On Recent Events: How “Transphobia” is Used As A Tool (of the (internalized) Patriarchy) To Silence (Radical) Lesbians (and Feminists)

August 28, 2007

“She’s A Transphobe!” –On How the Undefined and Unfounded charge of “Transphobia” is Another Tool Used To Silence Lesbians and Feminists

I’ve recently returned from one of my last meetings of my local Lesbian Group. This group has been around for over a decade and has the mission of uniting, informing, education, and providing social, cultural, and political space and visibility for Lesbian women. It has from the start, had it’s ups and downs. But now, for me, it is on it’s last down turn. It is no longer healthy or safe for me to stay involved with a group that I have been working with for almost six years. Why you ask? Because of The Gendercator, because of Michigan, because of Bitch, and because I use the words Lesbian, Feminist, Female, and Patriarchy, Misogyny, and Womyn’s Space often. All of these things have combined and led some in my community to stick the label of “transphobe” on me and to see all things that I do or say as “transphobic.” Why?

Recent events have taken the national spotlight that provide examples of how the current mainstream “LGBTQAI,…” and “Third Wave Feminist” communities, among others have thrown the charge of  “transphobia” at womyn, resulting in the banning and silencing of a Dyke (Bitch) from a Dyke March in Boston that bills itself as “all inclusive and welcoming” and the censorship of a 15 minute short film (The Gendercator) from  an LGBT film festival in San Francisco,  and threatened protests and banning  all over the country, even in my neck of the woods.

The charge of “transphobia” is used to silence those who ask questions, and to halt productive and potentially healing discussion around issues of tension between Lesbians and Transpeople, between Radical Lesbian Feminists and third wave feminists. I had no idea I was such a notorious “transphobe” until a woman screeched it at me for almost two hours at this Lesbian Group meeting, or, until I and a group of other womyn attempted to bring The Gendercator to our city. I asked this woman, a bisexual who is currently on the board of planners for the Lesbian Group what makes me transphobic, to point out examples of where I, by my actions or words, have prevented any transperson from their rights to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, any example of when I singlehandedly discriminated against anyone. She then told me to “stop playing the victim” when no valid answer could come to her. I might have told her that in this community, because I have spoken up for Michigan, because I have expressed my concerns when a young womon at a “Young Womynz Empowerment Conference” mentioned that she felt close to nature when she got her period and was immediately attacked by an older  woman in the group and told that she can not  say that, because that is using her “gender privilege,” and because I use the terms Female, and talk about Female bodies, that I have been banned from places, I have been silenced, and I have been turned into the villain, for simply asking a few questions. I’m not trying to play the victim on this, I’m simply pointing out that it is not transpeople who have suffered because of my use of words, my attendance of Michigan, my belief in the power of womyn’s bodies, but it has been me, and other Lesbian Feminist womyn, who have been silenced, censored, and banned. Since that conference, other womyn have been banned, told not to come back, and reprimanded when they spoke up for Female bodies and the rights to gather as Females. One womon told me that at this past conference a young girl expressed the desire to get breast cancer so that she would lose her breasts and be able to become a ‘man.’ This womon asked her why this is and informed her that this might be offensive and upsetting to womyn who have lost a friend or loved one to breast cancer, or who are suffering from the disease themselves. This womon was then told she was being “transphobic” by the conference organizers.

The recent controversy around Catherine Crouch’s film, The Gendercator, and the banning of Bitch from the Boston Dyke March are two prominent examples of a phenomenon that is taking place all over the country, and not just in August as a small group of people attempt to silence and take away the rights of Females to gather in private in the woods of Michigan. The word “transphobia” does not have any meaning to me because this far, no one who has thrown it out – to me, to Bitch, to MWMF, to Catherine, has been able to articulate what they mean by it, and why and how we, as Lesbians, have any power over transpeople. But, instead of having dialogue, instead of getting somewhere in this struggle, those who call another womyn or Lesbian “transphobic” to her face or behind her back, intend to silence and stop any discussion that might bring up questions or issues that those who are anti-MWMF, anti-Female Space, anti-Lesbian Feminism have yet to fully think about for themselves. It is time to move beyond this issue and for those in the mainstream of our “LGBT” and “Feminist” groups to realize that silencing and excluding other womyn and Lesbians for their points of view is a mark of their internalized oppression and misogyny, is narrow-minded, and is ultimately harming womyn and the causes of any form of Feminism.

Radical Lesbian Feminists Need Not Apply: One More Reason To Go Underground?

August 24, 2007

This is the first blog after my return from Michigan and I don’t know how to begin. As always, it was beyond words wonderful to be there. To be on the Land, and to be with community. That is  the most important thing about MWMF to me. There are womyn there who identify how I identify, who see the world as I do, and who want to work on the issues I want to work on, …there are Radial Lesbian Feminists at Michigan, from all over the world. I miss that so much.  I could  walk out of my tent and run into someone who not only was kind to me, but who would listen to me, who would   share her views, and who would then become my sister in the struggle, and I would become hers.

