least one performer who is a transgender woman to perform at the Festival.” As a result, several performers did step away from MWMF and issued statements in support of trans women including the Indigo Girls, Andrea Gibson, Sea of Bees, Nona Hendryx, and JD Samson. Many performers, including BETTY, did not make such statements and instead continued playing the Festival until its last year.
Of course, despite the end of MWMF, transphobia and violence against trans women continues to be a destructive force in all our communities, in our lives, and in the lives of people we love. We believe that those who continued to perform and to profit from appearances at MWMF remain responsible for formally acknowledging their part in this legacy of transphobia and injustice. Until bands and individuals who performed at MWMF, including BETTY, make formal statements acknowledging and apologizing for their role in this struggle, Green Mountain Crossroads will continue to boycott their performances.
As an organization that works primarily at the intersection of rural and LGBTQ identities, GMC is specifically attuned the need for safer, welcoming, and inclusive spaces. Though small, our strength is in our community. We know that rural places can be dangerously isolating for trans people. It is therefor all the more important that speakers, films, artists, and performers that visit our rural communities do so in a way that does not create more harm to trans people. It is critical that we stand against anti-trans rhetoric and those who would marginalize our members, our community, and ourselves. This is why we choose to answer the call to boycott and continue standing with trans women in the struggle for justice.
Honor the dead and fight like hell for the living,
Green Mountain Crossroads
UPDATE REGARDING THE COMMENTS SECTION: We stand behind our commitment to end violence towards trans women. We also understand that Michigan Women's Music Festival is a divisive issue, as reflected in the decades of organizing both for and against MWMF and as reflected in the outpouring of comments on this blog post.
While we respect people with differing opinions, we do not respect the hateful and harmful comments that have resulted from GMC's above statement. For that reason, we are closing down the comments section of this blog post in order to stand by our initial intent to give support specifically towards ending violence against trans women.