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Emily Dievendorf- creator of the largest anti-Lesbian boycott in history

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:

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NCLR's Kate Kendell

NCLR’s Kate Kendell

Many in the Lesbian community were shocked last year when the National Center for Lesbian Rights, headed by Kate Kendell, announced that the first and only boycott in the history of the org would be against the rights of lesbians to hold private events that exclude males.

The NCLR, formerly a Lesbian Rights organization had, unbeknownst to some, shifted their mission to prioritize the rights of men, particularly wealthy heterosexual males who want to “identify as lesbians”. The Task Force (formerly the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force), headed by Rea Carey, followed suit.

After extended outcry, mockery, and withdrawal of support from the lesbian community Kendell announced this week that NCLR was reversing their stance on the boycott and requesting the name of their org be removed from the petition issued by the head of Michigan Equality, Emily Dievendorf,  a self-described “bisexual rights” activist partnered with a man.

Sara Toce at the Windy City Times quotes Kendell:

 “As you know, last summer NCLR signed the petition sponsored by Equality Michigan calling on the organizers of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival ( Michfest ) to embrace the presence of transgender women at the iconic gathering. In the wake of our signing, you contacted us to express your disappointment and anger that NCLR would sign a petition which called for a boycott of the festival.

 Many of the letters we received recognized transgender women as women and sisters in struggle, while also arguing that the intention of Michfest does not diminish the lived experience of transgender women.

 Since then, we have been involved in a number of conversations with Michfest womyn, Equality Michigan, transgender leaders and colleagues who signed the petition. These conversations have made clear that there are essential values and perspectives we all share and that the petition was not going to be an effective vehicle for a resolution.

 NCLR has removed our name from the petition and will be actively engaged in conversations in which we honor our differences while also pursuing a conclusion that supports the gender identity and inclusion of all women in Michfest. We have faith that such a resolution is possible.

 This entire process has been one of great learning for me and, while we may disagree on some issues, I think there are many values we share. I signed the petition on behalf of NCLR because our core passion and commitment is that we all be able to live fully and be embraced as our authentic selves.

 We are grounded in some deeply held principles, including the belief that discrimination and bigotry against lesbians is rooted in sexism, misogyny and the devaluation of women. We do not believe it is possible to win liberation for lesbians in a world where misogyny thrives. We also do not believe we can end the oppression of women and lesbians in a world where transgender women are reviled and targeted.

 NCLR has come to a deeper understanding of what Michfest means to our community and seeks to honor that through this process. We also acknowledge the Michfest organizers have been involved in an ongoing conversation over the years on this issue. We are committed to honest and forthright dialogue as a more constructive means for seeking resolution and common ground.

 Sincerely, Kate”

Rea Carey of The Task Force

Rea Carey of The Task Force

Today, I was forwarded an email sent out by Rea Carey of The Task Force. Like Kendell’s it was sent out to women who had written in protest of the boycott. It reads:

“Greetings,

Last year, the National LGBTQ Task Force signed onto a petition organized by Equality Michigan which called upon the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Michfest) to fully welcome and include transgender women, as women, at the festival.

You took the time to write to me and I appreciate that you did – you and others shared with me your perspectives and experiences on the land that some described as “sacred,” “an annual touchstone,” iconic” and “home.” I heard that you are angry and hurt by the Task Force and other organizations signing the petition. I heard from you and others that Michfest is a truly historic and transformative annual event that has influenced, inspired and helped to liberate millions of womyn/women from the daily trials and tribulations of misogyny and sexism. It holds a very special place in the hearts of lesbians and other womyn/women.

In the months between then and now, I have talked with womyn/women who have attended, womyn/women who would like to attend, and other people who have a variety of views. I’ve talked with our colleagues at Equality Michigan, leaders of other organizations who have been engaged in this, and with transgender women. From these conversations, I have gleaned shared values, differing opinions, and have come to a view that in order to move forward in any type of dialogue we must move beyond the petition.

I am writing to let you know that the Task Force has asked that our name be removed from the Equality Michigan petition and we will be seeking other ways to be in dialogue about Michfest’s intention regarding transgender women. As we reflected on the petition’s contents and read carefully letters from concerned people like you, we came to understand that the point in the original petition that called for a boycott of vendors and performers was misaligned with our own support for womyn/women artists, craftspeople and musicians. Although that point was withdrawn from the petition, we recognize and share the deep concern about the possible economic impact on womyn/women striving every day to make a living through their art, craft and music.

Please know that the Task Force’s view regarding the MichFest intention is rooted in our core value of inclusiveness and the festival’s extraordinary transformative power. For over 40 years, the Task Force has worked for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer identified people in all areas of our lives – whether it be in the workplace, the government, companies and, yes, in our own community.

The Task Force will remain in active discussion with MichFest womyn/women, Equality Michigan, transgender colleagues, and other organizations that signed the petition. The Task Force is committed to productive discussions in which we honor our differences and also pursue our desire for MichFest to fully welcome the gender identities of all womyn/women at the festival, including transgender women.

For over 40 years, the Task Force has worked for a changed world. A world in which we can all experience liberation. A world in which misogyny cannot thrive. A world in which womyn/women, lesbians, bisexual women and transgender women no longer experience sexism, targeted attacks and the most horrible form of violence – murder. As we intensify our work to take on all of the challenges we face as a movement, know that these values are at the heart of what we do.

