Proceedings: Panel: Closing Plenary
MC: Ellen Samuels
Moderators: Eli Clare, Diana Courvant
Participants: Susan Aranoff, Vicky D’aoust, People of Color Caucus,
QD Conference organizers
Edited from Real Time Caption transcript by Eli Clare
MC Ellen Samuels: [Announcements, announcements, announcements….]
So, basically, I’m done with all the announcements, and I’m
going to bow out now and leave you with Eli Clare and Diana Courvant.
It says in your programs that Eli and Diana are going to give a closing
plenary. However, it will be more of a town meeting style in which we
want to address specifically issues that have been brought up by participants
at this conference who feel that their issues have not yet been addressed
or included, and I’m just going to hand the floor over now to Eli
Eli Clare: First, in the town hall format are two statements by folks
with psych disabilities. ….the first statement, Susan Aranoff is
going to come up to the stage…. She will read her statement….
She is not expecting or wanting a response right here, although she has
included some contact information to be in touch with her, but she’s
very clear, no response now. So I’ll turn the mic over to Susan.
Susan Aranoff: You can clap. First of all, I want to thank the people
who have been planning and organizing this conference for their amazing,
amazing flexibility, [applause] open hearts, minds, ears, and—maybe
not ears—receptivity (?) to [what I have to say]. As I [wrote] this,
I turned in my conference t-shirt this morning, and I might—if it’s
still left—I might buy it back, because I’m so moved by it.
[applause] As will probably become clear as I read this, this whole experience
is incredibly emotional. That’s part of my psychiatric label or
disability. So I hope in the spirit of accessibility you will all bear
with me as I do this.
SA: [text provide by SA] I need to respond to the tremendous pain I have
been feeling at this conference as a person whose life work—professionally,
politically, and personally—currently centers on the challenges
of living with psychiatric labels and/or disabilities. Feeling pain and
not “regulating” it as others do is one of the manifestations
of the three psychiatric labels I have been tagged with: PTSD, Bi-Polar:
Dis-Order,” and Depression. And I put my response down in writing
and originally expected that you would just take it away with you. It
really boils down to a request that each one of us go inside and do some
of our own work and talk among each other and do our work. But because
of the flexibility and fluidity, I was given this opportunity to read
it here. So I will do that. And I probably won’t depart too much,
except every now and then.
SA: I hope this letter will be received in the spirit in which I am writing.
Having moved from shock to anger and to grief and back again, I am writing
from a place of hope and empowerment. (A cycle which, while probably familiar
to most of you and maybe one you can move through easily or even joyfully,
is an emotional minefield for me and others who find it difficult in the
midst of feeling big things deeply to put such feelings aside in order
to “settle down” and get back to business.”)
SA: As an attorney and advocate for people challenged with psychiatric
labels and realities, I’m used to experiencing exclusion and derision
of people living with psychiatric disabilities and/or labels as “issues”
for my clients. I have housed these “issues” in my head and
am not used to feeling them in my gut. This mind/body divide is a useful
coping skill for many of us and maybe something people with psychiatric
disabilities and people with physical disabilities have in common. The
way I live this divide is contributing to this being the first time I
have personally experienced this kind of pain and that in turn is contributing
to the size of my pain. This in turn has given rise to my desire to write
this and ask that you leave here willing to do some work on becoming more
hospitable and thereby more accessible to people with psychiatric labels
SA: Before I go further, I need to acknowledge and thank and appreciate
and point out the efforts of the conference organizers. They have truly
been hospitable. I have not yet thought of anything they could have done
differently, but I am confident that when and if I do, my feedback will
be warmly received. This is no mere feat, and you have my deepest respect
for creating an environment that feels welcoming of both my pain and my
SA: I also need to own that before I accepted the invitations extended
to me to attend and present, I had reservations about coming here predicated
on the exclusion and derision experienced at “cross disability”
events by other mental health consumers, survivors, and ex-patients (CSX
as we are known in pysch disability circles). I sometimes wonder about
the possibility that we manifest our fears. I am writing this in an effort
to manifest my hopes.
SA: My hope is that the pain insensitivity, exclusion, derision and fear
can instill in people like me will motivate you as individuals, as alliances,
as communities of and for queer people and people with non-psychiatric
disabilities, to better embrace people living with psychiatric labels
and understand our personal and political struggles, experiences, lives,
challenges, differences. (Thank the presenter who deconstructed the term
“embrace.” Should I be using a different one?)
SA: I recognize that a lot of personal growth and change is needed to
do this work. And I recognize that we are best motivated to do this work
when we have a stake in the outcome. Thank you to the person who reminded
me of that this morning, and to all the people who have extended themselves
to me as I’ve been experiencing all these feelings and thoughts.
