A defining event

Writing 101 prompts and twists for days 14 & 15 (last Thursday and Friday) were not immediately inspiring for me. The first was to take a random word as inspiration and the twist was to write in the form of a letter. The second was to imagine a beloved event has been cancelled or taken over by evil forces, with the twist to pay close attention to my voice in word choice, tone and rhythm. I haven’t been able to come up with any ground shaking inspiration and I simply cannot write letters to no one. So I’ve combined the two challenges into one post and skipped the one twist. Here’s my day 14/15 post.

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Seeing a random reference to “butch” and “conference” last week got me thinking about an event that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Two years ago, when I was in the first blush of being out of the closet to people “in real life” (IRL), people with whom I have in-person interaction, I went to a conference that really did change my life. There, for the first time ever, I was among people who looked like me, had similar experiences and knew how it felt to be always on the outside looking in. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t a minority by virtue of my gender presentation and identity.

Attending the Butch Voices conference in August of 2013 was a formative experience. Validating, freeing, uplifting, eye-opening, the BV13 conference was all of these and something more. I met in person folks who had been important to me (unbeknownst to them) in my coming out journey. A favorite blogger, several favorite Tweeters and a business contact, all of whom I’d had interaction with only online, became IRL acquaintances and, for some, real friends.

Discourse on all manner of gender and identity and sexuality related topics filled those few amazing days. I’d never before felt free to talk about some of those things with anyone before, and it was inspiring to hear people from every demographic share their views and experiences with everyone.

So moving was my time there that I have a hard time imagining that it will never happen again, or that some unsavory element could seize control of the event and turn it into a travesty of its former self. Even for the sake of a writing exercise, I hesitate to release the idea into the universe, lest it come true.

The event ceasing to be is more likely to happen from apathy and disorganization, than from takeover by opposition. As with any grassroots effort without broad-based underwriting and formal leadership, the focus and discipline of the individual organizers, as well as the enthusiasm and buy-in of attendees, can make or break the event. Also, broadcast communication early and often is a key element of success. 2013’s conference seemed to hit all those notes well. I am concerned that this year’s conference scheduled has not, as of Friday, been released. To have reached the end of April without a formal conference announcement and schedule for an event in August seems to me to be cutting it a bit fine, from a planning perspective. I’m hopeful that my nerves are unwarranted and the schedule will come out shortly.

But what if some nefarious element should intervene? Say, a homophobic, transphobic, hate group were to infiltrate the the organization, what would the BV15 conference be then?

First, assuming the conference is held at all, would the hate group element disrupt the planning efforts as well as the event itself? That seems likely. Delaying tactics, such as blocking votes on agenda, venue and services providers could easily set back planning to the point of paralysis. Then, if the event does get off the ground, how would the conference be changed?

My biggest fear is that the welcome and acceptance endemic to my experience at BV13 would be diminished. The magic of that event was in the miracle of validation gleaned from the automatic acceptance every attendee received upon arrival and throughout the event. Your self identification to any form of gender identity and expression was all that was required. No one questioned whether you were ‘XXX enough’ to claim that identity. No one argued with your self applied labels or pronouns. You were accepted as you presented yourself. That is an amazing and exceedingly rare circumstance for most people who attend that conference. What a shame, what a travesty it would be if anyone were to diminish that by instituting any rules or policies or practices that made any self identification in any way suspect.

I hope very much that this year’s conference does happen, that all who can benefit from a welcoming, validating, accepting, safe place to commune with and learn from our beautifully diverse community are able to attend and that no unsavory influence mars the uplifting harmony of this important event.

C’mon, BV15! I can hardly wait to find out what’s in store for this year!

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