Room for All Kinds of Womyn- Dana Rivers*

August 12, 2018

 

“The gate was guarded by four womyn, dressed in typical dyke-garb…baggy shorts or pants, tee shirts, practical shoes. Behind them, large femme-hued cloth banners beckoned passers by with the word “WELCOME”. On the sturdy pipe gate itself, floral decorated words said simply, “Michigan Womyns Music Festival”. The ready smiles of the gatekeepers who swung the barrier open to eager festie-goers who had made the final leg of their journeys down the washboard dirt road only added to the idyllic, some say even sacred, setting. Inside, the most celebrated annual gathering of womyn in the United States was in full bloom on three stages, in dozens of crafts booths, and camps that attracted every manner of female soul with the money and resources necessary to get there. Almost.

Across from the gate, as it had nearly every year since 1993, a rag tag encampment was taking shape under the rich green canopy of leaves common to this heavily wooded region. Mostly queer, mostly womyn, and all business, Camp Trans was emerging from a yearlong slumber to once again shake an angry fist at Lisa Vogel, owner and womyn-goddess of the Michigan festival. The reason? Lisa’s long standing denial of womyn-privilege to anyone so inclined to label themselves as a transsexual womyn or anyone who would not fit her narrow attendance criteria as “womyn-born-womyn who had lived their entire life experience as womyn.”

On one side of the road then, was the festival, that claimed inspiration and guiding light from the deepest place within the womb of the feminine when in fact it ruled unilaterally about who was and who was not a womyn. On the other, Camp Trans, a righteous and indignant crew of underclass feminist radical peace loving self described sister spirits who were tired of the open discrimination they say Vogel’s policy perpetuated. The space between these two camps was a distant measured in emotions and history. This year, the MWMF’s 25th, would once again shine a light on that world in between.

The year 2000 version of Camp Trans was put together by a new generation of trans-queer-womyn activists headed by Chicago and Boston area Lesbian Avengers. The Chicago contingent named their group the Camp Trans Organizing Committee, and had been meeting for most of a year to plan and try to figure out how to get Lisa to loosen her attitude toward determining the gender of festival goers.

The festival had been going on since Monday. I arrived on Thursday evening. I was in Michigan because I wanted to go. There is so much debate in the LBTQ community about who should be a part of the festival. I realized that most of those who had an opinion never attended, or had stopped going years ago. I wanted to see and feel for myself how all of this would play out. And besides, I am a womyn. A womyn-born-womyn. I also happen to be a trans-womyn, one who lost her job as a California high school teacher when I came out. I’ve felt first hand the sting of the patriarchy that the MWMF purports to hold at bay for a blessed week. I belong among other womyn as surely as I need to sit down to pee. Any rule that would exclude me from the community of my sisters is intolerable to me.

On Friday morning, a group of us assembled under a loosely hung blue tarp that acted as Camp Trans Community Central. We talked about who wanted to go into the festival. It was great being among these twenty-something’s who were far more queer and gender bent than I ever would be. According to Lisa’s criteria, they should all be allowed entrance. Yet, many wanted no part of the womyn-born-womyn label. They had names like Simon, Ari, and Gunner who were they said ‘dyke-boys” and “trans-boyz” and “andro” and “queer”. They had been born with vaginas, and had even lived the bulk of their young lives as womyn, but it was obvious to me and to them that I was more female than they were. Why, they asked rhetorically, should they be allowed into the MWMF while I was being denied entrance if I stated that I was a transsexual. They were there to push for the right to self-determination, just as I was. We suspected that most every dyke-straight-femme-butch-bitch already camped inside the festival gate wanted the same right.

At 11:00 am, we heard a commotion. Looking up, we saw a band of about thirty festies marching toward the gate from inside the festival, beating a drum and chanting, “We support our tranny friends!” Their bodies were painted with slogans of support and self-identification. They all had wristbands signifying that they had paid to attend, and all could have stayed inside and not bothered with us. But they chose instead to show their support and come to the gate to cheer us on while we attempted to come in.

Bolstered by this classic expression of feminist activism, we approached the gate, and asked to be admitted so we could purchase wristbands of our own. We were met by womyn who claimed to be officials of the festival. They said that anyone honoring the festival’s womyn-born-womyn guidelines would be admitted. They were not interested in how we identified. Clearly, they wanted no part of the controversy that had marked previous years. In 1991 Nancy Burkholder was expelled after being outed as a transsexual, and last year bands of self described lesbian separatists harangued gender-queer festies, boldly asking to see their genitals while stalking behind them chanting “man on the land”. This year, a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy seemed to be Lisa’s strategy.

