by Mya Byrne, Editor-At-Large
Heather Mae and Crys Matthews cancelled their headlining slot at Michigan Framily Reunion (MFR) last weekend because of the festival’s transphobic workshops, specifically aimed towards trans women.
In a statement on Instagram, Heather Mae explained that she and Matthews decided to pull out after learning that Shannon Thrace, author of the transphobic memoir 18 Months, and the Heritage Foundation-aligned Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) would be presenting. Mae, whose spouse is trans, noted that Thrace takes a “very specific, very personal experience” with a former spouse who transitioned and “uses it to paint a broad brush about trans women” in her work, while WoLF’s “hateful, transphobic rhetoric masked as feminism” has led to their working alongside people who “adversely impact women in general, but especially women like us.”
“We cannot sing the kinds of songs we sing and be who we proclaim to be if we turn a blind eye to any part of that,” Mae noted in her statement. “We are, first and foremost, two people who believe in justice and equality.”
The original Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MichFest) was founded by a group of women that included trans-exclusionary “radical feminists.” Their stated policies against trans women were protested for many years by people and groups both inside and outside the festival, including Trans Womyn Belong Here and Camp Trans. After the Indigo Girls, Antigone Rising, Lea DeLaria, and other prominent artists said in 2014 that they wouldn’t be playing the festival again until there was equity for trans folks, the festival ultimately shut down.
MFR was founded in 2016 ostensibly to continue the good things about the festival, but they appear to have stuck to their guns about so-called “womyn-born-womyn” being the sole attendees, excluding trans women and pushing a biological imperative that has no standing in reality. As Mae notes, several people involved in the workshops they call out align themselves with explicitly anti-feminist movements to push their anti-trans agenda. This hypocrisy is abhorrent.
We are proud of Heather and Crys for publicly taking MFR to task, and for using their voices to push the festival to change their ways before they cancelled their slot. Hate and exclusion has no place in feminist music.
Mya Byrne (she/her) is an award-winning performing songwriter. Mya’s music has been featured across media, and she’s collaborated with many of queer country’s brightest stars. Her recent directorial debut about trans activist Lou Sullivan is making the rounds at film festivals, and she’s in pre-production for her next album. You can find her online @myabyrne.