Community work is an iterative process. There is action, there is reflection. In order for things to work, for things to be sustainable, both parts of the process need to take place, constantly. We have done some action, we met, we talked, we exchanged ideas, and we wrote a draft grant application that got some really valuable feedback. Next, some reflection.
I am going to write some things from my heart, because that is the only way I can do this next bit. Feel free to read it or skip it. ~Nathan
The last two months have been amazing and eyeopening for me. I had expected this project to be hard, but I hadn’t expected it to be triggering. There were a lot of accusations about my personal position, goals, and plans around the ideas of exclusion, racism, and ablism. Those who know me well know that this is not who I am, but to say that, especially to say that online, is to lay the foundation for false claims. We all make mistakes. I’m always keenly aware of mine and do everything I can to correct them. I have been deeply hurt by some of the things that have been said, but I do not want that to stop the project from moving forward and I do not want that to colour how people are treated or lead to any exclusion. Like many others in the community, I am a trauma survivor, I have disabilities, and I am low on spoons. I get overwhelmed and overloaded. I am often unable to process things, especially when they’re loaded with emotion. The past two months have been nothing but emotion, in my personal life, in my school life, and in my community engagement work. I feel awful to have hurt people in how things started with this project. I feel awful that people have felt excluded. I feel awful that I took too long to get things together to be able to get one last round of feedback on the grant draft. I feel awful that I took three full weeks to be able to write words to the public about this project. I want to do better. I want to do different. I want things to succeed. I don’t want this to crash and burn. I don’t want to crash and burn. I don’t want anyone else to crash and burn either.
Some of the biggest pieces of feedback I’ve received about the process of this particular project to get a community centre going are ideas around Exclusion and Politics.
I have long known that there are issues about politics in our community. Some say that racism is the biggest issue, and that may be the case, but there is certainly something else at play. Our community is divided. As someone said at one of the meetings: “We may call ourselves a community, but we don’t act like one.” We are siloed. There are too many divided groups with similar interests, groups that won’t talk to each other or work together. There is definitely racism at play, but when there are factions in the white cis-gay community and the white trans * community then it’s clear that racism isn’t the only issue.
In conversation with a community member outside of the meetings, I came to a realization: We, as queer folk, are a community of trauma survivors who are living in trauma.
Trauma responses are reactive, they’re strong, they’re rooted in our reptilian brain. When all our responses to any misdeed, intentional or not, are in that reactive state, we end up breaking bonds and stepping back, and getting angry when maybe that’s not what’s needed. I say we not to accuse anyone, but because I am just as guilty of this as many others I know, both in the queer community and outside it. I don’t know your (the reader’s) personal story, I don’t know where you’re at, I don’t know what healing you need to do or have done. I can only make a guess, and a poor one at that.
My intentions and (to the best of my understanding) the intentions of those who attended those first two meetings was not rooted in exclusion, but inclusion. At every turn, in every conversation, the question of how we can make the space and process as accessible to all aspects of the community was discussed, the question of how we can break down those silos and unite our community under a single cause.
The only way we can make a community centre be sustainable is to take a step back, leave politics at the door, and find ways to truly listen and hear what others have to say.
In the last two months, several people have approached saying that they or their group have either tried to make a community centre happen without success or are currently working on it.
We are a limited group with a limited amount of funding and resources that are available for us to access. When there’s multiple versions of the same project happening, then there’s even less to spread around.
Pooling our resources and ideas and abilities will enable us to make this project sustainable.
Normally, this is where I’d want to put out the poll for when we have our next meeting. Instead, I want to ask people to reach out to me, by email, by facebook, or through this website.
I don’t know who is working on making a community centre happen other than those people I’ve met with. I don’t know who has tried to make it happen in the past. I would like to help us, as a community, take the first steps to uniting on the idea.
If you are working on a community centre project or if you’ve worked on one for Victoria in the past, please reach out! I want to facilitate a meeting among you all to see what make sense for sharing resources and working together on a sustainable, united vision. We can use grants like the Develop Grant to fund this process and to pay the people who are meeting to make it happen.