I’m feeling old and crotchety after a month of Pride. Maybe its because I have been doing Pride for more than three decades and it is not as bright and shiny as it used to be. Maybe its because now that I am older and sicker, 30 days is a long time to do all things rainbow. Maybe its that I have had an unrelenting headache for nine months now. Whatever it is, I just want us all to shut up and fuck now.
I am thrilled there are several new generations of queer activists up in arms about all things queer. I am. We need new blood, new views and new people willing to take on the fight. And many of you are doing great things! I want you to keep going.
However, it seems to this old queer that the new trend in activism is to always be in activist mode, always looking for the “perfectly inclusive” events. Always on the look out for something- an image, a word choice, a seven year old tweet from a presenter- which would indicate that an event must shut down and become #woke. In that quest, we forgot why we are fighting for rights. We cannot fuck those we love without facing retributions.
Don’t get me wrong. As part of the older generation I have long taken issue to the accessibility of our events. This comes in many forms. Making spaces physically and emotionally accessible to folks with all forms of disabilities is a critical need in the queer and kinky communities. Making sure all bodies- fat, trans, POC – is critically important. Representation really matters. Off-duty cops in uniform don’t belong at Pride, ever. Yes, all these things need to be addressed.
BUT… from the decades of experience of this old activist, y’all need to turn off the angry activist switch and fuck a little more.
Being queer and kinky isn’t just about “love is love.” Its about getting hot, sweaty and freaky in ways which scare most folks in our repressive society. If I was just loving women without fucking them there wouldn’t be a need to fight fight for my rights to exist without harm from the government and public. If I was getting it on all vanilla with some dude, fighting for things like access to sex toys and consensual assault laws wouldn’t be an issue. Being queer and kinky is about fucking. We are losing that as communities.
Being queer and kinky we get to prioritize pleasure and connection.
This last Pride month I watched celebrations and events get derailed because of the quest to please every single activist group who might potentially speak up about an issue. In Sacramento, the LGBT Center who manages the main Pride celebration handled the inclusion of uniformed off-duty officers at Pride poorly. They initially announced they had reached a compromise with the police to allow off-duty officers to participate wearing polo shirts with insignia but not uniforms at Pride. Then, two days before the celebration they changed that in ways which were not transparent or open to public comment and the community melted down. This resulted in (mostly) white performers pulling out of the event in protest and to show they were allies of POC.
The same thing happened in Natomas, CA (a neighboring town to Sacramento).
I saw discussions online of two kink conferences cancelling because they could not find a hotel which did not pump in scents to their spaces. The presences of chemical scents can trigger severe negative reactions for some folks with chronic migraines and other disabilities. Rather that acknowledge this would be an issue and keep looking for next year, conference organizers decided to cancel the conferences until such a time as they find a hotel which is large enough to manage participants, which is happy to work with visible kinky queers running around in their space for four days, which is affordable for the majority of participants and which has the dates for the proposed conference in a few years.
I appreciate the desire to ally with those of us with invisible disabilities. I find it unfortunate when conferences or events occur in spaces which are not accessible to me. However, as a disabled kinky queer, please don’t cancel an entire event because someone like me has difficulty accessing it. I recognize my needs are not the same as a vast majority of people. I am not the center of the kink world. The importance of people accessing community, information, and connection is way more important than if I can tolerate the physical space you booked.
The other thing is allies need to stop this peak public performative allyship. I get it. You want to show how much you care about queer, or POC, or ethnic/racial groups. Great! Then listen to them and follow their examples.
Problematic Events and Public Responses
I look at the artist boycotts of the Sacramento Pride event. When the announcement that off-duty officers would be allowed to attend in uniform there was an outcry from the community. It was up to individuals to decide how to respond. Several artists made public announcements they were pulling out of the event to support POC. Here is the thing though… I looped in my partner (a Black man) who was performing with two other Black artists (a queer woman and a queer man). They discussed the issues among themselves and then decided to play the event. They didn’t think sacrificing a paid gig with lots of visibility among queers was worth the trade-off of the “statement” of leaving the stage to a few white artists who didn’t pull out of the event. And my partner’s group was in line with almost all the POC groups performing, including Lizzo.
It’s okay to have a “good” event even if it isn’t perfect. We don’t need to sacrafic our education, connections, and parties because we couldn’t meet the needs of every single person in the community. To be an activist who is still going 30 years later, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Prioritize Progress. It takes a while to get to the perfect event (if that is even such a thing). We need to strive to be an inclusive community which means an accessible (accessibility writ large) community. If you are hosting an event, you need to think about physical accessibility, emotional accessibility, and messaging. You won’t get it right the first time. Prioritize making it as inclusive as you can and accept you will miss something.
Listen and incorporate feedback. As an organizer you will mess up at some point. When a person or group approaches you and criticizes you, listen to them. If they tell you your messaging was racists, listen to the criticism and ask for specifics so you can learn and improve. If they tell you it was inaccessible, listen to the needs and drill down so you can make it more accessible next time.
Apologize when you mess up. When you have missed something, apologize. If it was unintentional, its okay to say, “I didn’t understand how that would impact you. Thank you for letting me know.” Pleading ignorance by itself is often seen as defensive. Acknowledging you didn’t know something AND THEN thanking people for information goes much further. Additionally, you may want to offer to work with them in the planning of your next event.
Evaluate the benefit of the event to the problems of cancelling it. Some events get highly criticized in the final stages of preparation. If you can correct a real oversight, then you should do it. If it is something which cannot be corrected at that time evaluate how egregious the oversight has been and if cancelling the event outweighs the benefits of holding a less than perfect event.
Set up time to shut up and fuck. Being queer and kinky we get to prioritize pleasure and connection. Talking politics (even for those of us who are professionals at it) gets exhausting and really kills the mood. It is fine to turn down your activists side to shut up and fuck. Celebrate the community you are fighting for. Trust me, getting your queer, kinky groove on is as revolutionary as anything you are doing with your activism. We are activists because our fucking is discriminated against. Let’s take some time to celebrate who we are!
OK, I’m off to go get fisted. : )