Avengers said they wanted clarification of the policy. They wanted to know who would be admitted and who would not. I stood there, ready to declare that I met the womyn-born-womyn criteria. (In my heart I know this to be true. My mother and daughter and lesbian lover know that this is who I am. The Goddess in my prayers knows this. Surely, telling Lisa Vogel is no stretch for me.) The officials refused to dialogue. They kept saying that they wanted us to respect their policy. When asked again for information, they repeated their mantra. Now, as we stood there almost a decade after Burkholder’s expulsion, one womyn who declared herself transsexual was told she could not enter. I could see her face, etched with the painful reality that she was not welcome in womyn’s space. While I truly have compassion for Lisa’s desire to protect her festival from male energy, I knew then that her line was marked in an inappropriate place. She was keeping out womyn who needed and wanted to be inside.

Along with twenty or so Avengers and allies, I went in, past the gate, and bought my wristband. My experience inside was wonderful, and I was treated with respect everywhere I went. At one point, during the Saturday evening meal, I stood proudly supporting my sisters, now known as The Michigan Eight, who were told to leave the land when they declared their status as dyke-boyz and trans-womyn to festival officials. This was done in full few of hundreds and hundreds of supportive festies, who watched this peaceful act of defiance. I even helped pass out stickers reading ‘room for all kinds of womyn’ to show my solidarity. Overwhelmingly, the crowd that gathered wanted every womyn present to stay and be accepted. A few detractors tried to drum up anti-trans sentiment but the hatred and ignorance of their words fell without harm into the dust on Lois Lane where we stood.

The Michigan Womyns Music Festival has grown over twenty-five years to include young boys who are the children of festies (they were originally excluded), and to embrace workshops and supporters of the BDSM lifestyle. Today, there are special places on the land for womyn of color and chemical free zones for clean and sober womyn and even a scent free space that were not present originally. Likewise, I believe the festival will change to include trans-womyn and this new generation of dyke-boyz. In many ways, it already has. Every day, in full view of the Night Stage, a trans support group met openly. Transexual Menace tee shirts could be seen all over the land in many meetings and circles. I’m guessing that as they always have, Lisa and her friends will soon gather to plan next year’s festival. Along with the Lesbian Avengers and many festival workers and most importantly festies themselves, I encourage them to do the right thing, and let the MWMF continue to grow to be a space where all kinds of womyn can walk and talk and dance and sing.”


*This was published in August 2000 on LesbianNation.com, now SheWired.com. Dana Rivers, formerly David Warfield, is a transgender mass murderer currently facing trial for killing lesbian couple Patricia Wright and Charlotte Reed, and their son Toto “Benny” Diambu-Wright. Dana/David first stabbed and then shot his victims, he then attempted to set them on fire. The lesbian women were Michfest attendees.

Michfest was a women-only, predominantly Lesbian music festival that existed for 40 years until the HRC (Human Rights Campaign), NCLR (National Center For Lesbian Rights), NGLTF (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) among others, called for a boycott of the festival and all women who attended or performed at the festival. This was the first and only boycott sponsored by the National Center For Lesbian Rights, directed against a lesbian festival on the grounds that female homosexuality is discriminatory against the sexual rights of heterosexual men. 

32 Responses to “Room for All Kinds of Womyn- Dana Rivers*”

  1. GallusMag Says:

    Rea Carey, Kate Kendell, all these women need to be kept to account. Never forget!

    • Bev Jo Says:

      We won’t. Thank you SO much for this, Gallus Mag. I spoke about this just today to a group a women.

      I hadn’t realized the murderer had written something like this. I wish every woman who supports these men would read it.

      Still, in Oakland where this white man committed a triple hate crime (anti-female, anti-Lesbian, and racist) almost no one has ever heard about it because the GBTetc. media censors it.

    • B-Dala Says:

      Agreed.

      We expect this kind of entitlement and misogyny from mentally ill transsexual men. But seeing actual women side with these pricks and defend the practice of harassing/intimidating females who just want to have a penis-free weekend is sickening.

      • bishopioan Says:

        The support of women who ought to know better is what galls me. I know I’m pretty old-school (I came out 1972), but since when do women have male genitalia?? If I’m attending a women’s music festival, I want to know that my wife and I are in a safe space (both abuse survivors). Having “women” with penises does not say “safety” to me.

        I had hoped to one day bring my wife to MichFest because she has seen videos of the festival and really liked the energy, as did I. Now with that gone, we have to hope that something will eventually replace it.

