Statement resulting from Safer Spaces workshop

The following statement was written by a small group of people present at the ‘Safer Spaces’ workshop on Friday morning and put prominently on the wall. It was done to communicate the results of the workshop to new people arriving later in the weekend.

WELCOME TO THE GATHERING!

We’re trying to make this space as safe and welcoming as possible.

We had lots of discussion on Friday about what we mean by “safer spaces” – you can read the notes we took [nearby on the walls] – but this discussion is ongoing…

The process of changing ourselves and our scenes involves reflecting, and recognising the ways in which our attitudes/actions sometimes affect others. The classism / racism / sexiam / ageism etc of the dominant culture is something we all need to dismantle and unlearn.

We need to be open to challenging ourselves, and each other, and changing our behaviour if it’s causing people to feel unsafe or making our spaces less inclusive than we’d like them to be.

A rough guide to what we mean by “safer space” creation – a few suggestions we thought we could try out here, and in the rest of our lives…

DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about your audience. About individuals’ backgrounds, experiences, situations, life-choices, gender, sexuality, politics, diet, health, abilities, needs, beliefs…

THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK, don’t let you knee-jerk reactions rule.

LISTEN TO PEOPLE & LEARN, don’t dominate the space / conversation. Encourage everyone to voice their thoughts. Enjoy silence.

SPEAK UP & DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES – stifling your opinions in order to be polite / “nice” / safe isn’t always helpful. Especially if we’re trying to have honest, open dialogue.

BE AWARE OF YOUR PRIVILEGES AND POWER. Recognise that our society is inherently oppressive in many ways, and we are products of our society. Unless we recognise – and work on – the prejudices and privileges that we’ve inherited, we are part of the problem.

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOU ACTIONS and how your behaviour / your speech affects other people.

CHALLENGE OPPRESSIVE BEHAVIOURS. We can all challenge fucked up behaviour when it occurs. It’s easier to do this when you know how other people around you think about the issue – so it’s worth talking about all this in advance and establishing clear, open guidelines and communicating them.

DEFENSIVENESS ISN’T CONSTRUCTIVE, neither is guilt. Try to really listen to what people are pointing out to you and take some time to reflect on that.

CLIQUEYNESS ISN’T HEALTHY. Make the effort to talk to more people, invite people to join your group or conversation, catch them up on what’s been discussed, explain slang & in-jokes if necessary.

creating a safer space + update

hey all,

We have made a provisional plan of the weekend, with some space left for spontaneous happenings, discussions, and anything else that becomes important.

We are highlighting some points that have come out of our planning because it’s important for everyone coming to Queer Insurrection to share the responsibility for making it a safer space. We plan to have discussions on Thursday about how to collectively create a safer space throughout the gathering.

Questions for people planning workshops/facilitating discussions.

-Please send us a short description of your workshop as soon as possible
-Have you thought about who you are aiming your workshop at? If you feel that it is aimed at a certain group of people, please make this clear.
-Are you assuming a certain level of previous knowledge? Again please make this clear, and we’d like workshops to be understandable to as many people as possible, and un-intimidating.
-Please don’t use academic language that isn’t understandable to all of us. If you use terms that aren’t commonly used, please explain them/give definitions.
-What are you asking of people who participate? Such as what personal information are you expecting people to reveal in groups etc?

Questions for everyone coming to Queer Insurrection

We call this a radical space and a safer space, but power structures from the ‘outside’ world are brought with us. Everyone here has a responsibility to check their own behaviour and to challenge oppression where it happens. Discussions and workshops can be most empowering and productive when we find ways to challenge each other in constructive ways, fight feeling guilty and defensive and feel motivated…

Some ways that power and privilege can work in workshops and discussions:

Taking up space: people with more privilege taking up more talking time and/or physical space (or interrupting/

talking over others). Think about how much space you take up and how much you speak.

Avoiding discomfort: people with more privilege diverting discussions to topics they feel more comfortable with e.g. white queers diverting the conversation from racism to sexism instead. Or e.g. glossing over challenges and problems as if it will make everyone friendly and comfortable.

People with more privilege using the discussion as therapy e.g. a white person talking about their feelings about tackling racism. Ask yourself whether you are just confessing your privilege rather than confronting it or finding ways to use it to dismantle power structures.

People with more privilege expecting others to teach them how to be “better” e..g. a group dominated by non-disabled people asking disabled people in the group how to make their event accessible.

Avoiding responsibility: e.g. being defensive when challenged about oppressive behaviour or making excuses for it; white people leaving it up to people of colour to start discussions about race; failing to challenge oppressive behaviour when we come across it.

Challenging oppressive behaviour:

• Interrupt the behaviour and address it on the spot or later; either one-on-one, or with a few allies
• Think about ways to address behaviour that will encourage change and try to encourage dialogue not argument.
• Take responsibility for thinking about and challenging your own and others behaviour: for example white people need to take responsibility for holding other white people accountable for their racism.
• Don’t feel guilty, feel motivated. Realising that you are part of the problem doesn’t mean you can’t be an active part of the solution.

Please get in touch if you can

- Come to QI from the Tuesday or Wednesday to help with practical stuff
- Help with disability awareness and support during the gathering.
- Help with facilitating workshops and discussions.

Please feel free to bring

- Information, zines, things to read that you want to share about queer activism going on around the world – particularly to decorate the walls.
- Ideas for action

Contacting us
See you all very soon! We will put details of the location and updated information on the website www.queermutinynorth.wordpress.com a few days before the gathering starts. You can also contact us on our phone number*07895 774 237 NEW NUMBER!*, and on this email address queermutiny@gmail.com…

The timetable gives a rough idea of whats happening.. if anyone whos putting on a workshop/discussion isn’t happy with the timings then please get in contact… also we’ll add a blurb bit about each workshop soon.. there will also be a further space on saturday for people who want to put on workshops at the time and there is a discussion about class and privilege being planned that we havent timetabled yet… The workshops Intro to Queer Theory, and also Queer history still need people to prepare, talk at and facilitate- if you are interested please get in touch.

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