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.

Notes from Anti-Racist Space Audit workshop

Anti-Racist Spatial Audit

The purpose of this workshop was to share the Anti-Racist Space Audit (S. Kardash and S. Lamble, 2003) with a group of twelve participants. The audit consisted of a set of questions devised as ‘a tool to facilitate discussion about the dynamics of racism within your organisation’s meeting and event space(s). To prompt active anti-racism initiatives to make community spaces welcoming and safe for everyone’.

On this occasion the audit was not very successful as an anti-racist tool, perhaps partly because the workshop was not well planned or very well facilitated. The audit has potential to be more useful in future if

- Facilitator(s) properly familiarises self with audit before workshop and has clear idea of how exercise will be structured/has clear goals and aims. Perhaps same for participants?

- Workshop minuted.

- Copy of audit to be given to all participants for use in their own organising.

- Make sure enough time is left to discuss points from audit in terms of practical actions to take.

This workshop was not minuted, so I have attempted to answer some of the questions in the audit based on notes I wrote up from memory a couple of days after the gathering. These are all based on the responses of the twelve participants as I can remember them, so are not to be treated as reliably as minutes. I was not able to remember all the responses or what was said in answer to all the questions so have left some out.

If anyone who was at the workshop wants to add anything I’ve missed out/misunderstood then please feel free. Also any other comments welcome. I have divided notes into question, answer and further discussion if that happened.

Len (hlukowska@gmail.com)

Physical Location

Where is your organisation located? What does the neighbourhood look like?

Gathering located in rich white middle class area.

What is the social, racial and economic impact of where your organisation is located? For example, does the presence of your organisation contributing to gentrification in a low income, people of colour neighbourhood?

Gathering not bringing police into communities more vulnerable to gentrification and police brutality (eg poorer neighbourhoods, areas with large none-white, immigrant communities).

However if someone attending the gathering is more likely to, for example, face violence from the police, or faces very serious consequences from being arrested, then the problem still remains for them.

Discussed tactics for dealing with police eg attempting to establish an OK rapport, trying not to further antagonise police, not being ‘macho’ when handling situations which potentially have greater consequences for people of colour or people with less stable immigration status, etc.

Is there a safe, accessible route (ie pavements, pathways) to the location?

Level entrance but narrow, uneven pavement outside.

Is the entrance to your space clearly identified?

No.

Gathering is in a squatted space.

Discussed choices made when deciding to squat and the inherent limitations of squatting access.

Squatting pros – free, no one is turned away for lack of funds.

Squatting cons – less likely to be an accessible building, may be intimidating/exclusionary for those not familiar with a particular squat ‘scene’ or squatting more generally. More likely to attract police attention. By very nature cannot usually be clearly marked/very publically advertised?Always going to exclude more people?

Accessibility

Is your space fully accessible to people who use mobility devices (eg wheelchairs, canes, guide dogs)? Are your washrooms accessible?

Level access at entrance, ground floor toilet and sleeping space. However disabled access is limited, hallways are narrow, lots of obstructions, pavement outside is narrow and uneven.

Do you have gender-neutral washrooms (ie spaces where individuals are not required to identify as male or female)?

Yes.

(Hopefully) this applies to whole gathering.

Before the gathering some discussion of whether some people may want a gender designated toilet. This was a question posed when info was sent out about the gathering but no one replied.

Not such an issue at the space as toilets are all single ‘house style’?

Is your space welcoming to children? Do you provide childcare or things for children to do like games, safe toys, crafts or books? Is the space accessible to strollers? Is there space for diaper changing? Is the space breast feeding friendly?

Toys available for children. No specific space for breastfeeding, nappy change, etc.

If a person wants to breastfeed at event it was felt they wouldn’t get any hassle for doing so, however, if a person didn’t feel comfortable doing this there was no where for them to go.

Discussed more generally no where to go for complete privacy at event, or at similar events. Chill out room but on the top floor.

Is your space well advertised within the community using a diversity of outreach and promotional strategies?

Some outreach was done, including emails sent to different queer LGBT groups including queer BME groups, different LGBT/Queer community notice boards and listings contacted, flyering of the mainstream gay scene, message boards and mailing lists.

Would event appeal to people who weren’t familiar with or didn’t have a long-term investment in these spaces?

Event could have a wider appeal than the people it’s already reaching. An example given was Leeds LGBT/Queer Muslim community.

Would have been useful to do audit whilst looking at stated aims of the gathering and seen how these interacted with points raised in the audit.

Are there hidden costs involved with joining your organisation? (eg membership fees? Are members required to supply materials? Are meetings held in venues where people are expected to purchase food/beverages)?

Event is free. Food on a donation basis but provided for free if someone can’t afford to pay.

Social and Cultural Relations

When you first enter the space, how do you know if you are welcome there? What is the first thing you notice?

People at space are generally friendly and welcoming.

First thing you see is lots of white people basking on the lawn.

What is the gender, race and class composition of people in the space? What groups of people are doing what?

Majority of people at space are white.

No general rule about who is doing what (in terms of race, gender, class, etc).

