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Melbourne Festival Seeks Legal Adivce After Turning Away Transgender Women

A three-day women’s festival has caused upset after telling a potential customer that only transgender women who have “undertaken all operative measures” will be allowed into its event next year.

ABC reports that a woman named Kylee emailed organisers of the Seven Sisters festival, which is to be held next March in Mt Martha Melbourne’s South East, to ask if her partner, Belle, would be welcome. Belle is in the early stages of transitioning. 

The staff reportedly explained to Kylee that “having individuals onsite who are physically men would be breaking the trust of many women” but that they “are open to transgender women who have undertaken all operative measures to become a woman to partake in the festival”.

This angered Kylee, who has been making a devoted effort to help Belle feel more comfortable with her transition. “At the moment she’s retreated a bit from life, so I thought a really beautiful camping festival with all women would be a really safe place for her to feel accepted,” Kylee explained.

Considering Seven Sisters claims on its website that “It is where women can embrace whatever stage and age they are in, and collectively celebrate what it is to be a woman in all her shapes, colours and forms,” Kylee’s assumption that the space would be welcoming and free from judgement was a fair one to make.

“I got quite ragey over it, and I read it out to my partner and she just kind of sighed and went ‘yep, that sounds about right’,” Kylee explained, noting that it’s unfair for transgender people who can’t afford expensive gender reassignment to feel excluded like this.

“Having spent a lifetime feeling like a woman to finally be brave enough to start to make the changes to do something about that, to then have the very people who you are aspiring to be part of their community lock you out, it’s not a very nice feeling,” she said.

While Kylee didn’t respond to the organisers’ email, she did post it to the event’s Facebook page after another transgender woman asked if she could attend. Both posts have since been deleted, but people on the page are calling out the festival for discrimination. Tamara Kurtz wrote, “This event is disgusting and transphobic, defining women by their vaginas only and denying entry to women the organisers think ‘not woman enough’[sic].” 

The festival has responded to the criticism by deleting any posts they deem inappropriate, abusive or inflammatory from its Facebook page and organising a survey over the next month for its “fellow sisters” on the matter so that they can “share their opinions without fear of bullying”.

seven sisters screenshot

Seven Sisters is also “seeking legal advice”. The Facebook post read, “To be clear, Seven Sisters have at no time expressed any official statement regarding our position on trans inclusivity.”

[Via ABC]