[cw’s for invalidation, misgendering, my being angry]
for months now, i have been the only on-the-ground organizer for the first-and-oldest Icarus Project chapter.*
i’ve opened the space, had only new people show up, explained the way meetings run, introduced myself and the state of Icarus, explained the group agreements, stayed to close the space despite being triggered and misgendered and unheeded…and received nominal thanks, and mostly admonitions that there need to be clearer announcements about when we’re meeting.
all this while ptsd flareup and new trauma and surgery and starting school and close person telling me my words were a little extreme for what really happened.
today i brainstormed with a fellow wavering-on-becoming-ex-icarista, about how the group could be worth it and actually good for me.
- follow the goddamn group agreements: “i” statements not talking about anyone else or any group; not commenting on each others’ check-ins; not offering advice without carefully asking; respecting identities/pronouns; not flirting with people mid-group what the fuck
and that was basically. it. (sure, also: have someone there i trust to defend me/my gender/check people on fucked up shit. but — not necessary if people are accountable.)
i’m seriously considering, just altering the “group agreements” we have, to be even More explicit. instead of “be conscious of privilege and power,” using your and accountable. instead of “agreements,” calling them commitments and giving a timeframe for people who can’t commit to them to leave, get out.
i’m the only one hosting them, after all. i’m the only facilitator. i have to stay the full time in order to close the space (lock it up), despite my repeatedly asserting this cannot be a long-term thing because i need to be able to leave when triggered (and i keep being triggered because there is no else to address agreement violations).
i’ve spent months trying hard not to be an autocrat, being scared that i’m twisting the group into my image and not what anyone else wants/needs. laudable, but so, so unsustainable in this situation.
hell, i’ve pulled together over a dozen resources and transparency documents and lists of “we need to find a new hosting place, here is who to contact” — and no one. else. has done. anything.
(shoutout to the facebook moderator who is still talking to icarus national and trying to get them to actually…do…the things we’ve explained we need and they agreed to do.)
i’m just. yes, my standards for a safer space are high:
- don’t say “i would never commit suicide because xyz, i just don’t understand it, how can you think of it.” get people’s pronouns right.
- don’t talk about how someone else‘s mental illness/ neurodivergence is so hard on you, at least not without talking about your own brain shit. (looking at you, cishet white dudes. looking at you.)
- don’t. violate. the group. agreements!
- be cautious and tender with each other. do not act as if you know anything about anyone else. do not assume your right to a conversation, to offering advice, to responding to what someone has said in the no-response-check-ins.
- don’t talk about “women” or “raised female” (HISSSSSSSS)** or “black people” or “lesbians” or any. group. you are not a part of, and be careful even when you are. only. talk. in “i” statements.
i know, i know that many attendees are new to all of these commitments/agreements, methods of holding space, speaking carefully. that’s why i’m okay with modeling, with explaining the agreements and establishing the tone with my paced, slow, gentle, careful speech. and yes, i know that doesn’t work for everyone. (though it is indeed how i found the group and why i stayed.)
organizing right now is so hard, and getting support is so hard, and i have all this experience and willingness but i also have all these boundaries and triggers and fluctuations in my wellbeing.
all of this to say. i’m thinking commitments, rather than agreements, with you and we language, and explicit, clear, what not to do. might be the way to go, and i might just do it. because otherwise? i’m not going to be able to keep hosting/facilitating, and meetings will (and have already) just cease.
this isn’t a powerplay or a moral judgment way-things-should-be thing. this is a boundaries and making this work for me (as it hasn’t for all the facilitators and organizers who have come before/alongside me and burned out for very similar reasons).
it’s always in development. but this is where i’m at, and that’s gotta be valid.
* the Icarus Project is a group for people with experience in the realm of what is commonly called mental illness
** “raised female” — never, never attribute this to anyone but yourself. even DFAB or AFAB are questionable to attribute to another who may have a strong preference for CAFAB. a less minefield-ridden phrasing is “perceived female” — or, amazing, just talk about your experience and don’t generalize. and stoooooop assuming you can tell what someone’s CASAB was, or how they were “raised” or perceived (or for how long), or what their bodily configuration is now. (no-hormone surgical transition exists!!)