Well, not really, and I’m more likely to say “lesbian” but it’s a play on the title of a recently published book about LGBTQ music, David Bowie Made Me Gay, by Darryl W. Bullock. It’s well-written and I was delighted to find a chapter devoted to women’s music. He interviewed Alix Dobkin and Cris Williamson, two artists important to the genre. Score. However, I found a couple of errors, one where he used an article I’d written as a reference.
First, he writes that Maxine Feldman transitioned to male and uses the obituary I wrote for SingOut! (Winter 2008) about her as a reference. (The article is not available on line and paper copies are sold out.) No where in that article do I say that Feldman had transitioned, only that she had told her widow in later years that she didn’t care about the pronoun used for her and in different times, might have considered transitioning. Because of this I used “he/she” when referring to her for the latter part of the piece. I suspect that the author used Maxine Feldman’s Wikipedia page as a reference. Someone keeps changing all the pronouns to “he.” I have tried to keep up with corrections but the last time I attempted it I was blocked from that page. The blog post I wrote about Maxine is more accurate. See it here.
The other error is that the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival ended because of its exclusion of trans women. I am so weary of hearing this. Given that all of the women’s festivals have lower attendance (and some have ceased) and none had the same woman-born-woman intention that Michigan embraced, one can surmise that there are a plethora of reasons, none a policy about trans women. The Ohio Lesbian Festival goes one step further and welcomes trans women. (See their statement here.) Curve published an article written by respected author Victoria A. Brownworth where you can read more about the Michigan festival and its end. See it here.
Mr. Bullock cordially responded to my comments about Maxine, said he’d check his notes, and perhaps that part could be corrected before the paperback edition is issued. He did not respond to the feedback regarding the festival.
Below is the letter I wrote to him and to his publisher.
I know a great deal about women’s music. I’ve written my own book, one that focuses on women’s music of the seventies and eighties. I am currently looking for a publisher. I interviewed over a hundred women for my book and used other resources including Queer Music Heritage, Eden Built By Eves, and Radical Harmonies. I’ve also been a huge fan of women’s music since the seventies and got involved with the network when I released my first album in 1989.
So, back to the post title — Christian didn’t make me a lesbian but her music, as well as the music of so many others, provided an important soundtrack to my coming out as a lesbian and a feminist. Here’s hoping future generations will know our true stories.
Here is my letter to the publisher and the author. I changed one paragraph in a small way and the rest is exactly as I sent it. In retrospect I should’ve said that those artists are little known to many but not to us. Ah well, hindsight is 20/20. Anyway, here it is:
There are two errors in the chapter about women’s music. First, that Maxine Feldman lived as a man. The obituary I wrote for SingOut! (Winter 2008) was noted as a reference. I interviewed Maxine’s widow for that article and at no time did she say that Maxine lived as a man. Rather, she told me that in Maxine’s later years she didn’t care if a male or female pronoun was used for her and perhaps when she was younger, had the means existed, she might have transitioned. It was out of respect for this that I used he/she for the last part of the obituary. Maxine was also a friend of mine and while we lost touch in the last 4 or 5 years of her life, at no time did she ever say to me that she wanted to be a man. On the contrary, she was very proud to be an out butch lesbian.
My guess is that the author got his information from Maxine Feldman’s Wikipedia page. It often uses the male pronoun exclusively for her. I have corrected it but someone keeps changing it.
The other error was that the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival closed “… rather than be forced to admit trans performers and audience members.” At no time has anyone involved with the festival said this. In this excellent article about the festival, organizer Lisa Vogel is quoted as saying, “… trans women and trans men attend the festival, blog about their experience, and work on crew.” Only one trans women has ever been ejected from the festival and on numerous occasions, Lisa Vogel has apologized. Also, one only needs to look at the plethora of other women’s music festivals and see that attendance is down for every one of them; none of them have the same woman-born-woman intention embraced by Michigan. The Ohio Lesbian Festival even makes an extra effort to say that they welcome all women. Find their statement here.