When I woke up this morning, I was so angry and feeling so alienated I
wanted to turn in my t-shirt (which I did) and get the hell out of here.
The actions of others helped me gain the feelings of hope and empowerment
that are willing me to write this. As Adrienne Rich wrote so long time
ago, we can and do and must listen to each other into speech. Thank you
who listened and responded for all your time and good care.
SA: You may be wondering what does this have to do with you. There are
two major intersections I see between psychiatric disability issues and
queer and physical disability issues. First, as queer people, we are all
psychiatrically labeled, and therefore we are routinely pathologized and
are more vulnerable to being involuntarily psychiatrized.
SA: What make us queer other than our experiencing emotional, psychological,
and physiological realities that are different from the mainstream? In
essence, mental and emotional “dis-orders” are defined as
emotional and psychological and physiological experiences that differ
from the mainstream. As queers, we are all dissing certain orders.
SA: Yes, everyone knows “homosexuality” has been removed
from the DSM (Diagnostic Service Manual, the holy grail of psych labels)
and is no longer considered by itself to be an emotional or mental “dis-order.”
The rolling back of one or two DSM provisions has no more eradicated the
pathologizing of queers any more than the elimination of Jim Crow laws
has eradicated racism. (I am borrowing from the lexicon of racism, but
I do not think these oppressive experiences are equal.)
SA: Although the harshest labeling of queerness as a mental “dis-order”
has been eliminated, there are literally scores of other DSM labels that
describe queer behavior; gender identity disorder and gender dysphoria
are but two remaining examples. We know that gay, lesbian, bi, and especially
transgender youth are involuntarily committed to psychiatric “treatment”
facilities solely on account of their queer identities and are drugged/restrained
and subjected to behavioral programming targeted at “curing”
their queerness. We know that gay, lesbian, bi, and trans youth commit
suicide at far higher rates than other kids.
SA: And we know too that people with physical disabilities commit suicide
at higher rates than non-disabled people, and that at times they are even
“assisted.” Also queer people and people with physical disabilities
are challenged with sky high rates of major depression, as are women in
SA: So for these and so many other reasons, I hope that you will commit
to learning more about people living with psych labels and/or disabilities,
our lives, issues, struggles, victories. If not to make the world a better
place for others, then to better love and embrace and defend and protect
and, if you choose, heal your own psychiatrically labeled and vulnerable
selves. Thank you. [end of text provide by SA] [applause]
Eli Clare: Thank you, Susan. Now we are going to hear from Vicky D’aoust.
Vicky D’aoust: I’m a little hot. Crazy people do crazy things….
Can people who are hearing, hear me…. See the difference between
that question and can everybody hear me. Because you know, deaf people—never
VD: We had a caucus, impromptu caucus. It became bigger and bigger and
bigger. It was a love fest. There were some issues. The people of color
group had an idea to bring to the organizers some concerns, and we thought
that was a really good idea, and Susan independently of us actually had
written a lot of same type things. We had made some for next time, so
we hope that these are not seen as criticisms but for next time since
this is a future of queer disability activism. [applause]
VD: [text provided by VD] 1) A fully articulated policy of NON-INSTITUTIONALIZATION
so that all people can attend the conference without fear of being institutionalized.
VD: 2) A recognition of the broad diversity within the category of mental
disabilities including both identities and labels such as psychiatric
disability, mental illness, psychological differences, emotional disabilities,
crazy, psychiatric survivor, cognitive disability, autism and others.
VD: 3) A clear indication to presenters and delegates to be respectful
in the use of language that degrades the experiences of people with forms
of mental disabilities. This requires a reduction of negative comments
about being crazy, paranoid, or retarded—especially in the context
of “we aren’t crazy.” We request a reduction in the
hierarchy of disabilities evident in comments and presentations.
VD: 4) We recommend more active outreach to developmentally disabled
people and people with cognitive disabilities who may not have access
to attending on their own or are not part of the queer or disability communities
and have been underrepresented at this (and other) events.
VD: 5) A respect for a range of visible and invisible manifestations of
symptoms, and the right to choose method of services, access to services,
types of help wanted including wanting medication and not wanting it,
wanting therapy and not wanting it and our right to exist as crazy if
we so choose.
VD: 6) More presentations/content on mental disabilities especially to
reflect the possibility that some people with these disabilities have
unstable disabilities and might not make the event. Plan back ups and
highlight the topic and issues to include people with mental disabilities.
VD: 7) Yes, we need a quiet room, but it has to be QUIET. That means
not being right beside the main traffic area.
