MC: Ellen Samuels
Moderators: Eli Clare, Diana Courvant
Participants: Susan Aranoff, Vicky D’aoust, People of Color Caucus, QD Conference organizers
Edited from Real Time Caption transcript by Eli Clare
MC Ellen Samuels: [Announcements, announcements, announcements….] So, basically, I’m done with all the announcements, and I’m going to bow out now and leave you with Eli Clare and Diana Courvant. It says in your programs that Eli and Diana are going to give a closing plenary. However, it will be more of a town meeting style in which we want to address specifically issues that have been brought up by participants at this conference who feel that their issues have not yet been addressed or included, and I’m just going to hand the floor over now to Eli and Diana.
Eli Clare: First, in the town hall format are two statements by folks with psych disabilities. ….the first statement, Susan Aranoff is going to come up to the stage…. She will read her statement…. She is not expecting or wanting a response right here, although she has included some contact information to be in touch with her, but she’s very clear, no response now. So I’ll turn the mic over to Susan.
Susan Aranoff: You can clap. First of all, I want to thank the people who have been planning and organizing this conference for their amazing, amazing flexibility, [applause] open hearts, minds, ears, and—maybe not ears—receptivity (?) to [what I have to say]. As I [wrote] this, I turned in my conference t-shirt this morning, and I might—if it’s still left—I might buy it back, because I’m so moved by it. [applause] As will probably become clear as I read this, this whole experience is incredibly emotional. That’s part of my psychiatric label or disability. So I hope in the spirit of accessibility you will all bear with me as I do this.
SA: [text provide by SA] I need to respond to the tremendous pain I have been feeling at this conference as a person whose life work—professionally, politically, and personally—currently centers on the challenges of living with psychiatric labels and/or disabilities. Feeling pain and not “regulating” it as others do is one of the manifestations of the three psychiatric labels I have been tagged with: PTSD, Bi-Polar: Dis-Order,” and Depression. And I put my response down in writing and originally expected that you would just take it away with you. It really boils down to a request that each one of us go inside and do some of our own work and talk among each other and do our work. But because of the flexibility and fluidity, I was given this opportunity to read it here. So I will do that. And I probably won’t depart too much, except every now and then.
SA: I hope this letter will be received in the spirit in which I am writing. Having moved from shock to anger and to grief and back again, I am writing from a place of hope and empowerment. (A cycle which, while probably familiar to most of you and maybe one you can move through easily or even joyfully, is an emotional minefield for me and others who find it difficult in the midst of feeling big things deeply to put such feelings aside in order to “settle down” and get back to business.”)
SA: As an attorney and advocate for people challenged with psychiatric labels and realities, I’m used to experiencing exclusion and derision of people living with psychiatric disabilities and/or labels as “issues” for my clients. I have housed these “issues” in my head and am not used to feeling them in my gut. This mind/body divide is a useful coping skill for many of us and maybe something people with psychiatric disabilities and people with physical disabilities have in common. The way I live this divide is contributing to this being the first time I have personally experienced this kind of pain and that in turn is contributing to the size of my pain. This in turn has given rise to my desire to write this and ask that you leave here willing to do some work on becoming more hospitable and thereby more accessible to people with psychiatric labels and challenges.
SA: Before I go further, I need to acknowledge and thank and appreciate and point out the efforts of the conference organizers. They have truly been hospitable. I have not yet thought of anything they could have done differently, but I am confident that when and if I do, my feedback will be warmly received. This is no mere feat, and you have my deepest respect for creating an environment that feels welcoming of both my pain and my chosen responses.
SA: I also need to own that before I accepted the invitations extended to me to attend and present, I had reservations about coming here predicated on the exclusion and derision experienced at “cross disability” events by other mental health consumers, survivors, and ex-patients (CSX as we are known in pysch disability circles). I sometimes wonder about the possibility that we manifest our fears. I am writing this in an effort to manifest my hopes.
SA: My hope is that the pain insensitivity, exclusion, derision and fear can instill in people like me will motivate you as individuals, as alliances, as communities of and for queer people and people with non-psychiatric disabilities, to better embrace people living with psychiatric labels and understand our personal and political struggles, experiences, lives, challenges, differences. (Thank the presenter who deconstructed the term “embrace.” Should I be using a different one?)
