Creating Space for Thoughts and Feels

Creating Space for Thoughts and Feels

Thoughtful Space

The organizers of the Queer Astrology Conference want the experience for this event to be able to include sharing, risk-taking, support, freedom to express our authentic selves, and empowerment. Intended to open us up to curiosity and reflection rather than shut us down with rules or requirements. We are all human, flawed and beautiful, and hopefully reflecting on these ideas will help you consider the beautiful, flawed humanness in everyone else. To help create this kind of space, we offer the following suggestions...

Striving for Transparency and Inclusion: A Statement from one of the organizers of the Queer Astrology Conference being held in Portland in February 2018

This post was written by Rhea Wolf in preparation for the upcoming Queer Astrology Conference in Portland, OR. It has been read by four other members of the organizing team: Corina Dross, Ian Waisler, JP Hawthorne, and Kelsey Branca. We are all striving to hold these questions, concerns, and intentions as we go forward.
  Queer Witches Bash Back:  Rhea and others give/receive an exorcism of the patriarchy at a public ritual on January 21, 2017.

Queer Witches Bash Back: Rhea and others give/receive an exorcism of the patriarchy at a public ritual on January 21, 2017.

How did we get here? What do we need to know? These are some questions that I am asking myself as I walk toward an event that I hope will provide support, encouragement, and inspiration for the field of astrology and all humans working for liberation. This is the fourth time that a Queer Astrology conference has been held, but there have been many more gatherings, pop-ups, and roadshows in this spirit.

I am grateful for the people who recognize when a need isn’t getting fulfilled and step forward to offer that thing, to take the risk to start something that will eventually go beyond their own control and vision. I am grateful to all those who have taken on leadership roles, for the effort and love they put into building this movement in the past four years. I also know that there have been mistakes made and harm caused during past events. I am grateful to all of those who have been willing to educate me, and I hope that I can learn from these past errors.

But I am sure that I will make mistakes, too. That’s part of the process. I will hold myself accountable for these mistakes by being willing to listen and address harm as it comes up. I will continue to educate myself about issues such as accessibility, privilege, racism, cultural appropriation, misogyny, and transphobia as I go forward in my life. Rather than pushing us into a binary of right/wrong, I hope that this letter encourages each of us to examine the complexities of our identities. I hope it begins the process of our coming together in February, to be present with discomfort as well as the possibility of creating liberation in our conference community.

In my opinion, queer astrology can be a decentralized movement whose vision is held by so many people through the world. But it is being organized in purposeful and intentional containers every so often. If we want this movement to be truly queer, truly liberating, then those organizers need to be people of color, trans and non-binary humans, indigenous peoples, people of different ages and abilities, people from various cultures. There are on-going discussions by the organizers of this event about whether the way in which we are organizing is repeating oppressive dynamics. I don’t have a concrete answer right now. But I want to offer what I know so far.

In the spirit of transparency, I want to tell you that I put out the call to hundreds of people, reached out specifically to a dozen people that I know personally, sent announcements to many lists in order to have that happen. In the budget for this conference, the Portland School of Astrology (who is hosting this event) included payment for programming organizers (we offered $15/hour), hoping that providing financial compensation would make it more possible for Queer People of Color and others to be able to be a part of organizing the programming. And yet, our programming committee this year is still composed of four humans with white privilege. We are three queer cis women and one queer non-binary person. These three humans I am working with are truly amazing and are giving a lot of energy to this vision. And I know it's not the ideal we were striving for, in terms of making space for more voices.

The group of folks who reviewed proposals was able to accept and make room for every person who submitted a proposal at QAC. I am thrilled that the majority of our presenters are people of color and/or trans/non-binary. While I do not count success only in the numbers, I do find it heartening that we are moving away from spaces where the people we see presenting are only white and male – which is the reality for many astrology conferences.

To address issues of class at this conference, we are utilizing a pay-what-you-will from $0-40 ticket group, an $80 ticket group, and a $120 ticket group. There are 40 tickets for each of these groupings. The organizers hope that people able to pay on the higher end will then offset the cost of those who cannot pay anything. I want everyone who wants to attend to be able to attend. I hope this makes it possible for that to happen. We will also make sure any volunteers are trained appropriately to greet each attendee with respect, warmth and welcome.

To address accessibility, we are holding the event at a location that is ADA compliant. We will also be able to have ASL interpreters available for those who request it by January 31. We are working to make sure any other accessibility issues can be covered by our community, such as encouraging a scent-free environment at the conference.

We will have a closed meeting space and time set aside for listening/sharing circles for people of color, trans/non-binary, and others upon request. There are two different times that this will be happening. We will also have a fish bowl to close out our time together, in which we can bring up issues, questions, future-visions, and accountability in the whole group.

The organizers set up a Go Fund Me fundraiser to help provide scholarships so that anyone can attend. I will be happy to publicly publish exactly how the money is used as we go. The Portland School of Astrology has a policy of paying people for their skills and time. PSA pays $15/hour for all administrative work. As such, those involved with organizing are being paid for their time.

I want to acknowledge that this conference is occurring in Portland, which is a city that was built on racism, in a state that advertised itself as a “white utopia.” I am worried that some people, particularly Black people, will not feel safe coming here. But this is where I live; it has become my home for over 18 years. I want to make change where I live. I will work hard to make space for voices that have been historically oppressed in Portland and elsewhere, so that they can be heard, honored, and resourced for their time and labor at the conference. 

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I want the Queer Astrology Conference to be a place we can come together in our queerness, which means refusing to see one another through the socialized lens of gender binaries. This means interrogating expectations of free emotional and organizational labor from femmes or free physical labor from masculine presenting folks. This means focusing awareness so that people are not misgendered. This means committing to respectful and open consciousness to the human beings that gather in all the various ripples of expression and presentation.

What the current and future organizers will need before, during, and after this event, are people’s ideas about accountability as well as the historical knowledge of the Queer Astrology movement so far. I want to be accountable for harm, even if there is no malicious intent. And I want to help others be accountable as well.

If the Queer Astrology movement continues, and if it is to thrive, how do we hold one another accountable? If it is decentralized, what kind of container might work for us to hold the successes and failures of past events? How can we make the process of organizing Queer Astrology more transformational, just, and intersectional? When and where is it appropriate to have open dialogue about repairing instances of white supremacy, cultural appropriation, sexism and ableism at QAC? These are questions I am holding, even if I never organize for QAC again. We need to hold them, answer them, and ask them again.

I hope that this event is beautiful, inspiring, challenging in all the right ways, and furthers the vision of a world where everyone’s voice is valued, heard, and integrated into the conversation. 

Please know that I am available to listen to your feedback and will work hard to make it a safer space for everyone who chooses to attend and be a part of the event. A space and time in which we can practice mindfulness and playfulness; engage in discussion, creativity, and conflict; take responsibility and be accountable to one another; and grow together a future that includes and respects all of us.

Respond below with your thoughts, comments, needs, questions. What is Queer Astrology to you? What are you hoping for? I hope to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Rhea Wolf