Equality Michigan Stands With Allies: Seeking Full Inclusion

Emily Dievendorf, executive director of Equality Michigan
Originally printed 8/19/2014 (Issue 2233 - Between The Lines News)

On July 28th Zoe Steinfield, a transwoman activist and Emily Dievendorf, of Equality Michigan, submitted Op-Eds to BTL expressing their concerns for Michfest, asking for a community wide boycott and what they would like to see changed.}

Read Steinfield's Op-Ed Here

Read Dievendorf's first Op-Ed Here

On Aug. 18th, after the preparation and execution of the 2014 Michfest concluded, Lisa Vogel, founder and producer of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, submitted her response titled "Michfest Responds: We Have A Few Demands Of Our Own.

Read Vogel's Op-Ed Here

Equality Michigan Stands With Allies: Seeking Full Inclusion

Equality Michigan and our allies in this debate aren't trying to kill Fest. We want to make Michfest the inclusive safe place it claims to be - and to us that means for ALL women including trans women. It would take just a sentence change in Fest's "intention" and an open gate that didn't require you to hide who you are in order to be a part of the community and to be treated with proper humanity. Transwomen need to be radically welcomed into the space just as any other women's group that represents one of many diverse experiences of womanhood has been welcomed. The larger festival space should be as much theirs as it is any other woman's and perhaps tents within the festival where cis and trans women can caucus separately could be set up to allow community building around and within those different experiences. If Fest fades out because it cannot evolve with time and understanding to keep up with the values held by most of its attendees that would be unfortunate and a real loss but also entirely preventable.

In regard to Michfest asking EqMI supporters, and supporters of others orgs that have stood with us, to stop their donations because of where we stand and what we are asking around trans inclusion at Michfest, (Still on the side of inclusion. LGB and, YES, T advocacy is what we are privileged and charged to do. Standing up for every part of the LGBT family is the right and just thing and we will never apologize for that.) EqMI and our allied orgs are dedicated to helping the LGBT communities, and we do so with limited funds while tackling a myriad of issues.

Equality Michigan is a victim services agency - sometimes that means helping a survivor navigate the system after a hate crime or finding resources for those struggling against domestic violence and sometimes that is trying to find a way to protect you from discrimination in the workplace in a state where we lack statewide protections. We serve as a fighter for the LGBT communities in political spheres on all policy issues that affect our communities and at every level of government. We work throughout the state to educate Michiganders about what rights we do and don't have and we help to mobilize and empower citizens to demand change at home. You have seen us fight for anti-bullying policies, LGBT inclusive hate crimes laws, an LGBT inclusive civil rights act, domestic partner benefits, HIV funding and decriminalization, marriage equality and on and on. We don't do this as an island but we have been hella busy working for the good.

I suggest the community not cut off its nose to spite its face. When you try to harm a non-profit that does service and policy work you are smacking down the most vulnerable and slowing progress for those who have already waited too long. We do not operate on "vast resources" and it took mostly just conviction and words and phrases for Equality Michigan and an awesome trans activist to start this. (Remember that when you are thinking you don't have what you need to spark change or necessary debate.) Most of the hours the EqMI team has had to spend on Michfest since standing with our trans* family on Michfest this year has been not in the execution of doing what we feel in our hearts to be right but in the responding to the harassment we have received as a result. That said, I will not be convinced that it is wrong to put resources (time, money, energy) toward trans advocacy because we will. Again, our role is to advocate for the entire LGBT community and that means calling out exclusion and discrimination where we see it to protect that entire family. The bisexual community (my part of the alphabet soup) will also not be forgotten.

Michfest will not break us, or the allied orgs, with this call to stop support of our work, but we will feel it because at a small non-profit you feel every slice taken out of a pie that is supposed to feed so many. I suppose this means that Lisa and Michfest organizers have all the rights they wanted and that all they needed was one week a year when they felt safe? Because, they aren't safe. The sad thing is that Michigan's LGBT communities are still in a state that lacks basic rights for LGBT people, but it can be safer sooner than later if advocates working for LGBT rights are supported.

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