SA: I recognize that a lot of personal growth and change is needed to do this work. And I recognize that we are best motivated to do this work when we have a stake in the outcome. Thank you to the person who reminded me of that this morning, and to all the people who have extended themselves to me as I’ve been experiencing all these feelings and thoughts. When I woke up this morning, I was so angry and feeling so alienated I wanted to turn in my t-shirt (which I did) and get the hell out of here. The actions of others helped me gain the feelings of hope and empowerment that are willing me to write this. As Adrienne Rich wrote so long time ago, we can and do and must listen to each other into speech. Thank you who listened and responded for all your time and good care.
SA: You may be wondering what does this have to do with you. There are two major intersections I see between psychiatric disability issues and queer and physical disability issues. First, as queer people, we are all psychiatrically labeled, and therefore we are routinely pathologized and are more vulnerable to being involuntarily psychiatrized.
SA: What make us queer other than our experiencing emotional, psychological, and physiological realities that are different from the mainstream? In essence, mental and emotional “dis-orders” are defined as emotional and psychological and physiological experiences that differ from the mainstream. As queers, we are all dissing certain orders.
SA: Yes, everyone knows “homosexuality” has been removed from the DSM (Diagnostic Service Manual, the holy grail of psych labels) and is no longer considered by itself to be an emotional or mental “dis-order.” The rolling back of one or two DSM provisions has no more eradicated the pathologizing of queers any more than the elimination of Jim Crow laws has eradicated racism. (I am borrowing from the lexicon of racism, but I do not think these oppressive experiences are equal.)
SA: Although the harshest labeling of queerness as a mental “dis-order” has been eliminated, there are literally scores of other DSM labels that describe queer behavior; gender identity disorder and gender dysphoria are but two remaining examples. We know that gay, lesbian, bi, and especially transgender youth are involuntarily committed to psychiatric “treatment” facilities solely on account of their queer identities and are drugged/restrained and subjected to behavioral programming targeted at “curing” their queerness. We know that gay, lesbian, bi, and trans youth commit suicide at far higher rates than other kids.
SA: And we know too that people with physical disabilities commit suicide at higher rates than non-disabled people, and that at times they are even “assisted.” Also queer people and people with physical disabilities are challenged with sky high rates of major depression, as are women in general.
SA: So for these and so many other reasons, I hope that you will commit to learning more about people living with psych labels and/or disabilities, our lives, issues, struggles, victories. If not to make the world a better place for others, then to better love and embrace and defend and protect and, if you choose, heal your own psychiatrically labeled and vulnerable selves. Thank you. [end of text provide by SA] [applause]
Eli Clare: Thank you, Susan. Now we are going to hear from Vicky D’aoust.
Vicky D’aoust: I’m a little hot. Crazy people do crazy things…. Can people who are hearing, hear me…. See the difference between that question and can everybody hear me. Because you know, deaf people—never mind. Okay.
VD: We had a caucus, impromptu caucus. It became bigger and bigger and bigger. It was a love fest. There were some issues. The people of color group had an idea to bring to the organizers some concerns, and we thought that was a really good idea, and Susan independently of us actually had written a lot of same type things. We had made some for next time, so we hope that these are not seen as criticisms but for next time since this is a future of queer disability activism. [applause]
VD: [text provided by VD] 1) A fully articulated policy of NON-INSTITUTIONALIZATION so that all people can attend the conference without fear of being institutionalized.
VD: 2) A recognition of the broad diversity within the category of mental disabilities including both identities and labels such as psychiatric disability, mental illness, psychological differences, emotional disabilities, crazy, psychiatric survivor, cognitive disability, autism and others.
VD: 3) A clear indication to presenters and delegates to be respectful in the use of language that degrades the experiences of people with forms of mental disabilities. This requires a reduction of negative comments about being crazy, paranoid, or retarded—especially in the context of “we aren’t crazy.” We request a reduction in the hierarchy of disabilities evident in comments and presentations.
VD: 4) We recommend more active outreach to developmentally disabled people and people with cognitive disabilities who may not have access to attending on their own or are not part of the queer or disability communities and have been underrepresented at this (and other) events.
VD: 5) A respect for a range of visible and invisible manifestations of symptoms, and the right to choose method of services, access to services, types of help wanted including wanting medication and not wanting it, wanting therapy and not wanting it and our right to exist as crazy if we so choose.
VD: 6) More presentations/content on mental disabilities especially to reflect the possibility that some people with these disabilities have unstable disabilities and might not make the event. Plan back ups and highlight the topic and issues to include people with mental disabilities.
VD: 7) Yes, we need a quiet room, but it has to be QUIET. That means not being right beside the main traffic area.
VD: 8) In addition to a quiet room we need a crisis room or a place to scream [screaming], vent, cry and not have to be quiet and where support is available.
