(This post was originally published on American Alliance of Museum's blog on July 9, 2018)
Each year, the Alliance recruits 10-12 people to be Social Media Journalists - to tweet and share conference happenings for those who don’t attend or just want to follow along with all the fun. As one of those chosen for the role in Phoenix, I was excited to use my conspicuous new title to introduce myself to people I didn’t know and to have more of those conversations I love to have at conferences - the ones that push my thinking forward.
Before the conference, I knew Alison Kennedy (they/them) - a fellow AAM Social Media Journalist -- only through Twitter. When I saw Alison’s tweet in support of AAM’s new Code of Conduct for meeting attendees, I thought it would make for a good conversation topic. Lots of organizations have anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, but I had never read one that addresses the conduct of members towards marginalized groups - especially gender - in such a specific way.
Alison and I are both queer and gender non-conforming, but we’re more different than we may seem. I am almost 48, Alison is 28. Alison identifies as trans, whereas I call myself a gay woman (she/her). I wanted to sit down with them, to compare “gender journeys” -- yes, I did just make up that term -- and to understand more about why Alison thought the Code of Conduct was so necessary.
Here is an excerpt from our conversation at AAM and as it continued at home (slightly edited for clarity):
I saw your tweet in support of AAM’s efforts to publish a Code of Conduct for the conference. I had a little bit of a different reaction. I’ll tell you about it, but first I want to hear a little bit more about your reaction. How did it make you feel to see it?
Seeing that AAM put this stuff in writing makes me feel absolutely safe here [at the conference]. It sets a precedent from the beginning that that kind of behavior is not tolerated no matter who you are. And I know that if it does happen to me, that I have the support of the Alliance to say like, “no this is unacceptable.” They have said that it’s unacceptable from the beginning.
At my museum we’ve been talking a lot about our restroom signs and a couple of people are like “why can’t we just have non-gendered restroom signs?” And my argument with that is that having generic signs doesn’t actually state that you’re inclusive. Saying “gender inclusive” means that I know, as a trans visitor, as a nonbinary visitor, that the museum is going to have my back if I go into that bathroom and someone gives me sh*t about it.
In it we discuss:
- How we each came to understand our own gender and how our formative surroundings affected that
- How our individual experiences (and maybe age) affect how we view the Code of Conduct
- The false perception that all LGBTQ people understand each other's experience
- The limitations of any Code of Conduct to actually change people's hearts and minds