Earlier this year on January 9th, I finally got to meet directly with the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center’s executive director, Gary Kallas, to discuss the facility’s policy that bans me from performing on its stage.
Twice prior Mr. Kallas had cancelled our scheduled appointment at the last minute; this time he stipulated with 24 hour notice that the meeting would be one on one, making clear that the supporters he was well aware I had intended to also be present would not be welcome.
I agreed to meet with him solo, on his terms, and we ultimately met for an hour. At the outset, I made clear my intention to record the meeting, in order to accurately document the conversation that was to ensue, however this request too was denied: Mr. Kallas stated unequivocally that he would not go forward with the meeting if I insisted on recording it. Heart pounding in my chest, I turned the recorder off.
What I subsequently learned during that hour-long meeting is that the lies and rumors about me in Madison are rampant, including the idea that I wanted access to Wil-Mar’s performance stage not for the opportunity to play/share my original music for/with the Madison community, but rather to express my “discriminatory views against” and “hatred for trans people”. Mr. Kallas repeated several times that I am “untrustworthy” because he “had heard” from certain “activists” that I have used performance venues in Madison as platforms to spread my “controversial” views, (referring no doubt to my public stance in defense of women’s sex-based rights and a radical feminist perspective of gender identity politics).
Fact: not once have I ever used any prominent music venue in Madison to express my personal views on transgenderism.
In my own defense, I asserted the same to Mr. Kallas and his response was that he doesn’t have time to investigate whether the charges levied against me by “activists” are true or not. He also repeated several times that “Wil-Mar is not a court”, the implication being that it isn’t required to ascertain fact from fiction, nor to carry out justice.
What matters to him, and seemingly to the Wil-Mar board, is that these ”activists” in the Madison community have reported that I hold “discriminatory views against trans people” which in their minds precludes yours truly from gracing the Wil-Mar stage. Mr. Kallas also said that this ban on me performing there – in effect for over a year and a half already – will continue indefinitely, or until such a time that the aforementioned “activists” report to him that I have changed my ways and corrected my wrong-think on these issues.
I asked Mr. Kallas to identify who the “activists” informing him on this matter are and he refused to do so. He also refused to try to articulate what it is that I believe that he obviously feels is objectionable enough to warrant banning, silencing, or censorship; and indeed established at the outset of the meeting that he was not there to “argue” with me about the substantive issues of my beliefs.
I so wish I had been able to record this conversation because, I swear to you, this is what he said. Of note, I provided Mr. Kallas the opportunity to correct any inaccuracies or misunderstandings ahead of my submitting this update for publication, and to date he has not responded.
I took the opportunity at the meeting to reiterate to him in no uncertain terms that a) I do not hold discriminatory or hateful views, that b) there is no evidence for these unfounded allegations, and that again c) I have never used a performance stage to express my personal views on transgenderism.
I told Mr. Kallas it was ridiculous to believe that I was going to tell everyone I was going to sing a folk song about my deceased cat and then get up on stage and spout “hatred for trans people”. Who would do such a thing? I know I wouldn’t. I have played hundreds of shows, oftentimes with a band, and we always play from a set-list and do what we rehearsed and told everyone we were going to do, which is play songs that have nothing to do with this topic.
The misinformation shared along these de facto rumor mills has significant and measurable harmful impacts on the individuals it is directed at, (in my case it has resulted in the stagnation of my music career), not to mention that the constant need to defend myself and other women from such narcissistic abuse is emotionally exhausting.
So yeah, more than a bit deflating, but with reflection this episode has been a turning point for me as it has directed me to contemplate where and how I might better focus my energy, which is why it has taken so long for me to report on this meeting.
What way forward? What do we do during this new witch hunt phase of patriarchy in our society? Do we withdraw? Retreat into the clouds? Or do we fight like furious battling warriors on horses strong? Sometimes the best option is to look inward for answers and in that spirit, I offer the lyric “I give my life to the good fight”, a line from one of my own songs about the Wisconsin uprising of 2011, when we all felt that unity, art, magic, and purpose; remember?
Such is my call to all of the brave souls of Madison and yonder to get up and holler for a woman’s right to organize around feminism in the femisphere, whilst singing a song or two or three or more in the larger world, because she is a free and full citizen!
This is my report from MadTown to all of my supporters as well as my stalkers. The fight for treating feminist women with dignity and respect in our public sphere continues. Gary Kallas was clear with me – in no uncertain terms – that he is not going to lift the performance ban unless he is “forced” to, and that it is up to me and my supporters in Madison and beyond to do so.
~ from Thistle’s HeadQuarters in the Mad City USA