If your organisation hosts events where food is being served, does it reflect the tastes and dietary restrictions of various cultural and religious groups?

Food is not very diverse. All vegan.

Vegan food as a compromise?

Vegan food eaten in lots of different cultures – perhaps a wider variety of vegan food?

Maybe at least have a map and directions to where someone can get alternative food if food at gathering doesn’t suit?

Again, choices made when squatting and limitations of squatted kitchen. Hygiene issues. Resource issues.

Animal rights.

Political-institutional relations

Are anti-racism materials clearly visible in the room and easy to access?

There are lots of copies of anti-racist materials and pamphlets clearly visible as you come in.

Are there accessible opportunities to provide feedback about the organization?

Feedback box for anonymous comments suggested so that people could feel safe to write their honest thoughts.

This was set up on the Sunday of Queer Insurrection (an envelope for feedback). Does anyone have this? Will the feedback go up on the web site?

Images in the space

What images and graphics appear in the space?

Poster collage on first floor. This was a black and white collage made from ripped up images and posters which had been found/skipped. Not all images of people but images of people included twee images of white people and topless African women. ‘Posterised’ images.

Lots of anti-racist material visible as you come into the space. Also loads and loads of notes from workshops stuck up on the walls.

Perhaps a bit too much? Pages and pages of writing can be a bit overbearing.

Do posters, announcements and publications appear in a variety of languages common to your area?

All material/writing/publicity written in English.

Discussion about translation. Some thought even having a few words translated would make a space more welcoming to speakers of that language, others felt this would be tokenistic. Some thought having flyers translated would make events more inclusive and be useful welcoming to those whose first language wasn’t English, others thought again it would be tokenistic if everyone at the event was speaking English and all the workshops were in English.

notes from challenging racism in the scene workshop.

I have tried to edit the notes as little as possible and just made sure similar topics were grouped together and not mentioned more than once.

The notes have been written up in a problem then possible solutions format, in the style of how we undertook the workshop.

During discussions of white privilege, discussions often divert to white people talking about ways they are oppressed.
• Have separate discussion spaces for other forms of oppression. Keep the discussion on topic and it is up to the facilitator (and ourselves) to make sure discussions stay relevant.

Excluding migrants because gatherings are risky/ time consuming and (sometimes) illegal.
Constantly planning actions without permits from the state/ police means than people with precarious legal status cannot be involved.

• Have a range of levels that people can be involved at –don’t glamourise action-based roles and recognize the importance of support roles (e.g. Childcare, ‘reconnaissance’, transport, legal support).
• Marches with permits and stewards, gatherings in rented spaces.

Experiences of confrontation with the police e.g. Shoplifting, fare dodging.
• Don’t assume that everyone will face the same consequences from the actions.
• Solidarity and sharing of possible repercussions from challenging police racism.

Assuming that homophobic attacks come from people with migration backgrounds
• Recognise that white culture is also homophobic. Don’t define people by their race or religion in terms of homophobia.

Stop buying into ideas that the ‘west’ is a good place for queers and the ‘middle east’ is a bad.
• Why not get in contact with queers across the divide? They do exist! Initiate rapports with people and self educate too.
• Don’t adopt ‘holier than thou’ attitudes. Don’t assume that other nations are more oppressive than your own.

Making assumptions about a person’s background and lifestyle.

• E.g. don’t just assume that someone with a Zimbabwean accent must have experiences poverty. Also it cannot be assumed that a person with an accent wants to be immediately asked where they are from and what it is like there.
• Examine your own background and realise that everyone’s experience is different. There are many ways to combat one thing (I.e. oppression, racism).
• Expectations should not be lowered depending on a person’s background either –e.g. claims that Eastern Europe and Eastern countries are ‘macho societies’ so they are less capable of analysing oppressive behaviour.
• Educate yourself –there’s plenty of information out there.

Events scheduled on religious/ cultural holidays
• Check international/ cultural/ religious dates, add them to diaries and aim to not schedule events on holidays and days of rest for example.

The ‘scene’ concept
• Whose ‘scene’ is it? What are the norms? Work to challenge them and get out of your comfy ‘scene’ bubble –take your activism to other places that need it.

Vegan food being the ‘norm’
• Offer alternatives –multiple dishes served at events or make it explicitly clear that people are welcome to bring their own food.

Tokenism
• It should not be assumed that one person represents ‘all’ of a particular ethnic group. Appreciate that we are all individuals, with different experiences. Challenge the behaviour of those that make generalizations/ assumptions.
• The term ‘people of colour’ itself is problematic, be aware that not everyone is comfortable with the term.
• Don’t assume that its up to a ‘person of colour’ to help you with your racism. It is up to you to educate yourself.


Drawing attention to the fact that a group is predominantly white.

• It invisibles the ‘people of colour’ who are there, acknowledge instead of ignoring.

Advertising/ promotional materials do not represent diversity so aren’t welcoming and inclusive.
• Be explicitly open on advertising materials e.g. ‘Anti racist/ Anti fascist –ALL welcome.’
• Put promotional materials in a more diverse range of spaces, don’t just advertise in spaces where you know people will be interested in your event.
• Look at the focus of existing radical/ queer/ women’s/ anarchist resources. Is it white centric?
• The creation of a structured radical history reading list or group. One that includes post colonial literature and World history rather than European history and aims to link history with present society/ social policy.


