Creator of Michfest Boycott Emily Dievendorf Resigns as Executive Director of Equality Michigan
April 14, 2015
This afternoon Equality Michigan announced that Executive Director Emily Dievendorf has resigned. The surprise announcement comes on the heels of the withdrawal of support by The National Center for Lesbian Rights and The National LGBTQ Task Force for the controversial anti-Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival boycott authored by Dievendorf last year.
Dievendorf, a “Bisexual Rights” activist partnered with a male, organized the contentious boycott against members of the lesbian community who support the iconic annual 40-year-strong women-only music festival. The boycott targeted Lesbian artists, Lesbian musicians, and Lesbian vendors, as well as attendees of the event, calling for a financial attack on the women’s livelihoods. The justification for this boycott was Equality Michigan’s claim that lesbianism is a form of discrimination against male people, and that affinity groups based on the female experience are unfairly discriminatory against males. Last August, Dievendorf persuaded many national organizations that had formerly purported to advocate for lesbians to join the Equality Michigan campaign against Lesbian and Women’s Rights.
Since that time, Equality Michigan and all the signatories of the boycott have experienced a hemorrhaging of support, both financial and volunteer, from lesbians and the allies of lesbians and women. In effect, the boycott of lesbians and women resulted in the opposite effect: a withdrawal of support from the so-called “LGBT” organizations by the lesbians being boycotted. Somehow, this came as a big surprise to these organizations, who had long ago abandoned lesbian and women’s interests yet apparently believed that the ongoing, foundational, steady support of the very women fueling their “LGBT” orgs would continue even if they were targeted, insulted, and their livelihoods harmed. Finally, last week, NCLR and The Task Force, two of the largest signatories of the boycotts, publicly withdrew their names.
Two months ago, Dievendorf posted a muddled, confused statement on Facebook expressing her puzzlement over the withdrawal of lesbian support from her now formally anti-lesbian organization. It read:
“Some days, when I get a ways into opening the Equality Michigan mail I get a little shaky and I know it is because I’m scared. There is a common theme in the hate mail. Sure there are religious fanatics. We are used to those. But mostly in the last year the mail is from angry lesbians (stay with me, we love our lesbians). Returning donor cards with the donation amount space empty and the card full of nastiness. Repetitive messages about how Equality Michigan, that does so much work on so many issues for all the communities in the LGBT – and has never paused in that work, will not get another cent of support until we stop supporting the transgender
community so strongly. They say we are trying to make women’s spaces unsafe by asking that Trans women be allowed entrance and acceptance. (When they say so they are saying that “womyn born womyn,” i.e. women born with vaginas, are unsafe without a space separate from trans women even if some of the women taking this position claim to acknowledge trans women ARE women). I have even had one person say “Why does everything have to be about “transgender people” as if the least represented and most targeted of our communities is suddenly getting showered with attention and resources to the point of getting spoiled. Those are the least ugly messages.
I’m told we will get starved of our resources until we reorder our priorities to make lesbian separatist spaces, exclusionary of trans people, equal in urgency as trans rights on our agenda. One donor after another, dropping like flies. But here’s the thing, I WANT women to have safe spaces to go to, and I celebrate and appreciate that so many women have found that space in Michfest. I want them to continue to find that space in Michfest. But so many women can’t find that space in Michfest because trans or no, it is clear that “too different” is not welcome. There are oh so many categories and experiences of women who are celebrated at Michfest and then there are those who are conspicuously left out and the message received is “all are valid except for YOU.” VALID. And how terrible when trans women are the number one group in the queer community to get that message from the world to the point of harassment, violent crime, homelessness, and murder. At the festival that offers so many women such comfort and empowerment for just one week a year I think the least we can do is let the most vulnerable know that we know they are one of US. They are VALID. They are WELCOME in our space. That we will not single them out as less than and not enough like the rest of the world on every other day does, because to a great extent we know too much how that feels.
And I admit that on days like today I’m scared. Because part of the work I do is to help all LGBTQ people who need to keep their jobs and to get married and adopt their kids. And part of what we do is to protect kids from getting bullied and to make sure they can get insurance for their partners when they are lucky enough to fall in love. And part of what we do is to try to finally make it so somebody’s HIV status isn’t used against them. But part of what we do is also to work with the police when they are pulling body parts out of dumpsters. And most of the time those victims are trans people. And part of what we do is to get prosecutors to take a bloody beating seriously because a handful of guys thought somebody looked too feminine on their walk home from pride. When so often their only mistake was being themselves, being trans and trying to survive or wanting to express themselves with some kickass long hair. We need to fight for them too. Trans people are US as much as anybody else in the larger LGBTQ community.
This last year Equality Michigan and Many of our allies across the country decided that the least we can do is say that trans people matter, and trans women and trans men and gender queer people deserve to be safe and to be recognized for who they are, and declaring that is just the beginning of what we as advocates need to do to help put trans issues high on the agenda, start to get out of the way more often and pull out chairs and offer that seat at the table. CREATE more seats at the table.
So today I see some dollars fall away but I’m only afraid of what that means we can’t do to help EVERYONE. Because that is what non-profit funding is for. Individual donations are where so much stability comes from. I am not in doubt of what we stood up for. I adore my trans friends and who they TRULY authentically are and where we are going together. They should be able to be safe being themselves.
I want to make clear that I’m not pigeonholing our wonderful lesbian community. Just that there is a common thread with a small group. I want what they want to a point. I want the safe space to continue and thrive. I just want everyone there, celebrating each other, bonded in the security of womanhood.
Roughly twenty comments responded to her post, nearly all from men, none from Michfest supporters. “I wonder if you could tell them that your actions of inclusion of trans-gender people adds influence to the overall cause and secures the civil rights for all,” one clueless commenter offered hopefully.
Equality Michigan, under Dievendorf’s direction, sought to destroy a legendary multi-generational lesbian and women’s event, and the financial solvency of the women who support it, because for five days a year the needs and tribulations of males were not being served by those women.
All of the organizations that joined her in this boycott knew full well that they were calling for the destruction of lesbian culture and the destruction of women’s businesses and incomes on the sole basis that they supported an annual event based on an affinity group comprised of those of us born female.
How could organizations which claim to support the welfare of “LGBT” people stray so far a-field of the rights and needs of their lesbian constituency? How could national LGBT organizations be so tone-deaf that they failed to anticipate that lesbians would not respond well to the destruction of their communities, culture, and personal incomes? And why has this increasingly occurred over the last decade?
The answer is that lesbian voices have been nearly totally silenced, especially on the internet. Our voices are censored and deleted the moment they appear. On high-volume LGBT websites. On “Feminist” websites now moderated by men. When we start our own websites we are inundated by hate mail, stalked, threatened, hacked, google-bombed, recipients of censorship campaigns and petitions, we are doxxed, our home addresses published, our children threatened with death.
The very organizations that claim to represent us censor us. Ironically, when The Task Force announced last week the withdrawal of their organization from the Dievendorf Boycott nearly every lesbian comment was removed from their Facebook announcement within 24 hours by the man they tasked to do so. Hundreds of peaceable, thoughtful, lesbian and women’s comments removed.
Only the men remain.