VD: 8) In addition to a quiet room we need a crisis room or a place to
scream [screaming], vent, cry and not have to be quiet and where support
VD: 9) In advance of presentations that deal with sexual assault, violence,
psychiatric issues and just in general for the conference, announcements
should be made that content could trigger reactions among people who are
VD: 10) Because of the nature of our triggers and the intensity of reactions,
we need a safe, and easy escape. This means two doors when possible, space
in the aisles and organization of space so that it does not require tremendous
effort or attention to leave the room.
VD: 11) Although we have not requested professional psychiatric services
at this event, we feel that voluntary peer counsellors, or counsellors
trained to provide support should be available in the same way that interpreters,
guides, readers, and attendants are available. It is important that anyone
providing support be bound by the NON-institutionalization policy and
that they be non-threatening and non-oppressive. [end of text provided
VD: I think it’s very important that you understand at our meeting
we didn’t all agree that we should even have treatment. But what
we did agree on was that there was no choice about that at this event.
Someone might want a peer counselor. They might want someone to hold their
hand or just give me a hug. Who gave me the hugs today? I got two hugs.
She asked me, and I got a hug. It was very nice. I liked it. It’s
important that we realize that the voluntariness of support is key to
us being safe. It’s not forced upon us. I see you are needing help.
Let’s go to the quiet room. The idea that we self-identify our needs
and get some support. I don’t think there’s any reason the
conference can’t implement all of these and do it well. Next time
we will be a happier, safer, bigger group. [applause]
Eli Clare: Thank you, Vicky. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you,
thank you…. Let’s hold comments until we get through [unreadable].
There’s another big piece of challenging questions, bringing important
stuff up for us to listen to, and [we need to] create lots of space for
Diana Courvant: This next segment that’s going to happen is going
to be brought to the larger group from the people of color caucus. And
it’s really important that everybody be listening. And I also just
want to say that I noticed at the beginning, as this townhall meeting
was being introduced, it was [said that] we were going to be addressing
topics that have not been addressed. We have brought up racism but reinforced
oppression rather than challenging it. If you are privileged by racism,
you will take the time to listen to that and understand that it is addressing,
but addressing cognitively. [applause]
Eli Clare: I’m seeing a couple of hands wave as if there are comments
right now. And right now we are not opening the floor. The people of color
caucus has been really clear that they want to read is the statement and
then open the floor to responses by people of color. And only people of
From Audience: And mixed race people.
Eli Clare: And mixed race people. I really want us to respect those requests.
I’m turning it over to the caucus.
POC Caucus: First thing that I want to say is if you have…questions
about what is presented to you today, I appreciate that you direct them
anti-racist white allies because it’s not [our] job to educate you.
Anyone who wants to identify themselves as anti-racist white ally, identify
POC Caucus: [text provided by POC Caucus] We are a group of people of
color and mixed race individuals who would like to acknowledge and thank
the Ohlone First Nation, whose land this university and conference exists
POC Caucus: We would like to thank the organizers for all of their work
and energy in putting together this conference. We have produced this
statement in a spirit of change in the hopes that that these considerations
will be taken into account in the future.
POC Caucus: As an organizing committee that played the central and foundational
part in forming this new international community dealing with the intersections
of disability and queerness, we feel that the responsibility of including
communities of color has been grossly neglected. Usually, this problem
stems from people of color not having involvement in the planning process,
but only as an afterthought to diversity. To build an international movement,
it is important to understand that in our world, numerically speaking,
people of color are the majority. At a conference in San Francisco, CA,
in an area that is predominantly Latino/a, there is no reason for this
lack of representation.
POC Caucus: With this in mind, we would like to draw attention to the
How can we have a queer disability conference and not discuss issues of
access to healthcare?
How can we have this conference and not discuss housing issues?
How can we have this conference and not discuss race issues?
How can we have this conference and not discuss class issues?
How can we have this conference and not discuss youth and elders issues?
POC Caucus: How can we have this conference and particularly not discuss
how all of these issues overlap and intersect, which many of us are good
at theorizing about but do not practice? How is it possible that the local
communities of color and First Nations people in the bay area are not
represented here? As Emi Koyama asked at the beginning, who has this conference
been the safest for? Whose community is this? With this in mind, the people
of color caucus would like to offer the following suggestions for a more
inclusive conference in the future.
POC Caucus: We envision a conference where:
First Nations people’s experiences and perspectives are centralized.
Non-English speakers have access to all activities.
Communities of color play a critical part in the organizing process at
the beginning instead of as an afterthought.
Poor and working-class people of color’s struggles are included.
