THE CONTINUOUS FIGHT OVER MICH FEST
Our community has had struggled to find a happy meeting place when it comes to the all-women’s music and arts festival that has taken place in Michigan since the 197os. The discussion on the admission of transgender women has become heated and 2013 seemed to be the culmination of years of frustration from attendees and those who have chosen not to support an exclusionary get-together.
Longtime Mich Fest performers The Indigo Girls were cited in a petition to boycott Mich Fest, which also asked other musicians to join in against the policy of not allowing trans people to attend. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers released a statement on their website stating that 2013 would be the last year they would play the festival unless their trans friends and fans would be invited.
JD Samson also made a statement after being fired from a gig in New York City based on her Mich Fest gig, saying she will not boycott the festival but is interested in helping open the doors for trans women to attend. Lovers made a similar statement on their Facebook page, writing:
“As gender-nonconforming individuals ourselves, we hope to be part of a community that supports queer and trans identities on all levels…We are choosing to attend and perform at this year’s festival, both because we love it, and because we feel that attending the festival will be more powerful than refusing to attend.”
Both JD’s band MEN and Lovers released new albums this year, and Mich Fest is a lucrative gig for them. Their choosing to continue to be part of the festival has afforded them some backlash, but it’s hard to say how it has affected them outside of a few cancelled gigs. In an interview with us this year, JD said she welcomed personal emails and discussion from anyone who wanted to talk on a human level.
Queer French pop singer Tender Forever wrote on her Facebook:
I WILL NOT PLAY OR ATTEND ANY OF THE NEXT MICHIGAN WOMEN MUSIC FESTIVALS. I DO NOT AND NEVER HAVE SUPPORTED THE DISCRIMINATING POLICY THAT HAS BEEN AND IS STILL IN PLACE AS OF NOW. I WILL NOT ATTEND UNTIL IT HAS BEEN MADE CLEAR THAT ALL SISTERS ARE WELCOME. The organization Trans Women Belong Here is very important to me. Their work is crucial and i have the uppermost respect for what they have done and are still doing on and off the land. When i first reached out to them, they had made clear to me that they would appreciate my presence at the festival as an ally performer. So i did. I did what i thought was right. I did talk about it on stage (which i don’t think matters since i was already there anyway), i did have conversations about it on the land and i do sell their tee-shirts on my website for them to raise funds for trans-women who wish to attend. …I totally take full responsibility for the 2 times i have attended the festival, even if it was as an ally to my trans-sister. I was still there and i know that, by being there, i wasn’t ONLY supporting who i thought i was. That’s the truth. I take full accountability. One has to learn and i’m lucky i can still learn from all of you.
Melissa Ferrick, a long-time performer at the Fest, told The Advocate:
“I believe boycotting should be a last-resort tool for activism when dealing with like-minded folks with whom you generally share political solidarity and a grassroots worldview.”
As we continue into a new year of progression and equality, it’ll be interesting to see how the line-up shifts for next summer’s Fest and what artists are finding to be worth fighting for or against, and how that affects them year-round.
SHOCKING, TO SAY THE LEAST
One of the more unfortunate debacles of 2013 was artist Michelle Shocked‘s anti-gay comments during a live performance in San Francisco last spring. Michelle, who was first famous in the ’90s, was previously thought to identify as gay, as she’d acknowledged in early interviews. So when she said “God hates fags” to a roomful of fans last spring, boos and taunts could be heard in response of the audio recording someone there made available to the public.
It came out of nowhere, and the shock (no pun intended) was audible amongst the people in the audience. Michelle paused during songs to say:
“You can go on Twitter and say Michelle Shocked said ‘God hates fags.’ When they stop Prop 8 and force priests at gunpoint to marry gays, it will be the downfall of civilization, and Jesus will come back.”
After the show, which caused attendees to leave the venue in protest, the internet was awash with stories on Michelle’s possibly internalized homophobia. What followed was a bizarre press tour with Michelle making appearances on Piers Morgan and other media (when she didn’t cancel them last minute) to defend herself and her religious beliefs, while also attempting to seem sane and not-so-hateful. What ensued was a lot of confusion and Twitter rants about “inconvenient truths,” as well as denials of her having had relationships with women, as she’d previously discussed with interviewers.
A born-again Christian, Michelle had many gigs cancelled after her homophobic rant but continues to travel and play on street corners as well as being active on Twitter where she continues to debate the March incident and defend herself against anyone who still pays her any attention.
In 2014, we can expect to see Angel Haze to make an even bigger splash in hip-hop and to hear a new country sound from Amy Ray on her forthcoming LP Goodnight Tender. Sia has also said she’ll be releasing another album of her own within the year, and will continue to pen hits for other pop stars. And make sure to tune into the Grammys on January 26 to see if Mary Lambert wins big for “Same Love.”