Archive for May, 2013

Frontiers of inclusion – the Russian Doll effect

May 25, 2013

Frontiers of inclusion – the Russian Doll effect
At last; a meeting to talk about LGBT pagan issues. This is not the first time pagans and LGBT or queer have been mentioned in the same breath, there’s a long and honourable tradition of organising as queer/LGBT pagans. Queer Pagan Camp has been going for about 16 years according to my maths. The queer faeries have also been about for many years and women’s spirituality has had a strong involvement by lesbian and bi women since the 70s at least.
The Cutting Edge Consortium, a collection of LGBT faith organisations, those with an interest in faith, humanists a supporting organisations such as the TUC and Consortium of LGBT CVOs, have called a meeting to discuss ‘LGBT Pagans – taking part in work for an inclusive society’. Here is another dedicated place to have the conversation about our inclusion. The venue, Treadwell’s a queer owned pagan bookshop in the centre of London seems a fitting place to hold it.
So why am I ambivalent about going? Simply this, Although Treadwell’s is a queer welcoming positive pagan space close to good public transport links; it is not an accessible venue. There are a couple of steps into the shop and then a flight of turning steps down to the meeting room. I put to one side the fact that it’s a bookshop, full of print that is not accessible to me as a blind person, I’m not going to the meeting to read the books, I’m going to the meeting to have a conversation. I also note with regret that Treadwell’s hosts a unique range of really interesting events in that space to which once or twice I have guiltily gone, and which are also inaccessible.

Well was it not ever thus with pagan events generally. In the “straight” pagan world, equality of any kind is hardly on the table, venues and activities are often inaccessible. Amongst more radical pagan groups such as British Reclaiming and Queer Pagan Camp, inclusion is a principle taken seriously if not always delivered. To have a meeting to discuss LGBT Pagan issues therefore which is not at least in an accessible venue is really very disappointing.
As I write this, I remember that long history of agitating for inclusion I’ve been a part of for more than 30 years. Into my mind once more come all the counter arguments which are mainly about money and opportunity. AS I replay the challenging conversations, the refusals to accommodate, the accusations of spoiling everyone’s fun, I think – oh no, not here, not here in this community that is my spiritual home, don’t make me choose again. It’s true, we’re not rolling in dosh so can’t get a swanky venue. It’s true that this excellent Queer run pagan bookshop is in an inaccessible building and I doubt that the owner has the money to do anything about that. In finding a central venue, she and the Cutting Edge Consortium meet the convenience of the majority.

But, but, but .. What about those who want to come who will have difficulty with the access? What does this say to them? They can join in the conversation as long as they can handle the stairs. Is that acceptable? Next time we’ll have it somewhere accessible? What about those other aspects of inclusion that are probably not being provided, such as sign language interpretation, induction loops, accessible information (if any is being used as part of the discussion)? What about them indeed? Well if we’re working for an inclusive society, shouldn’t that be just what we do, make sure that all who might want to be involved in this discussion can? We wouldn’t have a meeting without providing seats for people to sit on and without working lights if held in doors and in the evening. Why would we have a meeting that doesn’t provide other aspects of accessibility? Is it numbers that talk here? Is it money?
Sometimes, I feel like a Russian doll. Inside my roundness is another me, the lesbian me, inside her, the disabled me, inside her, the pagan me and so on and so on. Sometimes the outside me is the dyke, the crip or the witch and everything is in a different order, it depends where I am and who I am with. In all my identities, I have alliances, places where I belong, homes I go to where I can be celebrated and nurtured for that particular “who” I am in that identity. I can get into the meeting but in order to come to this important discussion which addresses two aspects of who I am, I will have to divorce myself from the solidarity I feel with other disabled people who can’t come because of the inaccessibility of the venue. If we truly believe we are ‘taking part in work for an inclusive society’, we should at least move this event to an accessible venue, such as ULU which is round the corner. Let’s push forward the frontiers of inclusion to a place that acknowledges disabled LGBT pagans too instead of retreating behind the fortress of forgotten about inaccessibility.