The conference is not based upon panel presentations, many of which are
filled with academic jargon that do not allow for discussion and integration
of everyone’s thoughts, feelings, and insights into the issues at
We are not placed in the unenviable position where we must organize at
the conference due to the inherent lack of inclusivity at the existing
POC Caucus: In conclusion, as Diana Courvant stated in her panel earlier
today, we must recognize issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, disability,
religion, age, and so forth, as many rivers that have separate qualities,
but are also part of a larger water system. In essence, the confluence
of the waters is representative of a larger and more desirable act of
decolonization. [end of text provided by POC Caucus] [applause]
Chris Bell [from POC Caucus]: We would like to ask if there’s any
identifying people of color in the audience who would like to address
something or add something to our statement to do so now. Afterwards we
would like to hear from the conference organizers [unreadable].
Vicky D’aoust [from audience]: I wasn’t on the conference
organizing team because it was too stressful. You don’t want to
be on that team. But just so you know, when I was asked to be [a] keynote
[speaker], I was also very clear that I identified as First Nation part
Franco. And I think that one of the things that the keynote was supposed
to do which maybe didn’t really happen is start those discussions
among people who are not necessarily visible as people of color. I had
slides that went very fast if you remember, so it didn’t really
work that well, but yes, as someone [who identifies] as mixed race, I
think it’s very important that there are people in the audience
who probably do identify and yet have not been involved with the caucus
so thanks for that opportunity.
From Audience: Can I talk? Sorry. I just wanted to say that I [was] a
woman of color [asked] to participate in the [conference]. I have a lot
of work. I was not able to do that. So what I would suggest also to the
group that is here is to really have a list of the people with name and
addresses, because we are not like that easy to find. So as a woman of
color, I recognize that I could participate, and I didn’t do it
because of lack of time, but I’m a woman of color in the…Bay
Area. I’m not the only woman of color in the whole Bay Area.
From Audience: I’m curious, you had a list of topics that were
not addressed and issues that did not come up officially as part of conference.
And I’m wondering if any members of caucus or other people of color
here who may have issues with that, took the time to actually propose
any of those sessions? And also to just make the comment that I feel like
taking this time specifically to take comments only from people of color
seems to be very much the antithesis of what you are trying to do.
From Audience: This microphone is not accessible. And I’m a mixed
race adoptee raised in a Jewish home and have a good deal of white-skin
privilege. And I thought I had a choice. I proposed one workshop about
being butch which was sort of what I had writing about, being butch and
becoming disabled. But I had also thought to have a workshop about scamming
and economic literacy for disabled people, and I did not do it. I’m
again one of those people that could have and didn’t. I know a few
others that could have but didn’t. Maybe because our lives of full
of survival issues at this moment in time. Myself I’ve been doing
a great deal on Middle East and Palestinian issues. We are doing this
work during a time of grave danger in our world where many people involved
in struggles of people of color are working 24/7 to keep the world literally
from blowing up. And I myself am trying to keep genocide from happening
in the Middle East. Scamming workshop at the conference. Genocide in the
Middle East. Genocide in the Middle East won out. I just would like for
us to keep it all in the context. I want to say also that I truly appreciate
the amount of fundraising that was done in order to get me here as someone
who was raised poor and who is poor. And I just think it is important
to appreciate what worked for me. And what works for some of us to get
what we need. Also I guess that’s my pontification.
Sarah [from POC Caucus]: I feel like while it’s really good there
was an opportunity for people of color to present here, the fact that
there was very little representation that I could find as a person of
color looking for other people of color presenting, I’m glad that
people had the opportunity. But are we satisfied with the fact that this
is mostly presentations by white folks? Or are we going to figure out
a way to make it so that it’s representational at least of the area
that we are in, which is predominantly Latino and Latina? Or is it that
we tried? That really sucks, because I understand it’s really unsafe
for people of color to be out in the world today. I understand that, believe
me, whether or not I have privilege. I understand. But I also understand
that white folks need to build a bridge of trust so people of color can
feel safe enough to attend things like this, or it is not my community.
And until that happens, how can we say that we’re anti-racist?
Sarah: …This is so intensely emotional…. As far as being
grateful, I think it’s really, really scary…when we have people
of color voicing complaints, and you’re saying we should be grateful
for what there is. That’s a very scary thought for me, to be hearing
someone say we should be grateful for what we have, when you are hearing
people let you know exactly what could be better. That is terrifying,
and it makes me to not want to be a part of this international community
that is being built right now by us being here. I just want to say that.
So if anybody else wants to respond to that, that’s cool, too.
From Audience: I really need to respond in the face of that, Sarah, although
I don’t want this to come between you and me. You have your issues;
I have mine. There’s you; there’s me. There’s boundaries
between us. And I get to feel the way I feel, even though that might terrify
you that feel that way. Note that I didn’t say you should feel grateful.
