In the Blog

An Intersectional RSVP

November 28th, 2011     by Shoshana Erlich     Comments

Dear Event Organizers:

I sincerely appreciate your open invitation to attend your event on this important issue, however, I find that I must respectfully decline.

As an activist with a complex identity, it is difficult for me to condone attending an event that, while seeking to explain and draw interest into a matter that is very near and dear to my heart, has managed to ensure that my participation in your event will be virtually impossible.

While I can appreciate that your event is being held in a wheelchair accessible venue, it is important to recognize that that in and of itself does not ensure that your event is indeed accessible. Had you publicized your event further than one week in advance I would have been able to contact you and request an interpreter in order for me to be able to attend. Additionally, while I appreciate that many events are being put together on a tight budget, when you inform me that your event is unable to provide interpretation services due to the cost required that tells me that there is a dollar figure attached to my participation, membership or sometimes allyship in this community. Furthermore, while attempts to find out if a video is captioned are appreciated, it would be best if that information was publicized on the event details. An even better response would be that upon finding out that a video is uncaptioned that the suitability of another video being shown was examined as well as banding together as an intersectional group to apply pressure to filmmakers to ensure that their videos are captioned and accessible.

As someone who identifies as genderqueer, there are also additional barriers to my participation. Does your event welcome people of all genders to attend? If this is a female- or male-only event, where is that line being drawn? What markers of male and female are people being judged by? While I recognize that female- or male-only spaces often exist to provide a sense of safety for those who may have experienced gender-based violence, this is something that those of us who identify outside of the gender-binary experience on a regular basis as well - often in ways that are sanctioned by spaces such as these. Will your event only use language that is caught up in a gender binary, or will there be room for those who fall outside the margins as well? Finally, is this event happening in a space where it is physically safe to be? Will those of us who do not fit the physical ideal of male or female be assaulted for using the washroom of our choosing? Are there gender neutral washrooms for those of us who would like to use them? Will even choosing where to pee be an act of activism and bravery on our parts?

Speaking of queer, is that an okay identity? Will speaking of someone of the same gender as an object of love be met with criticism and hostility or acceptance? Is it okay to bring my partner to the event as my partner, or do they need to be my “friend”? Will homophobic slurs, comments and ideas be shut down by the facilitator, or will they be the ones espousing them? Will it be safe to confront the oppression that happens within these walls or will doing so be an invitation to further harm and violence?

What about the multitude of other identities that have not yet been mentioned? Does the event offer childcare for those who would like to go, but have no one else to watch their children so that they can attend? Does the event respect views from diverse racial and religious backgrounds? Or is the issue only important from a white perspective? Is this a space or a group where racialized people feel comfortable? Where any of us can feel comfortable?

While I recognize that a truly inclusive event is next to impossible to coordinate, and that despite everyone’s best intentions, someone is likely to be excluded, that alone should not be an excuse for attempting to try. We all live a complex web of identities that are a constant act of juggling which identity is relevant to which situation, event, group and why. However, being Deaf does not prevent me from being genderqueer does not prevent me from being disabled does not prevent me from being queer does not prevent me from being Jewish does not prevent me from wanting to be there and lend my support and my solidarity.

Sincerely,

Someone who cares but the movement didn’t have room for.

Tags: body politics, disability, gender, trans-

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