Wednesday, October 08, 2008

SCC Failure

A recent blog post written by someone who attended SCC reminds me, again, that whoever is in charge of partners' events at SCC isn't doing their job.

The only thing that I attended that did not live up to my expectations was the Comfort Zone, a group for SOFFA (significant others, friends, family and allies) of MTF trangender women. I qualified for the group as a wife of a MTF. The group was predominately made up of wives of cross dressers with about 4 of us being partners or wives of transgender people. It appears we all left before the meeting was over. The next morning Sarah and met two young women who had not been eligible for the group since their partners were FTM. They were in happy relationships. We exchanged email address and may try to put something on the internet for happy partners and wives of trans people.

This really thrills me. Two years ago a partner of an FTM was told she wasn't welcome because she identified as lesbian, & this year they just don't allow partners of FTMs into the partner support group.

It's not hard to run an inclusive partner group. I've done it tons of times. I offer every year. I don't need to get paid, just to have my costs covered. I would be willing to go down there to train some locals as to how to be inclusive of all partners.

Whoever is doing this workshop needs to be asked not to do it. The isolation most partners experience is quite enough, but isolating them further - at a trans conference! - is entirely unacceptable.

Please, SCC organizers, please. You have no idea what a knife in the heart it is, as a partner, to get to a conference and feel like no one bothered to care that you have a sense of community, too.

6 comments:

Zelda Rose said...

SCC tries to make sure that everyone feels included, but the organizers are not perfect. Perhaps it might be useful if you contacted the SO group coordinator for Southern Comfort, Beth Martin. Her email is j_beth_martin@hotmail.com. She ought to know about these issues, and maybe there is a solution that can be implemented for next year's SCC.

Zelda Rose
Moderator, SCCLounge Yahoo Group
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/scclounge

helen_boyd said...

Beth Martin knows me, & knows I'd like to be there. Apparently the issue is elsewhere.

Marti said...

This isn't a new issue. Sam Harris did a talk about this at IFGE last year. SCC and other conferences are top heavy with M2F's and the organizers don't often include FTM's fairly.

j_beth_martin said...

The Comfort Zone (TCZ) was created only for GG SO's of M to F's. This was done purposely to create a safe and private space for this group of people. The requirements for attending were included on the website, in the registration materials, and in several postings to the SCCLounge. The other genetic women in the space had placed their trust in me and relied on the exclusivity you describe. Most attended only because of the unique focus of the space, and all later expressed their appreciation for maintaining that agreement.

It was NOT intended to be inclusive, so it was not. It was not an educational seminar, it was a support group. TCZ served an important purpose for many, AND their spouses. TCZ was attended by over 40 different women over 3 afternoons averaging 25 women each day. We had 3 different sessions; one facilitated by me on Thursday focusing on maintaining identity. Friday and Saturday, Virginia Erhardt, PhD, facilitated support groups on acceptance and sexuality. Thursday evening we had an outside activity. Meeting at the W Hotel for socializing and drinks for those who could not or would not come to the conference hotel. Saturday afternoon capped off our 3 days with makeovers.

TCZ is not alone as a safe and exclusive space at SCC. Additionally, there were safe spaces for Trans People of Color and for F to M Surgery Recipients. There have been many other safe spaces in prior years. There are sanction spaces that are exclusive for parts of the community to experience a level of intimacy not otherwise achieved. TCZ is a subset of SOFFA.

I do not remember meeting Helen Boyd nor remember her personal introduction to the group. Upon review of the Guest Book in TCZ, her name does not appear.

I have dozens of comments and well wishes from attendees of TCZ. Hopefully the above will help with your understanding of what we were trying to accomplish. Perhaps at some point in your experience, you also will want this kind of privacy. It should be respected and available to you as well.

I wish to recognize a beautiful and strong group of sincere women in support of their commitment to themselves, marriage, and our wonderful Trans spouses.

Beth Martin

helen_boyd said...

First, Beth, I must have been mistaking you for someone else in my response to Zelda Rose. I was not at this year's SCC; I have not been there for a few years, but often hear reports after the event happens.

I will explain upfront that I have learned more from partners who are different from me than I have from those whose situations are more similar; different outlooks and perspectives help shine a light on your own. I will honestly say that I have never wanted the kind of support that would exclude other people who also need a safe space and don't have one. I've also run groups that are inclusive at many conferences, and it's not very hard to do, since it's easy to reserve time/space before & after groups where those who meet in the group can talk about issues that are more specific to their own situations.