Sisterhood is still powerful, and still exists, but for me and for many,  this is only at  Michigan. And, I would add, online. Even though it is harder to get that feeling of ‘I am not alone, someone else has my back on this’ from the internet, esp. if there are people in the immediate ‘community’ who want to run me out of town!

And I think that is what this blog is going to be about. Going to Michigan, feeling that high, feeling community and    being able to live out my radical self – to talk, and laugh, and enjoy music and nature with other radical womyn,  – and then, coming back here, to this. Thank you to those radical womyn, catherine, it was so good to meet you and your partner. Thank you. Thank you to the OOB womyn, it is always good to see you and to soak in your  energy and support. Thank you.

The goal somehow, is to make Michigan happen outside of    the Festival itself. To find ways to create mini-Michigans, spaces where Radical  Feminists and Radical Lesbian Feminists can get together, support each other,  feel free to speak out minds, and have fun, de-stress from the treatment we collectively get from the “LGBQAI,etc” groups and the “Third Wave Feminist” groups …. I am going to make  one here, but that may mean letting go of other things.

Backstory: There is a group in my town that has been around since 1989. A Lesbian group. It’s the only one in the area, and it’s one of the last surviving ones around the region. It’s membership goes up and down, and there has always been internal strife and struggle. I’ve been volunteering with this group since 2002. I’ve  seen it succeed, and I’ve seen it fail. I’ve helped it to do a bit of both. But now, it is come to my mind that this group might be better off if it were to   just die out. Membership is down, and most of all,   the current leadership is a mess. The current chair is unsure of the purpose of having a “lesbian” group – and does not like the idea of ” women-only” anything. She is anti-Michigan, and so is her partner, a bisexual – who is also on the key group of planners, they are so into trans issues and their goal is to make all things trans somehow, esp. this little “lesbian” group, …and those two run it like their secret club, and then wonder why no one else knows what is going on or why only seven people show up for an event.

And now, I’ve found that while I was away, the current leader and her partner attempted to kick me out! They had a meeting and tried to convince the other   planners that I was not good for the group based on something that I wrote on the internet! Well.

And this is in the line of where things are at right now. We have lesbian women who are celebrating  the censorship of another Lesbian womon and her film. We have lesbian women who are  cheering at the banning of another Lesbian from an “all inclusive Dyke March” …and we have  bisexuals and lesbian women attempting to purge and silence those who they do not agree with from an organization that was established to provide voice and visibility to Lesbians in this area. Hmm.

And frankly, this is scary. If our communities think that what is needed is more censorship, banning, and a purge that would  get rid of all  those  “radicals” that don’t mouth the party line, well, we are we and where are we going? Censorship is being praised, and advocated.  And these are the same people who espouse the  rhetoric that those 70s Lesbian Feminists were narrow minded and ‘policed’ the behaviors and ideas of  other women and each other?!

The current state of this “LGBT”  whatever “movement” and the “Feminst” movement is one of post-modern chaos. It is depressing and it is working hand and hand with the status quo. It is not attacking any systems, lest of all gender. And it is not challenging any oppressions – it is creating new ones, and seeking new ways to silence and censor those that might not  agree with where it is going. The question is what can those of us who are silenced and censored, do? Do we  try to take back our organizations, or do we get out while we still can and attempt to start all over again? Do we go, as I have, underground? Or do we    see how long  we can take it up here in the mainstream of our movements until the pain of being persecuted and the even bigger heartbreak of seeing just where people want to take these movements and how they are taking them there becomes to much …?

Do I stay or do I go? Attempt to change/save this group, preserve it for Lesbians, or leave while I   still have some energy left, and try to create something new? Do I stage a coup and name myself chair?!

I am trying  to find ways to carry Michigan energy and Michigan spirit into  this world where we all have to live for most of the year. And right now, this group is draining me, harming me in more ways than helping, and I am trying to heal myself but with no community around, it is hard and takes much longer.

Also, to close this blog, I’d like to get back to the Gendercator. I’ve seen the film. And it’s great. I’ve met and spoken with Catherine Crouch, and she’s great.

And, here’s what’s going on now: I’ve asked to put something about this film and Catherine in the newsletter of my local Lesbian group, and the abovementioned chair said that she did not feel comfortable putting in any information on this because of the ‘controversy’ ….So, not only is this group, this person, hoping to silence me, she wants to dictate what the membership can and cannot know about. Hmm.

And, here’s something else I wrote re: this issue, from the MWMF boards:

The bitch episode still angers me so much that I have to go find a calm place and sit down whenever I think about it. and this kind of thing is happening all over, the gendercator and the treatment of catherine crouch are now a more visible example, but right here, in my local community, there are those lesbians who think that if they could only silence me, all would be right with their world ….while I was away at Fest a lesbian group that i volunteer for had a meeting, and the chair and her partner (backstory: partner is bi, they don’t see the point of having ‘lesbian only’ anything, they are against mwmf, and all for trans anything anywhere) – attempted to convince the other members that I was not good for this group and that I should be kicked out. So, after all of my Fest joy and the post-Fest feelings of wanting to seek and create community, I come home to this!