VD: 9) In advance of presentations that deal with sexual assault, violence, psychiatric issues and just in general for the conference, announcements should be made that content could trigger reactions among people who are vulnerable.
VD: 10) Because of the nature of our triggers and the intensity of reactions, we need a safe, and easy escape. This means two doors when possible, space in the aisles and organization of space so that it does not require tremendous effort or attention to leave the room.
VD: 11) Although we have not requested professional psychiatric services at this event, we feel that voluntary peer counsellors, or counsellors trained to provide support should be available in the same way that interpreters, guides, readers, and attendants are available. It is important that anyone providing support be bound by the NON-institutionalization policy and that they be non-threatening and non-oppressive. [end of text provided by VD]
VD: I think it’s very important that you understand at our meeting we didn’t all agree that we should even have treatment. But what we did agree on was that there was no choice about that at this event. Someone might want a peer counselor. They might want someone to hold their hand or just give me a hug. Who gave me the hugs today? I got two hugs. She asked me, and I got a hug. It was very nice. I liked it. It’s important that we realize that the voluntariness of support is key to us being safe. It’s not forced upon us. I see you are needing help. Let’s go to the quiet room. The idea that we self-identify our needs and get some support. I don’t think there’s any reason the conference can’t implement all of these and do it well. Next time we will be a happier, safer, bigger group. [applause]
Eli Clare: Thank you, Vicky. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…. Let’s hold comments until we get through [unreadable]. There’s another big piece of challenging questions, bringing important stuff up for us to listen to, and [we need to] create lots of space for that.
Diana Courvant: This next segment that’s going to happen is going to be brought to the larger group from the people of color caucus. And it’s really important that everybody be listening. And I also just want to say that I noticed at the beginning, as this townhall meeting was being introduced, it was [said that] we were going to be addressing topics that have not been addressed. We have brought up racism but reinforced oppression rather than challenging it. If you are privileged by racism, you will take the time to listen to that and understand that it is addressing, but addressing cognitively. [applause]
Eli Clare: I’m seeing a couple of hands wave as if there are comments right now. And right now we are not opening the floor. The people of color caucus has been really clear that they want to read is the statement and then open the floor to responses by people of color. And only people of color.
From Audience: And mixed race people.
Eli Clare: And mixed race people. I really want us to respect those requests. I’m turning it over to the caucus.
POC Caucus: First thing that I want to say is if you have…questions about what is presented to you today, I appreciate that you direct them to self-identified
anti-racist white allies because it’s not [our] job to educate you. Anyone who wants to identify themselves as anti-racist white ally, identify yourself now.
POC Caucus: [text provided by POC Caucus] We are a group of people of color and mixed race individuals who would like to acknowledge and thank the Ohlone First Nation, whose land this university and conference exists upon.
POC Caucus: We would like to thank the organizers for all of their work and energy in putting together this conference. We have produced this statement in a spirit of change in the hopes that that these considerations will be taken into account in the future.
POC Caucus: As an organizing committee that played the central and foundational part in forming this new international community dealing with the intersections of disability and queerness, we feel that the responsibility of including communities of color has been grossly neglected. Usually, this problem stems from people of color not having involvement in the planning process, but only as an afterthought to diversity. To build an international movement, it is important to understand that in our world, numerically speaking, people of color are the majority. At a conference in San Francisco, CA, in an area that is predominantly Latino/a, there is no reason for this lack of representation.
POC Caucus: With this in mind, we would like to draw attention to the following concepts:
How can we have a queer disability conference and not discuss issues of access to healthcare?
How can we have this conference and not discuss housing issues?
How can we have this conference and not discuss race issues?
How can we have this conference and not discuss class issues?
How can we have this conference and not discuss youth and elders issues?
POC Caucus: How can we have this conference and particularly not discuss how all of these issues overlap and intersect, which many of us are good at theorizing about but do not practice? How is it possible that the local communities of color and First Nations people in the bay area are not represented here? As Emi Koyama asked at the beginning, who has this conference been the safest for? Whose community is this? With this in mind, the people of color caucus would like to offer the following suggestions for a more inclusive conference in the future.
POC Caucus: We envision a conference where:
First Nations people’s experiences and perspectives are centralized.
Non-English speakers have access to all activities.
Communities of color play a critical part in the organizing process at the beginning instead of as an afterthought.
Poor and working-class people of color’s struggles are included.