Note that I said I am grateful. There is a difference. [applause]
From Audience: Is it okay for me to talk? I’m a light skinned Jew.
Although I consider myself a person of color, many people don’t.
The reason I’m talking is because I feel that another area that
has been left out of this conference is how many, possibly the majority,
of disabled people of color are criminalized in this society, not just
criminalized, and how there is an epidemic of police brutality, especially
against disabled [people], and how the American criminal justice system
has overtaken even the psychiatric hospitals, as far as warehousing folks
who are no longer living in SROs or on the street in squats. So we really
need to look at the big picture here, who was not represented at this
conference and who is outraged, too. And I think that gives us a much
clearer view of how much work still remains to be done. And yet, I’m
very happy that the caucus came together and is making its presentation.
I think this is a
really good first step. Thank you. [applause]
From Audience: Hi. I’m with First Nations and Francophone like
Vicky. I want to thank everyone on the panel for coming forward and having
the courage to say what you have said. There has been an enormous backlash
already, and I think that points out the inequity on a national and internationally
basis. I’m shaking right now because I’m in fear by some of
the things that have been said. And, Sarah, I applaud you for coming forward
and speaking, and I just want to say thanks. Also very important: the
recognition that we are on a First Nation’s land is so important,
when we’re thinking about the genocide that is taking place in North
America, and it fucking should have been done sooner.
POC Caucus: Just briefly in response to that, this caucus, at least,
is going to send a very sort of saddened thank you to any tribe affiliated
organizations that we can find to thank them for letting this be possible
on [their] land.
Chris Bell: At this time I personally would like to hear from the conference
organizers. Ray asked a question a few moments ago asking, why is it that
individuals who are not of color are not being asked to speak at this
moment. I think when you hear the notion of voice empowered, you realize
it’s very important that people have a chance to speak. And hopefully
people who are not of color are listening. That’s it for the most
part. [applause] [more applause] [even more applause]
Eli Clare: [knocking mic over] Shaky, shaky, shaky…. Diana and
I are winging it, so you’ll have to excuse us as we kind of confer
with each other. Diana said, “I’ll go first, so [here’s]
the mic to her.
Diana Courvant: I do want to make clear that I’m not a conference
organizer, but I have been put in the spotlight. That is not to disavow
any responsibility for what has been happening here, because I could have
spent my time doing things that would end up with a more antiracist conference.
I am not trying to divorce my responsibility from the dynamic that got
created here. I am saying that I can’t speak as to what happened,
and I know that people of color have said that they needed a response
to that. But I’m in a position now of being a little bit in the
spotlight, because I was originally asked to keynote here this afternoon,
and I would like to respond to some of the things I’ve heard and
just introduce the conference organizers.
DC: I did hear some things about there were opportunities for people
of color to be involved. And I think it’s really important to notice
where we’re privileged. We come together as a group, for the first
time, as an international community of queer and disabled people, whatever
that means. And because it’s the first time, it seems like, wow,
if it took us this long to get here, we must have been the most oppressed
group on the planet. [laughter]
DC: Right, laugh. The problem is that no one is ever purely targeted
by oppression or purely privileged by oppression just by virtue of, you
know, being on this land. The United States of America takes resources
from all over the world and gathers and concentrates them here. And whether
you have legal residency, whether you have citizenship or whether you
have white skin, we still benefit from the resources that are around us,
and poverty in the United States does mean something different than poverty
in many other places in the world. So we have to understand that everybody
here experiences some privilege. We cannot come here with the illusion
that we are so targeted by oppression that any privileges that we experience
DC: So when we’re organizing the conference, and we say, “Oh,
well, some people had opportunities to come together to present, to keynote,
to whatever-it-was,” we have to understand that it’s another
division of your time when you’re fighting one more oppression.
And as a transsexual person, it is not as easy for me as for a non-transsexual
lesbian or a non-transsexual pansexual woman to find the time to come
to this conference. I have other issues. And people of color have other
issues. And it’s not a surprise that people of color, queer disabled
people have less time. And since we can predict it, it is incumbent on
us to raise that issue in the beginning and deal with it in a proactive
way. I understand there may be less time for people of color as activists
in this community. That’s not an excuse for people to say, “Well,
I guess they don’t have enough time, so we’ll choose to go
DC: That’s just my statement there, because there was some response
there, that time was a factor, and it’s not an accident that time
was a factor. I’m going to introduce now the conference organizers.
I know that Eli is going to respond on the behalf of some of the organizers.
I’m not sure which other organizers are going to speak.
Eli Clare: I am one of eight people, nine people, ten people, 11 people,
and 11 is really stretching it, [who organized this conference]….
