Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Organizing Meetings and Safe Spaces

As I have written before, safe queer space in Victoria is something I feel passionate about. "Queer" spaces that are not safe for myself, my friends or anyone from my community are missing something big. It's a something about human rights, about human decency and about humanity. Brutal attacks on anyones safety especially anything in an apparently queer space is absolutely unacceptable.

This conversation has resurfaced after last Sunday, when the local drag king/performance troupe took to the stage at the one local gay bar and attempted to make a musical joke out of every racist stereotype out there. I hope they got the point that racism is not a joke when more than half the audience left, even after a public apology, prompted by audience complaints. I believe that the crowd didn't leave because they wanted to make a statement however. I believe the audience members left because they had been brutalized, shocked, and made to feel that they were not safe in that space, and at that they were at the potential mercy of performers who'd attempted to make hate funny. I may add that these performers were visibly white. Performing a number attempting to downplay racism. It may have been a response to complaints about racist material they had in their previous show , or not. But it reminded me of something I experienced in Albany last year.

I was in the Free School community while the organizing structure of this neighborhood with its own alternative school, community banking alternative, housing organization, parks, natural building projects, gardens, community art space etc, was being called out on its racism. Things were not being said, and nothing as greatly offensive was happening in the open. It was a conversation being had in a community about the bigger picture. Why an organized community wasn't organized to ensure equality, and committed to working towards toppling the dominant power paradigms of the oppressive world around us. It was complex at times, and heavy, but it was a community, not unlike the queer community in Victoria, which had come to the time in which it must realize that it becomes a safe, inclusive group dedicated to unity and combating the isms that pit us against one another and leave us on different rungs of the power ladder or we divide. And to be honest, we all lose out when we divide.

The time has come that all major organizing bodies within the queer world of Victoria (and across the board) need to adopt policies of anti-oppression. Ensuring that the spaces which they hold promote inclusivity, safety and awareness. Currently there are too many situations in which a marginalized section of the already marginalized queer community, whether it be queer people of colour, trans people, people with disabilities, queers of different body sizes etc are made to feel unwelcome, unsafe or not included in events, activities, spaces etc.

The time to move is now, and as some times happens in spring time, local activists and advocates, policy makers and enraged public are coming out of the wood work to undertake a large and very important project.

It has three basic parts:
1) Archiving the history of trans and queer activism and advocacy in Victoria.
2)Networking queers and allies with each other and the resources we have available to us.
3)Finding people who can work on drafting a safe space/anti-oppression policy for our organizations and the spaces we use; lobbying for that policy to be adopted and adhered to.

The meeting where all this will go down will be at Swans Hotel, in the Collard Room, on Sunday May 11th from 2-6. This space has a wheelchair accessible entrance on Store St, and a single stall accessible non-gendered washroom. Child care is available with prior arrangement by calling 381-0994. Beer is brewed and available on site and food can be ordered. Please bring any documents you may like to share with the group, stories, contacts, and remember that this space will work to be as safe and accessible as possible, and no hate will be tolerated.