It’s been a few days, but I’d like to take the time to share the results of the Queer Town Hall that happened last thursday at the Q Center on Mississippi. The Queer Town Hall was a project organized by a bunch of folks in our community as a “response” of sorts to the recent acts of violence and inadequate police response that became especially evident over Pride Weekend this year.
Town Hall organizers aim to create a space for discussion and the sharing of information and resources to empower us to engage with each other and the authorities in a different, and hopefully safer, way.
After a short introduction, we broke into small groups that took on issues such as Queer Patrol, Our rights and the police/Copwatching, Queer Self Defence, and De-escalation techniques, amongst others. Groups consisted of about 10-12 people and each breakout session lasted 30 minutes before we switched. I attended the Our Rights And The Police session, which covered the basics on what to do when stopped, arrested or detained by the police. The workshop also briefly covered the concept of Copwatching and how to go about observing police work. This workshop was organized by the Rose City Copwatch, whose site is currently still being worked on, but should be up soon. They usually organize 2 1/2 hr workshops covering what we learned in 30 minutes, so if you are intersted in gaining more knowledge on how to interact with the police, this might be for you! The workshop was led by Maria, Collette, and Erin.
The second workshop I attended was about de-escalation techniques and was led by Galadriel, who works for Sisters of the road cafe, where she is sometimes involved in situations that need de-escalating! As a longtime pacifist and victim of various assaults in the past (homophobic and otherwise) I wanted to learn more about de-escalating situations and keeping myself and others safe. Galadriel shared some basic techniques with us before we had a chance to tell of our own stories and ask questions. Galadriel also plans on teaching/leading a series of workshops dealing with de-escalation, conflict resolution and mediation in the fall, so if you are interested in learning more, you should contact her directly to get on her email list!
After the breakout sessions we regrouped for a closing “moment” before the Queer Town Hall ended. The whole town hall was very well organized, kudos to everyone who made it happen. I liked the clear agenda, mission statement and overall conciseness of the event. I especially liked the fact that the organizers went to great lengths to create a safe space for everyone, including providing counsellors and support staff if anybody felt the need to talk so someone about what might have been traumatic life experiences. Many of us who have been out and about as (visibly) queer people in some way for long enough time have experienced physical violence, and almost all of us will at some point be threatened, verbally harassed, or silenced. It is the often unexposed truth that doesn’t fit well into glossy versions of Gay Life, and yet it is important that we don’t endanger ourselves and our freedom of self-expression by denying that, yes, sadly, we need to expect to be treated as less-than by the police, and in many cases, it is merely a matter of time before you will, for the first time, be verbally and/or physically assaulted. So learn those skills now, before it happens, find your strength before you have to use it.
On a more positive and less dire note, I’m excited about queer organizing in this city, I’m excited about the crop of new ideas, groups, marches, conferences, club nights, and yes, media organizations/groups that are popping up and that we are truly diversifying our “Gay Agenda”! I would love to see some of the topics addressed by the town hall as part of a larger queer conference here in portland, with art, workshops, learning, and sharing…to homobilize and empower all of us! The Queer Town Hall was/is an important step in making this happen.