The conference is not based upon panel presentations, many of which are filled with academic jargon that do not allow for discussion and integration of everyone’s thoughts, feelings, and insights into the issues at hand.
We are not placed in the unenviable position where we must organize at the conference due to the inherent lack of inclusivity at the existing conference.
POC Caucus: In conclusion, as Diana Courvant stated in her panel earlier today, we must recognize issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, religion, age, and so forth, as many rivers that have separate qualities, but are also part of a larger water system. In essence, the confluence of the waters is representative of a larger and more desirable act of decolonization. [end of text provided by POC Caucus] [applause]
Chris Bell [from POC Caucus]: We would like to ask if there’s any identifying people of color in the audience who would like to address something or add something to our statement to do so now. Afterwards we would like to hear from the conference organizers [unreadable].
Vicky D’aoust [from audience]: I wasn’t on the conference organizing team because it was too stressful. You don’t want to be on that team. But just so you know, when I was asked to be [a] keynote [speaker], I was also very clear that I identified as First Nation part Franco. And I think that one of the things that the keynote was supposed to do which maybe didn’t really happen is start those discussions among people who are not necessarily visible as people of color. I had slides that went very fast if you remember, so it didn’t really work that well, but yes, as someone [who identifies] as mixed race, I think it’s very important that there are people in the audience who probably do identify and yet have not been involved with the caucus so thanks for that opportunity.
From Audience: Can I talk? Sorry. I just wanted to say that I [was] a woman of color [asked] to participate in the [conference]. I have a lot of work. I was not able to do that. So what I would suggest also to the group that is here is to really have a list of the people with name and addresses, because we are not like that easy to find. So as a woman of color, I recognize that I could participate, and I didn’t do it because of lack of time, but I’m a woman of color in the…Bay Area. I’m not the only woman of color in the whole Bay Area.
From Audience: I’m curious, you had a list of topics that were not addressed and issues that did not come up officially as part of conference. And I’m wondering if any members of caucus or other people of color here who may have issues with that, took the time to actually propose any of those sessions? And also to just make the comment that I feel like taking this time specifically to take comments only from people of color seems to be very much the antithesis of what you are trying to do.
From Audience: This microphone is not accessible. And I’m a mixed race adoptee raised in a Jewish home and have a good deal of white-skin privilege. And I thought I had a choice. I proposed one workshop about being butch which was sort of what I had writing about, being butch and becoming disabled. But I had also thought to have a workshop about scamming and economic literacy for disabled people, and I did not do it. I’m again one of those people that could have and didn’t. I know a few others that could have but didn’t. Maybe because our lives of full of survival issues at this moment in time. Myself I’ve been doing a great deal on Middle East and Palestinian issues. We are doing this work during a time of grave danger in our world where many people involved in struggles of people of color are working 24/7 to keep the world literally from blowing up. And I myself am trying to keep genocide from happening in the Middle East. Scamming workshop at the conference. Genocide in the Middle East. Genocide in the Middle East won out. I just would like for us to keep it all in the context. I want to say also that I truly appreciate the amount of fundraising that was done in order to get me here as someone who was raised poor and who is poor. And I just think it is important to appreciate what worked for me. And what works for some of us to get what we need. Also I guess that’s my pontification.
Sarah [from POC Caucus]: I feel like while it’s really good there was an opportunity for people of color to present here, the fact that there was very little representation that I could find as a person of color looking for other people of color presenting, I’m glad that people had the opportunity. But are we satisfied with the fact that this is mostly presentations by white folks? Or are we going to figure out a way to make it so that it’s representational at least of the area that we are in, which is predominantly Latino and Latina? Or is it that we tried? That really sucks, because I understand it’s really unsafe for people of color to be out in the world today. I understand that, believe me, whether or not I have privilege. I understand. But I also understand that white folks need to build a bridge of trust so people of color can feel safe enough to attend things like this, or it is not my community. And until that happens, how can we say that we’re anti-racist?
Sarah: …This is so intensely emotional…. As far as being grateful, I think it’s really, really scary…when we have people of color voicing complaints, and you’re saying we should be grateful for what there is. That’s a very scary thought for me, to be hearing someone say we should be grateful for what we have, when you are hearing people let you know exactly what could be better. That is terrifying, and it makes me to not want to be a part of this international community that is being built right now by us being here. I just want to say that. So if anybody else wants to respond to that, that’s cool, too.