And, part of there issue is the gendercator – they don’t like that I am supporting it. Hmm,..a lesbian group member, supporting a lesbian artist …is this no longer allowed? who is making these rules?

and yes, why is it so so hard for those who are so gung ho on all things trans – i am talking esp. about those lesbians and feminist folk who are putting trans before anything and anyone else, esp. themselves,….why is it so hard for them to make the connections between plastic surgey, boob jobs, cosmetic surgery, …etc. …and the trans phenomenon. …

something is very, very wrong with the state of how we view bodies, esp. women’s bodies – and with how those who are all about trans, are able to ignore the very lines and dots that link all of these issues together … you can’t say that this culture harms women and that women should not be changing their bodies to conform to patriarhcal ideals on one hand and then say that it is ok and great if a male wants to carve up his body and present as ‘woman’ or a female wants to chop of her breasts and live as a ‘man’ …..and then, you cannot say that you are ‘anti-the medical establishment’ and all for natural and organic healing and etc. and then say, ‘hey, it is ok if one person wants to basically give their life to the medical establishment, letting science shape him/her into the body that he/she wants and feels he/she needs to have ….’ we are not talking about any of these issues,…. the mainstream lgbtq groups are so caught up in preventing ‘transphobia’ and silencing women and lesbians that they don’t really want to have these other, more important, vital, and fundamental conversations about who we are as humans, what we want as people, and what are the values we want to install in the next generations – do we want to say that it is more important to be who you want to be and damn the rest and bodies are not important, hate them, cut them, change them, …or do we want to say, ..be who you are, love the body you are in, celebrate it, …it is not your body that is wrong, it is not your body that needs to change…it is society, it is the social structures that are wrong, and need to change ….the current movement is taking everything and turning it into an individual/psychologial issue when in reality, it is a social and cultural issue that would require a greater level of action and work and change …….basically, we’ve lost our radicalism, and are no longer looking at the roots – we are focusing on symptoms and blaming bodies and minds when we should be looking at the forces that are creating and constructing how we view our bodies, our minds, our lives, …..I am very very sad that this is where things are at right now, and that this is now being celebrated, along with censorship, as ‘radical’ and ‘transgressive’ …when, it is just holding up the status quo, just making the fences around us all higher and stronger, and making more and more work for all of us who truly seek and are working for radical social change ….

Thank for reading, see you all in the Underground,

Sister Medusa

More re: the backlash against female born Lesbians, anti-Michigan false and one-sided “debates” and the rights of Female Born Females to exist, identify, and create space

August 1, 2007

I’m Once Again Girlcotting Curve Magazine …

In a world of real issues, real debates, and real problems, there’s one false one that just won’t go away. And that would have to be the “debate” around “trans-inclusion” into womyn-only spaces. As tired of this as I may be, I feel compelled to constantly speak out about it, because no one is out there speaking for those like me, and this new closet of forced silence around this issue is making so many womyn, so many Lesbians, totally pissed off and frustrated and ready to, well, go underground.

First, the new Curve on “women’s music” and “female musicians” did a short article on Michigan and the “debates” but, they neglected to cover the “debate” – instead, they wrote a biased account of the false press release put out by camp trans last year that said that Mich had dropped it’s policy, and by extension, it’s entire purpose, to be for females who have lived our entire life experience as females, and the article was basically this whole, anti-Michigan rant with no coverage of the “other side” -and no acknoweldgement that there are not sides, and that Michigan is a private gathering, by invite only – female borns, you are invited, non-female borns/non-female still’s, sorry, form your own fest, this doesn’t mean we hate you, it’s not all about you.

This issue needs to just go away. There are so many other issues that people could be working on together, instead of wasting so much time trying to be cool and trendy and attacking women for doing the thing that you (camp trans supporter) want to be able to do – define yourselves as you wish, identify as you please, be respected for your gender identity….. Females wish to define ourselves as Female, we wish to identify as female, as womyn, as womyn born womyn, we wish to have this respected as a valid gender identity, to use third wave speak.

We are all working for a world where people can be free to be who they are. But, by attacking Michigan, and by extension, attacking female womyn who need, love, support, and identify with Michigan, people are not working for this world – they are only re-creating the chain of command, wanting to flp the hierarchy of oppression so they are on top, and so they can define what is “real” and what is not, ….so they can say who is in, who is out, etc. And, in most mainstream Lesbian or “third wave” mags like Bust or Bitch, it is clear that if you are a female who identifies as female and attends Michigan, you are not their desired population, and in fact, you are the real enemy.

Which is ridiculous.

There was a poster up at my local “LGBT” center, …recruiting for Camp Trans, and saying how “successful” it was and how bad Michigan is. Well, of course, I had to remedy yet another one sided debate – I put up some info on Michigan. Let’s hope it stays up. I have a feeling it won’t. Those who support putting out false press releases don’t really care for telling the full story, don’t really want to make it known that there are other sides to this issue, and don’t really respect or want the Fest to exist at all, despite all of the blah blah blah that all they want is to be “included” …they really, from what I have seen and experienced, just want to trash and destroy any way they can.

