“If you destroy an entire generation of a people’s culture, it’s as if they never existed.”
— Film trailer for The Monuments Men, 2013
THIS YEAR, as America’s two oldest women’s music festivals—Michigan and National—prepare to celebrate landmark fortieth anniversaries, a number of powerful organizations have signed a petition against the Michigan festival, endorsing an economic boycott of all artists who perform there. Though a life-altering destination for four decades of lesbian artists and activists, the Michigan festival’s legacy has recently been reduced to one contentious issue: the question of trans inclusion. To clarify the policy: the festival does not ban, inspect, or expel transwomen. Its intention is to be a temporary gathering for women to address diverse experiences of being born female. It asserts that being female-assigned at birth fosters a unique identity. And as a weeklong, clothing-optional campout, it’s a trusted sanctuary for the countless women and girls who have survived male violence in a traditionally heterosexual relationship. Many have testified that they can only regain a relaxed sense of physical safety during their annual retreat at Michfest. The last festival of its kind, Michigan has indeed consistently privileged, and celebrated, women and girls born biologically female.
Bonnie Morris, who teaches women’s studies at George Washington University. is the author of Eden Build by Eves.