I’m going to talk some about the history of how this [event] came
together, not as an explanation, not as an excuse, not to say it’s
right, but as a history. Then I’m going to talk about challenges
in listening and learning. and then I’m going to ask for the other
seven or eight or nine organizers to come up here and say whatever else
have left out. I don’t want anything I say here to be construed
as good consensus among the organizers, because there has been no time
for consensus, needless to say.
EC: So, about the history. This has been a conference organized entirely
by white people. We have been very aware of that from day one. It’s
a really white conference. There is no surprise there. When white people
organize an event, it’s going to be [largely] white. I’m not
saying entirely white. There [is a] presence of people of color here,
strong and vocal, clearly. But the conference is largely a white conference.
We were an all-white organizing team. We were profoundly, deeply aware
of that from day one. Not right. Not good. But there. We spent some time
talking about those issues over e-mail. We were also a group of three
and then a group of five and then a group of seven and then a group of
nine, most of whom didn’t live in the same place. Most of the organizing
happened by e-mail. There were discussions about race and being a group
of white people doing the organizing that happened via e-mail. E-mail
organizing sucks. It’s not an excuse, not a reason, but the way
you can process via e-mail is really different from the way you can process
in person. The way you can make connections, make things say, “Here
is how we can be allies, here is how we can
create the whole matrix of how all these pieces fit together—[unreadable]
disability class, gender identity, sexism, racism. It’s different.
So we talked about race via e-mail. We talked about being a group of [white]
organizers. We talked about how that was problematic. We talked about
the role of race in our organizing. We talked about what our responsibility
was as white people to talk about race, that it’s not only people
of color who bring issues of race and racism to gatherings. It’s
all of us. White people have a race.
From Audience: Duh.
Eli Clare: Yes, duh. But lots of white people have no clue that we [white
people] have a race. And that’s part of [white] privilege.
From Audience: A language comment: if we could avoid use of the word
duh as a negative thing because it’s actually…a reaction to
some people that have developmentally disabilities. To use it in a negative
way is ableist.
Eli Clare: So then we talked and talked and talked. But that’s
all we did. That’s as far as we got. That is as far as we got, and
there are a number of reasons for that. [crying] And my tears are my own.
I need no one to take care of my tears. There are a number of important
reasons that the talk never became action.
EC: The disability rights movement is as white as this room. In my experience,
that’s true. In other people’s experience in other communities,
that may not be true. [My perception] may be a function of my white skin
and privilege. This conference relied a lot on the foundation of the organizing
done by the disability rights movement. I was really aware I was one of
two people who [worked on the] programming who created the talking-heads,
heavy-on-speeches, low-on-dialogue program. And I was really, really aware
that most of what we saw in terms of proposals came from folks with strong
connections to disability politics, and weaker connections to queer politics.
It seems like the people doing queer disability thinking are queer folks
who are mostly doing disability rights. That’s a gross generalization,
but there’s some truth to it also. The disability rights movement,
in my experience, is mostly white. So that’s part of why our talk
never turned to action.
EC: Another piece of history I need to acknowledge is [that] Corbett
O’Toole pushed and pushed and pushed us. And that pushing never
led to where we needed to be as an organizing committee. I have [unreadable]
some of the history, and that history has led us here, because my experience
is that events organized by white folks become events mostly populated
by white folks. [unreadable]
EC: The demands and suggestions [from the POC Caucus] are all good ones.
How it will shape the actions in future organizing is left to be seen.
I’m really aware that what we just heard is one of the challenges.
Personally I’m really grateful for one hell of a challenge. We are
here not just to celebrate, not just to listen, not just to form a new
community. We are here to be challenged the hell out of and grow from
that challenge. [applause]
EC: With that, and with the caveat that I only spoke for myself in that
whole rant and [history of how this conference came to be. I’m seeing
the organizers sitting here, and I have no idea what they’ve been
thinking about [as I’ve] talked and cried and ranted and lectured
here. So I’m going to quit and turn the microphone over to them.
Diana Courvant: I don’t know…if a response from eight organizers
is desired, called for, necessary? So if we could just get a sense. I
don’t know if the people of color caucus has anyone who wants to
respond to that question.
Chris Bell [from POC Caucus]: I don’t think it’s necessary
to belabor this. These are issues that will not be solved in one particular
setting. These are issues that need to be put out for people to consider.
I know I’m jotting a lot of notes down on my piece of paper, I mean
“paper of color.” [laughter] [applause] Eli, I want to thank
you too, while I have this opportunity on behalf of the people of color
caucus for your allowing such a response. [applause]
Eli Clare: So with that, I think I feel responsibility to ask my co-organizers
if there’s anything you need to say right now?
