A Brief (Illustrated) History of Camp Trans

In 1991, a woman was asked to leave the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival after her transsexual status became known to festival workers. The festival began for the first time to enforce a policy of allowing only "womyn-born womyn" to attend. The first official Camp Trans was held in 1993, when several transsexual womyn and their allies began camping and holding demonstrations outside the gate.  Camp Trans returned in 1994 with the support of transgender activists Riki Ann Wilchins and Les Feinberg, and again in 1999 with many members of the Boston and Chicago Lesbian Avengers. The events of 1999 drew much attention and controversy, culminating in heated tensions as a small group of transgender activists were admitted into the festival to dialogue with organizers and to negotiate a short-lived compromise allowing only post-operative transgender womyn on the festival land.

Over the next three years, Camp Trans leadership shifted to members of the Chicago queer community, and the demographics of the camp changed to include many more transgender men and genderqueer-identified individuals. Few trans women attended during this period, as festival attendees increasingly came to view Camp Trans as a transgender annex of the festival, rather than a site of protest, and the camp itself did little to dispel this myth.

In 2003, yet another group of activists associated with the strap-on.org community took over the planning, with the goal of refocusing the camp's mission on protesting the festival's exclusion of transgender womyn. This group, many of whom were involved in outreach campaigns to musical artists associated with the festival, sought to create a broader community that is more welcoming to transgender womyn.

Camp Trans has, in recent years, become somewhat of a mecca for the American and Canadian queer community.  The camp has moved to a large swath of national forest land down the road from the festival and attracts close to 200 people each year.

Further Reading

Emi Koyama's Michigan/Trans archive is the most comprehensive collection of documents, histories, and information available on the web.  It is highly recommended reading if you wish to develop a thorough understanding of the issue and its history.  The archive has not been updated since 2002, however, so it does not contain any information on the current incarnation of CT.

Welcome to Sunny Camp Trans - Stacey Montgomery's popular online zine about CT 2001.

The Media page on this site also links to published articles about Camp Trans and trans-inclusion.