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Going home
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Going home

by Jennifer Vanasco - SGN Contributing Writer

After two years away, I'm going home.

Home can mean many things to many people. Where they grew up. Where they live now. A certain circle of friends.

For me and many other Lesbians, home is the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, which takes place over a single week in August annually.

"Welcome home!" greeters say as the travelers to the Festival pull through the dusty gate in the middle of nowhere, Michigan .

And home is exactly what it feels like.

Michigan has risen from the woods every summer for 33 years to embrace thousands of women who have passed her gate. Volunteer workers spend a month creating stages and community areas - and then another few weeks tearing it all down when the week is over.

Part summer camp, part street fair, part music festival, Michigan is a sorority, a political war zone (over Trans-inclusion, most recently), a cruising space, a feminist workshop and a coffeehouse. It is one of the few places in the world where women don't have to be anyone in particular or do anything in particular. We can shave or not. We can wear flannel or bow ties, lacy slips or nothing at all. Boas, body paint, Doc Martens and plaid are all equally welcome.

Michigan accepts women for who we are at the time we are there. It has no expectations for us except that we will be civil to each other and recognize each other's space and boundaries.

If you want to hear music all day, you can. If you want to talk around a campfire all night, you can. If you want to take a class on raising boys or learn to swing dance or sit around all day drinking beer with friends, you can. Or you can walk in the woods. Or read. Or stare at the sky.

Michigan is home the way it is meant to be. I've missed it.

Last summer, I was covering the Democratic National convention. The year before, I had been hired into a new job and didn't yet have time off. Both years, I spent the week imaging myself there, picturing sleeping in my tent under a pattering of rain, eating under the Watermelon Tree, walking down the main road (called Lois Lane) while surrounded by hundreds of other women who use this one week to express their true selves.

But this year, finally, I'm going back.

There is something beautiful about having a place you always return to, a place you know more deeply every year.

The friends I have made in Michigan know more about me than most of the friends I have made as an adult. Because they see me only once a year, they are like a growth chart penciled on the wall and marked at intervals.

They've seen my hair color go from blonde to dark (almost black) brown to red and back to blonde. They've seen me in love and heartbroken. They've seen me anxious and afraid and centered and confident. They were there the year I scheduled every minute of my time and the year I slept for hours every afternoon. They know me - and they love me anyway. And that's a great gift.

I was 27 the first year I went to Michigan . I'm 37 now. In those 10 years, my life has changed completely. I live in a different city. The grandmother who helped raise me passed away. I had my heart broken and, after I repaired it with the help of friends and time, found my life partner. I work for a television channel, which is something I never thought I'd do.

The only constants? I'm still a writer. I still have my dog Max. And Michigan is still my true home.

Jennifer Vanasco is an award-winning, syndicated columnist. Follow her at Twitter.com/JenniferVanasco. E-mail her at Jennifer.Vanasco.com.

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