Community Basics: A Gentle Reminder for the Alternative Lifestyle Communities
Outing and Consent Violations Affect Everyone
Our communities are ever-evolving and changing. New people and old hats alike always need to be aware of some of the basic guidelines we must follow as we have seen a drastic decline in old practices of lifestyle families and mentoring. The families and clubs gave newcomers a strong base of ethics and community rules. These venues also allowed a safety net of inclusiveness, non-judgment, and acceptance.
With a general acceptance in Alternative Lifestyle Communities and events, we are seeing an influx of newcomers. This poses the unique situation of being able to be transparent in expectations. We just can’t simply list our rules and know that everyone is informed; we must talk about these rules and expectations so that they are understood and followed.
Communities are also seeing a rise in “consent violations” and “outing.” These two are among the most vicious, as both can destroy lives. Both of these need to be addressed from both sides of the victim and the abuser. Let’s start with outing someone; in my circles, I am fortunate, as my family and friends know what I do and who I am in my lifestyle choice and work. However, many people don’t have that luxury. Their jobs and livelihood, homes and personal mental health from the act of outing can all be impacted. Therefore, we must treat all events and spaces we attend like Las Vegas.
“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!” Well… “What happens at (insert event or club name here), stays at (insert event or club name here)!”
There are a few things you can also do as an event organizer to promote this idea and us old hats can follow suit.
- Always state clearly this expectation, verbally.
- Use of scene names within the event or club.
- As an event organizer, use of sign-in sheets that require legal names and contact information aside from the scene name. To be kept confidential but a great tool when you need to take steps to keep everyone safe.
Consent Violations are a more complex situation. I think there are far too many people using this as a simple out instead of thinking of what it means. Violation of consent is as serious as it gets. Admittedly it does happen and more often than we would care to see it. It makes our spaces unsafe and leaves the door open for more transgressions.
As old hats and event organizers, we have a bigger responsibility. There are a few things we can do to calm the situation and get the much-needed response that needs to happen. Victims of consent violations need to be heard; if someone comes to you, listen, but remember it’s not your story to tell. Your role as support is to listen and to encourage them to reach out for help, the help they need. It’s the only way to start the healing process.
What you can actively do if you are confided in for a consent violation either as a personal friend, event host or organizer:
- Actively and always talk about consent, in public.
- Use safe calls when meeting with anybody. It’s a call before and after a meeting. I also follow that with a time-stamped selfie and recommend the same to anyone.
- Knowing the full names and contact information of people you interact with privately. In clubs and event spaces, organizers are there to help make it safe and should have that information on file.
- If a violation happens, even though it may seem hard to do, it needs to be reported to the police or RCMP. There are agencies in all cities and towns that will do this for the victim on their behalf. A statement needs to be recorded.
- As an event organizer or club, if a victim comes to you, it is your responsibility to make a statement to the police or RCMP. Without fail, it will allow the victim a backup advocate as well as being additional information the authorities need to pursue the aggressor. You do not need permission to do this, it should be policy and then the victims will ultimately have a voice if they can’t use theirs.
- If a person comes to you because they feel safe, then take this moment to guide them in the proper steps. Do they need you to go with them to file a report? Do they need you to go to the hospital to do a rape kit? Should they be talking with victim services within their area? Ultimately telling you is the first step, but they need to follow through to begin their healing and to actively shut down the aggressor.
- Consent is violated for men too. As a society, we need to take their stories and reports with valid concern. If a man approaches you with a statement the same rules apply, without question. Gender orientation should have zero impact on whether to take someone seriously.
- As a person of any community, you need to actively shut down the rumor mill. Remember that game in elementary? Where you whisper a sentence to the person beside you and it goes through 30 kids and becomes a twisted statement. That is what happens when you tell someone else’s story. Rumors only happen because we choose to tell someone’s story. Shut it down and avoid creating part of the problem.
- By not reporting and actively telling people stories without the first-hand facts, you could damage a person’s whole life and it could be as bad for that person as an actual consent violation.
- Blacklists don’t work, and in Canada, they are actively against the law. While I understand the reasoning behind the use of them, they really do nothing other they provide a false sense of hope to the victim and the community. They offer no protection, as all one has to do if they are denied entrance is call the police. If the police find no record of complaint against the person, the event or club will be forced to allow them in as most operate within public spaces. This is the face value of reporting an incident.
- Always attend events that have “special events permits” that are issued by the city of witch the event or club is located. As a guest, you can ask to see the permit or call your local city hall and have them check to see if the event is permitted.
- As event planners, event organizers, clubs and hosts, reach out to your local “Vice” unit. My city has one that actively supports and deals with Alternative Lifestyle Communities and individuals. It’s a volunteer position, so the actual officer changes on set terms but they are always there and present when needed.
Your safety and the people around you depend on your behavior. Your behavior ultimately affects the community to which you belong. Remember, you are your own best advocate. There are support systems out there and you need to use them. Friends, family, and besties are a great encouragement to be strong. A strong person will reach out and strive to shut a person down that is a true offender, no matter who that is, so it will not be allowed to happen to another human being.
Be strong, be confident and be sexy… and support your community and the people in healthy positive ways.