The Story Of This Women’s Festival Reveals The Sad Reality Of Transphobia In Feminist Circles

Reminder: Gender has nothing to do with genitalia.

The Seven Sisters Festival is billed on their website as a music, culture and arts & crafts festival for women "to be brave, be experimental and expand [their] senses" in Melbourne, Australia -- but it's also become the center of a controversy that's indicative of the pervasiveness of transphobia in feminist spaces.

As Mashable reports, the story starts in November when Caitlin Therese Sullivan asked festival organizers via the group's Facebook page if the event was "trans inclusive," adding that this factor determined whether she was going to attend.

A few days later, the group responded that they "advertised the festival as a sacred women's only space" and claimed that that meant that"individuals onsite who are physically men would be breaking the trust of many women."

Screen Shot via Seven Sisters Festival Facebook

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ABC News in Australia also reports that another woman and her partner had asked the group about including trans attendees and that the festival responded with an email that, again, referred to the individuals genitals as the deciding factor as they said they would accept women who "have undertaken all operative measures to become a woman to come and partake in the festival."

This sort of controversy has cropped up in other feminist/women's spaces as trans inclusive feminists boycott events that fail to acknowledge the identities and experiences of trans women. In the United States, Michigan's 40-year-running Michigan Womyn's Music Festival announced that 2015 would be their last year running, after continued controversy over trans inclusivity, as the Advocate reports.

The group wrote a larger, public response on Sunday (Dec. 13) to the the increased number of comments about this policy, writing that they "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," the post continued.

However, in the comment section of that post, festival supporters and past-attendees have been vocal about the solutions they expect from this "safe space."

(Spoiler alert: it involves accepting and welcoming all women, without pointless, invasive questions about what is between their legs.)

"Transwomen are real women and they are understandably searching for safe and exciting spaces to explore, be empowered and to belong," one commenter wrote commented under the post. "I would hope that any survey conducted with your membership would include the essential viewing of educational videos/articles on the rights and experiences of Transwomen."

Another commenter wrote: "Trans is not up for debate, you do not need legal advice and polls, use basic empathy and compassion."

MTV News has reached out to Caitlin Therese Sullivan and the Seven Sisters Festival for comment.

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