Here’s what I wrote to Michigan Womyn, at their online discussion forum:

I know better than to pick up Bitch Magazine, too – they had a whole issue practically devoted to trashing Michigan and by extension, trashing other women – I guess the “sisterhood” truly is over and no longer an ideal or goal of this new “third wave” – they are more concerned about including men and transsexuals than about actually listening to women, and actually having an analysis of power, patriarchy, violence, misogyny, and on and on – thus, they are more into publishing one-sided “debates” that go out of their way to omit, ignore, or blatantly portray women who biologically are and thus, socially identify as female and desire to be in/create/uphold spaces that speak to the experiences that come from being female born.

It’s a sad situation when people say their goals are to “live in a world where everyone is free to be who they are” or when they use the phrase “michigan is for all womyn” – to actually mean that the only people who should be free to be who they are are third wavers and transgender/sexual people and the ones who truly are not welcome are female born females who want to be female ….. I just saw a recruitment poster of sorts tonight, for Camp Trans, at my local LGBT Center. It was bashing Michigan and talking about how great and how successful Camp Trans is – if they call putting out false press releases, sneaking into Fest, crashing the Gaia girls parade, and being totally rude and disrespectfull, being successful, sure,…but anyway, there was no info about Michigan, so, of course, I put up my own poster, next to the Camp Trans one …. But, I am so tired of this “debate” being one-sided and everyone just thinking that is ok, that no one really supports Michigan, that people like us, the people who Michigan is for, and by the way, once more, Michigan is a private gathering, it’s our party, we can invite who we want to, but I am tired of being ignored, and being forced into this closet of silence and trendiness where it isn’t “cool” if you like Michigan, ….but the thing is,…that is just the leaders or those who think they are in charge of the “community” who are pulling these one-sided false dichotomy debate things ….the more I talk to females, to lesbians, to people who are not caught up in the trans trend, the more I find these women want to go to Fest, have had it in their planners, and always think about it, …..and so, we have to be there for them, to help them get to Michigan, to help them see the real truth of Fest, and to help them get past all the bashers and haters who will try to bring them down, call them names (transphobic, for one) …..and all of this in their supposed quest to let all people be free to be who they want to be ….all people, that is, of course, but us, but females, because, well, they forget to factor in how misogynist their actions are, how they are working against their supposed goals by protesting, attacking, and silencing women and by trying to dictate and push their version of identity onto others they are the ones “policing” gender – by refusing to acknowledge that female born female is a gender, is an identity, is a real experience that deserves respect. And, again, still, I am tired of it.

See you, dear friends, in August. We have to be prepared for anything this year. After that low and dirty false press release, I can only imagine what camp trans and friends have in store for us in their quest to take down Fest and re-create it in their image – and image that doesn’t include or welcome or respect us. And yet. they think they are “successful”?

Anyway, I could go on. I’m trying to write a letter to Curve, but at the same time, I know it is hardly worth it. They are really really biased against females, probably because the editors girlfriend just transitioned, or so I’ve read somewheree. Either way, in this current climate it isn’t “cool” for any public Lesbian or LGBT anything to stand up for Michigan and for female born females and female born Lesbians. Why?!

I want to also say something about terms. Female is a term that indicates biology. That speaks to an embodied experience, as well as the social, cultural, and historical experiences that go along with it. Historically, woman and female have gone hand in hand, but in recent decades, woman has become separated from female. Which is fine. I’ll give this term up, I suppose, if I must, as long as I can hang on to Female. But, Men do not and can never become Female, so, there is no such peron as an MTF – more like an MTW, just as women can never become Male, so,FTM means female to man ,….At any rate, as hard as I try to understand all of this, when Michigan is attacked, when the wrong terms are used, and when the larger “LGBT” or “Feminist” culture thinks it is ok to bash one group over another, and this group being bashed just so happens to be the base group that kind of made it possible for all of the gains and opportunities that have shaped the lives of the group doing the bashing in the first place …It really sucks, for lack of a better phrase.

And, personally, I want us all to be able to identify as and be who we are. Where I have trouble with this is the means some chose to get to this goal by – I don’t see the need for surgery, hormones, and altering one’s natural state – physical, physiological, biological body – to get to this goal. It seems to me that in doing this, the status quo is upheld, the idea that there are “two” genders is reified, that the grand goal of being who we are is supplanted by the short-sighted goal of me being who I want to be and you being who you want to be as long as who we both want to be is something that is already out there and ok’d by society ….just jumping the fence, if you will, but not working to take down that fence, But, then, the majorly frustrating thing for me, claiming that you and othes like you and groups like camp trans are deconstructing the fence ….when, the f ence is just growing longer and higher, and dividing more people….

