Kyle Jones is a bi-gender writer, parent and geek. Kyle is active in his community as a board member and facilitator for Pizza Klatch, a group providing support and advocacy for LGBTQQIA youth and their allies in Olympia WA area high schools. Along with parenting and community involvement, Kyle contributes to the greater conversation about gender, kink, parenting and polyamorous relationships on his blog, www.butchtastic.net.
It was the ‘home’ feeling of being among friends and allies, even if I hadn’t met them all yet. I felt accepted and celebrated for who I was, without having to justify or defend my identity.
A friend asked me recently what I liked about Gender Odyssey, as they were trying to choose between GO and another conference. Having been to both, I highly recommended Gender Odyssey to my friend. I recommended it based on how well run the conference is and on the wide variety of session topics. But mostly, I recommended it based on fit. I told my friend that I felt an instant sense of belonging at GO, something I hadn’t entirely felt elsewhere.
That’s a big reason I’m coming back for my second year. That and the workshops I am leading (but I wouldn’t have proposed those workshops if I hadn’t already been sold on the conference).
I’d never gone to Gender Odyssey before, last year was my first. I remember combing through the program, getting really excited by all the excellent session topics and the prospect of hanging out with a conference full of gender rebels. During the first day of the conference, I enthusiastically texted a friend about how comfortable and welcoming the conference was and that I felt like I’d come home. It was the ‘home’ feeling of being among friends and allies, even if I hadn’t met them all yet. I felt accepted and celebrated for who I was, without having to justify or defend my identity. I didn’t feel evaluated or judged based on how butch I was, or how trans, or how well I stuck to the guidelines for being genderqueer. At Gender Odyssey, I was able to let down my guards, to relax and be open to a lot of new friendships and new information. It’s glorious to be in a space with so much variety of gender identity, presentation, personality, experience and style. There’s so much to learn, so much solidarity and generosity at this conference. There really is a feeling that the people who attend are determined to change the world, and while you’re steeped in the combined energy of the attendees and organizers, it’s not just empowering and inspiring, it’s a call to action.
Truth be told, I’m leaning away from narrowly defined identity based groups and moving toward groups and events organized around common experiences. At GO, most attendees identify as non-cisgender. As people who live outside gender norms, we have a lot in common, even if the words we use to describe ourselves are different and we look nothing alike. We still know what it’s like to have to live in a cis-world, with cis-assumptions and cis-privilege being used against us. We know what it’s like to be questioned about our identities and to question ourselves. We know what it’s like to face the loss of jobs, friends, loved ones, family because of what we discover about ourselves and our identities. I think these commonalities are much more important than the differences, there’s so much we can do to support each other, to build community, to push for equal standing and broader support in society. And, my favorite future dream, to challenge the ubiquity of binary gender and spread awareness and acceptance of the gender diversity that is so beautifully represented at Gender Odyssey.
So these commonalities are part of what brings me back to Gender Odyssey. The possibilities that are present for forming community, coalitions, new groups around interest areas, rather than identity, are really exciting. I’m excited about the differences as well. I have so much to learn about the different ways gender is embodied and embraced — or rejected. This conference is filled with people with different life experiences, different cultural standpoints, different expectations and assumptions. I’m looking forward to gorging myself on discussion and conversation and stuffing myself full of new information.
I am coming back to Gender Odyssey for friends, conversation, paradigm shifting, inspiration and community. Oh, and to lead a couple of sessions. Speaking of which, I need to get back to working on those…
See you at GO.