What an amazing week!! I arrived in Toronto from Victoria on November 7th. I had a lovely uneventful flight. My brother picked me up from the airport and I stayed at his family home for several nights before and after the Playground 2013 conference. I also stayed a couple of nights with friends in Brampton.
I had several agendas going with this trip - ever the multi-tasking queen - gee I must be poly.
1. The conference: I had agreed to be a panel member for one session on the Sunday and do a volunteer shift at the registration desk on the Saturday. Playground is a sex positive community event which is inclusive of all forms of non-monogamy. My purpose was to represent the poly community and network. The registration desk was a perfect spot to greet attendees, sponsors, vendors and speakers as they arrived and get a face to a name to approach later with business card. The panel I participated in was concerning Non-Monogamy in Canada and community building in particular. That gave me opportunity to work with Anlina Sheng and Samantha Fraser who are two very effective community building bunnies and much fun to work with. Discussion guide is uploaded here http://zoeduff154.bravesites.com/workshop-materials if you are wondering what that session was about. The answers aren't though so you missed out but I've put it in my new book coming out next month: Love Alternatively Expressed
2. Family and friends: connecting and renewing friendships and family relationships was why I agreed to come to Toronto in the first place. That was wonderful and its peculiar how we all went our separate ways and found ourselves all into similar healing solutions etc.
3. Business: Networking and finding stores to stock my book and one of my clients' books. I found three books stores where one is interested in his book and two very interested in mine. Possibilities of author read/sign and workshops to be presented. Very successful networking.
4. Community: To find out where the Toronto poly community was meeting and join them if possible. I missed the one group's meeting as it was the previous Monday but I did catch another meet and then one was arranged for me specifically to discuss the possibility of a PolyCon in the Toronto area. There is much enthusiasm and watch this blog for details as they unfold!!!
So on all points this was a successful trip and I left Toronto last night tired but uplifted. I also had some thinking to do over comments made during the conference about inclusion and inadvertent exclusion in our community events. Anytime a particular group is exposed to an ism - racism, sexism and so on - there will be phrasing, attitudes, mannerisms, types of activities and so on that are triggers associated with that negative - ism experience. If you aren't part of the group that has experienced that you might not be aware of it and the word in your event notices, the location, the type of event etc will speak to them as excluding them. Hopefully that wasn't your intent but it will impact attendance at your events. Look around at the next one. How many people attending regularly are NOT in a heterosexual couple or possibly bi-sexual configuration? How many are LGBT? Our Victoria groups are most certainly open to attendance by anyone who doesn't flame the concept. What is it that stays that we exclude people who are not couples seeking a third or other couples? We have the occasional new poly person come out who identifies as Gay, Lesbian or Trans but they don't come back because they are the only one. To be sex positive is to include every form of adult sexuality is it not? In theory, we do but not so much in practice. JD Hobbs made a very good comment to my earlier posting on Finding Community that might have hit the nail on the head. The comment indicated that some of that person's hesitancy to join the communities available was the incestuous nature of small communities. I got all twitchy at the word incestuous but the commenter has a point in the likely intended thought that everyone knows everyone in a small town and discretion would go out the window. However, there is also a lot of dating within poly groups and many times the only folks regularly attending are of the same tribe and if not lovers - some form of extended family. That might be the unintended exclusion messages that people not sleeping with you and not really interested in you/your gender/your version of poly would see as a pretty good reason to attend something else. Having no one of potential date material definitely turns some people away. Also have huge drama in the middle of a poly meet because the intimacy of a tribe might tolerate it but it will drive newbies away. I still remember attending a poly meet in nearby community and having two of the organizing tribe scream derogatory comments at each other from opposite ends of a huge table in a restaurant with some 30 attendees of the meet talking quietly among themselves and not even acknowledging the argument.
Dr. Ruth Neustifter is an amazing speaker who participated in several sessions on in particular was with regards to this sex-positive stuff and being inclusive. She encouraged us to develop a definition of 'sex-positive' for ourselves that is clear so that as we wander in the world and encounter those who claim to be so can be assessed against it. Exclusivity being somewhat insidious and sliding right past us otherwise. Good idea. When I attended this and another conference a few years back called Sex 2.0, I found that the attendees were from the sex trade workers community, or more militant LGBT group members and the undertone of rage and so much left to fight was a bit disturbing. Very different atmosphere from poly conferences. It occurred to me that we poly peeps need to get some of that rage on and make some noise. We need to fight some battles.
Dr. Ruth also talked about a denial of self-care that is rampant. We shame ourselves into believing that other people suffer more and no one else will do it. We participate in a cult of exhaustion and must make ourselves understand that will be more useful rested. We must honour the path others have forged and take care of ourselves. Tired people are complacent and we need to grab onto that rage and fight the battles for our rights. We also have a lack of practice. We have no idea how to relax and the suggestion of using technology to set alarms to remind ourselves to drink water, eat, walk away from the computer etc. was suggested. (futureme.org - set reminders in advance)
Read more from Dr. Ruth at uoguelph.academia.edu/RuthNeustifter
Today I arrived in Columbus, Ohio and am going to attend the Beyond The Love conference and Poly Summit this weekend before returning home to Victoria, BC on Monday.
Details of that conference soon.