Starting Meetup Groups: Quarantine Edition

Or, “How to Start a Meetup Group when nobody can actually meet up anywhere because of COVID-19”

This is my submission for the May 2020 Carnival of Aces, on the topic of “Quarantine“.

When I started writing this draft back in early March, it was originally intended to be a challenge for Aces and Aros to find, attend, or start a new local meetup group in time to be in position to hold a local event for the next Ace Week or Aro Spec Week…however, as we all know now, COVID-19 has derailed a lot of offline event plans, and that original challenge is no longer advisable.

However, shelter-in-place requirements don’t have to mean that all local organizing grinds to a halt – it just means that that kind of activities we engage in as local organizers need to shift. Redbeardace has already written about how the silver lining of local groups scrambling to move activities online also means chances to open up those groups to other local constituents who might not otherwise be able to join in.

In this post, I want to extend that conversation to area that don’t even have organized groups yet – but that might have some individuals who are interested in starting one. And so, for you brave pioneers out there who think you might want to start a local meetup, here’s some suggestions for things you can do right now, without even leaving your house!

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Diverse Community Spaces Are Not “Comfortable” Spaces – Nor Should They Be

This is my submission for the January 2020 Carnival of Aces, for the theme of “Conscious and Unconscious Difference“.

While we’re talking about difference, I wanted to take a bit of time to talk about what it means to be a part of a diverse community – like the ace or aro communities – that can contain a huge number of different experiences, with people of all different sexualities, genders, racial identities, ages, coming together to discuss the one or two shared aspects of their experiences that they do have in common. However, even within those shared experiences of asexuality or aromanticism, there can still be considerable variation.

For example, among asexuals, some come to the identity because they don’t feel sexual attraction; others don’t like sex itself, others prefer not to pursue sexual relationships (regardless of whatever other internal feelings they have, some just find it hard to figure out any answer to “what gender of people are you attracted to” other than just, “none?”. There’s also huge variation when it comes to whether people feel averse/indifferent/favorable or just confused when it comes to sexual acts, what kinds of relationships people prefer, and more.

The same goes for the aro community, which brings together both asexual and allosexual aros and also those who don’t quite fit into either end of that spectrum. It brings together some people who have never felt romantic attraction in their life, with others who don’t even know what romantic attraction is supposed to mean. Some choose to pursue sexual relationships, some pursue non-romantic, non-sexual platonic relationships, some prefer not to define their relationships in such terms.

Also within both spectrums are people who identify in the “grey areas” around the fuzzy edges of each group – maybe not quite close enough to feel comfortable using the label without amendment, but close enough to still find it’s concepts useful with a few modifiers.

In effect, it can be helpful to think of these groups as “coalitions” – comprised not of a single group of people with a single identifiable shared experience, but as constellations of related experiences that are just similar enough to find it useful to develop new shared concepts, terminology, and support spaces. (For comparison, consider LGBTQ or queer communities – despite covering a hugely diverse range of experiences, from gay cis-men to bisexual transwomen to queer-identified nonbinary people and more, these groups still find it useful at times to all come together at times under one umbrella and one shared identity.)

However, the thing about diverse, coalitional spaces is that they can also be uncomfortable – because meeting a diverse array of people includes meeting people who’s ways of thinking and expressing themselves might be fundamentally different from yours, and who might force you to reconsider some of your previous assumptions, which can be an inherently uncomfortable process. It can definitely be an uncomfortable feeling when you start encountering perspectives from other community members and find yourself struggling to understand or relate to them. However, I want to challenges the idea that this discomfort is always a bad thing to be avoided. Sometimes, a little discomfort is a healthy and necessary part of growing into a new community and an ever-changing world. 

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Wanted: Aces and Aros at Creating Change 2017 in Philadelphia!

Hello followers! If any of you are thinking about attending Creating Change this year or plan to submit proposals, please hit me up! I’m part of a facebook group for Aces and Aros at Creating Change and we’ve just started the process of proposal drafting, so nows the time to get connected – we’d love to get in touch with any of you who might be there.

The group also does a lot of planning more casual stuff at CC like group lunches and dinners and hangouts in the ace suite, so you should totally join even if you just plan on attending and not running a workshop.

Aces Wild will also be hosting an ace/aro suite this year which will most likely be open to non-badged attendees – it’s pretty sweet (get it?).

If you’d be interested in joining the facebook group, shoot me an email at asexualitysf@gmail.com for an invite.

About Creating Change:

CC is the big annual conference for all the big-name LGBTQ organizers, with an emphasis on professional development, and it’s happening in January 18-22 in Philadelphia for 2017.

It’s one of the best ways for the ace community to form connections with big-name LGBT leaders and formal LGBT organizers. It’s also super expensive to attend (like $200+ reg fees, plus travel and hotel costs….) but there are some limited student and low-income scholarships and the like – though I’ve heard they are hard to get so if you want to try for one you should apply as soon as they open.

You can also volunteer a certain number of hours to get free admission on the days you volunteer.