In the past week, thousands of people have viewed my call for a national boycott until they produce a written nondiscrimination policy that protects transgender attendees. I got some great support and praise for it. I also got oodles of hate mail and even a couple threats. The call for the attention I intended, but way more than I could have ever imagined. I really underestimated the reach of my voice in this case. For an advocacy campaign, this is terrific. But in this case, it meant that many of my words and intentions got warped and misplaced. That's ok, that happens in situations like this. I decided to lay law for a few days until cooler heads prevailed. That was until yesterday afternoon.
Without getting into the specifics of things, it came to my attention that there was indeed more going on behind the scenes with Pantheacon organizers than I knew. The hardworking Glenn Turner and her crew of organizers weren't ignoring me, they just weren't ready to make big public decisions in time for this Con. In their case, it just wasn't a priority to call this crazy radical activist. I understand that. My main call for boycott came out of frustration from a lack of actual change. A year of discussion to only have the same thing happen again was deeply disturbing to me. With my brain working as an advocate's does, the next steps seemed obvious. When an entity is allowing something bad to happen, you attempt to enter a negotiation. If negotiation either goes nowhere or is ignored, then protest and boycott are considered the logical next steps. In this case, I didn't want to organize protests as I thought them inappropriate for this and did not want organizers to feel singled out or attacked. It turns out that result came about anyways and for that I am sorry.
With the new information and viewpoints I was given, I no longer think it an appropriate or effective advocacy strategy to continue a full-on boycott of PantheaCon 2013. If there's anything I've learned from my years in working at advocacy organizations, its that a campaign must be willing to be fluid and flexible to achieve victory. In this case, the prize of victory would be the validation of transgender individuals as having the gender they identify with. It seems there is actual progress towards this goal. Progress I do not want to hinder. Further, as the organization and community engages in the specific discussion regarding the status of exclusive rituals, I want to make sure I'm in a place to be able to contribute to that discussion. I do have a lot of things to offer in this and I want to make sure I can be of service in every possible way.
Do I still hold the same goals for the transgender community at the Con? Yes. I still would like to see cisgender-only rituals eliminated from programming and for there to be specific nondiscrimination clauses written into the event bylaws. I still would like for folks to send polite comments to PantheaCon organizers asking them to do this. However, I no longer think it necessary or effective to engage in boycott when things are in such a fluxed and progressive state. There were powerful and moving actions that are moving this community towards full equality. Devin Hunter and others 'Rite of the Bear Mother' was from what I heard, nothing less than life-changing. I like the way my teacher T. Thorn Coyle said it:
"The more we gather with open hearts and minds, the more we are able to disagree with fierce compassion, the better able we will be to grow together as a community, welcoming those who have never before joined us, and welcoming back those whom we know well."
As a side note, please check out the postings of my friends Peter, Devin, and Cara. With their council and work, I've been able to shift my way of thinking into a place that is certainly more productive and focused than it was before. Their coverage and comments on the Con are vital in moving this subject forward and keeping it on the table.
What brought me to consider new information, ideals and views did not come from bullying or flamewar pressure from the blogosphere. It came from trusted elders and friends in this community picking up the phone and choosing to verbally discuses with me in partnership and respect. I'm really seeing power in that. In the age of heated internet discussion, let us never forget that there are real human brings on the end. And sometimes humans just understand each other best by hearing real voices. Together we can bring true change to the community. I believe that with all my heart, perhaps more now than ever before.
May it be so.