A Safe Space?

While many experience Faeriespace as a welcoming, healing space where personal growth is not only possible but inevitable, this is not the case for all. It has come to be described as a “safe space” and thought of as specifically inviting troubled and vulnerable people to come and experience healing. We heard at Featherstone in Autumn how, for faeries of colour, those with disabilities, and recovering addicts, and for others too, the Safe Space ethos fell short of expectations for various reasons.

What we are is a very open space, one that welcomes anyone who wants to be there, and never asks for credentials or explanations, no-one is even asked to state that they identify as a faerie (though we are asked to agree that we assume responsibility for our own safety and will exercise due care, and to state that we have read the call to the gathering). So, we welcome those who’ve heard that it’s a great party space and you can do anything you want and everyone’s cool with it, and we welcome those who’ve heard they will be completely accepted and nurtured and have a chance to heal. Both of those are sometimes true, but sometimes they don’t sit together too well.

Many of us as Queers carry a lot of Stuff/emotional baggage/psychic wounds/family trauma etc. etc., and we gather together as Faeries and ramp them up. Emotions run high, we talk about them and scream and cry about them, and show them to each other. It can be overwhelming. For someone who is very vulnerable and expecting healing, that’s actually a very stressful and challenging environment, not necessarily what they think of as a therapeutic one.

The Faeries are not a therapeutic community; Welfaeries are not necessarily in any way trained to deliver emotional first aid, and have no obligation to be available or to make themselves available, as we are all volunteers. That’s not to say that you won’t get help when you need it, I always do, but I know that I can’t always expect it right from the moment I need it, or that anyone has a responsibility to me to provide it.

It’s been said that there are no rules in Faeriespace, and while that might sound great to some, it means that if we object to behaviours that make us feel unsafe, and that we were told we wouldn’t see, then that objection can simply be dismissed. What we don’t have are sanctions, or any mechanism, other than Heart Circle, to deal with situations that some find unacceptable, and no-one can be made to engage with Heart Circle if they choose not to. We are not an organisation, that can provide formal training and check competence, and have defined rules and ways to deal with transgressions. Many might say that this is our strength, this is how we are Radical, and this is precisely what helps us learn and grow, as we deal with disagreements.

It’s clear, though, that this is not what people expect of a Safe Space. We can’t guarantee that no-one will say or do a thing that is deeply problematic for someone else – for example racist micro-aggressions that were recently experienced. We always now hold consent workshops and make it very clear that consent for physical contact must always be obtained, and this is a vital part of Faerie culture, but we can’t guarantee that it will always be respected. As well as clearer information about lack of accessibility at our venues, and whether to expect to see drugs and alcohol used openly, we need to be more clear that Faeriespace is challenging and is not suitable for everyone.

This isn’t to say we are not working hard on changing culture. From the last gathering there were offshoot groups on antiracism, and meetings on how to make the Albion faeries more inclusive to people with disabilities as we grow, there were also Heart Circles for people with neuro-diversities which were smaller, and people could share a common ground.

That said, the Radical Faeries is a counter-culture movement, and it requires participation from all to make change. We welcome talk that’s sometimes difficult and challenging, but enables us to grow more inclusively. We welcome feedback from our gathering and take it seriously. Anyone can be involved in organising a gathering, and be involved in organisation of the Faeries of Albion.

I propose a statement such as the following be posted on the Albion Faeries website, in each Gathering Call and in emails sent to those who book.

“Faeriespace is not a ‘Safe Space’. While we strive to make it as inclusive, tolerant, welcoming, healing and safe as possible, this is work in progress and we are yet to get it right. We may never get it right, because Faeries are people, we are growing as a tribe, and we welcome all who want to come. This includes people who you may find challenging and situations you may find difficult, and while we do our best to help anyone who needs it, we can’t take responsibility for anyone else. We welcome all energies working towards creating Safe Space, but we cannot guarantee it. Please consider very carefully whether coming to a gathering will be right for you.”

I welcome edits, revisions, other suggestions, and further discussion.

Love, Blossom xx