With care and in solidarity,
Rea”

Rumours abound that other Michfest boycott signatories, many of which like NCLR and The Task Force were once (at least tacitly) supportive of Lesbian and Women’s Rights are undergoing similar pressure to reverse what can only be described as an aggressively anti-women, anti-lesbian, stance.

To all lesbians reading this, and to our allies: Please withdraw all support, financial and otherwise, from organizations- especially those who purport to be “LGBT” centric- if those organizations do not explicitly support the rights of lesbians to hold lesbian-only or women-only events.

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Lesbians Are WOMEN !

January 5, 2011

Some of us have been murmuring for some time about how skewed the priorities of some organizations claiming to represent LESBIAN WOMEN have become. Dirt posted an excellent piece today on one such organization, and this is my response.

Is THAT a picture of a lesbian?

THAT is a picture of a mass murderer. His name is Richard Speck. He murdered eight nurses. In prison he claimed he had turned transgender and was “actually” a female. He wanted a “sex change”.

How high on a list of LESBIAN Priorities should Richard Speck’s desire for a taxpayer funded sex change be? How important is it to YOU, as a LESBIAN, that this mass murderer gets a free sex change? Would you donate funds to help him do so? Would you want a major LESBIAN organization to make his desires a PRIORITY? Would you want an organization to do so while claiming to represent LESBIANS?

Well the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) has made it a priority. A LESBIAN priority that criminals like Speck have a CIVIL RIGHT to taxpayer funded gender reassignment, even if they have NEVER expressed a transgender urge prior to their incarceration. And this is a priority for a Lesbian WOMEN’s organization WHY exactly? What ARE the priorities of the National Center for Lesbian Rights?

Here is a list of all active pending cases on the NCLR case docket posted on their website, as I understand them:

-an amicus brief submitted in a lesbian case challenging Florida’s ban on adoption by lesbians and gays. (The case was represented by pro-bono attorneys, not NCLR, so here the NCLR submitted a brief in a case relating to an actual lesbian, not a case they represented however.)

-Lawsuit filed to force prisons to provide incarcerated trans criminals taxpayer funded hormones and surgery. Free sex changes for incarcerated transgender people who “come out” after incarceration. As wards of the state, convicted criminals should be entitled to taxpayer funded hormones and surgeries that are not provided for law abiding citizens.

-Lawsuit filed claiming heterosexuals are being discriminated against, by being excluded from gay men’s softball leagues. Seriously. This is who the NCLR is representing. Can’t make this shit up.

-amicus brief filed in case of Egyptian gay man seeking asylum from anti-gay mistreatment in a country where gay men can be arrested for homosexuality.

-asylum case for Mexican transgender identified person who received alleged harassment because of claiming to be a sex incongruent with that on birth certificate.

-asylum case for gay Pakistani male.

-amicus brief filed in case of Pakistani hetero male who alleges he was detained by the FBI due to religious profiling of muslims in terrorism investigations.

-assisting a pro bono attorney who is representing an asylum case for Bosnian lesbian.

-lawsuit against Cherokee Nation representing lesbian married couple.

-asylum for another Mexican transgender person.

That’s it. As I understand it those are the open pending cases represented by the NCLR.

Well what else do they do?

NCLR Sports Project issued a report in 2010 warning that women’s sports teams discriminate against males and that failure to permit males to compete against females in female sports may result in “costly litigation”. The NCLR press report was issued in October when a 57 year-old male who beat out all the female competitors (average age 30) to win the women’s world championship for long-drive golf sued the LPGA for his “right” to compete against women. The NCLR supported this action and does so by misrepresenting themselves as being a lesbian WOMEN organization. The NCLR appears to believe that women’s sports leagues infringe on the CIVIL RIGHTS of males. The 57 year-old male may be the first competitor in history to embark on a new professional sports career at such an advanced age.

It’s hard to IMAGINE that a lesbian rights organization would make the rights of males to play women’s sports their highest priority, much less the “rights” of male criminals to receive taxpayer funded sex changes, or the “rights” of heterosexuals to play on gay softball leagues, but this is what the NCLR is concerned with. Only three of the ten active pending lawsuits listed on the NCLR website concern lesbians, and two of them are not actually being represented by the NCLR. So, one out of ten.  Three transgender cases (two male one female), two gay male, two hetero male.

It’s time for the National Center for “Lesbian” Rights to change their name to better reflect their priorities. “National Center for MALE Rights”?  “National Center for Queer Rights” perhaps?

After all, the ex-lesbian legal director of NCLR  has stated “…there is a community of lesbians and transmen who are just kind of merging into one social group…”. NCLR seems to believe that the concerns and priorities of lesbians (who are women) are indistinct from the concerns and priorities of men (the legal director considers herself a man, so that may explain her male-centrism and misogyny). Like many transgender persons the legal director seems to believe that all discrimination against gays and lesbians is due to their perceived gender-nonconformity, and therefore the concerns of the LGB can be subsumed, borg-like, by the transgender political movement. What such a philosophy fails to take into account is that……wait for it…..Lesbians are WOMEN. Fancy that! Political objectives and legal priorities for WOMEN are entirely different- and often at odds with- those of MEN. Go figure! Who’d a thunk it???

So if anyone wrote out a year-end donation to the NCLR- quick put a stop payment on it. Don’t support an organization that colonizes lesbians and takes our money and works for the “rights” of Richard Speck, and straight men, and males who want to start professional sports careers at the age of 57 in women’s leagues.

And don’t buy the women’s underwear that NCLR sells to raise funds.

And tell ALLLLL your friends and neighbors how the NCLR does NOT represent your LESBIAN interests.