Transcending Boundaries 2011 is officially in the books. Today is one of my favorite days of the year. It started about 6pm last night, right about the time I turned to our fabulous conference chair and said the magic words, “You’re fired!”
I don’t think I’ve ever made a dead girl happier.
Today is one of my favorite days not because the conference is over. Well, not exactly. I love today because of the effect TBC has on its attendees and staff. This magical sense of calm, belonging and community overcomes me, and it lasts until the real world finally reminds me that we’re done for another year. It’s mingled with a sense of satisfaction and pride, knowing that, for three days a year, we create this special place where everyone is welcome, everyone belongs and the rest of the world can piss off, but in a nice way.
I still don’t know how or why it happens, I just know it does. And it lasts for about a 24 hours. So today is one of my favorite days all year.
TBC provides brain food like no other event I’ve ever attended. And that’s really saying something, since I’m usually so busy I’m lucky to get to more than two panels. I cannot imagine how people that go to things all weekend manage to keep everything in their heads. Walking to the closing panel, I was joking with one of our past keynote speakers that I’ve never really attended a TBC, and in a very real way, I haven’t. As staff (and senior staff at that), TBC is a very different experience for me. Not worse, just different.
Deep down in my secret heart, I think my experience is better.
There were so many “take-away” moments form this year’s conference; I couldn’t begin to list or rank them. I already mentioned one above. Another I posted to Facebook last night, on Robin Ochs Wall. During the Panel of Awesome, a closing panel discussion on the future of the GLBTQ community, featuring three current and past TBC keynote speakers, Robin asked the room how many of us had ever felt like we were too queer, or not queer enough, to be in the community. Nearly every hand in the room shot into the air. It is the first time I really and truly felt like I belonged with them.
I’ve struggled with this for years. Decades. I’m a poly, kinky, pagan, bi, geeky guy. I’ve never in my life not been a minority. I was raised Jewish, and am still proud of my family heritage although I, like my new long lost Auntie Kate, choose not to believe in an Angry God. I was a fat kid, and still struggle with body image and self-esteem. I have a learning disability that I hid from my teachers by overachieving in school. I was adopted, and still feel guilty that I don’t have the connection to my family of origin that so many other people seem to have.
I was bullied cruelly for all of these things. I don’t have many memories of childhood that don’t involve persecution of some kind for some reason. I struggled with gender and sexuality when I began puberty. I questioned who and what I was, who and what I was expected to be and what was happening to my body. In the early 80s, there was no one to tell me that what I was feeling was OK, that I wasn’t a bad person and that it was perfectly normal to be confused. Not that I knew or could find. Everything and everyone around me told me that being queer, whatever that meant, was bad and shameful. So after being bullied by my peers for my entire life, there was no chance in hell I was telling anyone about any of it. I muddled through, survived high school, and it wasn’t until my thirties that I finally accepted myself for myself. Even now, I still struggle.
All of the choices I’ve made in my life mark me as “other”. I’ve never been anything resembling “normal” or “average”. But if you look at me, I look like a fairly typical white male. Even my long hair isn’t that unusual in my part of the world. It’s not obvious that I’m different. Even people that should know better than to judge a queer by his cover can’t get past my white cis-male appearance. Last night, our amazing friend Lorelei said we (meaning my family and I) were some of the most radical people she knew. And I don’t see it, because when I look in the mirror, I see a white male staring back, and I know what that means to far too many of the people in my chosen communities.
And that’s why Robin’s simple demonstration hit me so hard. She proved to me in a way that I will never forget that I belong. That I shouldn’t feel like a fraud anymore. I belong, and not because I go to munches, or make TBC come alive, or go to Pride events, or anything else I do.
I belong to the queer community because I am one of them. They are my people.
I’m going to finish this post with my typical random “bullet thoughts” after-con report. Otherwise, I’ll keep writing all night.
From an organizers standpoint, this was our best TBC yet. 315 registered attendees, 350ish total attendance.
The venue loved us. We loved them. Working hard to get back into the Mass Mutual Center for next year.
Got to be a different weekend, though. The largest horse show in the northeast was this weekend at the Big E. Which explains the complete lack of hotel rooms anywhere within 20 miles of Springfield.
And this weekend next year, the damn cheerleaders that plagued us in Worcester will be in Springfield. DO NOT WANT.
I cannot say enough how awesome the venue staff is, from managers and sales folks to the security guards and catering staff. If any of the high muckity-mucks of the Mass Mutual Center are seeing this, please give me a job. I want to work with you all every single day!
To the outgoing con chair; TBC 2011 was only as good as it was because you knew when to beat on heads and when to stand aside and let things happen. It's a rare skill. I know you don't think our success had anything to do with you. You are wrong. Well done.
Practice “Radical Welcoming”.
Dear Gods, way too much eye candy at TBC this year. And not all of it was the attendees.
Wait, what the hell am I complaining about? MOAR KANDY!
I wish I’d discovered Kate Bornstein’s work twenty years ago. Would have saved me a lot of pain.
Speaking of, Kate is amazing. In case there was any doubt. And not just because of the “Old Starbuck” costume she wore at the keynote.
Or her sonic screwdriver.
We’re getting really good at this event-running gig. A whole lot of stuff seemed to happen way more easily than I remember in the last two years. Go us!
My family HAS to get involved as presenters as often and wherever we can. We’ve got stuff to say, and it’s about time we started saying it, often and loudly.
Mark, you can never quit staff. We'd miss your enthusiasm too much. First thing in the morning on Day Three, it's the only thing that gets us going.
TBC had its own “Bread Fairy” this year. More like “Bagel Fairy”. If you are reading this, hope you enjoy them, Katie.
Dear Mass Mutual Center. Please install some giant retractable sun shades. That huge glass wall faces southwest. And the sun is bright, especially during the daytime. Love, TBC Staff and Attendees.
I think that the Munchkin single-handedly put a smile on the face of every single person that passed through Registration. If we had a dollar for every minute that someone other than one of his parents was drooling or cooing over him this weekend, TBC would be set for years.
There was a small Occupy Springfield protest across the street from us Saturday. And there was a cute little Tea Party counter-rally on our side of the street. Some signs supporting the Occupiers magically appeared on the glass wall, facing outward so both sides could read it.
I may or may not have instigated that. ;-)
I was completely and totally wrong about starting programming at 1pm Friday. Close to half the attendees came in Friday because we started early.
Random Happy Moment: Saturday night, watching two of our attendees grooving on the dance floor. In their power wheelchairs.
Nick Krieger, if you happen to see this, please come back to TBC again. And that goes for everyone else that was there this weekend.
In fact, if you have ever been to a TBC, as a vendor, presenter, staff member or attendee, please come back next year.
On that note, if you found this blog through the TBC website, Facebook, etc., feel free to stalk me, friend me, whatever. We’re probably best friends and don’t know it yet.