As with other feminist gatherings in the past the Seven Sisters Festival in Australia has this year chosen that transgender women will not be welcome at their three day event, and have even gone on to ban any mention of it from their Facebook page, deleting any comment that mentions it.
The festival is a feminist retreat that they say is to ’empower women who are real, women who are powerful, women who want to be the best version of themselves’.
A prospective attendee, Caitlin Therese Sullivan posted a message to the festivals Facebook page, asking ‘Is your festival trans inclusive? I’d very much like to know as this will mean either my attendance or non attendance. I know other people feel the same.’
After four days the festival organisers responded by saying, ‘As we have advertised the festival as a sacred women’s only space – having individuals on site 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 take part in the festival.’
The comments ignited a debate on the festivals Facebook wall, with some people who were expressing interest in attending the event saying that they were ‘extremely dissapointed’ with the decision to exclude trans women who had not undergone a certain level of surgical procedures.
The festival branded the comments being made as ‘a provocative transgender campaign’, and have since banned all discussion on their stance of exclusion on its Facebook page.
In an official statement the festival released on Monday they said, ‘Since its 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 opinion 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 stress 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 in dialogue with the transgender community.’
‘Therefor, as part of maintaining the integrity of our community, in the next month, we will be sending 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 to 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.’
As at this time there is no indication of how the results this survey influence the decision by the event organisers, and due to the organisers censoring of comments on their Facebook page it has become very hard to see the entire picture.
What is still available on the pages, here and here, though are comments made on the above statement. For the most part their is a healthy, and more importantly respectful, discussion going on between the opposing sides. However, their is the use of harsh and insulting language, from supporters of the exclusion towards members of the transgender community. I would encourage people to go to their pages and see for themselves how people are commenting on this and the views being expressed.
Seven Sisters have yet to release any of the ‘bullying’ messages that they claim to have deleted made by members of the transgender community, so as of the time of the posting of this article the ‘abusive and inflammatory’ words seem to only be coming from those who wish to exclude transgender women from the festival.
Hopefully after speaking with their attendees the festival will realise that they cannot maintain a culture of acceptance and inclusion when discriminating against a certain group of women, and they will reverse their decision and allow ALL women to attend, as they have done in the past.
Or maybe we should just have it renamed the Seven Cis-ters Festival instead?