J.T. is a leading member of a prominent LGBT organization. I asked specifically about managing perceptions around “colonization” and “appropriation” when working on issues related to attendance diversity in large LGBT organizations.
His advice was simple. Give the power to the people. Recruit leaders in underrepresented communities and empower them to create new events the way they want to.
He said just like early American racial integration, the issue must at first be forced on to the unwilling majority audiences in the city, and that they will learn to accept it. Empower the underrepresented to be their own leaders, and no one can accuse you of appropriating or colonizing those groups.
J.C. suggested a large emphasis on information technology and demographics research in order to drive targeted advertising through existing channels within the communities. Specifically Grindr, Scruff, and the already large Facebook presence of the organization. He has had great success with similar events in the past using demographics-targeted Facebook posts in the past.
He also suggested polling people at the door at each event to see what ZIP code they are coming from and whether they are white or non-white. This would allow much better information about where people are already already coming from. Maybe some large percentage of the existing customers are coming from a particular area, and throwing a party there would be an automatic success, “Maybe a hundred people come from Oakland to every party and you just don’t know it yet.”
J.C. also made the same argument K.A. did; that events need to be held in the communities, rather than just in San Francisco. This will establish trust with these communities which will make people feel more comfortable coming to the larger events in San Francisco.
J.C also noted helpfully that all the recent party themes have been white-culture related holidays. He suggested that we could do parties themed on holidays from other cultures which still fit with the overall aesthetic theme of the organization. For example; Dia De Los Muertos or Sun Ra themes. These could also introduce different musical cultures into the events and organization while making people from these cultures feel more comfortable at the events.
J.C. is a prominent member of the leather community, and suggested collaboration with leaders there. They are already a historically diverse and sex-positive group which is established not only in San Francisco, but throughout the bay-area communities with more diverse demographics as well as across the world in cities which have already addressed these issues.
There are many safe queer spaces in San Francisco which are representative of the demographics of San Francisco. These spaces are largely dominated by caucasian cis-males for several reasons.
These spaces in San Francisco, though relatively representative of the demographics of San Francisco, are not representative of the demographics of the broader bay area because most non-white groups are centered outside of the peninsula.
The biggest challenge for people from other parts of the bay to attend queer events in San Francisco is transportation and lodging, as transit stops running relatively early in the night.
According to K.A., who attended meeting Facebook held in San Francisco about inclusivity issues related to the “real name” policy, several members of the east and south-bay minority communities voiced outrage that the event was held in San Francisco and not in the minority communities. K.A. quoted one member as saying this is how the communities know Facebook is not serious about fixing these problems. Similar comments were made by a member of these communities at a similar meeting which I was present for at another organization.
Assume the goal is to create more inclusive queer party spaces in the larger bay area and in San Francisco.
One excellent strategy outlined by K.A. would be to hold smaller parties in these minority communities and cross-promote for the larger parties in San Francisco once these communities learn to trust the organization and its intentions. These parties should be thrown in conjunction with established and trusted organizations which are already leading in each of these communities.
K.A. also reiterated earlier recommendations I had made that at these and other events in the minority communities, evangelism should take place such that local leaders are empowered to hand out discounted tickets to trusted local leaders so that they can participate and spread the word about the event and its intentions.
K.A. also recommended we reach out to Michelle Meow, president of San Francisco Pride, radio personality, and POC activist who is very hands-on engaged with issues like this.
I set up several meetings with SF Pride board members and other community leaders related to these points.