16 July 2008 by Jennifer
This is a kind of “where I’m coming from now myself” with regard to BiCon, to fill in some missing context around my recent (and possible future) writings about it and related subjects.
I’m feeling the need to give a kind of public update on my activist state of play.
I’m aware that by writing my previous post, I may have given the impression of an ongoing commitment to BiCon. (Or – from another angle – the impression that I was going to stick around banging on and on about children at BiCon until I got my way :-) )
This is in fact not the case.
[Update: On re-reading the previous post again, I see that I probably didn’t give quite that message – there was a certain amount of “if” and “maybe” even then. Ambiguity here is due to (a) me having struggled with how to describe something which felt very unlikely but not entirely impossible, and (b) the ground still shifting under my feet somewhat over the last few months, about the various ways I might somehow still contribute to BiCon albeit less than my previous involvement.]
Sorry if anyone feels led up the garden path by my choice to save the personal stuff for later. Keeping these two conversations separate was deliberate. [update: insofar as I did.] I think the ideas in the other post stand on their merits as written, and I wanted to allow that discussion to unfold without getting mixed up in this one.
(I did originally want to post about this rather sooner after the last instalment, though – I had in mind a couple of weeks’ gap. It feels somewhat belated now, and this post describes a transition which mostly happened even longer ago than that. But it wasn’t an easy one to write, and it just wasn’t ready back in April or May – by which I mean in a sense that I wasn’t ready.) [update: and evidently I still wasn’t quite ready when I clicked the “publish” button first, a bit ago!]
Over the last year or so, the way I relate to BiCon has changed.
If you’d asked me a couple of years ago how I felt about it, I’d probably have said something along the lines of “It’s like a kind of home town for me”.
Metaphorically, I could sum up the change by saying: It’s not my home any more.
Various factors wove into the revolution: a wish to play more to my own strengths, and a greater awareness of what those are; a reassessment of BiCon’s politics, and mine; and not least, a compelling visceral/intuitive feeling of not belonging any more. (I may write more another time about aspects of all that.)
The realisation was a big event for me emotionally, and I realised I was grieving for the loss – the loss of my metaphorical home. BiCon was a landmark in my calendar for twelve years, and the playground for lots of my experiments in activism. “It’s February – hmm, time to start thinking about what I’m going to run at BiCon this summer.” 2005 was a particularly fertile and satisfying year, because, being on the team, I had even more scope for devising new things.
Thanks to the people who made those experiences possible for me – going right the way back to 1984 when the first ever bi conference was invented (not that I knew it then).
In the middle of the emotional rollercoaster, it amused me to realise how similar it was to splitting up with a partner.
“Me and BiCon broke up. We’ve been together a while, and had some good times… but we talked about it and we realised we don’t want the same things any more, so it was time to call it a day”.
And when I didn’t go to PolyDay, I told my friends it was “Too soon…” :-)
I’m not saying I will never ever come to BiCon ever again. That would be foolish – who knows? I might still visit. But if so, on a different basis – not unlike the difference between a committed relationship and seeing someone around as a friend.
Rather than an expression of ongoing commitment, there’s a sense in which the Children at BiCon post was part of my process of leaving. It was a kind of completion of unfinished business. (at least insofar as the ideas in that were specific to BiCon. Of course, some of the things I said would be relevant in other places too.)
What I mean is: I’ve been around BiCon a while, I know pretty well how it works, and I’ve got a lot of ideas about it. And I don’t just want to walk away taking those ideas with me. I want to unload what I’ve got here, in case some of it is useful to the people I’m leaving behind. I don’t want my ideas to be wasted if someone else could use them.
One metaphor is it’s like when you’ve been making a patchwork quilt for a while and put a lot of time into it, but then you realise you’re not going to finish it off because you’ve moved on to doing other things. Well, you’re not just going to put it in the bin, are you. More likely, you’ll offer it to a friend, or put it on FreeCycle for some other quilter to take over.
Or it’s like if you’ve been living in a particular house for a while and then you’re moving on, then (if you’re reasonably public-spirited) you make sure that before you leave, you’ve set aside the matching tiles and the matching wallpaper to stay there, rather than accidentally taking them with you. And you write down the insider knowledge of how to make the dodgy tap work when it seizes up.
Metaphorically, I wrote that post standing in the doorway, on my way out the door, stopping for a moment to pass back some possibly-useful things to the people who remain. No-one’s obliged to do anything with the spare wallpaper – the inhabitants can just put it in the loft if they like – but it’ll be there if someone comes along later and thinks “Actually we could use that now”.
Or put another way… I just seem to have this kind of irrepressible resilient optimism which says it’s better to communicate than not, and maybe it’ll make a useful difference somehow, one way or another. I think maybe even if some people think I’m out of order for making suggestions and not volunteering to carry them out, other people will think “this is feedback we need” or “these ideas could be useful”.
(As an aside for now, bookmark of a topic: “Thou shalt not describe a problem, idea or possibility unless simultaneously walking forward to implement the work yourself”. I have some things to say about that… but later.)
All that being the case, I’m not sure yet whether I’ll put in an appearance at BiCon 2008 in Leicester. I definitely shan’t be there for the whole weekend, but I might do a day trip and say hello. Depends what happens between now and then, and how I feel as the time approaches.
Among other things, I’ll be checking the website for any info on other children going or “We will if you will”. (I imagine there may be other parents thinking along similar lines about the Family Fun Day, if they haven’t already decided against on the grounds of day-trip distance or child-free-ness preference.) But if I didn’t bring the offspring, it wouldn’t necessarily mean I wouldn’t show up by myself.
But either way, it’s not like I’m disappearing. If anyone’s now thinking “Oh but I wanted to see you” or “Oh but I wanted to tell you this idea I’ve got” – well, here I am :-)