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I’m stepping back from Ballarat queer and trans community work

Originally published October 5, 2019
Last updated October 5, 2019
Posted in ,

For many decades I’ve volunteered my time and skills working in the open source software, kink, fandom, tech feminist and sustainability communities. In all those endeavours, I have stood by the principles of openness, inclusivity, information sharing, and grassroots direct action (also known, at least in software development circles, as “Just F*cking Do It” or JFDI.)

For some years, due to burnout and health issues, it’s been hard for me to engage in community work or even social activities. Finally, in 2019, I felt ready to get back into things, and was excited to do so by getting involved in activism/advocacy work in my local queer and trans communities here in Ballarat.

It was in this spirit that I contacted local politicians about the State Government’s Birth Certificate bill, and spoke to the Ballarat Courier on the same topic. I also started talking about making a directory of local queer resources. This led to some people volunteering to help out, discussions of whether there should be some sort of group to manage it, and hence to the idea of the Ballarat Queer Coop.

Around that time, Ballarat Pride Hub shut down, and the Coop seemed to take on a greater import. It quickly became not just a way to build a resource directory and other projects as they came along, but something that many saw as a replacement for everything that Pride Hub was or could have been. As such, it seemed important to reach out to as many of the local LGBTQIA+ community as possible, even (or especially) those who were not currently hooked in to existing groups.

Since starting to publicise the first meeting of the Ballarat Queer Coop, and especially since posting a list of local transgender resources on my personal website, I’ve received feedback from a few people that my defaults of openness, inclusivity, information sharing and JFDI are at odds with how they’d prefer things to be done. I’ve also learned that there have been complaints to third parties, by people who didn’t contact me directly.

Although Ballarat has over 100,000 people and my experience of it has been as a progressive and vibrant regional city, it’s still a country town in some ways. I didn’t understand just how strong the social norms of privacy, word-of-mouth, staying under the radar, and moving slowly are for many of the community. As such, my attempts to create accessible resources and inclusive community groups – a common and long-standing component of queer and trans communities elsewhere – have hurt people and made them feel unsafe. I misunderstood where the local community was on this, and I apologise.

Thanks to the people who contacted me directly to discuss this. I have spent some time considering things, and as a result:

  • I have removed the Ballarat transgender resource list from my personal website
  • I will stop organising the Ballarat Queer Coop (BQC)
  • I will refrain from further activism/advocacy work in relation to the Ballarat queer/trans community for the foreseeable future, and then only when invited (other than as a sponsor of Frolic Festival, and fulfilling an existing engagement to speak about Ballarat’s queer history at the ALGA conference in November.)

I appreciate the support many friends have offered over the last few weeks and months, and look forward to having more time to spend with them in future.

If anyone would like to move forward with the BQC (under that name or a different one), I will gladly pass on the email list, Facebook page admin rights, and bag full of tea making supplies. If, in future, a community organisation is established to advocate for Ballarat’s queer and trans community, I’ll look forward to supporting it. Best of luck.

Anyone who wishes to contact me can do so, as usual, by email (alex@alexbayley.id.au) or text message if you have my number. Or drop round for a cuppa in the garden. I have tomato seedlings to share.

Yours, with buckets of queer love,

Alex

Alex Bayley is a tech industry refugee, independent researcher, writer, educator and community builder. They live in Ballarat, west of Melbourne, Australia.

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Responses

7 Comments

  1. Wetherby2019 on October 5, 2019 at 10:58 am

    A sensitive and thoughtful response to your community, and one with dignity too.

  2. Anthony de Boer on October 5, 2019 at 11:02 am

    All the best with wherever your journey goes to next.

  3. Alex Bayley on October 5, 2019 at 11:04 am

    thanks i’m sad that some people are uncomfortable with visibility/inclusiveness/etc. but if that’s the way it is, i’m not the person to be doing this work.

  4. Alex Bayley on October 5, 2019 at 11:05 am

    thanks. i was thinking about usenet a lot as i wrote that post, btw.

  5. Wetherby2019 on October 5, 2019 at 11:08 am

    Ballarat is a unique community. Individual and small group relationships will work in their own way. I imagine you have informal networks and that people needing information will be able to find it relatively easily.

  6. attacus on October 7, 2019 at 11:30 am

    attacus mentioned this article on twitter.com.

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