There are some who are challenging this, taking on gender, working to create new ways of being, and doing so in a way that is respectful of all people, even, females who want to be females! I admire and applaud people who are taking this on, who might not feel welcome anywhere because they are doing this – not in trans groups, not in women’s groups, not in straight groups, not in gay groups, – but, that is sign that what you are doing is having an impact,…and that you are truly being who you are, and damn the man for trying to tell you that who you are has to be a man or a woman ….

Books that I have read recently have strengthend and influenced my thinking on this subject, namely:

Female Chauvinist Pigs, by Ariel Levy

Sisterhood Interrupted, by Deborah Siegel,

and Paradoxes of Gender, by Judith Lorber – a Sociologist. Because the struggle to tear down the barriors of gender is not a psychological one, it is not an individual level me vs. those other people problem, it is a social and cultural issue, without taking Sociological factors into account, you are just reinventing the wheel and making gender more powerful, not less.

I am so happy when people bend gender, when people do things to take the power away from gender. But, so far, I have seen little of this actually happening. I see people making a big big mess of things, and calling it empowerment, and calling it “no labels” and calling it “LGBTQAITS, and on and on” …

I feel that the “movement” – both movements, the “LGBT” and the “Women’s” movements – have left me and are off somewhere running around in circles telling everyone to take t and do drag and include include include all issues and all people except for those people who actually want to say, “hey, wait a minute, there’s something wrong with where you are going, and where you are taking me, and I don’t think this is going to do anything good for women, for men, for anyone” – because it is so much easier to kick people like me out, to silence people like me, to call us “transphobic” than it is to say, “hey, maybe we should think about this, maybe it isn’t cool to protest other women, to say it is ok to wish for breast cancer, to think doing drag is the be all and end all of gender deconstruction” ….

And, womyn – prior to recent years, – back in the 70s when Michfest was created, was intended to mean female,..because back then, this was not an issue. It was a non-issue. Female meant womyn, meant woman, meant women, and womyn female. Womyn was used to be the most radical form of female – the kind that did not need ‘men’ – the kind that wanted to create their own female-centered world, i:e the alternate spelling of the word.
And, when you are at Michigan, a female at Michigan, the entire place is female-centered,…which,is another reason why the current wave of protests just don’t work … and are really upsetting to females …if we let trans folk into our private gathering, they’ll never cease protesting and eventually, everything with any relation to female biology will not be allowed because it will be accused of being transphobic …and I have seen this happen with other events, other conferences,…nothing is ever enough, and it is only a victory for the camp trans type of trans when female born females have nothing left, have no words to speak with, cannot talk about getting our periods, having babies, having bodies ….At Michigan there are tributes to female biology and body parts everywhere. This is something that makes it Michigan. To be in a space where it is ok to celebrate the female body, is to be in a rare place indeed.

This issue, which is and should be a non issue, will only be resolved when the Camp trans like trans people admit and accept and respect that there are people who are born female, that these people have bodies, that these bodies come with experiences – biological and social, and cultural, and that these experiences matter. It will only be resolved once these campt trans like trans people alert themselves to the similarities between their current tactics and that of the patriarchy – when they see how misognist their actions are, and when they stop doing these things, stop protesting womyn, stop trying to take take take, and learn how to listen, and respect. In all of this world, in all of this issue, I would have less and less anger towards camp trans like trans people if they would stop, think, and leave Michigan alone. It is clear, beyond a doubt, that their goal is not to be “included” in the Fest, but to destroy the Fest entirely, which is not going to happen. Michigan is private. Females literally own the land. Females would attend Fest if there were no concerts, if you had to bring your own food, if there was nothing there but some land and a thousand other females.

And, one more thought. Here’s what I hear from the new ‘trans’ ‘genderqueer’ ‘thirdwave’ movements:

“When the men can be women and the women can be men, we will all be equal and gender will be meaningless”

And to me, this is fundementally flawed, because the point of feminism to me is this:

“when men are no longer valued higher in society just for being men, and when men and women are both granted the same rights, given the same respect, treated in the same manner, when men and women are seen and treated as equals, the power dynamic that IS gender will no longer have power, men will no longer have power over women, both will be equal and gender as a category of power, will be meaningless”

My version is about more than dressing up, more than about drag, more than about jumping from one category to another, and more than the post-modernist ‘ I perform, therefor I am’ mentality, ..it is about social structrual change and about POWER.

Michigan exists because of that power dynamic. Because of the power and the value given to men, to males, just because they are men, and the lack of power, and the lack of value, assigned to women just because they are women, just because they are born female. The analysis of Camp Trans, and others who protest Michigan, is serverly lacking any mention of power, any reference to the realities of gender as a power dynamic. Until this power dynamic is systemmatically attacked, which would mean people at Camp trans would have to stop attacking females and start focusing in on issues that are really oppressing trans individuals, ….until there is no more power dynamic between the mere categories of man and woman, male and female – Michigan will always be a vital, and necessary space that provides women with power, with value, and with the fuel and energy to go out into the world and work to make it a better place.

