An Argument for Offline Organization (From a Blogger on the Internet)

Some time ago, my friend SlightlyMetaphysical created a Google Map attempting to list all offline asexuality meetups, permanent asexuality-focused groups, and ace-friendly LGBTQ+ organizations. I think this is a very important idea, and I’ve added every friendly group I can think of to it. I’ve also encouraged everyone I know to do likewise. I believe very strongly that resources like this map are important because of their potential to create more offline ace-friendly spaces.

For one thing, I believe the ace community needs to develop more offline resources. There needs to be more offline networking among aces, and more building of easily-identifiable spaces to do that networking in.

Online resources are good for lots of things. They’re good for reaching a lot of people with relatively little effort and for allowing people in very distant locations to talk to each other. The anonymity factor of the Internet is also good for some people who are very shy and afraid to enter asexual spaces, or for people who want to read posts without necessarily interacting with anyone, or for people without access to offline spaces.

Offline resources are good for other things, though, and I don’t think that online resources can compensate for them. Offline resources are better at creating solid support networks for individuals. For one thing, many people find it much easier to relate to other people face-to-face than with the barrier of a screen in front of them. This is particularly true of very emotional issues. Many people find reassurance much, much more powerful when it’s done in person than when it’s conveyed through a screen. In person, you can offer hugs and physical comfort and use nonverbal communication to convey support a lot more effectively than you can on the Internet.

Physical spaces can also feel more comforting and safe than virtual ones. It can be very relaxing to have a room in which you can walk and talk about your problems and know no one is going to tell you that they’re unimportant. It’s easier to feel safe when you’re surrounded by physical bodies of people who are there to back you up. Enforcing the safety of offline spaces is also easier, largely because it’s far easier to block access to them. It’s also harder for people with vendettas to find out about them and make them unsafe in the first place.

For another thing, long-distance partnerships are a lot more difficult to maintain than significant relationships that manage to be in the same geographical area. One of the biggest problems faced by romantic aces in particular regarding dating is that it’s hard to find other aces to connect to (and possibly crush on or want to date) in their area. That means most of the people around them are allosexual people, and then they get to choose between negotiating the problems that come from relationships with mismatched sexual orientations or negotiating the problems that come from long-distance relationships. Creating offline spaces means that aces who would prefer to date or form other significant relationships with other aces can actually meet people in their area.

And of course not everyone is really Internet-focused. Offline spaces help provide a friendly space for people who really don’t care to spend a ton of time on the Net, too. Even if none of the other concerns I mentioned above existed, this alone would mean that offline spaces are important and that they need to be created and maintained in different cities. People who don’t particularly like the internet deserve community too.

Unfortunately, offline spaces are a little harder to get moving than online ones. Finding a place to meet can sometimes be expensive, and getting lots of people together in one area takes a little more organizational savvy than creating an online space. You also have a smaller pool of interested people than in online spaces, simply because an offline space is accessible to far fewer people than online ones.

I’ve seen two general paths that people follow to set up offline spaces that are specifically ace-friendly: liaising with local LGBTQA groups, and forming ace-specific offline meetup groups that are organized through the Internet. I’ve actually done both of these in the past. Before I moved to a new city, I was pretty active with my campus’ LGBTQA group and helped raise the profile of aces with them, and before that I used to go to AVEN-centered meetups in the Big City located a few hours from my university city. Both approaches have their pros and cons.

The biggest advantage of approaching local LGBTQA groups and finding out whether they’re friendly to aces is that all the existing infrastructure for an offline space is already there. After all, they’ve been meeting for a while, or you wouldn’t know they were there to begin with. You don’t have to advertise to let people know where you are because that’s already happening.

The downside is that approaching LGBTQA groups can be pretty scary. My personal opinion is that most campus groups are likely to be friendly to aces, but I have no experience with non-campus-affiliated groups. This might therefore be a harder option if you’re not attached to a university. Most LGBTQA groups are also focused on other issues already, and if you’re trying to get something specific to aces done—say, you’re trying to get your group to explicitly change their website to welcome aces so you don’t have that “people aren’t sure if the group is welcoming” problem—sometimes it can be hard to get that to happen amid all the other things going on. It definitely helps to pitch in on the other things the group is focusing on getting done, though.

On the other hand, there are groups that form by advertising and organizing online for people to meet up with. AVEN is the most common place I’ve seen as a place to advertise these kinds of meetups, but I have also seen people use Meetup.com. These are nice because advertising is relatively easy to do and there’s a mechanism for targeting interested parties, and you don’t really have to put yourself out too much to set things up. They’re also asexual-centered by definition, and because you’re starting the group from scratch you really get to set the tone of it to a greater extent.

