Allied Media Conference Reflections

I attended the allied media conference for the first time this august, down in detroit, MI. The conference brings together those who are looking at media making (in myraid forms) as a tool for social justice/social change (I’ll get back to this in a bit). The conference had a wide range of panels and events from frashion, movement, theatre, technology, uncoference bits (), caucuses, games, to much more.

I specifically attended the trans* justice workshop, making games in twine, art and gentrification, games for social change, ballez, Idlenomore, decolonization and hip hop, and the nonbinary femme caucus (with bits of the deconstructing fashion workshop). I also played some games in the arcade, went to the opening and closing ceremonies, and the first two afterparties.

The space(s) as a whole challenged me in different and varied ways. I was frequently uncomfortable both in the growing sense and in the not so great way.

The language in this space and how people described their issues, approaches and media making differed from the usual ways I have heard people speak. Online I have not noticed this as much, but in person the speed, gestures and nuances of the varied attendees sometimes made it hard for me to keep up. I parsed my thoughts slower. In the theatre based workshops this was particularly hard for me. I wanted to participate, but often I needed to translate into words in my head into acting and vice versa. Observing my communication style and the style of others at the conference when discussing social justice (or change) was a key point, especially when I now begin to think about making workshops, discussions or other dialogue open to a variety of thinking, processing, and communicating styles.

I also had many thoughts spurred on allyship. Does being a space that isn’t exclusively for a certain identity but is centered around that identity mean I should be there still? Is it harder and more important as an act of allyship to learn to center others instead of always leaving? I think this might be a key part of coalition building. (though obviously spaces for only people who self-identify as ___ are still vital!) I also noticed the true lack of accessibility in many of the moving based workshops I attended. I noticed the lack of signing even at the biggest events at the conference. I had the impression of people being thrown together without having the language to incorporate other folks and other folks experience. This might be because of the conference’s focus on solutions/problem-solving which is important but makes it challenging perhaps to grasp theoretically other issues or problems you aren’t involved with or informed upon.

I was especially disturbed by the lack of Indigenous, First Nations, and Native American recognition. The lack of territory  and land acknowledgement when the fact that the conference was in Detroit and thus needed to incorporate and center Detroit’s struggles was constantly mentioned. At the #idlenomore panel so many of the questions seemed to indicate a deep desire for these struggles and their connection with other struggles. The colonial nature of some panels/workshops went completely unacknowledged.

I often didn’t feel the connection here, or I felt too much patting on the back glad this is happening and not enough critique/critical engagement. Although I am not great at networking and speaking so it’s likely I just didn’t have access to some these conversations. I have never been one who is able to whole heartedly buy into a space, never feeling the 100 percent enthusiasm connect that is so common at the end of a satisfying workshop or community building event.

I felt the potential that was there at this conference and the wealth of knowledge in the space, which I think made the mistakes or sort of self-satisfaction harder, particularly around decolonization and accessibility.

We can keep pushing for more.

I think the goal of social change is fundamentally less radical and less revolutionary than the idea of social Justice. Justice is doing what needs to be done and bringing justice to the systemic ills and systems of power. Change is addressing problems without the theory: action not praxis.

I’m glad I went, and I’m hoping to go again and see the growth and self-reflection of the conference. I have so many things to continue to process on community, on allyship, on my anxieties and inabilities to participate, and how I can push forward communities like these that have already fulfilled so much promise.


Peer Support as Radical: Peer Support as a Cog in the Machine

I’ve been involved in various capacities as someone providing peer support and have been trained in various context to provide peer support. Peer support comes from a few options of different principles with various degrees of radicality. Generally, it starts from the belief that as peers, friends, community members of other folks we can be better equipt to hear, listen, and support the lives and experiences of others, a process that we are often inclined to do (though perhaps not sure what tools we are using and which tools better lend to our goal.) From that point though the goals of peer support or a peer support service can vary rapidly. Some services operate from a framework that sees itself as a first step, a listening ear to prep someone for other services if necessary, point a. Others view peer support as “the radical belief that anyone can support anyone else without the need for psychiatry or professional training/degrees”. Between those two points there are wide variety of approaches and inter-mixings.
Currently I provide peer support in a service operating from the first description even while I as an individual supporter am far closer to the latter. I mean for this post to be an examination of how something as radical as equipping peers and community members to overcome the destructive communicative tendencies we have often internalized to enable listening to others and supporting their agency can become locked in a specialized service with inaccessible training with a high focus on individualism.

