Last weekend, I attended the 2011 Western Regional LGBTQIA Conference at UC Berkeley. I facilitated a workshop, but I'll post on that later. First, I want to give my reactions to the rest of the conference.
All in all, it was a pretty terrific conference. There's always the worry that the organizers will do something horribly wrong and inadvertently exclude a whole segment of attendees, but I'm not aware of any significant problems. They had a really great lineup of workshops, and a great set of keynote speakers, including Victoria Kolakowski, the first transgender person to serve as judge in the US.
The first keynote speaker Juana Maria Rodriguez, who explained a little about this year's theme: "Unchecked Boxes: The Faces Behind the Labels". Nobody really fits into all these labels and boxes, and they're all socially constructed. And yet, those boxes still matter.
There was also a lot of entertainment. I don't particularly care for drag shows, but they were there. Noteworthy, an a capella group, performed "straight boyfriend" and "Poker Face". One of my friends is in the group, and I asked him if they were copying that old YouTube video. He said it was the same group. Cool.
I also really liked speaker Rinku Sen, who explained how many people of color issues are queer issues. She asked, who is the group most affected by Don't Ask Don't Tell? Turns out the answer is black women, not white men as the media coverage would have you believe.
Rinku also noted that the queer movement currently spends most of its resources on same-sex marriage. This is a pretty questionable choice of priorities considering how many more pressing issues there are. The question is, is the queer movement prepared to quickly mobilize to fight for other things once same-sex marriage is legalized? In fact, why even wait until then?
They had this community project which they called Queer Secret. Attendees made PostSecrets and put them up for display. I wonder if the organizers knew that there is a Queer Secrets tumblr. This is a rather silly secret to highlight, but I really liked this one that had a drawing of a TARDIS, with the words, "My TARDIS looks like shit :(". I think the submitter might have been asexual.
I also love this t-shirt design.
I didn't actually take any pictures during the conference. But that's okay because I suck at photography anyway.
The conference had a great selection of workshops, covering about every topic imaginable, but the workshops themselves can be hit or miss. I already knew that from last year. A couple of the workshops I attended were simply open discussion, which I don't think always works out so well. They're interesting, but they lack direction.
But some workshops erred in the other direction. I attended an Intersex 101 given by Jeanne Nollman, but it was too much lecturing about the details of various intersex conditions. That's great, but most of that I will forget. I wanted to hear more about how intersex people interact with society and with the LGBT community. I'm sure if there were a longer Q&A session, that's what everyone would have asked about. She did talk a little bit about how doctors tend to hide any medical history about operations they did to "correct" intersex conditions. And how many parents freak out about intersex conditions.
And then there was the BDSM 101 workshop, facilitated by my best friend. He had assembled a really great panel, including Maggie Mayhem and Maymay, both prominent bloggers in the kink community. There was also a small demo where my friend got tied up. But too much time was wasted on introductions, 101, and resources, and the panel was too short. There was this odd moment where one panelist implied that her interest in masochism was due to her history of self-harm. That was... poorly stated. Another panelist clarified that self-harm and masochism come from completely different mind-sets, the former from self-hate, and the latter from complete trust.
I also suspect many things in the panel were going over my head. Maymay tweeted that he disagreed three times with the other panelists. But I only caught one disagreement, which I didn't understand: they disagreed over whether BDSM could be a solitary activity.
Wait, why was I reading Maymay's twitter you ask? Because he live-tweeted my presentation, causing it to dominate the #WRC11 tag on twitter. There will be more on this in a separate post.