Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Incomplete Thoughts On the Goose

I haven't been blogging much lately for reasons too many to mention. This post was prompted by a colleague's post about the Wild Goose Festival, which you can find here: "When We (White, CISgender people) Plan Things". Since I was tagged in Deb's facebook post as somewhat responsible, and since I have attended the Goose every year since 2012 (and served as a volunteer festival chaplain since 2013), I'm responding publicly to offer some context and nuance to a conversation on queerness that has been part of the Goose since it's inception in 2011. Let me be clear that I am NOT staff, I am NOT privy to internal organizational conversations, and these are my own thoughts gleaned from participation and correspondence from the Goose over the years.

I expect some pushback from several directions on this post. I welcome it. I feel awkward writing it.

Another disclaimer: As a volunteer, my festival fees have been waived since 2013. This is common practice for festivals trying to stay afloat, but for those of you looking for evidence of bias or payoff, there it is.

I've written several times on my experiences as a queer woman at the Goose. Here are links to the posts if you want them:

I don't remember why I didn't write about the Goose in 2014, but I know last year I just didn't feel any need to. The Goose is a place where I have been welcomed and where I have witnessed an incredible array of other humans welcomed. I have my criticisms of the festival, because, well, it's a festival and rather imperfect. But I have participated in 5 straight years of Gooses, and I rarely do anything for 5 years straight.