Much Ado About the Gendercator

July 30, 2007

In case you needed some evidence as to what it is that is pissing Lesbians off so much, and forcing us to go underground, where we can nurture each other and fuel our own movements, once again – Amazon Womyn are gonna rise again!

Info On The Gendercator, from Catharine Crouch’s Website:

The Gendercator

TRT : 15 minutes

Super 8mm & Mini DV

The Gendercator is a short, satirical take on gender and social norms. The story uses the “Rip van Winkle” model to extrapolate from the past into a possible future.

In 1973 a group of hippie women are celebrating Billie Jean King’s victory over Bobby Riggs. They are partying in the rural woods outside of Bloomington, Indiana. Our heroine Sally is a simple minded, sporty type who overindulges at the party and passes out under a tree. Sally wakes up 75 years later in 2048 to discover (amongst other social changes) that feminism has failed utterly and completely. Sex roles and gender expression are rigidly binary and enforced by law and social custom. When Sally chooses to dress in flannel and jeans, the doctor at the emergency room calls in the “Gendercator”, a government official who informs Sally that butch women and sissy boys are no longer tolerated – gender variants are allowed to chose their gender, but they must choose one and follow its rigid constraints.

Sally is baffled by this brave new world. All she wants is to “do her own thing” – but her own thing is seen as problematic. Sally is a simple-minded stoner, indoctrinated into 70s feminism. She is no poster girl or freedom fighter, just a gentle tomboy dropped into the future with a tendency to respond in slogans such as “sisterhood is powerful”.

Nurse Nancy locates some of Sally’s former friends – they are 100 now, but because of advances in the medical profession they are still healthy and thriving. The friends tell Sally they heard she moved to California and that’s why they never looked for her. One of her friends appears to be a man and tells Sally, “They made me do it. They’ll make you too.” They explain to Sally that in the early 2000s the evangelical Christians took over the government and legislated their strict family values, legally sanctioning only “one man, one woman” couples. Advances in sex reassignment surgery have made it possible to honor an individual’s choice of gender AND government policy. Sally is comfortable in the middle of the genders, an unacceptable choice in 2048.

Director’s Note

The Gendercator is a work of satirical fiction. A satire is not a prediction of the future, it is a commentary on contemporary social trends. A satire takes these trends to their logical extreme to emphasize their underlying logic. The Gendercator is a comment on 1) the rise of religious fundamentalists as a political power all over the world, all of whom declare homosexuality to be a sin, 2) the medical advancements in plastic surgery, and 3) the culture of individuality which posits that individual “choice” is to be celebrated as the highest good, and therefore cannot be criticized.

Controversy about my Original Director’s Note

Many people have expressed discomfort with my original explanation of the motivations for making The Gendercator. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify some of my ideas and concerns. The original paragraph read:

Director’s Note – Things are getting very strange for women these days. More and more often we see young heterosexual women carving their bodies into porno Barbie dolls and lesbian women altering themselves into transmen. Our distorted cultural norms are making women feel compelled to use medical advances to change themselves, instead of working to change the world. This is one story, showing one possible scary future. I am hopeful that this movie will foster discussion about female body modification and medical ethics.

This remark is not about transpeople. It is about women. My understanding of transsexuality is that it is a rare condition, a medical condition of gender dysphoria. A person’s exterior body does not match their interior sense of self, causing serious social, sexual, and mental problems. This person is a transsexual, not a woman or a man. My statement was not meant to question the validity of this condition, but to call attention to the increasing number of young women who are taking testosterone or undergoing voluntary mastectomies to enhance their masculinity. These are women who formerly identified, or would be considered by the lesbian community, as butch lesbians.

If we situate this in terms of the larger culture’s misogyny, it seems to be a rejection of the female part of the masculine female. Why does a woman do this? Most often, the reasons given are: to avoid harassment, rape and ridicule as a gender variant. It seems to me that what is also going on, but has not been explicitly addressed, is the desire to avoid being perceived by the world at large as female. Or to avoid the label of lesbian. Some may do this because it enables their sexual fantasies.

I also see a marked increase in the number of women who enhance their bodies through medical procedures to become more exaggeratedly female, as definedby the standards of advertising and pornography. I wanted to talk about why this is happening so often right now. Why does a woman do this? Most often, the reason given is low self-esteem. My feeling is that if we had more people working against these terrible and one-dimensional portrayals of women as having value only as sex objects, the medical interventions would be for medical reasons, not for social or cultural reasons.

For me it is important to work against the rigid gender binaries of the larger culture that enable violence and harassment of the masculine female or effeminate male. It is harmful to everyone that an individual’s safety and identity is defined by conformity to the standards of Ken & Barbie. This is what The Gendercator is about.

I believe we in the alphabet community are so hypersensitive about being hurtful that we avoid the very difficult conversations that we desperately need right now. I hope The Gendercator can lead to further discussion between transgender people and lesbians. Even if this discussion causes us to feel uncomfortable, we must talk about the rift and the reasons for the rift in our community. I believe that we in the alphabet community are all a part of the same family, and we must find a way for constructive dialogue. I think that we can find a way to respect our differences and understand our commonalities.

