A Community Response to Rivers of Honey
Rivers of Honey is a women-centered monthly cabaret at WOW Café Theatre in NYC. Since it began in 1998 Rivers has served as a major cultural institution, a launch pad for artists and producers whose work might never have been seen and celebrated in mainstream venues, and a vital, queer-centric POC community space.
In August 2011, a small and closed Rivers of Honey team stated the cabaret is now a "platform for womyn of color, defined as female-bodied individuals." Under this new policy trans women are no longer welcome to produce or perform. Trans men and other female-assigned gender non-conforming people are still welcome provided they identify with the "female-bodied" women's only space.
For the past 8 of Rivers’ 13 year existence, trans women, trans men and gender non-conforming people have all been welcomed be a part Rivers of Honey. Until recently, language inclusive of all women and trans folks has appeared on Rivers of Honey fliers, the WOW website, and Facebook and MySpace pages. A Rivers of Honey mission statement that was collectively written and agreed upon in August 2009 states that: "Rivers of Honey is a monthly women's cabaret featuring queer and trans artists of color."
Questions about how these decisions were made, requests for clarification, and objections to the policy have been met with silencing, dismissal, and the refusal of further discussion.
Rivers of Honey is an important institution for our community. We love and value it deeply and therefore do not wish to see it replicate the trans misogyny and transphobia we struggle so fiercely against in our larger society.
Why Should I Care?
- The exclusion of trans women of color from the women's space of Rivers of Honey is an act of trans misogyny – a form of transphobia directed specifically against trans women. Such exclusion is part of a damaging pattern of discrimination that contributes to the already tremendous degrees of bigotry, harassment and violence that trans women of color face.
- The current language is not truly inclusive of trans men and gender non-conforming people of color. Just as the current language implies that trans women are not truly women, it also implies that trans men and gender non-conforming people are, in the end, actually women despite their own self-identification. In both cases, people are being robbed of their agency to define their own identities.
What We Want
We, queer and trans people of color, community members, past performers, producers and audience members want to see:
- Rivers of Honey reject trans misogyny and include all women of color equally, whether they are cisgender women or trans women;
- If trans men and gender non-conforming people of color continue to be welcomed as performers at Rivers of Honey, the language of Rivers of Honey should be changed to "a space for all women, trans men and gender non-conforming people of color";
- Rivers of Honey return to its longstanding tradition of being an open, accountable, and collectively-run space where dialogue is encouraged, disagreement is allowed, and decisions are made in an open, transparent, and community-inclusive manner.
How to Get Involved
We ask our community members and allies to join us in voicing your opinions and concerns. We offer these ideas for participation:
- Distribute widely: Share this letter with your communities, families, colleagues, and friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, personal blog, etc.
- Endorse this letter to publicly voice your support. Your endorsement will appear on this website. Both individuals and organizations can endorse!
- Let current producers know your opinion: If you choose not to attend or perform at Rivers of Honey because of these changes, or if you attend or perform but disagree with or have questions about these changes, please voice your questions/concerns to the current producers at riversofhoney [at] gmail [dot] com
- Join us on Facebook: Show your support by RSVP'ing to our Facebook event. It will be updated to take place at the same time as each monthly Rivers of Honey until the policy of trans inclusion is reinstated. Updates about actions related to trans inclusion at Rivers will also be sent to folks who RSVP to the event.
List in formation – please join it! All individuals' organizational affiliations are listed for identification purposes only. Sorted by organization name or last name with organizations listed first.
Total endorsers to date: 168