Deb's post focused on a letter sent by the Goose President, Jeff Clark. I don't know this guy, had to go look up his name. We've got 46 mutual friends, so I'll probably meet him sooner or later. The main points of the post are below (in blue) with some response from me (in red). Not in any order of importance. YMMV with this festival, but if you find yourself there, look me up. You'll find me at the Desanka Spirit Café, which is run by the evangelical foot washers who will also offer you a free meal or six, no strings attached.
  • The President/Producer's letter indicates the reason to stay at Hot Springs is financial and they are distastefully covering that up by saying it's an act of resistance.
    • To be honest, this is a point of agreement I have with Deb--I also grimaced when I read the letter. The festival couldn't afford to move locations at this date. They knew about the bathroom laws last year. However hopeful the festival organizers were about the laws changing by 2017, contingency plans should have been made. Moving this festival, even for this year, would require a significant outlay of capital, the cancellation of contracts, and nightmare logistics planning. Moving Wild Goose this year would likely have resulted in a Dead Goose. Festivals run on momentum and a close to the bone budget. Doesn't take much to kill that dead.
    • Nevertheless, better to just say, "We can't afford to move. We will therefore resist in this way." Without the justifications and name dropping. 
    • More below on why I don't think the festival should move anyway.
  • Jeff Clark is allegedly a white cisgender boomer male
    • I did a quick internet search. I'm assuming I found the right guy. From his facebook photo, looks like he is male and white. I don't, however, assume cisgender or straight. I want to caution anyone reading this about making those kinds of assumptions. 
    • There is a fair amount of mixing up queerness with non-binary and trans gender identity in Deb's post. Again some caution here is necessary.
  • The festival is cost prohibitive and the keynoters are "special"
    • Regular admission is $300 for a 4-day pass. This includes camping space and access to all festival events, talks, and concerts, but no food. Parking is $20 extra. Kids 12 and under are free. There are discount prices for teens, adult students, and seniors. Here's the ticket page if you're curious. The cost of transportation on top of that puts this festival out of reach for a lot of people outside the region. A lot of us work it out by volunteering, carpooling, sharing food, etc. And yeah, I'm grateful I don't have to add a plane ticket to the cost.
    • There are interesting and sometimes annoying class dynamics between presenters and festival goers and volunteers. Many of the presenters work hard to just be part of the festival like "regular" people. But they are nevertheless performers and so this time for them is work, not play. There are often complaints that some performers won't mingle, but honestly, what makes us think we are entitled to access? THAT is white supremacy at it's finest. Anyone who works with contracts and performers will tell you that some people are easier to work with than others. And some of your faves about class/race/sexuality are the worst about their dressing room arrangements. Just saying.
  • Wild Goose has decided to stay at Hot Springs, NC for the 2017 festival, despite North Carolina's bullshit bathroom laws, which severely endanger trans and nonbinary folk.
    • Wild Goose has struggled with lgbtq concerns since its inception. Here's a post from 2011 that addresses the early concerns. I can tell you in the years since then that the critique has been ever present and seriously considered by all involved in the festival. Part of why this festival does not do better financially is that their firm stance of support and affirmation for lgbtq people offends the wealthy evangelical crowd. And yeah, I roll my eyes every time Jim Wallace or Tony Campolo speaks.
    • The south is not an easy place to be queer or trans or non-binary. Nevertheless, there are many queer, trans, and non-binary residents of North Carolina and neighboring states. Wild Goose is as much their festival as any other southerner's, and it should be understood that Wild Goose in its current iteration is a southern festival, catering to the southeast region of the United States. Moving the festival out of North Carolina does not in itself make a safer environment and it would make it more difficult for queer/trans/non-binary residents of North Carolina and surrounding areas to attend. I probably do not have to tell you that there are fewer welcoming Christian-ish spaces for queer/trans/non-binary folks in the south.
    • The festival moved to Hot Springs in 2013. Part of the move was to have access to better facilities for showers and bathrooms. In Hot Springs all of the campground bathrooms and showers are single, unisex compartments with locks on the doors. None of the restrooms or showers are reserved for any particular gender. There are also facilities for people with disabilities.
    • The festival DOES provide a space of resistance with its stated and clear support for queer/trans/non-binary folk. Since 2013 (maybe earlier) the festival has intentionally included a multitude of panels and presentations led by queer, trans and non-binary folk as well as people of color. Some of those panels are 101 education pieces. Some are reconciliation between religion and sexuality. Some are political calls to action. 
    • Last year there was a youth circle specifically designated for lgbtq youth. They invited lgbtq elders to attend one of their meetings and I was powerfully moved by the courage, strength, and brilliance of our youth. They are fearless and don't give a fuck what anyone thinks about their sexuality or gender identity. They are tender and loving and determined. That was a powerful space of resistance and hope.
  • Queer and trans folk should not be asked to travel to the hills of North Carolina for this festival because of the danger to them while traveling in North Carolina.
    • As I noted above, this is a regional festival, with queer, trans, and non-binary folk attending from North Carolina and the south in general. Travel is tricky, true. Also, many of those folks are traveling through the state in their daily lives. A flight to Portland, Oregon would involve TSA. A drive to Ohio means many more road stops. It's not a straightforward trade off. Just don't forget this festival draws heavily from those who already live there.
  • Cisgender white straight people are allegedly at the center of the planning of Wild Goose and therefore their call for resistance (staying in North Carolina) is a point of privilege.
    • The Wild Goose board, staff, presenters, performers and volunteers are a very diverse group that cross over multiple intersections. I'm not about to run through the list and out people, but the assumption that this group is cis and straight is problematic. People of color have been involved as long as I've been there, and in significant ways. They have offered their own sharp critique at times.
    • I read the call for resistance as a call to the entire Wild Goose community to continue to provide a safer space for trans and non-binary folk. The burden of when we fail at that falls squarely on our more vulnerable members. Pulling out of North Carolina will not make folks safer, but it will remove one space that is working to get it right.
    • People who are heavily involved in the Goose are also heavily involved in statewide efforts to fight North Carolina's anti-trans laws. They are not lying about that.
Look, I'm out queer. Can't really miss it, although people seem to. My gender identity is complicated and basically NUNYA. I don't speak for all queer people. I don't speak for trans and non-binary people. But I was tagged on Facebook and called out as responsible for the thinking that got us to Deb's post. So this is my two cents. Wild Goose is nowhere close to perfect, but they're trying. And they are a lot further along than most spiritual spaces. I know for facts that I have shifted and changed people's perspective at the Goose. I have watched several people move from raging homophobes in 2012 to ridiculously fierce advocates with lgbtq people in 2016. And I have watched the festival take lgtbq concerns seriously with an integrity I rarely see in institutional organizing.

Support the Goose or don't. But if you tag me, you'll get my thoughts.

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