Race and/or privilege is always a small part of the agenda and is rarely taken seriously e.g. scheduled against popular workshops

• Be aware of what workshops are happening at the same time, race/privilege workshops could have solo slots and or/ be early on in the day when most people are likely to be around.
• Challenging racism shouldn’t just be saved for one workshop during a three-day event (for example) but should instead become an integral part of our lives, inside and outside of queer events.

Racist ‘humour’
• Don’t laugh?!
• Anticipate where the joke is going and intervene
• Acknowledge if it is discomfort that is making you laugh
• Intervene later and talk to the person/s involved, if you didn’t manage it at the time.
• Claiming ‘it’s just a joke’ doesn’t make it less racist so call people out on it.
• Don’t wait for ‘people of colour’ to challenge racism. Take responsibility and don’t be afraid to have critical conversations with friends who say something racist / ‘unthinking’.

Event details e.g. ‘Ladyfest’s’ where the workshops are similar and generally geared towards a specific audience, locations, and music style.

• Contact local community groups, network and find out about bands that may exist outside of your ‘scene;
• Find out what people want from events e.g. questionnaires, people may have workshop/ discussion suggestions but may be too shy to facilitate them.

Above all we should aim to create a culture where feedback and critical dialogue is integral, challenging behaviours rather than the individual.

If you have come to help me you’re wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

Lilla Watson, Aboriginal educator and activist.

These notes were written up by ze. –too_eclectic@hotmail.com

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.

workshops and discussions provisional timetable

Heres a timetable to give 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.

THURSDAY

Theres no workshops planned for thursday as we thought its a good time to get together and talk about the weekend ahead and about how to collectively create a safer space throughout the gathering and generally just socialise and get used to the space and finish setting it up maybe!?.

Every morning there will be a morning meeting to have a general overview of the day before and day to come and bring up any questions or ideas.

FRIDAY

10am morning meeting and breakfast

10.45 am- 12.45 pm space 1 Re radicalising queer and queer insurrection discussion

12.45-2 pm lunch

2-3.30 pm space 1 practical ways to challenge racism within the scene.

4.30- 6 pm space 1 intro to queer theory

space 2 polyamory and other reletionships

space 3 photography/film/documentary/DIY porn

6 or after dinner/tea/food

SATURDAY

10am morning meeting and breakfast

10.45-12-45 space 1 queer history/assimilation of LGBT

space 2 action planning

space 3 erotic writing

12.45-2pm lunch

2-3.30pm space 1 challenging how we define gender discussion

space 2 self defence

space 3 drag workshop

4.30-6pm space 1 anti-racist space audit

space 2 self defense (continued)

space 3 DIY sex toys

6pm or after dinner/tea/food

SUNDAY

10am morning meeting

10.45-12.45 space 1 this is blank for the minute for issues that may come up or discussions that need to be had.

space 2 movement and contact improvisation

space 3 empty

12.45-2pm lunch

2 -3.30 pm space 1 discussion on the drugs culture in the queer/LGBT scenes.

space 2 self defense against cops

space 3 DIY tattoos

4.30-6pm space 1 safer spaces

space 2 choice depending on what people want could have discussion on reletion between trans and feminism or have recognising sexism and challenging it..

space 3 accesability – making a zine about it.

6 or after dinner/tea/food

MONDAY

morning sometime brunch

afternoon or after brunch general discussion of how the weekend went and any other issues that want/need to be talked about.

workshop and discussion ideas

We’re keen to explore different things in different and creative ways at this gathering and are putting a call out for people to get involved.

Talks, workshops, discussions, open forums, practical and physical stuff etc etc. Maybe there’s something you know lots about and would be up for giving a talk or leading a workshop, or maybe you don’t but would be able to facilitate a more open discussion, or to do some preparation and share what you find out.These are just starting points so if there’s anything else you want to see or make happen please let us know. Please email offers to queermutiny@gmail.com

Wish list of things we want to explore but haven’t yet planned how/who:

Introduction to Queer Theory

Subvertising

The relationship between Trans and Feminism

Sex and power play,

linking S&M and queer feminist politics

Art workshops

Queer families

A questioning of who makes up the queer and anarchist scenes and why

Recognising sexism and challenging it

Making the queer ‘scene’ about more than sex?

Radicalising our daily lives- how do we live outside of social constructions?

Sex Space/Party

Direct action

Things we have a bit more covered but still get in touch if you have something to offer:

Clothes customisation

Photography and Film – DIY Porn

Polyamory and other types of relationships

Queer History and the history of other movements such as LGBT and how it was normalised

Self defence, confidence and reclaiming space

Communicating positively about sex, active consent

Movement and contact improvisation

Feminist health

Race, class, identity and privilege (following on from the April gathering in Bristol)

Challenging how we define gender and questioning gender and queer

Queer Geography- what is queer in different places?

DIY sex toys

Screen-printing

DIY tattoos

Drag

Control in relationships

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