From Audience: I really need to respond in the face of that, Sarah, although I don’t want this to come between you and me. You have your issues; I have mine. There’s you; there’s me. There’s boundaries between us. And I get to feel the way I feel, even though that might terrify you that feel that way. Note that I didn’t say you should feel grateful. Note that I said I am grateful. There is a difference. [applause]
From Audience: Is it okay for me to talk? I’m a light skinned Jew. Although I consider myself a person of color, many people don’t. The reason I’m talking is because I feel that another area that has been left out of this conference is how many, possibly the majority, of disabled people of color are criminalized in this society, not just criminalized, and how there is an epidemic of police brutality, especially against disabled [people], and how the American criminal justice system has overtaken even the psychiatric hospitals, as far as warehousing folks who are no longer living in SROs or on the street in squats. So we really need to look at the big picture here, who was not represented at this conference and who is outraged, too. And I think that gives us a much clearer view of how much work still remains to be done. And yet, I’m very happy that the caucus came together and is making its presentation. I think this is a
really good first step. Thank you. [applause]
From Audience: Hi. I’m with First Nations and Francophone like Vicky. I want to thank everyone on the panel for coming forward and having the courage to say what you have said. There has been an enormous backlash already, and I think that points out the inequity on a national and internationally basis. I’m shaking right now because I’m in fear by some of the things that have been said. And, Sarah, I applaud you for coming forward and speaking, and I just want to say thanks. Also very important: the recognition that we are on a First Nation’s land is so important, when we’re thinking about the genocide that is taking place in North America, and it fucking should have been done sooner.
POC Caucus: Just briefly in response to that, this caucus, at least, is going to send a very sort of saddened thank you to any tribe affiliated organizations that we can find to thank them for letting this be possible on [their] land.
Chris Bell: At this time I personally would like to hear from the conference organizers. Ray asked a question a few moments ago asking, why is it that individuals who are not of color are not being asked to speak at this moment. I think when you hear the notion of voice empowered, you realize it’s very important that people have a chance to speak. And hopefully people who are not of color are listening. That’s it for the most part. [applause] [more applause] [even more applause]
Eli Clare: [knocking mic over] Shaky, shaky, shaky…. Diana and I are winging it, so you’ll have to excuse us as we kind of confer with each other. Diana said, “I’ll go first, so [here’s] the mic to her.
Diana Courvant: I do want to make clear that I’m not a conference organizer, but I have been put in the spotlight. That is not to disavow any responsibility for what has been happening here, because I could have spent my time doing things that would end up with a more antiracist conference. I am not trying to divorce my responsibility from the dynamic that got created here. I am saying that I can’t speak as to what happened, and I know that people of color have said that they needed a response to that. But I’m in a position now of being a little bit in the spotlight, because I was originally asked to keynote here this afternoon, and I would like to respond to some of the things I’ve heard and just introduce the conference organizers.
DC: I did hear some things about there were opportunities for people of color to be involved. And I think it’s really important to notice where we’re privileged. We come together as a group, for the first time, as an international community of queer and disabled people, whatever that means. And because it’s the first time, it seems like, wow, if it took us this long to get here, we must have been the most oppressed group on the planet. [laughter]
DC: Right, laugh. The problem is that no one is ever purely targeted by oppression or purely privileged by oppression just by virtue of, you know, being on this land. The United States of America takes resources from all over the world and gathers and concentrates them here. And whether you have legal residency, whether you have citizenship or whether you have white skin, we still benefit from the resources that are around us, and poverty in the United States does mean something different than poverty in many other places in the world. So we have to understand that everybody here experiences some privilege. We cannot come here with the illusion that we are so targeted by oppression that any privileges that we experience are irrelevant.
DC: So when we’re organizing the conference, and we say, “Oh, well, some people had opportunities to come together to present, to keynote, to whatever-it-was,” we have to understand that it’s another division of your time when you’re fighting one more oppression. And as a transsexual person, it is not as easy for me as for a non-transsexual lesbian or a non-transsexual pansexual woman to find the time to come to this conference. I have other issues. And people of color have other issues. And it’s not a surprise that people of color, queer disabled people have less time. And since we can predict it, it is incumbent on us to raise that issue in the beginning and deal with it in a proactive way. I understand there may be less time for people of color as activists in this community. That’s not an excuse for people to say, “Well, I guess they don’t have enough time, so we’ll choose to go ahead without.”
DC: That’s just my statement there, because there was some response there, that time was a factor, and it’s not an accident that time was a factor. I’m going to introduce now the conference organizers. I know that Eli is going to respond on the behalf of some of the organizers. I’m not sure which other organizers are going to speak.
