An Open Letter to Lisa Vogel and the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival Community From Your Brother

By Lex Beatty

This is a love letter. It is also an apology and like all love and forgiveness, it bears the seeds of hope for a new beginning.

This week, like thousands of others, I received your letter marking the end of a 40 year journey. 40 is a significant number in many traditions and some of the symbolism of the 40 year journey no doubt applies to your current experience. When I read your letter I’ll admit that my heart broke. For so many women that I have loved The Land has been their sanctuary. It is their pilgrimage, their safe haven, their temple. I was lucky enough to experience this twice in my life when I was still considered your sister. This brings me to the heart of why I am writing you.

Today, I am a proud transgender man. I’m not writing this to be political, I am writing to put the politics to rest. As a transgender man I had the deep privilege and honor to experience the sacredness of your festival prior to my transition. Once I chose to transition, I chose not to return to the land out of respect for the women I knew who needed that space. Women that I loved. Women that loved me. Women that nurtured and cared and honored me. Women who had been hurt by men whom I now called brother by shared identity. That was their space. No one asked me to stay away, no one asked me to respect The Land, no one forced me to forgo attendance. It was a decision that I made as I chose to honor my masculinity in all areas of my life.

You and I do not share a chronological bond, we grew up as girls in very different worlds. I have no idea what this land meant to you – or your sisters. I’ll never know the pain or the dream that brought about this magical place. We no longer share a bond of gender, I move through the world with different fears, different access, different potential. Not better, not worse, but certainly different. In some ways, I always have. My generation has stood upon the shoulders of yours. At times I know it felt as though we were stepping on your backs but I don’t believe that was the intent. Women like yourselves, your comrades, your sisters – they broke open the box for men like me. Brothers who were once your sisters, sisters who were once your brothers. In many ways I am the fruit of your labor and you are the roots of my potential. We share one inalienable bond: Liberation.

Every movement must evolve. I believe that where my generation has failed is in giving gratitude to immense sacrifice of those who came before us. We are often quick to point out the shortfalls or the mistakes made. Movements are never perfect, mistakes are inevitable and at any point in time people can only operate within the context of their time. There has been much criticism of MWMF, likely of you personally, of feminism, of separatism, and the list goes on. Some of it I think we can agree is warranted but much of it is not. For that, I am sorry. This is your life’s work. This is your gift to the world and the one thing that cannot be taken from you is the way the world has changed because of its existence. I believe that you and your community had the right as a private entity to determine any rules you wanted for whom you chose to call sister. You should not have been persecuted for that. In the same way that your trans sisters should not have been persecuted for wanting to be accepted – maybe not by you personally but absolutely by some.

Evolution has a life of its own. When we began challenging the notion of male and female, masculinity and femininity, cultural constructions of hierarchy, biological superiority/inferiority, family structure, divisions of labor, etc. we opened the door to question the very construct of gender itself. In opening that door, many were finally able to step through their biological constraints and experience the freedom of honoring their true selves in the same way that women were encouraged to access aspects of themselves that had been lost to cultural conditioning. Trans bodies are a fruit of the same Liberation movement that gave rise the bold and beautiful Lesbian sisterhood and the feminist movement as we know it. We share more than we hold different.

In the end, the politics of it backed everyone into a corner. Some felt threatened and retaliated, others felt persecuted and attacked. The pain on both sides of an imaginary line was palpable and I suspect it won’t soon be soothed. I don’t think you ever meant for these lines to be drawn. I don’t think anyone did. I think you set out to build something that celebrated women, gave them sanctuary and peace and a sweet taste of Freedom and possibility. You did that. Hundreds of thousands of times over the last 40 years you gave women peace, hope, safety, compassion, healing, wisdom, fun, and life altering bond with other women. You’ve accomplished more than most and touched the lives of so many, myself included. However, in defense or opposition, much pain has been generated on both sides of this debate. I only hope we can find common ground and put this angst to rest for the sake of our shared humanity and common desire to be honored, respected, and free.

Many friends of mine are sisters of yours. Twice I was brought to The Land by the generosity of those sisters. They cared for me, loved me, honored me, called me family and some of those women are no longer with us. They are forever on The Land, the wind in the trees that watch over that sweet place. I know why so many want to be there, it is exactly because it is so special, because it is so unique and unlike anything words can even describe. It is like being cradled by thousands of mothers.

You gave many women a place to be free. There are many more women who only wanted the same chance, even if they were once your brothers. They are perhaps the women that needed it the most. Women that desperately needed the permission to slip off the last shackles of their conditioning and experience the sacred bond of women. It isn’t about identities, politics or even bodies. It was about liberating the identity of “woman” to include the full potential of femininity – for Every Body. I’m sorry that The Land was the battle ground and that your life’s work appears to be the sacrifice.

We’ve met, maybe twice. We have sisters in common. You gave me something I didn’t know that I needed. MWMF brought into my life two incredible people, one whom I will love for the rest of my life, one of my dearest friends on the planet and another who is no longer here but whom I will love into eternity. They raised this version of me, gave me my voice, my strength, my purpose. They gave me my life back when I was sure it was gone. The Land gave me hope when I was sure there was none. There are no words to describe the deep love and admiration I hold for you. Thank you for all that you have done for this tattered and weary world.

In order for a seed to reach it’s true potential it must break and yield to the promise within. On the surface it might appear that our respective communities are on opposite sides of a line, but I hope we can come to see that we are merely branches on the same tree.

In Deep Gratitude and Respect, 
Your Brother Lex Beatty


About Lex Beatty: Lex Beatty is a transgender spiritual thought leader, speaker and educator living in Santa Cruz, CA. “

Follow Lex:

Twitter: LexisWord

Instagram: LexisWord

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