Regardless of the framework the inherent grain is something radical, something to be nurtured. Yet sometimes it is twisted to come from a place of minimizing the load on more professional services as peer support requires less training and is usually conducted by volunteers or with a high percentage of volunteers in services. It can be used as a tool to offload the strain on governmental, corporate, or university services while coming from a place that is very defensible and rooted in training ‘the community.’

Yet that is at least partially false. In a community facilitation class I took recently we discussed how completely inaccessible peer support training is unless one is willing to commit one’s self to volunteer commitments of varying duration and receive it as part of the package. Our ability to support ourselves and our communities has been increasingly tied to the non-profit system (and for me, it is apparent, also the university system.)

As well the notion of agency becomes reduced to a particular kind of neoliberal choice, where instead promoting the radical notion of someone’s ability to decide and determine how to survive and work the system for themselves shifts to being about providing endless choice through endless referrals and no framework of analysis and understanding. Instead allowing a system to truly support analyze it merely becomes about individuals choosing to use a service and then to chose more services. That is valuable, but it doesn’t go deeper.
The radicallity is removed. Peer support becomes a model of service providing rather than of community support and accountability.

Learning Spaces/Safe Spaces

In the past I’ve written about the difficulty of constructing safe(r) spaces in the context of an organization, discussion group, or other communal setting. I’m currently taking part in a community class on workshop design + facilitation where we’ve talked about the difficulties and tribulations of crafting ‘community agreements’ for the duration of a workshop or evan course.

The concerns, at least in the group of people I’ve talked with, differ for a community space or discussion, a place of attempted refugee, from that of a learning space where the goal is inpart or facilitate new understandings and knowledges from the group people. The view is that people have to be pushed, sometimes and some people, to parse new information such as anti-oppressive principles or thought.

In thinking about the different concerns fellow students had for a workshop space agreement I began to wonder how to distinguish the different goals of a community space. My initial distinction, as in the title, was as learning space and safe space. These words reveal my own tension with the idea that learning spaces can’t be safer spaces, or at least, that safer learning spaces are distinct from safer spaces of refugee  Of course, who a refugee is for and who is taking shelter vary greatly and can be lost at any moment. However in these spaces of shelter is there not also learning, even if of a less goal oriented kind? Thus, I know I need to seek different words for these nuances. Although must harsh or challenging spaces be encouraged in order for everyone in the space to learn, even at the cost of hurting others? Is this part of learning how to have accountable community? Continue reading

Female/Male/Whatever? Bodied

Within the queer spaces I’m involved with and often online, female bodied (to refer to someone who the doctor decided was female) and male bodied are often deployed as way to ‘get to the heart of the matter’. They are an attempt at destabilizing gender’s primacy and focusing on ‘biological facts’. Unfortunately this mostly ends up merely rein scribing the male/female binary and presuming the experiences and identities of others. For instance, instead of merely saying we need one man and one woman in this position, we now say one male bodied person and female bodied person. We are still presuming truths of others identities and using euphemisms to refer to man/woman, using them in the same way. Continue reading

Wibbly Wobbly Time as Call to Action (please note GIF at bottom of post)

The now famous scene in doctor who (a show that does deserve enormous criticism) where the doctor describes time as not linear, but more of a “big ball of wibbly wobbly stuff” has the potential to demand consciousness and activism of us.

The Doctor dimisses notions of linear time. Linear time is often what prompts inaction or indifference (alongside privilege, lack of knowledge..). The assumption is that society/the world are consistently moving forward and progressing to better and better places, as if anything that might be viewed as improvement hasn’t been fought for, in battles with body counts. Linear time provides a consistent narrative of social improvement that obfuscates the need for people to push for and claw out spaces of resistance. Continue reading

“How have you worked with diversity?”