Eli Clare: I am one of eight people, nine people, ten people, 11 people, and 11 is really stretching it, [who organized this conference]…. I’m going to talk some about the history of how this [event] came together, not as an explanation, not as an excuse, not to say it’s right, but as a history. Then I’m going to talk about challenges in listening and learning. and then I’m going to ask for the other seven or eight or nine organizers to come up here and say whatever else I may
have left out. I don’t want anything I say here to be construed as good consensus among the organizers, because there has been no time for consensus, needless to say.
EC: So, about the history. This has been a conference organized entirely by white people. We have been very aware of that from day one. It’s a really white conference. There is no surprise there. When white people organize an event, it’s going to be [largely] white. I’m not saying entirely white. There [is a] presence of people of color here, strong and vocal, clearly. But the conference is largely a white conference. We were an all-white organizing team. We were profoundly, deeply aware of that from day one. Not right. Not good. But there. We spent some time talking about those issues over e-mail. We were also a group of three and then a group of five and then a group of seven and then a group of nine, most of whom didn’t live in the same place. Most of the organizing happened by e-mail. There were discussions about race and being a group of white people doing the organizing that happened via e-mail. E-mail organizing sucks. It’s not an excuse, not a reason, but the way you can process via e-mail is really different from the way you can process in person. The way you can make connections, make things say, “Here is how we can be allies, here is how we can
create the whole matrix of how all these pieces fit together—[unreadable] disability class, gender identity, sexism, racism. It’s different. So we talked about race via e-mail. We talked about being a group of [white] organizers. We talked about how that was problematic. We talked about the role of race in our organizing. We talked about what our responsibility was as white people to talk about race, that it’s not only people of color who bring issues of race and racism to gatherings. It’s all of us. White people have a race.
From Audience: Duh.
Eli Clare: Yes, duh. But lots of white people have no clue that we [white people] have a race. And that’s part of [white] privilege.
From Audience: A language comment: if we could avoid use of the word duh as a negative thing because it’s actually…a reaction to some people that have developmentally disabilities. To use it in a negative way is ableist.
Eli Clare: So then we talked and talked and talked. But that’s all we did. That’s as far as we got. That is as far as we got, and there are a number of reasons for that. [crying] And my tears are my own. I need no one to take care of my tears. There are a number of important reasons that the talk never became action.
EC: The disability rights movement is as white as this room. In my experience, that’s true. In other people’s experience in other communities, that may not be true. [My perception] may be a function of my white skin and privilege. This conference relied a lot on the foundation of the organizing done by the disability rights movement. I was really aware I was one of two people who [worked on the] programming who created the talking-heads, heavy-on-speeches, low-on-dialogue program. And I was really, really aware that most of what we saw in terms of proposals came from folks with strong connections to disability politics, and weaker connections to queer politics. It seems like the people doing queer disability thinking are queer folks who are mostly doing disability rights. That’s a gross generalization, but there’s some truth to it also. The disability rights movement, in my experience, is mostly white. So that’s part of why our talk never turned to action.
EC: Another piece of history I need to acknowledge is [that] Corbett O’Toole pushed and pushed and pushed us. And that pushing never led to where we needed to be as an organizing committee. I have [unreadable] some of the history, and that history has led us here, because my experience is that events organized by white folks become events mostly populated by white folks. [unreadable]
EC: The demands and suggestions [from the POC Caucus] are all good ones. How it will shape the actions in future organizing is left to be seen. I’m really aware that what we just heard is one of the challenges. Personally I’m really grateful for one hell of a challenge. We are here not just to celebrate, not just to listen, not just to form a new community. We are here to be challenged the hell out of and grow from that challenge. [applause]
EC: With that, and with the caveat that I only spoke for myself in that whole rant and [history of how this conference came to be. I’m seeing the organizers sitting here, and I have no idea what they’ve been thinking about [as I’ve] talked and cried and ranted and lectured here. So I’m going to quit and turn the microphone over to them. [applause]
Diana Courvant: I don’t know…if a response from eight organizers is desired, called for, necessary? So if we could just get a sense. I don’t know if the people of color caucus has anyone who wants to respond to that question.
Chris Bell [from POC Caucus]: I don’t think it’s necessary to belabor this. These are issues that will not be solved in one particular setting. These are issues that need to be put out for people to consider. I know I’m jotting a lot of notes down on my piece of paper, I mean “paper of color.” [laughter] [applause] Eli, I want to thank you too, while I have this opportunity on behalf of the people of color caucus for your allowing such a response. [applause]
Eli Clare: So with that, I think I feel responsibility to ask my co-organizers if there’s anything you need to say right now?
