First and Last Mich Fest

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First and Last Mich Fest

I grew up in Michigan. I knew about MichFest, the Michigan Women’s Festival, but I was never inclined to go. For 21 years I lived in a black-and-white world, where being a feminist wasn’t about equality, it was about hating men. To this day, I don’t identify as feminist, although certain subjects take me there, like: rape, domestic violence, twerking, strippers, the word “bitch,” Nicki Minaj, the Kardashians, Kelly Clarkson, Kirstie Alley and Oprah, to name a few. Now, as the Festival celebrates its 40th year, it is also ending. It’s hard not to feel like it signals the end of an era.

During the Festival’s formative years (and mine), the mainstream media portrayal was one of separatism: No men, just women… lesbians. Over the years, questions have arisen over what kind of women were welcome. Were the wo-men with intentional mustaches and hairy legs too much like men? Were the butches with strap-on dildos stashed in their carry-ons even worse? Much clarification ensued, boiling down to this: The festival is intended for “womyn born womyn” who have lived their lives as womyn. For anyone born in a cave, that means excluding transwomen, and many would say transmen.

There were two things I knew about the festival: it was radical, and it was divisive. Now, I’m a Libra, and while Libras in general will certainly be radical at the right time and for the right cause, we prefer not to be divisive. We are consensus builders, the balancers of the scale, adept at flipping the boat just far enough to get the others to fall on our side – sort of like winning folks over with consent.

Among my circles of friends, not many had gone to MichFest, but I felt I knew enough about it. It was probably not my cup of tea. And when I met my future wife, who was so much more in touch with herself, her womanhood, and also a lover of women’s lands, she told me in those first thrilling months that she was thinking about going to Michigan. I encouraged her to go. Follow your dreams. And in the way-back corner of my mind I hoped this would be her last chance to sprinkle the precious seeds of her singleness wherever the wind may blow, because I intended to win her over and become her number one, or only one, soon. So she went, and she came back invigorated. We got married the following year, shortly after the court ruling that made our marriage just as good as anyone else’s. And when we planned our first year of vacations together, we decided to go to MichFest. We did not know until later that it was to be the last MichFest.

I was apprehensive. I was worried and uncertain and not at all like I usually am when planning to do something new. And as the vacation approached, the feeling didn’t change. I had heard there were camping areas designated by whether you were a partier or quiet, or had kids, or other things. I knew that there was frowning upon basically anything that had to do with men. I was concerned about where I would fit in.  I don’t really fit into any of the categories. I am queer. I like women. I don’t hate men. When I came out, I remember it was so important to me to point out that I didn’t hate men, that I told everyone I was a lesbian by choice. I guess that was radical at the time. I could have continued to be with men, but I never would have been happy. I don’t know if I was born this way. I’m a partier who’s breaking up with my past. I have a kid, but this trip was about me. I identify with maleness probably more than my new wife realizes, and I’m not so sure that’s good. But my feminine side feels weak. I like to switch, and I think I’m good at it… Possibly better at being flipped (secret grin.) Androgyny is safety. But would that be ok? Or would I be just another version of passing?