  2. FierceMild Says:

    Male pattern violence can’t be surgically removed.


  3. If someone with male DNA was truly a woman, they would understand woman only space and be happy for the women celebrating. Yes, they would fell left out, but they would understand and not be self righteous. Perhaps they would organize a festival that included who they wanted to celebrate with. Perhaps they would do some of their own work instead of infringing on women’s lives.

    • bishopioan Says:

      Precisely. They could certainly have a trans-only event. Goddess knows I would wish them well. But this co-opting of women’s energy, women’s lives and women’s spaces just shows their male privilege and male arrogance.

  4. ceri63 Says:

    I hope the women who enabled this arsehole are happy.

  5. Bob Doublin Says:

    That first sentence. With the gratuitous insults against lesbians with especially the phrase “sensible shoes”. Fuck this prick and HIS antilesbian bigotry. I hope California fries his useless self. But I’m really afraid the prosecutors involved are going to pull the same shit prosecutors in Oregon and Nevada pulled with the Bundy Bunch and their occupation of Malheur and the other crimes they committed. A judge will eventually toss the case out for prosecutorial misconduct and declare jeopardy attached so HE can’t be retried.

    Your comment at the end reminds me of how I felt about Michfest. I first discovered it around 1984. And fell in love with just the IDEA of it. I had a vague desire of wishing to be able to attend it. Just the idea of a week or two in an area where patriarchy was held at bay as well as people fighting against it could manage. I realized right away I couldn’t and shouldn’t try to attend because I was male. I never tried at all. But the idea of it was precious because it stood for fighting against the Patriarchy. I was always appalled by the idea of Camp Trans. I knew they were wrong and were nothing but the Tools and Fools and Snools of the Patriarchy.


  6. OMGawdess triple murderer dude IRL, his former blatherings on Michfest chill me.

    Every time I get an email solicitation from NCLR I copy link to trans ID violence against women in “hell no donation” reply.

    Here’s this weeks link ready.

    The mortality time bomb from cross-sex hormone adverse effects can’t go off soon enough.

  7. Gerry Capone Says:

    Rivers says he was born female which I guess means that he’s convinced his mother that he was, so that she can vouch for him as female-born. An interesting way to deny that he, like all trans guys are self-birthed, or fictionally born from their own heads. It’s also a way to deny his mother’s own knowledge about his birth and her primary role in it. (if he’s trans-sexual, then I guess he was also born of doctors)

  8. Rosemary Says:

    “Any rule that would exclude me from the community of my sisters is intolerable to me.”

    This says it all. Want to know if a man respects women? See how he reacts when one says “No” to him. We won’t know until the trial begins why Rivers brutally murdered that family, in fact we might never know for sure. But I would be willing to bet that a refusal to accept the word NO played a pivotal part.

    • bishopioan Says:

      He IS frightening. And I certainly would agree that somewhere the word “no” played into it. And no, Rivers, we are NOT your Sisters and you, as a male, are certainly NOT mine. WBW space is exactly that. You were NOT born female, and you and the rest of your group and any women dumb enough to be allies need to stay away from us.

  9. Nat Says:

    This is honestly chilling. Men are terrifying.

    • musse Says:

      https://archive.fo/hdF6e
      And a few years later, after David Warfield [Dana Rivers]pushing his man’s activism on a women’s motorcycle club, he joins to get closer to a lesbian that rejects him, for being a man[what did the dude expect?] and their kills her, her girlfriend, and one of their adopted sons.

      The son that wasn’t killed [and by some miracle was away at college] relayed this as the motivation behind the slaughter of his entire family.

      • musse Says:

        *correction, they had three children between them.

      • kesher Says:

        I’m sure the murders were borne from his narcissistic rage over women telling him “no”, but it’s still only an unsubstantiated rumor that Rivers propositioned either of those women.

      • musse Says:

        True, I find that Most TIMs have a condescending view of actual women. The lesbian couple that were in the It could have been something with control with the women’s motorcycle club, and this man might have considered himself to have the rights to the ownership of all the women in the group. . He has a long history of forcing himself into women spaces and forcing women to bend the rules for him. I stay so far away from men like that. I recognize what strategy’s an abusive man will inflict no matter what wig or dress they wear. behavior,


      • ” it’s still only an unsubstantiated rumor that Rivers propositioned either of those women.”

        iirc, reports indicated that the triple homicide this was a “love triangle” gone bad, & that it was basically a “domestic dispute.”