Unidentified Organizer: I think the reason we all came up, at least the reason I came up front is not because we feel we each need to speak, but because I think it’s good for the conference to see and hear who is responsible for the good things and who is responsible for the bad things in terms of content. It is just a way of being accountable. [applause]
Corbett O’Toole: My name is Corbett O’Toole. In a lot of ways this conference began with my frustration in the disability movement and my frustration in the gay movement without a place to be both, queer and disabled in the same place. I think some of you have seen some of the gifts that things that I know and the work that I know has brought to this conference. You know that, and I’ve had a lot of appreciation about how that’s worked. But I also think that what you’ve also seen is the limitations that I brought to the shaping of this conference. That I know better. That I know better than to have an all white organizing team. That I’ve been doing political work for 30 years. I know I’m not supposed to do that. [unreadable] And I just didn’t want to fucking wait, was too fucking impatient to take the time. I need today to [pay] attention to [my] place as a white woman raised in Boston [where] no person of color was ever allowed in my family’s home. I know what I need[ed] do, and I didn’t do it. And I really want to personally apologize for the pain that my impatience and my unwilling to deal with my shit [caused]. I have my own shit. I hate it when people do shit to me that hurts me, and I’m really, really sorry. The feedback: I won’t do it again. I’m sorry about the things that I let slide and I knew not to do and I didn’t take the time do it, and all I can say is the best I have to give I gave. And the worst I had I gave for the conference, and I want to take personal responsibility for that. [applause]
Ellen Samuels: I’m Ellen Samuels. I cannot speak for all of us. For myself, I take responsibility as well. As Eli said, we were painfully aware. And we made certain efforts and we were aware that we were not achieving what our original goal or what our hopes had been. And yes, we were all impatient, and I want to apologize as well. And also say not only for the next queer disability conference, but I think for all of us here as white people involved in queer and/or disability movements to take heart everything we’ve heard and to think about…different ways to organize. Because I think there weren’t clear steps we didn’t take. It’s that the steps are hard and challenging, and you need to be creative.
Samuel Lurie: Hi. My name is Samuel. [unreadable] The people up on stage were the entire organizing team. Gene from San Francisco State came in at the tail end. I’m the only able-bodied person on the organizing committee, and I was very conscious of that. [unreadable] In March we were here to check out the space, and that was the first time that a lot of [the] organizers were actually in the same place…. I think it was seven weeks ago. And we looked at each other, Eli and I did, probably after the meeting and said, “We have a conference in seven weeks, and we need a year and seven weeks.” [unreadable] Everyone here multiple times said, “This is absurd. We need a year and seven weeks.” And we pushed ahead and sort of made the skeletal structure e-mail organizing. [There was a] multitude of layers of not understanding things about identity, things about issues, things about oppression, things about a lot of different realities. And we did forge ahead and build a skeleton. What is happening as a result of a lot of challenges [unreadable]–the psych disability [challenge] and [the challenge about racism]—is the magical work of the conference. We could not know the energy that was going to come when all these people came together, and that’s the energy, that’s is the magic of an event, of a workshop, of something that comes together. We [created] the skeleton with a lot of gaps. And what happened here today and in the course of last two days, I feel, is exactly what—as hard as [it is and as] challenging as it is—needs to be happening. It’s the participation of us and knowing how to start to put the rest of the structure together. [unreadable]…I get little pollyanna-ish. I reframe things [in a] spiritual way. The magic is in the challenge here, and I feel it’s a great success that we failed in some ways. That the failures being brought out and shown are part of success and the challenges together. That is how I feel about it. [applause]
From audience: I’m sad to hear that you are sad [about] what happened. [unreadable] What we are talking about is for the next conference. There should be some things that could be included about the experience got in this conference. I hear to say Corbett saying “I apologize for what happened.” And each of you saying that. ….we should be saying thank you very much for what you made possible. Because if some issues were not addressed in this conference, that does not mean that this was failure. I really believe this is success. Why? Because we learn from our mistakes. Because nobody is perfect. If we don’t take this experience into our future, good experience, for you guys for all that you learned. Because the next conference is going to be much better than this. We are not going to let Corbett go away and say, “This is the last conference. The opposite. We need Corbett here to teach us what she learned and to guide, and I want to see everybody realize what happened. We should be celebrating what happened here. [applause] [loud applause] Stop saying, “I’m sorry,” okay.
