A number of people contacted us after the bookfair to express their concern and distress with the Responses to Patriarchy workshop, and in particular to the decision to ask cis women not to attend that session: it was felt that this decision was transphobic. We want to thank everyone who did contact us and state that we take these matters seriously and welcome feedback so we can improve the bookfair for future years. We’re sorry we’ve taken so long to reply publicly, but we wanted to give the issue the proper consideration it deserves and make sure we gave the right response rather than a quick one – we want to make right any harms done and put in place measures to prevent any future ones. Ensuring that the bookfair be trans-inclusive was and is extremely important to us, and we’ve had to think seriously when hearing about people’s distress.
Since the bookfair we have been in contact with Dave, who ran the workshop, to get clarity and context for the request that no cis women come to the workshop.
For a variety of reasons, the request to limit the audience for the workshop was not fully explained in the workshop blurb and the blurb was sent to us very late, thus giving the organising committee little time to discuss it. We have decided in future to be stricter with deadlines so that we can better evaluate submissions and potential problems can be flagged sooner. We have also decided that any spaces at the bookfair where any group of people are requested to not attend, must have a clear explanation as to the intended audience and the reasons for the restrictions.
The Responses To Patriarchy workshop has been a work in progress and has changed substantially in the few years Dave has been running it. It was originally aimed at men, trans inclusive, as a space to discuss how they were impacted by masculinity and how their masculinity impacts others. This was widened to include non-binary and then trans-masculine people. In the spring, at a gathering where the workshop was being run, some trans women requested that they could come, as they felt they would have something to gain from and contribute to the workshop.
Dave’s aim for this workshop is to examine masculinity, rather than male identity, and he includes masculinity that has been accepted, denied or forced on people. While saying that all trans women have male or masculine experiences is obviously transphobic, to deny the lived experiences of the trans women who requested to be accepted into the workshop also seems wrong. We understand the serious concern that the workshop would out trans women, but wanted to allow trans women, who were happy to be open about that fact, to attend if they wanted.
Dave is very keen to hear feedback and criticism of his workshop or the workshop premise. If anyone would like to be in contact with him we will gladly put you in touch.
We will be widening the group on the organising committee and we are keen on increasing the number of trans people involved. We will be holding an open meeting on 7th September to try and achieve this and invite anyone interested to get involved. We also hope to be able to consult with a wider group outside the core organising committee in the event of any potentially controversial decisions and would welcome suggestions on how this could best be achieved.