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Michigan Music Festival That Excluded Transgender People To Shut Down

LGBT organizations mounted boycotts because the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival discouraged transgender women from attending.

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The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which was founded nearly four decades ago and faced a boycott in recent years from LGBT organizations that said the event excluded transgender women, will hold its final event this August, a producer of the event announced Tuesday.

"We have known in our hearts for some years that the life cycle of the Festival was coming to a time of closure," Lisa Vogel wrote in a Facebook post. "There have been struggles; there is no doubt about that. This is part of our truth, but it is not — and never has been — our defining story."

Advocates said the event's demise was a result of its treatment of transgender women.

"As their ability to attract quality acts dwindled along with their attendance, they still refused to open their hearts to transgender women fully," Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told BuzzFeed News. "They have finally become extinct, like dinosaurs. But with the dinosaurs, it wasn’t something they did to themselves.”

MichFest, as it is known, had come under scrutiny for stating that the event is intended for women who were born female.

Some bands and organizations boycotted the festival in the past few years. Numerous high-profile performers, including the Indigo Girls and Hunter Valentine, withdrew from the event amidst furor over the guidelines; Orange Is the New Black's Lea DeLaria dropped out last year due to the controversy.

A Change.org petition signed by 2,777 people called on performers and attendees to boycott MichFest. Equality Michigan also launched a petition – it has 903 signees on Wednesday afternoon and more than a dozen organizations – that called to "End Transgender Exclusion from Michfest." The petition said, "The reality is that the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community cannot stand by any longer and pretend that any form of transgender discrimination can be painted over as a feminist or progressive issue."

Vogel had responded to the backlash in an open letter in 2013 that explained transgender women were not banned outright. Rather, she said, "We have said that this space, for this week, is intended to be for womyn who were born female, raised as girls and who continue to identify as womyn."

Responding directly to the boycott, Vogel wrote in 2014: "We believe that support for womyn-born-female space is not at odds with standing with and for the transgender community."

Two prominent LGBT groups — the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the National LGBTQ Task Force — announced this month they were withdrawing from the boycott. However, the country's largest LGBT organization refused to remove itself from the list of protesting organizations.

"HRC remains on the list until something has changed," the Human Rights Campaign's chief spokesperson, Fred Sainz, told BuzzFeed News in early April. "Nothing has changed, so we can't imagine any reason to end the protest."

Vogel and the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival did not immediately respond to questions from BuzzFeed News about whether the event was shuttering due to the transgender controversy or if the festival may reincarnate as a venue that welcomes transgender women.

In Tuesday's post, Vogel did seem to leave the door open for a festival reincarnation — which could allow MichFest to leave the transgender-guidelines, the controversy, and the boycott behind.

“It’s possible that I will come back with something else, or that other sisters will take the inspiration of the Michigan community and create the next expression of our Amazon culture,” Vogel wrote.

"shocking! heartbroken! so many memories," one fan wrote. "i sure hope that this was a decision made by lisa due to money reasons or just a desire to do something else.....and not by the trans agenda. If it comes out that it was 'camp trans', i would say that it is truly a sad day for michfest that such powerful women were knocked down by men...men who FEEL like women and who just can not understand that wbw have a right to their own space!"

Dominic Holden is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Dominic Holden at dominic.holden@buzzfeed.com.

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