Unfortunately, if you don’t hang out on AVEN you’re often essentially out of luck when it comes to being notified about these, since the Meetup.com-centered ones are much less common. My experience with AVEN-centered meetups is also that there tends to be a lot of people going “we should meet up soon!” and a lot of agreement without anyone really sitting down and saying “We should go on X day, at Y time, at Z location,” so it’s really hard to actually nail down a time and place for people to be and meetups don’t happen anywhere as frequently as people proposing meetups do. Meetup.com also charges between $12 and $19 a month (depending on how many months you pay for at once) to host meetups, so there’s a fiscal obligation there as well. And both formats share the problem that people who aren’t using the internet for their social connection have a hard time finding and accessing them in the first place.

I don’t think I know anyone who has formed an offline asexuality group without either asking a local LGBTQA group for support or advertising in online spaces like AVEN or meetup.com. If you do, please share your experience! I’d love to know how you did it.

I still miss having offline spaces to interact in. So I’m putting my money where my mouth is. After all, the only way to get offline spaces is to build them, one step at a time. If you’re in the Austin, TX area and you’d like to chat, come hang out at a coffee shop with me! I’ll be doing this at the same time every month, trying to build a space. If you live in a major city with an active ace group, feel free to leave your meetup times in the comments!

About Sciatrix

Sciatrix is an American graduate student studying ecology, evolution and behavior. She identifies as asexual and has mostly given up trying to sort out the whole romance thing for now. She has previously blogged about asexuality at Writing From Factor X. In her free time, she trains in canine agility and knits oddly cabled hats.
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23 Responses to An Argument for Offline Organization (From a Blogger on the Internet)

  1. Seth says:

    I joined http://meetup.com/pdxaces a couple months ago (I already added it to the map). I’ve never tried going to anything more inclusive, and I’m not sure I ever will.

  2. MB says:

    My college has an independent ace/allies group (I’ll try and add it to the map). I think it sprung off from a broader LGBTQ group? But it was independent from the get-go.

  3. nextstepcake says:

    The one other method (although it’s not a separate type so much as it is an outgrowth) Is that there are a few student groups, I think, that have started to form as specifically ace groups. I’m currently working on something like that now *fingers crosses*. In my case, I do have a reliable informal, offline, group of aces, but it’s mostly comprised of people I met in our university’s queer straight alliance or through local AVENmeetups Still, I now have at least an informal group that isn’t necessarily dependent on online communication to exist, and I’m looking into getting something more formalized (Although many of the group are not on AVEN, and some were initially not involved with any online communities, many of us all have tumblrs now – it can be amusing to go on the ace tags at night and see it’s almost all people I know). Even still, though, much of my resources when looking to start a group have been aided by the campus queer community and it’s resources.

    • Sciatrix says:

      I have seen a few people discuss setting up groups like this! I just mentally filed them under “approach a LGBTQA group for help” because you do have to do that to get something like that started. I think that groups like this tend to start from LGBTQ+ groups with a fair amount of aces reliably present, when you have enough people to split off and form a subgroup, although I’ve never been part of an initiative like that myself.

  4. nextstepcake says:

    Also, if anyone in the SF Bay area happens to be reading this: We have regular bimonthly meeting on the third Sunday of every other month, from 1-3pm, that rotate between San Francisco, Berkeley, and Santa Clara. Our next meetup will be this Sunday (the 16th) at the Coffee Factory in Santa Clara. (In addition, if anyone else has any interest in other bay area events and groups, leave a comment or something and I can get you a lot more info. )

    And speaking of meetup groups, particularly online ones: I was thinking about it and it really can be kind of hard to find them if you aren’t on AVEN or meetup, or if you don’t know anyone already in the group. I can see how it would be useful to have other places that meetups are compiled. If so: what platforms would be good places to host something like that? Like, I could totally put together a tumblr or something for collecting ace meetups, and try to contact other organizers for help/permission to post other meetups.

    I think the main holdup would be making sure whether each group is comfortable being listed in a public space, but I think many should be fine with something like that. ‘

    Off the top of my head, places that would be good to announce that I can think of: Tumblr, (or maybe wordpress, which can be set to auto-post to tumblr, and might be easier to make a calendar on), facebook…..some kind of rss/email food would be good too, esp. for people not into the social networks.

    • Ohh, a WordPress would be really cool. With, like, lists of ace groups by country on one page, and a calendar of upcoming events on another page, and the map on a third page. If anyone sets that up, I would be happy to transfer ownership of the map to them. I’m not sure how useful RSS feeds would be, because then you’d constantly be being told what’s happening thousands of miles away from you, but a well-organised place to keep all this stuff that’s not buried on a forum would be brilliant. I’d be happy to contribute some time to set-up, if anyone else wants to help take it on.

