A Short History of Trans Inclusion at the Women’s Gathering

The Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering has been an annual event since 1983. Within the first few years, the question of trans-inclusiveness was brought to the attention of the organizers and it was decided sometime in ‘84 or ‘85 that trans women would be welcome at our gathering. In 1997 the issue came up anew, and the organizers again made the decision to officially welcome trans women to our event. Since that year, trans women have been in attendance at every Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering.

In 2017, the organizers decided to take a hiatus year to address concerns about the implications of trans inclusion in women’s space. No public event was hosted that year; instead, the organizers hosted a private gathering including some Twin Oaks members and some past Gathering attendees. Only people who were assigned female at birth were invited. In retrospect, we feel that this choice was insensitive, offensive, and harmful. Many other conversations were had within the organizing team, and within the larger network of Twin Oaks Community and past Women’s Gathering attendees, to help us re-evaluate our definition of women’s space and how to move forward with our Gathering. We sincerely regret the choices we made in 2017 and apologize to those that were excluded from that private event.

The organizing team re-formed in 2018 with some old and some new organizers. We re-affirmed our commitment to trans-inclusiveness and vow to never again exclude trans women from events related to our Women’s Gathering.

While the 2018 gathering included many great workshops with transformative and healing moments, we made a mistake in allowing a workshop titled “The Disappearing Woman” to occur. In this workshop, things were said that were offensive and insulting to trans women, culminating in an angry outburst in which one of our trans participants was verbally attacked. We failed to properly vet the workshop and to prepare our team of “angels” to intervene and de-escalate the situation. The events at that workshop were in violation of our inclusion statement and a participant was asked to leave. We believe that we were naïve and not sensitive enough to the tensions underlying the workshop topic, and we apologize to everyone who was adversely affected by this situation.

For 2019, we’ve updated our Inclusion Statement after meeting face-to-face with several trans women and nonbinary participants to figure out how we can better meet their needs. We are designing a more intensive training for Angels, and are working on creating a program for all attendees that fosters understanding and connection across difference to address issues diversity, transphobia, and trans inclusion.

We’re excited and hopeful for the 2019 Gathering, which is themed “Coming Together to Empower Each Other.” We are seeking workshops and tools that can help to create more supportive space within our gathering; we eagerly anticipate any helpful suggestions or contributions you may want to make.

In Sisterhood,
The Women’s Gathering Organizers,
Anna, Alexis, Gabby, Hawina, and Julia