      • GallusMag Says:

        @spaceonearth1- You have just published what is, by definition, an unsubstantiated rumor: “If I recall correctly, reports indicated…”
        Please stop.

        Kesher is correct. There have been unsubstantiated rumors as to motive. That is all. Unless someone involved makes a public statement we won’t know more until the prosecution makes their case at trial.

  10. Medi Says:

    Thanks for unearthing that creepy article Rivers wrote around 2000–the arrogance is breathtaking. I heard through the grapevine that Rivers was attracted to one of the women in the couple, and she rejected him. Maybe they even met him at Fest. Never in the history of Michigan has any lesbian who attended committed mass murder. It’s why they had a born womyn only policy to begin with, men had menaced the place for decades, as had the trans gang… and yes hold NCLR accountable for Kendall’s horrifying betrayal of lesbians, she should be hounded out of that job to begin with.

    • bishopioan Says:

      Even 18 years on, that article both infuriates me and creeps me out. Infuriates me because of its arrogance and it’s male privilege and creeps me out because of the murders.

      Then as we saw at the 2018 SF Dyke March, lesbians were again attacked. Plus a display of pink and blue baseball bats, some wrapped with barbed wire, pink and blue axes, and T-shirts with fake blood saying “I punch TERFs”, etc..none of this is anywhere remotely like assorted feminists and lesbians I have known.

  11. Medi Says:

    They foolishly let Rivers join a dyke mototcycle club— lesbians who let these guys into lesbian space— you are endandering your lesbian sisters

    • Bev Jo Says:

      This is so true, but they do not care. Traitors.

      • bishopioan Says:

        No, they don’t care. You can see this on comment thread after comment thread. A few gay men do back us up because they’re in a similar tight spot vis a vis trans “men”. There was a gay man who started an anti-trans site (open to lesbians as well as gay men) but it died. Not enough people active on it. But most of the LGBT community buys into all this nonsense.

        I frequently ask myself, “What is wrong with these women that they can’t see the male violence and male arrogance simmering just below the surface in so many tras women”?

  12. Nonny Says:

    We will never, EVER forget. We recognize that men, MALES, have done this. They’ve played their usual part. Their typical fucking male-patterned part. And some sorry-assed, sad-sack women enabled them along the way.

    I may have some beliefs that don’t match those of the mythical, so-called “TERF” (eyeroll, we’re all TERFS at this point, so w/e). But you know what? I stay in my fuckin lane bc I recognize what’s best for all of womankind in spite of my personal bullshit, bc the stakes are too high. Too bad these TiM douchebags can’t do the same. It’s almost like they don’t actually care about women, gee whiz.

  13. Bev Jo Says:

    What would we do without you, GallusMag? You and everyone else here helps so much whenever I feel hopeless about how bad it’s getting because of the trans cult and the women betraying us to these dangerous men.

  14. B-Dala Says:

    The entitlement of this prick and his enablers is astounding.

    Any sane person would just seek out a different festival if one little indie festival didn’t let them in. But these dudes and their hand-maidens are so offended by the idea of women saying “no” to them that they feel the need to harass and slander them out of business.

    This article and the tragic murders that followed it should serve as a warning. But, sadly, none of the mainstream gay/”queer” organizations are acknowledging it. They’re just doing their best to ignore the story and hope no one notices it (which is a huge slap in the face to the memory of the family that died at this MAN’S hand)

    • bishopioan Says:

      But these individuals are not sane. These idiots and their lesbian enablers think these individuals really ARE women. Id give them some credit if they actually got the lower surgery done, but I would be willing to bet that the most violent and misogynist amongst them have not. And if they really were women, they would know that it is the woman’s inalienable right to say “no” and that is that. But they can’t get over their male arrogance and propensity to violence when a woman tells them “no’. Funny that I’ve always known that this right exists and yes, I’ve been turned down by women. What I did was to accept that she wasn’t interested and got over it.

  15. Jennifer Says:

    “I belong among other womyn as surely as I need to sit down to pee.” Ew. Ew. Ew.

  16. Kitty Barber Says:

    ‘Any rule that would exclude me from the community of my sisters is intolerable to me.’
    And I intend to kill them for it.

  17. One to Nothing Says:

    “it was obvious to me and to” the people who were “born with vaginas . . . that I was more female than they were.”

    Wow. That’s some binary. I was born with a vagina, but I like motorcycles, so I’m “more male” than a someone born with a penis who likes fashion. Okay.

    Or . . . I was born rich, but I’m greedy and want more , so it’s “obvious” to everyone living under the poverty line that I’m poorer than they. Now give me all your money, everybody.


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