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Camp Trans was a protest event held outside the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, also called MichFest. Transgender women and their allies ran the event to protest MichFest’s commitment to selling tickets only to “womyn born as womyn.” The trans-positive protest ran from 1992 to 2015, MichFest’s final year. The music festival closed largely due to pressure from Camp Trans.
Camp Trans was formed after Nancy Burkholder was ejected from MichFest in 1991. She was shown the gates after she refused to tell organizers whether she was transgender. The news struck a chord with a small group of trans women and their allies. They camped outside MichFest to protest the transphobic policy in the next couple of years. They argued that trans women had just as much right as cis women to enjoy and take refuge in an event claiming to be a safe space for women. In creating Camp Trans, they aimed to create that safe space for themselves and others like them.
The group disbanded for five years until trans activists Riki Anne Wilchins, Leslie Feinberg, and members of the Boston and Chicago Lesbian Avengers took up the cause. Camp Trans returned, bigger and better than ever. MichFest met with representatives and negotiated a compromise: trans women who had undergone gender reassignment surgery could participate in the festival. However, many supporters were not satisfied. Many defected to a new protest group, the Yellow Armbands, which became known as Fest for All Womyn. The defectors believed Camp Trans privileged the voices of trans men over trans women. Despite this, Camp Trans will go down in history as a key movement for trans inclusion and visibility.