Beth, if you were only in charge of creating a support group for women-raised-female partners of MTFs, & that's what you did, then you did fine.

But if the goal was to create a support space for partners of trans people, this kind of exclusivity is a problem. It may not be yours.

The whole idea of these conferences is not to provide support only to a subset of trans people & their partners. It is (theoretically) to serve the whole community.

What I'm saying, in essence, is that the programming for partners was at best incomplete. The isolation the women you were serving is what caused their need for TCZ... but is it really acceptable only to create space for one type of partner to the exclusion of others? I don't think it is.

I'd suggest that the name of the group be more specific. People don't always read programs, or websites. They do expect inclusive support space, however, so if you're not being inclusive, you need to be very upfront about it by naming the group/space appropriately. "The Comfort Zone" is pretty generic, so maybe something more like "Natal Female Partners of MTFs" might be more appropriate.

I want to emphasize one thing: I really value & appreciate anyone who is trying to provide support for partners of trans people, and thank you for the effort you put in to help some partners find the support they need.

Now we just have to find a way to provide safe spaces for ALL partners of trans people at SCC.

I'm willing to help.

Samantha said...

You know, regardless of the details, this community enjoys more self enforced exclusivity internally than I think at times really exists in the real world.

Goodness knows it wouldn't have been the first time in history some group fought inside itself than outside. To pick an over used and abused demographic: In a year when the US is poised to elect the first African American president, we still have millions of people living in ghettos of their own design than should be. I had some poor, self efflicted individual read me the riot act on a bus once because I didn't "get it."

Oh I get it I said, more than you, because while "the man" was enslaving YOUR ancestors and treating them like crap, he was systematically hunting mine down and killing them for FUN! I get it , I just refuse to wallow in it to the exclusion of all else. I have friends who are VPs, Doctors, Lawyers and Bankers who share ancestors with you. They get it too, but they aren't allowing in it either and are putting their energy into growth and a better life, not what they are owed. So don't sit here bitching to ME about not getting it!!! So, are you gonna sit there like a normal red blooded human being and ride the damn bus, or do I have to take your scalp and spill your blood to make you shut the hell up!

There are "T" folks of all kinds, good and bad, who live with EXCLUSION all the time. Maybe in fact this is a group for SO's of m to f folks. So where would that leave my husband I wonder? When he was alive he'd have seemed, when done up right like a natal with a m to f spouse... In reality HE was a closeted intersexed male who'd been surgically altered at birth. Me? I'm an intersexed female who spent too many years believing what my father said, that I was a boy and trying to live that lie. Where then would we have fit I wonder???

Why the breaking it down into one group of people if SCC is supposed to be for everyone?

Mind I've never been, though I know many people who have. The distinct feeling I've always had is it's several days of buying into someone else's views of time/space. Why the self limiting exclusive behavior? I wouldn't have been welcome because my husband was FTM? Him because I'm not fully MTF and he was FTM?

When then does the madness stop?

I abhor institutional violence and direct in your face conflict, especially by members of the community who have the most to lose and the least to gain. Yet they seem to alway be one the front lines screeching when the rest of us try to work quietly and humanize people.

Getting kicked out of, or barred admittance to the group because you are not the exact right shade of purple, or the perfect kind of crazy, is just that, crazy... The reality is it happens. For so long as stories like this reach me about something that's supposed to be so open and welcoming, I have neither the time or money to invest in seeing them first hand.

I'm five years post transition this December, and the more time that goes by, the less time or energy I have for something so self inflicted. People are people, with hearts and souls each as precious as the next. Like Helen said, I've learned so much from people NOT like me who in the end are exactly like me, that it's amazing and a blessing.

Doesn't matter how clearly it was that you said ONLY FOR, the point is still the same. People in an event FOR people, BY like minded people hearing ONLY FOR don't really care what the details are.

If there are breakout session for specific groups, and a general group, with lax admission rules, then it's open and welcoming. The moment you say ONLY FOR, it becomes a wound, one so often felt by everyone with a heart and feelings.

SCC, one of the bigger, well know groups that wants to hit the world with a "cluebyfour," needs some quality time with a "cluebyfour" themselves...

Sorry...