Western Regional recap: You too can lead a workshop!

This past weekend I was at yet another conference, the Western Regional Queer Conference.  I presented my workshop, “Asexuals: Who are they, and why should you care?” for the sixth time in three years.  I’ve talked about this workshop a lot before, and a the slideshow and notes (from 2012) are publicly available. At this point, a recap almost seems superfluous.

But there’s a reason I talk up my workshop all the time!  It’s because I want you to try leading workshops too.  I want to talk about how important this is, and how easy it is.

This year, Western Regional had the good fortune of having not one, but two asexuality workshops.  The other workshop was presented by Sara Beth Brooks, because she had won an award from Campus Pride, and they asked her to submit a workshop.  Her workshop complemented mine; mine was just 101, while hers was about action, making queer student orgs asexuality-inclusive.  There were about ten attendees of Sara’s workshop, but it seemed like we got some amazing work done.

It was interesting to hear about where the various campuses were in terms of asexuality-inclusion.  Some campuses already have out asexuals, and are just short of making asexual-specific student groups!  Others are willing, but don’t know any asexuals, and don’t know where to start.  Two of the campuses were community colleges, and they seemed to be dealing with far deeper issues.  Their queer student groups became dominated by white gay cis men who are hostile to other queer identities.  These men don’t even believe trans people exist. *facepalm*

And yes, this is a larger problem with many LGBT communities.  Sometimes they become GGGG communities.  It’s not that the rest of the letters aren’t there, it’s that people are made uncomfortable by all the (often uneducated) gay men, and leave disappointed.  This is a problem not just for asexuals, but for trans folk, bi folk, lesbians, and everyone who slips between the cracks of the boxes.  We have to stand in solidarity, by educating gay men about non-gay sexual minorities, and by just being there to represent.  When I said that queer orgs benefit from asexual representation, I really meant it.

And I think some queer student leaders know this, especially the ones that are high up enough to be organizing college conferences.  So they’re going to make it easy for you to submit a workshop.  All you need to do is follow through.

Conferences, by the way, are really hard to organize.  The Western Regional Queer Conference moves from campus to campus every year, and every year the organizers are at least a bit overwhelmed.  This year, UC Santa Cruz especially seemed to be having trouble.  Among other problems, they had a shortage of workshops.  Isn’t this a win-win situation for asexuals to make workshops?

It’s also been my experience that many workshops (maybe 50%?) are boring or useless.  It’s hard to pool knowledge because nobody knows anything, and people end up talking about the same stuff over and over.  My cynicism shows after attending almost ten different queer conferences.  The point I’m getting at is that there isn’t a high standard.  There’s a high standard if you’re trying to get into NGLTF’s conference, but the bar is quite low for a college conference.

Perhaps you’re worried that you’ll just produce another boring or useless workshop.  But you can easily do better!  You can talk about stuff that everyone in the asexual community knows, and most of it is new to attendees of a queer conference.

And lots of people have done it, not just me.  I became well-known for doing these workshops, but not because I’m the only one doing it.  It’s because I put my presentation online and talked about it a lot online.  Also (a moment of immodesty), I’m very good at making a powerpoint.  But there are several other presentations on the AAW site, and probably many more which are not online.  I know, for instance, that someone (or multiple people?) has been presenting at MBLGTACC for longer than I’ve been presenting.

To submit a workshop, the main thing is you need to plan ahead of time.  You need to pick a particular workshop format (discussion, presentation, panel?), and you need to submit the workshop months ahead of the conference.  Look around for local conferences, ask your queer resource center.  Do a bit of research on the conference, see if they’ve done asexuality workshops before.  And if this all seems difficult, ask for help, because the asexual community will back you up.

Okay, I’m done with my pep talk now.  (As a grad student I become more and more disconnected with my undergraduate audience over time, and it would be great if someone could replace me at Western Regional.  Just sayin’.)

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
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9 Responses to Western Regional recap: You too can lead a workshop!

  1. Jo says:

    Thanks for this post, Siggy! I’m currently writing an abstract for a workshop at Queer Collaborations (a student queer conference) in Sydney this year… I’ve not been before, but an ace workshop last year was well-received and the people organising sounded interested! I know that someone else is doing a 101-style workshop, so I thought I would do one on furthering discussion of relationships: re-imagining relationships from an asexual point of view, challenging the narratives we hold about how, what and why relationships are created and valued, that sort of thing. Obviously it will focus on asexuality, but I think it could also be interesting for non-asexual people! What do you think?

    • Siggy says:

      Sounds awesome! Having multiple workshops at a conference is great because it lets you focus on non-101 topics such as relationships.

      I’m not sure you were asking for advice, but if you were, this is my advice:
      1. Get in contact with the other workshop facilitator, get an idea for what they’re saying.
      2. The most important things to include in the workshop are personal stories for emotional impact, and audience participation.
      3. If you need help designing the workshop, try asking AAW or David Jay. I think they’ve designed workshops on relationships before.
      4. Familiarize yourself with common misconceptions about polyamory, so you can avoid them. A queer audience is very sensitive to such errors.

      • Jo says:

        Thanks for the advice! I’ve already got #1 and #3 covered (I’ve seen some of the stuff DJ does on relationships, it was one of the things that inspired me, and we’ve got a facebook group for aces attending the conference already going!)

        #4 is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, out of personal interest as well. Do you know any good resources I can follow up on?

        • Siggy says:

          I don’t have any good resources, though I found this article by searching blogs I read.

          More generally, I think it’s a good idea to learn about various “minority” groups within the LGBT community. After all, we’re one such group, and we can’t advocate awareness without being aware of others. In my case, I found it important to learn a about QPOC and trans issues, because I’ve referred to trans stories and talked about race in my workshops.

          • Jo says:

            Thanks. I used to do a lot of GLBT activism (because before I found out about asexuality, I assumed I was a lesbian, so I started doing all the activism and reading), so I should be fine with most of it!

          • queenieofaces says:

            Sorry to break in on this conversation, but can you recommend good QPOC resources? It’s a point of personal interest for me, but most of the stuff I’ve found has been “Remember intersectionality!” and nothing else.

          • Siggy says:

            My method to learn about QPOC stuff was to attend meatspace discussions, so I don’t have much to share.

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