And, here’ why it was banned in San Fran:

May 22, 2007

After considerable dialogue with members of the transgender community and after careful consideration of the issues raised by Catherine Crouch’s film The Gendercator, Frameline has decided not to screen The Gendercator in Frameline31. Given the nature of the film, the director’s comments, and the strong community reaction to both, it is clear that this film cannot be used to create a positive and meaningful dialogue within our festival. We are grateful to the many Frameline members, filmmakers and Transgender community leaders who brought this issue to our attention and assisted Frameline’s senior staff in making this important decision.

We are deeply committed to promoting the work of transgender filmmakers and films about transgender issues. Frameline Distribution distributes over twenty transgender themed films and over one third of our free monthly Frameline at the Center screenings have been transgender themed. Through the Frameline Completion Fund, we have given funding to the following films: The Brandon Teena Story, Southern Comfort, A Boy Named Sue, By Hook Or By Crook, Screaming Queens: The Riot At Compton’s Cafeteria, Red Without Blue, The Believers, Cruel & Unusual, F. Scott Fitzgerald Slept Here, and Maggots And Men.

“Frameline has partnered with Female-to-Male International in jointly sponsoring screenings of transgender films for our community and the public. We have enjoyed our association with Frameline and welcome their timely and community-minded response to the concern we expressed on this issue,” stated Rabbi Levi Alter, President of FTM International. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with Frameline to present films of interest by, for and about the transgender community.”

Frameline’s Board of Directors and staff are proud of our work with and on behalf of our Transgender community members. Going forward, we will continue working with the community to further our own education and encourage more discussion and understanding within the filmmaking community as a whole. Again, we thank all of our community members for respectfully expressing their concerns and we look forward to sharing our ideas and expanding our partnerships.

Michael Lumpkin
Artistic Director
145 9th Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94103
P 415.703.8650 x302
F 415.861.1404

And here’s what some Lesbians tried to do In Milwaukee, Wi:

Hosted By: Shelly H
When: Sunday Jul 29, 2007
at 6:00 PM
Where: Milwaukee Gay Arts Center
703 S 2nd St.
Milwaukee, WI 53204
United States
Shelly H

The cost for this event is $5, there will be beverages available for purchase as well. Facilitated by Jenny Curtis, the conversation is sure to be engaging and thought provoking – come share your experiences!

And here’s what happened:

We’ve lost our venue. Please see the letter I received from the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center, and my response.

CB wrote:
> The private event scheduled for Sunday, July 29, including the showing of the film /Gendercator, /will not take place at the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center. Unfortunately, adequate assurances were not met to ensure a legal and LGBT balanced experience.
> On July 19 MGAC was approached by an individual requesting the free use of its space for fundraising purposes. Since that initial request, questions concerning the non-profit 501(c)3 status of the beneficiaries of the event has forced MGAC to reconsider its decision. Additionally, as of this statement, legal rights to show the copyrighted film /Gendercator /had not yet been received by the individual producing the event. This decision has nothing to do with the film or its content, rather the legal questions described above.
> MGAC recognizes the importance of diverse viewpoints of all sexual orientation and gender identification issues. Therefore, upon availability and legal permission, MGAC, under its own auspices, will schedule a viewing of /Gendercator. / Included will be a panel discussion involving the various viewpoints this film addresses. Additionally, an audience talk-back session will follow. MGAC will in turn donate all profits to the legally recognized 501(c)3 organizations participating on the pre-viewing panel. MGAC believes this the fairest and most non-partisan way to schedule this film.
> Should your organization wish to be represented on the panel, please contact MGAC at (414) 383-3727, or Milwgac@yahoo.com <mailto:Milwgac@yahoo.com>. We look forward to your participation.
> Board of Directors
> The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center

Dear Board of MGAC:

I am deeply disappointed in your decision to revoke your permission for our use of your space on 7/29. A couple of clarifications. The use of the space was not, in fact, free, it was agreed that we would pay the MGAC 10% of door charges which are $5 per person, and that the MGAC was to provide a board member who would make concessions available to our attendees, with the proceeds going to the MGAC. As this is a private fundraiser, not a tax-exempt purpose nor protrayed as such, there was no need for there to be a 501(c)3 backing this effort.

The film in question was donated to me by the director for the specific use we intended, and portrayed. Written permission to show the film was never requested from me, I learned yesterday evening about 6:30 that you needed such permission, immediately requested it from the director and received it last night, 4 hours after I learned of the requirement.

The various viewpoints this film addresses include womyn, specifically feminists and lesbian womyn, the patriarchy, the religious right and the medical establishment. Please see notes (below) from the director on why she created this 19 minute film and what it’s about. While I agree that events being presented by the MGAC should be LGBT balanced, I would argue that there is no feasible way to ensure that every event at the MGAC is LGBT balanced, and that an event not being presented by the MGAC should not held to the same standard, as long as it falls within your mission.


