In my master’s program at the beginning of a class or a workshop, we used to do this activity called Hopes and Concerns (Adams et al., 2013, Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice). It’s quite self explanatory; basically, the students would share what they hope to gain from the class and also the things they worried would happen in a space where delicate topics were being discussed. I share this because this is loosely how this post will be organized. I will start with my hopes for this conference, and then I’ll go into the critical stuff that you all love.
I’m so excited! This conference will take place in Philadelphia, a city I’ve never visited. A few of my friends from my master’s program will also be at the conference, so I’m excited to meet them. In particular, I’m glad that I’ll have at least one other person to debrief with. This conference is pretty long and involved, so I’m guessing there will be a lot to process.
The variety of stuff on the schedule looks really great. I appreciate how they made the effort to separate people of color into different sections for the racial justice institute. I’m also impressed that there will be a workshop on Islamophobia in the queer community during this conference. I cannot wait to be around people who are critically conscious again, especially after the last few days at my job (which I’m sure I’ll post about soon enough).
I’m also looking forward to exploring Philly in my down time (or in those periods that I don’t feel like sitting in a session). My friends and I have made plans to do some non-conference things while we are there, like eat good food, watch movies, and maybe do a bit of touristy shit. It will be a nice break from the company I’ve had to keep the last few weeks. I almost feel like I’m going on vacation.
This is a long-ass conference. We’re talking about, like 6 days. I’m self aware enough to know that I’m most likely going to miss at least one morning session a few of those days so that I can sleep in. Sleep is no joke to me.
Because it is long, I also wonder if I will have time to process all the things I experience. Of course, I will be armed to the teeth with my usual notebook and pens to write all my thoughts, but I wonder if that will be enough. I’m sure if I do have time, you all will hear plenty.
Though it may seem unfounded in a crowd that is relatively woke, I am always skeptical that conferences will be very white, or centered on the thoughts of white people. I do see a lot of effort being made at this conference to keep that in check, but I can never be entirely sure. After all, I did a master’s degree in Social Justice Education and I still found my share of people who believe, say, and do very racist things.
I’m also suspicious at the lack of activity for asexual folks. I might just have to look more closely through the schedule, but I don’t see anything in particular for the asexual spectrum. I’m concerned because I was hoping to connect with other ace folks while I was there. Where’s that at? Where are my aces?
There’s also a lot of stuff on this schedule that I need to have explained. For example, what is a hospitality suite? What’s a butterfly? And I suspect that might be reflective of other things about the conference; for instance, people may talk mad theory that I can’t follow. It’s a definite possibility. We’re essentially throwing a bunch of people who have studied queer and gender theory in a hotel together. I’m not really about that academia life, so I hope it won’t be hard to find people I relate to.
Lastly, while this conference does attract people of all ages, it will most likely be geared toward undergraduate students, who I expect are the majority of the participants. Don’t get me wrong, I love students. They’re passionate and critical and brilliant, and they keep me from gouging my eyes out when I’m at work. However, I do think I am in a different stage of development than I was as an undergraduate. I’m a young professional looking for direction, mentors, and a better job. Speaking from my experience, students tend to be finding their voice, searching for community, and looking for emotional validation. Thus, many of the conversations might revolve around theory and might be more idealistic and less practical, which I can appreciate and I think those conversations are important for re-energizing us when we feel stuck. However, I need practical solutions right now. I need to feel as though the community is working in a direction that is sustainable, safe, and focuses on tangible benefits. I need to know that the most marginalized folks are being heard, and I will only believe it if I see improvement in real time.
It will be interesting to track how I feel during this conference. I do think having these hopes and concerns written out will be a good benchmark for me in the days to come. Look forward to lots of pictures. I’ll keep you posted.