Unidentified Organizer: I think the reason we all came up, at least the
reason I came up front is not because we feel we each need to speak, but
because I think it’s good for the conference to see and hear who
is responsible for the good things and who is responsible for the bad
things in terms of content. It is just a way of being accountable. [applause]
Corbett O’Toole: My name is Corbett O’Toole. In a lot of ways
this conference began with my frustration in the disability movement and
my frustration in the gay movement without a place to be both, queer and
disabled in the same place. I think some of you have seen some of the
gifts that things that I know and the work that I know has brought to
this conference. You know that, and I’ve had a lot of appreciation
about how that’s worked. But I also think that what you’ve
also seen is the limitations that I brought to the shaping of this conference.
That I know better. That I know better than to have an all white organizing
team. That I’ve been doing political work for 30 years. I know I’m
not supposed to do that. [unreadable] And I just didn’t want to
fucking wait, was too fucking impatient to take the time. I need today
to [pay] attention to [my] place as a white woman raised in Boston [where]
no person of color was ever allowed in my family’s home. I know
what I need[ed] do, and I didn’t do it. And I really want to personally
apologize for the pain that my impatience and my unwilling to deal with
my shit [caused]. I have my own shit. I hate it when people do shit to
me that hurts me, and I’m really, really sorry. The feedback: I
won’t do it again. I’m sorry about the things that I let slide
and I knew not to do and I didn’t take the time do it, and all I
can say is the best I have to give I gave. And the worst I had I gave
for the conference, and I want to take personal responsibility for that.
Ellen Samuels: I’m Ellen Samuels. I cannot speak for all of us.
For myself, I take responsibility as well. As Eli said, we were painfully
aware. And we made certain efforts and we were aware that we were not
achieving what our original goal or what our hopes had been. And yes,
we were all impatient, and I want to apologize as well. And also say not
only for the next queer disability conference, but I think for all of
us here as white people involved in queer and/or disability movements
to take heart everything we’ve heard and to think about…different
ways to organize. Because I think there weren’t clear steps we didn’t
take. It’s that the steps are hard and challenging, and you need
to be creative.
Samuel Lurie: Hi. My name is Samuel. [unreadable] The people up on stage
were the entire organizing team. Gene from San Francisco State came in
at the tail end. I’m the only able-bodied person on the organizing
committee, and I was very conscious of that. [unreadable] In March we
were here to check out the space, and that was the first time that a lot
of [the] organizers were actually in the same place…. I think it
was seven weeks ago. And we looked at each other, Eli and I did, probably
after the meeting and said, “We have a conference in seven weeks,
and we need a year and seven weeks.” [unreadable] Everyone here
multiple times said, “This is absurd. We need a year and seven weeks.”
And we pushed ahead and sort of made the skeletal structure e-mail organizing.
[There was a] multitude of layers of not understanding things about identity,
things about issues, things about oppression, things about a lot of different
realities. And we did forge ahead and build a skeleton. What is happening
as a result of a lot of challenges [unreadable]--the psych disability
[challenge] and [the challenge about racism]—is the magical work
of the conference. We could not know the energy that was going to come
when all these people came together, and that’s the energy, that’s
is the magic of an event, of a workshop, of something that comes together.
We [created] the skeleton with a lot of gaps. And what happened here today
and in the course of last two days, I feel, is exactly what—as hard
as [it is and as] challenging as it is—needs to be happening. It’s
the participation of us and knowing how to start to put the rest of the
structure together. [unreadable]…I get little pollyanna-ish. I reframe
things [in a] spiritual way. The magic is in the challenge here, and I
feel it’s a great success that we failed in some ways. That the
failures being brought out and shown are part of success and the challenges
together. That is how I feel about it. [applause]
From audience: I’m sad to hear that you are sad [about] what happened.
[unreadable] What we are talking about is for the next conference. There
should be some things that could be included about the experience got
in this conference. I hear to say Corbett saying “I apologize for
what happened.” And each of you saying that. ….we should be
saying thank you very much for what you made possible. Because if some
issues were not addressed in this conference, that does not mean that
this was failure. I really believe this is success. Why? Because we learn
from our mistakes. Because nobody is perfect. If we don’t take this
experience into our future, good experience, for you guys for all that
you learned. Because the next conference is going to be much better than
this. We are not going to let Corbett go away and say, “This is
the last conference. The opposite. We need Corbett here to teach us what
she learned and to guide, and I want to see everybody realize what happened.
We should be celebrating what happened here. [applause] [loud applause]
Stop saying, “I’m sorry,” okay.
