Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to Handle a Womon

As promised, here is a cartoon from August, 2001 about whether a wymyn-only music festival should ban transgendered wymyn.

I knew this cartoon would piss people off, especially in Michigan, insofar as it came out during the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. It was inspired by a chat room discussion in which someone else had suggested the policy which the cartoon womon outlines.

Here are two letters to the editor of Between the Lines, the Detroit-based newspaper which has been running my cartoons since 1996:
Dear BTL,
Your newspaper claims to be for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and friends and yet you found it appropriate to print a cartoon that characterizes women and lesbians in homophobic, mysoginist terms.
Would you find it equally appropriate to print a cartoon that characterized transexuals and transgenders in an equally derogatory way? Would you find it appropriate to print a cartoon that defined the trangender/transexual arguments with Michigan Women's Music Festival as the attempt of a bunch of men in skirts wanting into a women's only festival so they can slobber over the naked women?
This is exactly the amount of respect you have given to all of the people that actually support Michigan Women's Music Festival. We support the festival for very good reasons, reasons that are much more complex and thoughtful than the simple insulting characterization provided by the opinions cartoon.
Ann Arbor

Dear BTL,
The cartoon on the "letters opinions editorial" page of Between The Lines for the week of August 16-22 is an insult to all of your many readers that support women only spaces.
The cartoon rests its humor on lesbian-phobic images and language. It portrays all women that support Michigan Women's Music Festival as out of touch radicals that insist on ridiculous language. These are the images that the homophobic press uses to trivialize feminists and women who choose to live without men as their primary partners. I am truly disturbed to find those sentiments reflected in BTL, a paper that says it is for the Lesbian community as well as the rest of our queer community.
The discussion illustrated in the cartoon further trivializes and insults those of us that for a number of reasons oppose the goals of camptrans. The cartoon tries to portray the issue as a "don't talk don't tell" conflict rather than the more salient issue of the right of women to create and choose to be in women only spaces that are focused on women's lives.
I would like to submit this letter for the letters to the editors section but would like to withhold my name. I am fearful that the backlash from some of the community for my expressing these feelings (and I am far from alone in them) would be severe if my name was provided. --Anonymous 
Me again.

Not all response to this cartoon was negative. A Washington, D.C. transgendered person wrote me to tell me she loved the cartoon and wanted to reprint it in her newsletter.

Incidentally, I wish more people would write in and join the discussion when they see a cartoon (or someone else's letter) with which they disagree. Most of my cartoons in the gay press are preaching to the choir --espousing a pro-gay position to a pro-gay readership -- and are unlikely to provoke much of a reaction. In this case, a dispute pitted one group of my readers against another. (My one other cartoon having anything to do with the Michigan Womyn's Festival made fun of Geraldo Rivera, not the festival.)

The only thing that troubles me about the above letters is that they seem to charge that it is homophobic to argue in favor of the transendered. Now, I confess that I am not a woman; nor am I transgendered. I readily concede that there is some value to having women-only spaces. There is, however, also some value to accepting transgendered MTFs as the women they believe they intrinsically are. Don't they face enough discrimination from the straight world without having to put up with it from the queer community as well?

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