“Why did you make The Gendercator?
I wanted to make a comment on contemporary social trends that we see around us everyday. I am not a theorist, I am not a scholar. I am a storyteller. I use image, plot, genre, and metaphor to communicate to an audience. I want this audience to experience and see the world through a character. In The Gendercator this character is Sally. I used the Rip van Winkle plot device as a shortcut in a short film to take Sally from the 70s into the future. Sally is a typical 1970s lesbian at the height of second wave feminism. This was an era in which people were experimenting with sex roles and gender expression. Feminists were calling patriarchy into question and asserting that no matter what kind of body you were born into, you had limitless potential – that both women and men could be anything, in any kind of body. Billie Jean King had just proved to the world that power and strength were not the exclusive province of men. The film begins in this moment of great possibility, but as Sally will discover, the future is not a utopia but a dystopia for women like her.

The Gendercator is a satire. A satire is not a prediction of the future. It is a genre that takes contemporary social trends and extrapolates them to their extreme in order to reveal their underlying logic. With The Gendercator, I wanted to comment on three social trends:

1) Most importantly, the political empowerment of religious fundamentalists. We see this happening in our own country and all around the world. We know that for fundamentalists, homosexuality and “traditional family values” are two central concerns. Homosexuality is considered a sin and fundamentalist governments have outlawed it. They are concerned to reinstate the “traditional family” meaning heteronormative sex roles and forms of gender expression. These two concerns (legally disenfranchising homosexuals and using government to reinforce heterosexual gender roles) are very clear in the debates about same sex marriage around the US.

2) The increasing medicalization of our society. Not only have elective medical procedures become ever more sophisticated, but increasingly people are persuaded that elective medical procedures will resolve all of their “problems” (to the great financial benefit of those who offer such procedures).

3) The emphasis on individualism in American society: the idea that the individual’s pursuit of happiness is a worthy goal in and of itself, and should not be questioned, and also the idea that the individual is the true locus of identity–that the individual freely fashions their own unique identity apart from any other social pressures or forces.

What is The Gendercator all about?
In the Gendercator, these three trends are taken to their logical extreme. (Is this a possible future? Yes. Is it likely? Probably not—there are many other social forces at play). The main character, Sally, a lesbian steeped in 70s feminism, passes out at a party celebrating Billie Jean King’s victory over Bobby Riggs. She wakes up, à la Rip van Winkle, 75 years later. The world has changed
dramatically. As Sally later learns, the evangelicals have taken over and implemented their social vision through custom and law. Homosexuality is outlawed. However, because the individual pursuit of happiness is also a part of this culture, the individual homosexual can choose to change their sex in order to comply with the law of “one man one woman.” Medical advancements have made such surgeries undetectable (as suggested in the Mano, Lem and Tork scene), and have also extended life (as evidenced by Rachel and Linda).

Sally is baffled by this brave new world, and its in habitants are baffled by her. The film is about this experience of not fitting in and the ways that people try to put other people into little boxes; the ways that society defines masculinity to exclude anything “feminine” and vice versa, and how this is an arbitrary process that can, and does, change over time. All of us are like Sally—we have both masculine and feminine characteristics—and it is the larger culture that we live in which determines which of these characteristics are acceptable and which must be repressed. The film explores the dystopian possibilities of the religious right co-opting gender play and trans-politics and forcing us into hetero-normative gender binaries.”


As there IS no organization backing this effort, there is no 501(c)3 or organization to be represented on any panel for any showing of this film that you attempt to arrange.

Again, I am saddened that the MGAC has used such frivolous reasoning to revoke my use of its space, but respect that the MGAC has that prerogative and will find another venue for my event.


Virginia C

As a result, the Lesbians had to take it underground. The event will now be held at Virginia C’s house. A private gathering. One that hopefully won’t be protested. An FTM invidual and group threatened to “disrupt” the event and called the film “toxic.”

One more example in a long list of them of the treatment female born Lesbian womyn get at the hands of “LGBT” and “trans” leaders and activists …

Welcome to the Lesbian Underground

July 30, 2007

In the current “LGBTQAI,…” and “Third Wave” climate, the Lesbian has gone underground. Forced into silence and new closets by those who push an agenda that is inherently anti-Lesbian and anti-Feminist and by those who are more interested in including “trans” issues and invividuals than in asking the real questions or analyzing the real sources of division and oppression, the Lesbian has put up with this for long enough. We have had it. I have had it. Welcome to the Lesbian Underground. For Radical Lesbians and Radical Straight Feminists who Think Like Radical Lesbians. That is, who think with an analysis of the patriarchy, of power relations,with an ear to the ground to put an end to misogyny wherever it be found – be it in S/M practices, pornography, “trans politics” or plain old still around male dominance and sexism. And along with this fierce analysis comes the ability to understand and empower one another as females, and to do so with love, laughter, spirit, and heart.

Welcome to the Lesbian Underground, my Sisters.