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Australian Women's Music Festival Bans Pre-Op Trans Women

Australian Women's Music Festival Bans Pre-Op Trans Women

Australian Women's Music Festival Bans Pre-Op Trans Women

The Seven Sisters Festival in Australia has sparked controversy with its announcement it will ban transgender women who are 'physically men.'

Australia's Seven Sisters Festival announced that it will only allow transgender women who have had gender confirmation surgery to attend the three day women's music festival. In a statement posted to Facebook by the organizers, the group said it will ban women who are "physically men," according to Buzzfeed.

The festival is described on its website as a place where "you will find women who are real."

It's a decision familiar to followers of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, whose organizers also maintained an exclusionary policy that discriminated against transgender women to the very end. After years of protests and activist campaigns, organizers announced in 2014 that they would shut down the festival rather than include trans women. The annual event held in August, a celebration of its 40th anniversary this year, was its last. 

In a now deleted online response to a cisgender (non-trans) woman, who asked if trans women would be welcome at the Australian event, Seven Sisters Festival organizers responded by saying:

"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 word spread about the group's decision and response, the Seven Sisters Festival webpage was flooded with comments from transgender women, who expressed their discontent and questioning the purpose of the policy. Festival organizers did not respond when asked how they would verify whether a woman is transgender and, if so, whether she has had gender confirmation surgery.

One Facebook commenter, Kt Rose Collins, from Melbourne, wrote on the page, "Believing the single most important and essential qualifier for and identification of womenhood [sic] is a vagina is so violently reductive, objectifying, and misogynistic towards all women. It is completely appalling that a festival marketing itself off claims of being able to facilitate and encourage women's 'spiritual growth and healing' and 'change the world' would choose to discriminate against transwomen along these lines."

It wasn't long before organizers shut the conversation down, claiming they are "investigating" a "proactive transgender campaign." The group erased most comments or posts referencing the policy, but posted a longer statement on December 13 that reinforced their stance, accused trans women of being "inflammatory" and claimed they were seeking "legal advice."

The festival has not commented on the controversy since issuing the statement. Requests for comment made by BuzzFeed were not returned.

Read the organizer's statement in full below:

Dear beloved Seven Sisters community…

Since it's beginning, Seven Sisters Festival has had a policy of inclusion. We recognise that the identity of 'woman' is a unique lived experience to each individual.

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.

We apologise for any undue duress this situation has caused to everyone involved.

As an organisation, we strive to engage in respectful dialogue, which involves everyone. To be clear, Seven Sisters have at no time expressed any official statement regarding our position on trans inclusivity, but we are now seeking legal advice on this matter, hearing the voices of our patrons as well as engaging into dialogue with the transgender community.

Therefore, as a part of maintaining the integrity of our community, in the next month, we will send a confidential survey to our fellow sisters who have and will be attending next years festival so they can share their opinions without fear of bullying.

We believe this issue needs to be heard and we need to listen to every woman who has made Seven Sisters their sanctuary and home over the past four years.

Our policy and festival content will be reviewed based on the responses to this survey and publicly posted on our website.

Suggestions on how to improve Seven Sisters festival are welcome through this medium.

As always, we strive to co-create the best Seven Sisters possible.

We look forward to hearing your voice from a place of compassion, balance and honour.

With warmth,

The Seven Sisters Festival Team

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