What I would say to a trans*sister, whoever you are:
I first went to MichFest in 2002, and it was wonderful and amazing. When I left, my feet stood on the earth more solidly, and my gaze was level.
When I first heard about various trans* conflicts on the Land, I stopped and thought about it. I felt that to be a woman born in a male body must be agony.
My own issues with femaleness had to do with how not to feel naked when I checked out at the grocery store and I had stare at the magazines with scantily clad women on *every* cover; how to deal with my menstrual cycles in high school when the boys in Social Studies made snide references to how the girls’ swim team left ‘blood in the pool;’ how to be heard in math class when, overnight at 13, I went from the smart kid to practically invisible; how to travel on a plane or bus without being accosted by some dude who claimed the right to monopolize my attention and energy; and countless other daily challenges.
My new trans*sister, you have had it harder than me in some ways: shaping your beard, your body and your voice through some pretty torturous and expensive means. I have empathy, compassion and admiration for your journey. Some trans*people I know have led excruciating lives.
I publicly and sympathetically recognize your struggle and your dignity. I have no impulse to refer to any woman with male nomenclature or pronoun. I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder under both the banners of “Woman” and “Human.”
But there’s a difference between how you have become a woman and how I have become a woman. A big difference. My journey to become my own woman is different from yours. Neither easier nor harder, just different, yes? This is the essence of pride and of diversity.
I can only imagine the efforts you have made on the path to your most complete self, your real womanhood. I cannot truly know what anguish you have experienced in your life or the cost of your unceasing efforts to become your true self. I have empathy, and, at the same time, I do not presume to know what you have gone through, and continue to go through. I support all my trans*sisters in their unique and respect worthy integration of mind, body and self.
And *you* cannot know *my* struggle, my efforts to fully become human and Woman. To become comfortable, safe, whole. You cannot know, truly understand, my heartbreak and joys as a female girl child, then a young woman and now as a full-grown woman. You can respect and admire me and my life, of course. You can observe, perhaps with envy, the ease with which my body is truly mine and expressive of my inner reality, compared with yours. Just as I can observe (sometimes, in truth, also with envy) those pieces of your childhood and adulthood that were easy, safe and privileged in ways mine were not.
I say we are equal in every way, human and spiritual and essential. We are just not the same. I have always been grateful that my body — especially after a week at the Festival — feels like my natural home. The body you were born in was not your friend. And none of that is your fault.
And here’s the thing: it’s not my fault either.
Michigan is one of a kind. On the entire planet, the only one. I am your sister, and we are all and each of us women. But Michigan singularly is not as much about who we *are* as it is about who we *have been*. You see?
I’m not asking you, I’m telling you: you can’t come. You can’t come. Don’t come. Stay away. Respect the intention. Respect our difference. Real women recognize diversity and honor it.
I’ll meet you at other fests, marches, Congressional offices, women’s studies departments, ladies’ rooms. But don’t come to Michigan.
P.S. One last thing: Michigan is the place where I, a femme lesbian, can meet butch lesbians. No one gets between a femme and her butches. I am dead serious. Invisible and isolated in the rest of the world, Michigan reveals us to each other like nowhere else. This cannot get muddied. So back off, trans*sister. Case closed.
- by Annie Seidl