    • Sciatrix says:

      I think a WordPress would be better than a tumblr for something like this? I agree with SlightlyMetaphysical that something like that would be an amazing resource to have, if someone is willing to maintain it and set it up. I know Aydan and I tried to create a tumblr version of this initiative some months ago but neither of us had the energy to sustain promoting it enough for it to take off.

      I definitely agree that meetups are hard to find if you’re not on one site or the other, and hard to publicize without those things. A single central resource for finding nearby groups that people can add to as they go would be extremely helpful! The main trouble is to make sure people know it’s there and sustaining the effort of constantly updating it.

      • nextstepcake says:

        So there’s nothing here yet and I won’t have a chance to really start work on it for a couple days but…..here at least we have a start!
        https://amoebacolony.wordpress.com/home/

        I can probably also sync it to the PT tumblr or make a custom tumblr to have updates there too. (Although I have to look into that before I’m sure)

      • Aydan says:

        I’m confused. How is this different from the map? I officially gave up on Ace Resources when I discovered the map. I must be missing something here?

      • nextstepcake says:

        Basically, I’m looking to have a place to put meetups that is a bit easier to navigate than the map. A text based website makes it easier to put links, give information, possibly sort things by date, etc. It’s an experiment, we’ll see how it goes.

      • Damn non-nesting comments!

        NSC- awesome! I love it when things get done. 😀 Do you want me to help out? I’ve had a decent amount of experience with WP. If you add me to the blog admins, I can help figure out the calendar and add the map if you want?

        Aydan- the map is useful, and I’d love it if it was part of amoeba colony, but it’s not very easy to find on the internet, it looks a little ugly and it can be a bit of a scary resource for a technophobe. I think amoeba colony could help by creating an easier URL, making things prettier and more navigable, and having an alternative, text-based (and standardised format) system for saying the same thing, so people can pick which way they want to access the resource. Now I think of it, there may even be accessibility issues, both in terms of non-google-account-havers not being able to update the map, and in terms of people with sight problems not being able to use it.

      • Aydan says:

        Oh, I see! That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for explaining (to both of you).

  5. Andrew says:

    My impression from AVEN meet-ups is that a major problem stems from the lack of a single person primarily in charge of organizing. When no one is in charge and no one wants to schedule anything for anytime that anyone who has expressed interest is unavailable, then nothing gets scheduled at all. If one person self-appoints themself as organizer, they may fear that others will see them as stepping on toes by doing so, but if no one self-appoints themself as leader, you run the risk of nothing ever happening.

    • Sciatrix says:

      This squares pretty neatly with my experiences of AVEN meet-ups, and I do think it’s a central problem of the format. The nice things about Meetup.com is that someone is by definition an “organizer” and carry prime responsibility for setting things up. so this problem is mitigated a little bit. I think that it’s honestly a general problem of scheduling meetups on a forum format.

  6. Ace meetups in New York City are organized via the New York aces Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/groups/182321485194005/

  7. Annah says:

    I believe you and I talked a fair bit about building offline communities sometime ago. Unfortunately I’ve moved back home and no long have the ace space that I helped build, so that’s a little sad. But when I make my move to another city, I am looking forward to build another one without having to move immediately afterwards. Perhaps I shall document that for everyone? I am so very much in favor of having multiple spaces for aces. And I think having more of a physical presence in real life will take away a lot of that “asexuality is just an internet thing” mentality, though I’m sure they’ll just think of something new when that happens. Still. I love physical ace spaces. My experience with both accepting ace-friendly alphabitsmoosh groups and actual ace spaces has been very positive.

    • Sciatrix says:

      It’s hard to build something like this! Especially when you know you’re going to be moving relatively soon. I would probably have invested much more into starting offline spaces at my old university if I hadn’t known very well I would be moving for grad school this summer to my new city. Upcoming moves do make things much more difficult.

  8. codeman38 says:

    It’s already on the map, but why not emphasize it a second time… If you’re in the Boston area, come join us at New England Aces! Third Sunday of every month, which means…this coming Sunday! The meeting location is easily walkable from the Central Square T stop; join the Meetup group for full details.

    • Queenie says:

      I’ll be going this Sunday! First ace meet-up ever (well, aside from The Tiniest Ace Meet-Up, which is composed of me, my partner, and one of our mutual friends), whoo?

  9. Isaac says:

    I have also found that campus LGBT groups are more open to asexuals than non-campus ones.

  10. Pingback: Need to know? | The Asexual Agenda

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