[Gene Chelberg giving flowers to organizers]
[Anger from Audience about ending, people still at microphone]
Diana Courvant: We don’t have time from any more responses at this point. The conference does need to close. Many people have travel plans and need to get going. It’s already 6:00 o’clock, and people need to participate in the drawing. What I’m going to do is bring the conference to a close right now. But I want to do that in a way that acknowledges that we spent sometime on racism. We did not resolve racism here today. We spent sometime listening about the concerns of people with psychiatric disabilities. We did not resolve those here today. Our community has an on-going struggle, but this is in fact what I wanted to offer in my keynote, and it’s been done by other people. What I thought needed to happen is we need to go back to the communities to which we belong and act differently. If we do not bring this conference home and bring something new to our communities and change our behavior, change the culture in a positive way, our conference has not succeeded. But even with the issues that have been raised, it can be a success if we go home, not just challenged, but responding to those challenge in our everyday lives. So please take this conference home with
From Audience: [unreadable] I was cut off before I got to speak. There was nothing here on youth. I could not have a youth caucus. If you are going to look [to] me [for] framing things, this was not a good skeleton. You need to start from ground zero again. There was nothing here on youth. I understand that people feel like celebrating. I don’t feel that way and that’s a lot of different reasons. And I respect everything that the organizers do but that’s not where I’m at. So….
Diana Courvant: We don’t have time. I’m very sorry. We need to do the drawing. Here is Ellen with the drawing.
Ellen Samuels: [beginning drawing]
From Audience: I think it’s appropriate to do the drawing when you are cutting people off. I feel uncomfortable.
[Anger from Audience about ending, people still at microphone]
Eli Clare: Okay. We have made yet another bad call, a bad mistake. We are going to back up. It seems like we need to talk. we have this room until 6:00 o’clock. We can talk until we get kicked out. I am committed to staying here until everyone who has spoken is done. It may mean that we’re kicked out, but
let’s keep going.
From Audience: [unreadable] Amen. I am a disabled queer Muslim. And I have to say that maybe this is my own responsibility. I felt kind of frightened being here wearing the veil, and maybe I wish there had been some discussion of the issues that Muslims are facing, because we are out there. There are deaf Muslim people. Why was there no discussion of religious minorities? Why? You know, that really hurt. It really hurt a lot that in some ways I felt like people were maybe afraid of me because I don’t look like everybody else. I think maybe, as the people of color caucus said, they did mention religion. And I think that’s something you all need to address: the issue of religious minorities, because we are here, and we do want to participate. But I just wanted to say that, you know, I would have appreciated maybe knowing…. I mean, I was, in a way, afraid to come here, because I was really afraid that I was going to get Muslim-bashed. There’s all kinds of crazy stuff jumping up. I think maybe addressing the issues of religious minorities, particularly since Muslims are being treated horribly in this country today, I think I personally would have appreciated knowing that religious minorities would be safe here also, that there would have been a place for me to go if someone had lit my scarf on fire or beaten me because I’m Muslim or a safe place for me to pray. I think that that issue needs to be addressed as well. Thank you. [applause]
From Audience: I just have a structural question. Is there some way to convey to the next organizers what should and shouldn’t be done to keep some kind of institutional memory going? I don’t know what happened at the previous
From Audience: There was no previous conference.
From Audience: …Is there going to be some communication with the next organizers? And if so, is it possible to say that this conference has an agreement or some kind of sentiment that there be at least 25 to 50 percent of people of color on any organizing committee?
Eli Clare: Some of the next organizers…doing QD in 2004 are here right now. There is going to be information on the web site about who they are and what that organizing is going to look like. They will build on this conference. The challenges, here will be challenges, I hope they take up. Hopefully they understand that [taking up] challenges…[means] changing behavior. Those organizers are here, and I have no idea what the infrastructure for that organizing is going to look like. I know that there will be information on the web site about how to get a hold of them.
From Audience: [unreadable] It seems like this is probably not a good moment to bring this up, but I would like to say—and this is directed to everybody here, not simply the organizing committee, but every person who attended this conference or gave a presentation—there is a word that is ostensibly included in this community, but I didn’t hear it once. That word is bisexual. I have to say that I have felt incredibly overlooked and invisible as a bisexual person. And I talked to at least four other people, and they felt the exact same way. And we are really tired of being assumed to be lesbian or gay, or if we’re here with a partner of the [opposite] gender, to be straight. We would really like people to remember that we are allies, and that sometimes we have different issues, and that please do not conflate the term bisexuality into gay, because it’s not the same issue. So thank you very much.
[End of RTC transcript]