If you could forward my letter to Darryl W. Bullock, I would appreciate it. Also, if you plan a second edition of this book, corrections would be appreciated.
If you want more information about LGBTQ music, I recommend JD Doyle’s excellent site Queer Music Heritage. On it you’ll find an interview with Maxine Feldman. No where in it does she say she had transitioned or had planned to transition. Other great references include Dr. Bonnie J. Morris’s Eden Built By Eves, as well as the documentary Radical Harmonies. I also humbly suggest visiting my blog site, jamiebobamie, with numerous articles about women’s music, including this post about Maxine Feldman.
Comments are welcome below. Please be polite. Angry diatribes will be deleted. It’s my blog site. Neener neener.
A brilliant retort from Jamie in response to woefully inaccurate depictions of our herstory. We all need to stay ahead of the wolves of misrepresention. Here’s EXACTLY HOW-TO!!!
Interesting, thanks for this.
Thank you for your insight and diligence, Jamie.
In the 28 years of The Ohio Lesbian Festival being open to transwomen attending, the festival struggled with low attendance at least 10 of them. In fact, the most particularly challenging years that nearly ended the festival occurred during the height of the Michfest controversy.
It is an enormous physical, spiritual, emotional & financial task to create a space for womyn’s music & community~ and few have done it successfully for 40 years. The great news is that anyone who feels that strongly that it should be done differently is welcome to create one, as well.
Thank you. I really enjoyed your comments. As a butch lesbian and old women I get the sir thing often and really never worry about it but that doesn’t make me Trans or ever wanted to be male, will I did want to be a boy when I was a child because boys got to do cool stuff…so they laughed and said I was a Tomboy…that was the 50’s for you.
Hi Jamie that is awful about Maxine I never had a sense that she wanted to be a man such an awesome woman n dyke singer…..that is what I don’t like about Wikipedia I hear anyone can make changes so not reliable. Thanx for your blog cheers Janey
I was able to get onto Wiki and change it to “In later years Feldman embraced a gender-fluid identity….” Where they ask you to justify your edit, I put “Feldman did not transition to male, but rather was comfortable with either pronoun. Hence, the term ‘gender fluid’ is correct.” …. Let’s hope that one sticks. The fact that Wiki credits Max’s partner Helen Thornton as claiming Max was transgender is hard to work around.
Very good blog and article, and thanks for the mention of QMH.
Why didn’t you post my reply? I ask humbly and respectfully.
Didn’t get it. Try posting again.
I knew Max for several years. I have written a ~1000 word post twice. I don’t have the energy ro do it again right now. Perhaps soon.
Strange, since both of these shorter ones posted.
I can’t figure out how to upload the pic to WordPress, so I just made it my avatar. Greatly enlarge it to see Sly and the Butch Quilt.
Sly was Max’s greyhound rescue. They shared life for many years. She had to have her put down as age limited her enjoyment of life.
After she moved to Albuquerque, and Helen moved in, they adopted a little poodle/maltese mix named Luna.
…of people. No straight or hau men as far as I know, but everybody else was there.
Then came the premiere of Radical Harmonies. Max was asked to come as were others in the film. She came back a changed womon (sic). The love her sisters had touched her heart and made her realize that their presence in her life was the reality she chose. Her matriarchal roots sprang forth with strength to embrace her, and she reciprocated with all of her being.
Her changes effected me as well. I had distanced myself from the online radical lesbian feminist community. I have done a lot of work here in my home city of Knoxville, TN going all the way back to 1982. There is not now, nor has their ever been a lesbian feminist community here. There have been futs and starts of attempts to construct such a community, but they weren’t organic and never lasted. I tried. Goddess knows I tried. It is simply not to be.
After Max passed, I felt grief unluke I had never had for an online friend begore.
before. It was an honor to know her. She was an icon that O had only read about, but the voice on the end of the telephone was my sister. She still is.
I don’t know what happened to the first part of my post. I am visually impaired and probanky inadvertanyly deleted it. I am writing on my phone Bad habit.