In a course I took over the past term, we spent much time problematizing notions of diversity, particularly diversity within the academy and in canadian multiculturalism as assisted by Ahmed’s On Being Included  Coming out of the course, I took home a few key points(amongst many) on the word: 1) Diversity is a veiled way to reference tokenistic inclusion of different bodies, particularly those of varying race, 2) the use of diversity as a de-political, less radical way to fight oppression (tolerance, not acceptance or change), and 3)diversity still frames the white, able, cis, straight, english speaking, thin, male (etc) body as the normal, difference from this (particularly along racial lines) is the creation of diversity in an institution, in an organization, or workplace. Within this brief summary, there is much to analyze and discuss (can the term diversity be used radically?), but I want to hone in briefly on a an experience and discussion I had.  Continue reading

Advice to 20 year olds and the perpetuation of oppressive frameworks of analysis

In response to:

So in the above video, she discusses her work providing counseling to people in their 20s, from the sound of it, particularly women. She goes on to identify common tips to the ‘easily solved’ problems of those in their 20s: start your life now, find a career, have kids now, get married now, don’t depend on your friends, and, essentially, don’t view your 20s as an extended childhood to your real (heteronormative, traditional) life, but seize the day to begin that life now. The TED talk is apparently based of a larger book she has written about the topic of seizing your 20s. After seeing the video posted about my facebook I eventually gave in and watched it. I was, unsurprisingly, quite disappointed with the conservative, traditional values agenda veiled in the kind of 20 something mythology, common to websites like the thought catalog. I argue that she is essentially pushing a traditionalist, heteronormative agenda onto 20 year olds that she condescendly deems as having no real problems (we just need to get started on our real lives).  Prior to the critique I’d like to acknowledge that some people benefit from being told certain parts of their life do matter (as we might also tell teenagers, or people in their 40s) and can be part of their overall life goals or dreams. All parts of our lives matter, and I would argue they don’t need to matter in relation to others goals of how we should live our lives or even our longterm goals. Continue reading

Pronouns, Safe(r) Spaces, and Guidelines (A collection of Thoughts)

In the queer group I’m involved with we recently revised our safer space guidelines and community agreements.

One of the guidelines originally was provide a name/pseudonym and preferred pronouns, and the new guideline is a name and preferred pronoun set.

We wanted to encourage naming of the actual pronoun(s) instead of masculine/feminine/gender-neutral as adjectives ascribed to specific sets (i.e. feminine is she, masculine is he etc).  This was not without some conflict and confusion.

For some folks, their him is very firmly masculine to the point of being unable to deccouple the pronoun from the gender expression. Continue reading

Is My Gender Too Academic?

I presented a conference, last weekend. I was very nervous: I was talking about a lot of my complex feelings and tensions about the english language to describe and articulate genders that are not men/women or expressions that are not or are complexly masculine/feminine.

The presentation went well. Although I am sure I ultimately did not prevail, I wanted to make my language accessible to those there. I wasn’t think of making my academic language accesible and understandable though, but of making my queer vocabulary* understandable to the student and community audience present at this academic conference. To that end, I had a slide up with long explanations of some of my key terms: genderqueer, non-binary, cisgender, colonialism (the last one was there to highlight the fact that colonialism is super relevant to all discussions of gender and trans* experiences of gender). Continue reading

Your name choosing guide to avoiding cultural appropriation, racism, and general awfulness (from a white trans* perspective but probably useful for naming children, pets, and fictional characters)

When I was deciding what more ‘neutral’ name I wanted to take on, I wanted a post to help me figure out and explore whether a name was appropriate for me to take on. This is my first attempt at that post.


Before proceeding it’s helpful to have a a few names that are diverse to select from. If you discover knowledge about the name that might point it out as appropriative or at least uncomfortable for you to pick we can find it easier to have another name if we have a few we like. If you haven’t already fallen in love with a specific name it might hurt less to move on from it or to think critically about your choice.  Continue reading