Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Midwinter Gathering Decompression Thoughts

Two days removed from the conference, there is much still on my mind. For starters, I've rarely been to gatherings more self-consciously friendly and inclusive. Many attenders have experienced deeply hurtful forms of rejection based on sexual orientation and gender presentation. Aware of that, extra effort was made to make sure no one sat alone during meals and that newcomers were greeted warmly.

The dynamics were especially different because, as is true for many liberal Quaker gatherings and Meetings, there were more women in attendance than men. I would estimate that the split was 60/40, female versus male. This is unusual. LGBT gatherings can be top heavy with queer men, but not here. I remember how the Gay/Straight Student alliance in my college days was predominately composed of gay men.

Warmth and inclusion aside, the gathering was not without its flaws.

Certain young mothers can be obnoxious at times, convinced that they are pursuing the most perfect manner of parenting imaginable. One of them tried to put the other parents on a guilt trip for not including their children along with the adult activities. This, I have found, works better in theory than in practice.

Childcare exists for a reason. Young children fidget and usually do not easily sit still. Within minutes, they wish to roam around and explore. I don't reject the basic premise of the experiment. We hope that children will find a place among adults and, upon their return, the rest of their home Meeting.

Only the very introverted, quiet, and shy children can easily embrace our silent Worship. I, for one, hope that when it comes time for middle school and high school, our children will have the willingness to participate fully. As is true for many faith groups, adolescent rebellion combined with forming identity means that Quaker Meeting is discarded for a time, often for years. 

Branching out a little more, Midwinter was enjoyable, but utterly overwhelming. Being bisexual, I've always felt caught in between two very different societal constructs. At the gathering, I could speak a different language among other native speakers. That is a part of me that I usually suppress around straight people because they don't understand it. I honestly feel indebted to both heterosexuality and homosexuality but not necessarily a part of either, if that makes sense.

It felt liberating to recognize that I'm not as much of an oddball as I have thought in times past. As I've written about from time to time, I wear elements of women's clothing in addition to men's clothing. Because of this, I'm usually paranoid about being discovered. Little did I know that my bunkmate and three other men dressed in the same manner I did.

I talked extensively to an older man with a pronounced southern accent. He sounded like and acted like my Alabama grandfather. It was a reminder of home, especially now that I am most usually among people who are not from my native region. When it came time for bed, I noticed my fast Friend wore a negligee and made no apologies for it.

It was nice not having to be overly cautious and fearful. I found commonality in ways I'd never expected or even anticipated. Still, the parallel universe in which I was a part began to drain me by the end of each day. I was stretched in unimaginable ways. But I will take back quite a bit with me. I already have.

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