July 2017
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ways that TBC is a safe space and an unsafe space, for me.

icon: "queer (the logo for Transcending Boundaries Conference overlaid with the words "genderfree, queer, + trans / never a 1 or 0")"

This is a thing I shared in the TBC facebook group.

I'm a bit scared to do this, but it is important, so here goes. I'm going to talk about why TBC is important as a safe space for me, and also the qualities that make it an unsafe space for me.

First, TBC is the closest thing I have ever experienced to being fully understood, respected, and appreciated. In all other spaces except my own home, I am forcibly assigned gender and covered in a layer of assumptions, and almost every conversation I have is fending off one awful idea or another. TBC is damn-near sacred to me. But that doesn't mean it is perfect.

Ways that TBC is a safe space for me (please keep in mind that this is just my experience and others may have had very different ones):

-No one assumes gender. I am asked about my pronouns, and people know what they mean and respect them.

-No one polices gender. I am not asked invasive questions about transition or presentation. I am not looked at as not-belonging because I appear cis and femme.

-No one states sexist stereotypes as if they are fact (at least they didn't in my perception). I don't feel I have to do the endless resistance of that that I do everywhere else.

-No one assumes sexuality: this year at least I didn't feel people assumed I was allosexual or any particular orientation.

-No one assumes relational style: I didn't feel that anyone assumed that I or people in general were monogamous or non-monogamous.

-No one shows fatphobia. I didn't feel like there was a general expectation of thinness, or an expectation that if one is fat one must be high femme. I didn't catch any negative reactions to my body size.

-No one assumes neurotypicality. I didn't feel like I had to try to appear 'normal' in my thinking, and when I got stuck or lost my train of thought (or when others did) there was no response of impatience or shame. I felt safe knowing that if I needed to escape people, no one would think I was rude, and there was a place to go. I almost cried when I saw the shape/color cards prepared for people to flag how social/interactive they were feeling.

-No one assumes all people have the same access needs. I felt safely confident that if my friend needed to wear sunglasses to deal with a migraine or other issue, that no one would treat that as weird or ask tiresome questions. For most of the conference I felt safe that if I needed to have something repeated or slowed down so that I could parse it out and hear it, that would happen, and I felt safe that there would be no overwhelming loudness (the one time I did not feel safe in this way was from someone yelling into a mic for comedic effect).

-No one assumes everyone has money. I so very much appreciate the low price of TBC (less than 1/3rd what most gender/progressive conferences charge) and the fact that they are dedicated to maintaining a scholarship fund for those who can't afford that. I think it could be even better if part of the scholarship fund went to one or two hotel rooms which scholarship fund folk could use. I know that for me, if I didn't have help I could not go even if it was free, because of the cost of travel and board.

However, there were ways in which TBC made me feel unsafe.

-People constantly used the word b*tch, which is a sexist slur. They weren't using it as a reclaimed identity, but to mean 'complain' or 'cruel/heartless person' or 'weak/useless person.' This is a word which has a sexist and racist history, and is closely tied to violence in many people's memories.

-Even more so, people used ableist slurs. Stup*d, lam*, idi*t, dum*, mor*n, cr*zy, ins*ne, etc (also not as reclaimed identity terms). These words are tied to a history of violent and systemic abuse of disabled people. There also seemed to be a bit of confusion as to the appropriate way to refer to disabilities (I noticed 'issues' being used which seemed off).

-When I notice slurs being used without reproach in a space, I feel that people are disregarding the trauma of those who have been abused in connection with being put in these categories. I feel that people are reinforcing the idea that non-disabled and male people are better. However, I also know that realizing this history and impact is something that is not available to all people. I think it would be great to have a quick talk about it when people register, perhaps with a brochure or downloadable audio that people could use to understand why not to use those words.

-There were also some sentiments that seemed anti-sex-work to me and made me uncomfortable.

-In one panel the re-centering of white men within the context of a discussion about racism was offensive to me.

Something that would have helped is an established method of response to unsafe language or assumptions; if I could have responded "ouch" and then have the presenter approach me after to find out why it was upsetting, that would have helped. I can see this being abused as a way of protecting white fragility or cisfeels or whatever, but if dialogue is encouraged, we could contradict those responses.

One thing that bothered me was that TBC is still overwhelmingly white. I think we may be missing the point in some ways; we need to center POC as well as other intersections. I think we need more POC presenters in general, and on the board. We need to have race as part of most (if not all) discussions. We need to have a liason who people can go to and explain a problematic situation, who will then confront the source of the problem instead of POC having to deal directly with it. Perhaps having a liason for disability would be good too? I don't have any idea of the scale, so if there are hundreds of problems, more than one liason would be necessary.

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topaznebula ══╣╠══
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.