[Gene Chelberg giving flowers to organizers]
[Anger from Audience about ending, people still at microphone]
Diana Courvant: We don’t have time from any more responses at this
point. The conference does need to close. Many people have travel plans
and need to get going. It’s already 6:00 o’clock, and people
need to participate in the drawing. What I’m going to do is bring
the conference to a close right now. But I want to do that in a way that
acknowledges that we spent sometime on racism. We did not resolve racism
here today. We spent sometime listening about the concerns of people with
psychiatric disabilities. We did not resolve those here today. Our community
has an on-going struggle, but this is in fact what I wanted to offer in
my keynote, and it’s been done by other people. What I thought needed
to happen is we need to go back to the communities to which we belong
and act differently. If we do not bring this conference home and bring
something new to our communities and change our behavior, change the culture
in a positive way, our conference has not succeeded. But even with the
issues that have been raised, it can be a success if we go home, not just
challenged, but responding to those challenge in our everyday lives. So
please take this conference home with
From Audience: [unreadable] I was cut off before I got to speak. There
was nothing here on youth. I could not have a youth caucus. If you are
going to look [to] me [for] framing things, this was not a good skeleton.
You need to start from ground zero again. There was nothing here on youth.
I understand that people feel like celebrating. I don’t feel that
way and that’s a lot of different reasons. And I respect everything
that the organizers do but that’s not where I’m at. So....
Diana Courvant: We don’t have time. I’m very sorry. We need
to do the drawing. Here is Ellen with the drawing.
Ellen Samuels: [beginning drawing]
From Audience: I think it’s appropriate to do the drawing when
you are cutting people off. I feel uncomfortable.
[Anger from Audience about ending, people still at microphone]
Eli Clare: Okay. We have made yet another bad call, a bad mistake. We
are going to back up. It seems like we need to talk. we have this room
until 6:00 o’clock. We can talk until we get kicked out. I am committed
to staying here until everyone who has spoken is done. It may mean that
we’re kicked out, but
let’s keep going.
From Audience: [unreadable] Amen. I am a disabled queer Muslim. And I
have to say that maybe this is my own responsibility. I felt kind of frightened
being here wearing the veil, and maybe I wish there had been some discussion
of the issues that Muslims are facing, because we are out there. There
are deaf Muslim people. Why was there no discussion of religious minorities?
Why? You know, that really hurt. It really hurt a lot that in some ways
I felt like people were maybe afraid of me because I don’t look
like everybody else. I think maybe, as the people of color caucus said,
they did mention religion. And I think that’s something you all
need to address: the issue of religious minorities, because we are here,
and we do want to participate. But I just wanted to say that, you know,
I would have appreciated maybe knowing…. I mean, I was, in a way,
afraid to come here, because I was really afraid that I was going to get
Muslim-bashed. There’s all kinds of crazy stuff jumping up. I think
maybe addressing the issues of religious minorities, particularly since
Muslims are being treated horribly in this country today, I think I personally
would have appreciated knowing that religious minorities would be safe
here also, that there would have been a place for me to go if someone
had lit my scarf on fire or beaten me because I’m Muslim or a safe
place for me to pray. I think that that issue needs to be addressed as
well. Thank you. [applause]
From Audience: I just have a structural question. Is there some way to
convey to the next organizers what should and shouldn’t be done
to keep some kind of institutional memory going? I don’t know what
happened at the previous
From Audience: There was no previous conference.
From Audience: …Is there going to be some communication with the
next organizers? And if so, is it possible to say that this conference
has an agreement or some kind of sentiment that there be at least 25 to
50 percent of people of color on any organizing committee?
Eli Clare: Some of the next organizers…doing QD in 2004 are here
right now. There is going to be information on the web site about who
they are and what that organizing is going to look like. They will build
on this conference. The challenges, here will be challenges, I hope they
take up. Hopefully they understand that [taking up] challenges…[means]
changing behavior. Those organizers are here, and I have no idea what
the infrastructure for that organizing is going to look like. I know that
there will be information on the web site about how to get a hold of them.
From Audience: [unreadable] It seems like this is probably not a good
moment to bring this up, but I would like to say—and this is directed
to everybody here, not simply the organizing committee, but every person
who attended this conference or gave a presentation—there is a word
that is ostensibly included in this community, but I didn’t hear
it once. That word is bisexual. I have to say that I have felt incredibly
overlooked and invisible as a bisexual person. And I talked to at least
four other people, and they felt the exact same way. And we are really
tired of being assumed to be lesbian or gay, or if we’re here with
a partner of the [opposite] gender, to be straight. We would really like
people to remember that we are allies, and that sometimes we have different
issues, and that please do not conflate the term bisexuality into gay,
because it’s not the same issue. So thank you very much.
[End of RTC transcript]