A women only festival by the name of Seven Sisters Festival, which will be taking place at Mount Martha, Victoria in March caused a stir recently, when they revealed they would not be allowing transgender women to attend.
This all began when someone asked the festival organisers if the feminist retreat, which claims to “empower women who are real, women who are powerful, women who want be the best versions of themselves”, was trans inclusive.
This was Seven Sisters Festival’s response: “As we have advertised the festival as a sacred women’s only space – having individuals onsite who are physically men would be breaking the trust of many women. We are however open to transgender women who have undertaken all operative measures to become a woman to come and partake in the festival.”
As you would expect, this quickly sparked controversy amongst the transgender community, and Seven Sisters responded. However, they also branded the response “provocative transgender campaign.”
“On Sunday 13th December a provocative transgender campaign was elicited on our Facebook page. We are currently investigating this. Whilst we value the opinions of ALL people and are sympathetic to this cause, we do not condone abusive and inflammatory words, nor do we tolerate the use of forceful language to push unsubstantiated views onto others. As such, we are deleting all content relating to this issue from our festival pages as it is not the appropriate forum and we wish to prevent further perpetuation of bullying and violent language.”
Sadly, the original post seems to have been removed from the Facebook page, so I cannot back up their claims of abusive language.
This controversy has quickly spiraled, and has caught the attention of Liam Klenk, author of memoir Paralian: Not Just Transgender: “The unfortunate incident of a transgender woman banned from taking part in the all-women Seven Sisters Festival leads me to the obvious question of what determines gender. Unfortunately many people feel like the organisers of this festival: they go by physical attributes and perception rather than acknowledging gender as being something very deep-seated; something felt, soulful and internal.”
“I have always respected sacred grounds, so part of me wants to understand the festival organiser’s argument that they cannot allow transgender individuals in a place that is sacred for women, as long as the transgender individual’s body is still male.
But does this make sense?”
“The Seven Sisters Festival is a spiritual and feminist occasion. People who take pride in being spiritual should be the first to understand that appearances are often deceiving. When I came into this world I was a little boy trapped in the body of a girl. It didn’t matter how much people perceived me as a girl – I was still a boy and felt this to be true in every fibre of my being.”
“We transgender people do not choose to come into this world in a wrongly gendered body. It just happens. And there is no way out, nor any way to rationalise the situation. A woman born in a man’s body is still a woman and always will be. Who are we to tell her who she is or isn’t? Who are we to tell her that she should define herself rather through her body instead of through her soul? Who are we to tell her to live in the shadows, unable to rejoice in her femininity in the company of her fellow women?”
“Many of the indigenous tribes of North America recognised up to seven different genders in their society: male, female, trans, gay, lesbian, and two more shades in between. Maybe it is time for our modern society to recognise these ancient truths.
On the Seven Sisters “About” page the festival organisers proudly proclaim: “This festival is where women can embrace whatever stage and age they are in, and collectively celebrate what it is to be a woman in all her shapes, colours and forms.”
“Let me highlight this: ‘Whatever stage and age they are in’. And even more importantly: ‘In all her shapes, colours and forms.’ Very true and something I hope will not only remain pleasant rhetoric but rather be lived – with all our hearts.”