Sunday, June 19, 2011

my fun time at Camp Betty: queer and trans activist conf in Sydney

Camp Betty Sydney 2011 rocked. Here is a link to what they've said about themselves then what I say about Camp Betty.

I conceptualised Camp Betty as a queer and trans activist conference, and it kicked off at the Red Rattler with a cranking pechakucha combined with regos. There were three or four blocks of presentations, with half hour breaks in between where everyone could drink and mingle and buy Camp Betty merchandise. Some of the speakers blew me away, and spoke on topics from no-borders refugee activism, whorephobia, sex work with disabled people, disability and sexuality, colonisation embodied, conscious hip hop and blogging.

Camp Betty ran over three and a half days, with a pretty riveting (and well designed comprehensive) programme. Attended by over 250 people, and ranged from workshops and talks, a jelly wrestling competition to brilliant party and POC mic nights, and included Sydneys Slutwalk (Sluts and Allies Unite, I got a nicely designed tshirt). I think there is something to be said about bonding (not to mention fundraising) through partying and social times.

Saturday I went to a workshop called "Fucking Crips" that was sign intepreted also. Presented by a self identified cripple, discussing dynamics of having sex with someone with a disability. The arvo saw me at a "Daddy" talk about father figures in BDSM as well as within queer/gay/lesbian scenes. Then at a funeral rites/rights talk, which brings up having to interact with a capitalist monopolised death industry. The inevitable conference streaming meant I missed out on "Fighting for queer and straight refugee rights" (one of the "queer" tests means listening to and identifying with George Michael and Madonna.. go figure, white centricism at work.. it would be funny if it wasn't so serious and tragic..) I also missed Queer courtship and the Hanky code, discussions on Womens' space and trans people, and the diversity of femme, demystifying BDSM as well as many others.

The Saturday night Blue Betty party rocked. I drank a few pints of "Rats Piss" (the house beer on tap, surprisingly good) and saw some incredible performances, my highlight being the strong lady who was quite incredibly strong and lifted these giant heavy things. I'm told that Sydney's Newtown queer scene (its called the upper east or inner west or something geographical like that) orbits and differentiates itself a bunch around shows and performances. So it appears very visible and extroverted. Brilliant for parties, fundraisers and exbitionists.

I presented in a panel called "Community, inclusion, safety and other lies", mainly talking about centricism (white middle classed able bodied cis-gendered whorephobic non-neorotypical etc etc) and the default settings of various scenes. We were on before "Radical Parenting", and after the lovely lunch provided for by "Food Not Bombs", went to "Beyond Consent? Pleasure Danger and Sex", which brought up problems and dynamics (of which there are quite a few) with the model of explicit verbal yes/no consent within sexual relating. Also that arvo that I missed "Fat Positivity", "Sex work activism" and the "Mad Hatters Tea Party"- skill share and discussion for poeple sharing experiences of madness, non-neurotypicallity or interactions with the medical/psych system. There was a POC caucus where we discussed the oh-so-unfortunately-usual white centricism of queer/trans/radical/activist spaces, then were made very merry by the "POC the mic". This was the third (I think) POC the mic (first two in Melbourne) where it was only people of colour MCing and performing burleseque with a twist, conscious hip hop, spoken word, protest songs and some off the hook pole dancing which put everyones core muscles on the microscope. The performances were hard hitting and pulled no punches for the minority of white attendees, instead speaking to and for a coloured majority, so refreshing. POC the Mic was the Sunday night social times as part of Camp Betty, and as always, when I'm in mainly coloured space, made me re-realise how often it is I'm in white majority space. Ups to POC the Mic.

Sunday saw me running a "Radical Masculinities" workshop, which clashed with a Poly workshop I really wanted to go to, as well as Artist Run Initiatives, of which there are quite a few over here. Then I was on the Slut Bus to go to Slut walk in the city. Big turn out and fun costumes and speeches, and even the police were well behaved.

The debrief was a low key affair, and like many others, after three days of absorbtion and interaction I was pretty spent.

Overall, I was well impressed on the DIY ethic of Camp Betty, with no usual conversations of "can't get funding". They had had a few party fundraisers amongst other things, in the lead up before, and also sold cute merchadise-tote bags and badges, which meant the rego cost for the conference was only $5 or $10 for three days. The Safer Spaces Policy was well thought out and posted all over the walls, with the focus on behaviour.

I think most of the usual default dynamics can still and I'm sure at times, did operate. Some of the things I find refreshing and affirming about the queer/feminist/activist things I've gone to centred or at The Rattler, has been the sexworker, kink/BDSM and poly positivity, that is way too lacking in many queer and feminist spaces I've been in.

Maybe it's coming from outside the politics of the Sydney scene, but for the large part I have been impressed and invigorated by Camp Betty, and so stoked I was asked to present, travel subsidised, and was billeted kindly and generously by some of the crew. And also so thankful and grateful that spaces like this are created, hosted and worked toward.

Thanks heaps Camp Betty.

1 comment:

  1. OMFG I'm so there next time!! Cheers for the review, much exciting. Its great to hear that it was actually radical, POC, those with disabilities, sexworkers, transgendered, the neuro A-typical, radical parents... lots of input from lots of different groups whose voices are often not heard outside of their own communities.
    Funtastic! :)
    No revolution without queer revolution!!