A Diversity of Communities

by Raven 

I recently put a question on Facebook, “…which is more important, diversity within a commune or community or a diversity of communes and communities?”

Here I want to talk about what I mean by a diversity of communes. The Federation of Egalitarian Communities recently began looking at one of their principles, principle #5, which reads that each community: “Actively works to establish the equality of all people and does not permit discrimination on the basis of race, class, creed, ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”  While this principle seems well intentioned, what about a community that focuses on, and may only include, people who desire a safer space for those of their identity? (This is currently being re-interpreted to potentially include some of the communities mentioned below.)

What about communities that are primarily, or perhaps exclusively, for people of color or trans and/or queer folks?  This has been a bit of a problem in the past because some of the Tennessee queer communities had expressed interest in the FEC but some people in the FEC felt that their focus on queer identity violated the “anti-discrimination” clause in principle #5.

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Picture from a New York Times article on the Tennessee communities 

What about a community like Soul Fire Farm, which describes itself as a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) centered community farm? They haven’t expressed interest in the FEC, but what if they did?  When people of color express uncomfortableness in primarily white communities, what about supporting communities that are primarily or exclusively for people of the global majority? 

I have also met some people from Jewish focused communities that shared income. It would be great to invite them to check out the FEC. Again, these communities would violate the “anti-discrimination” clause.  The upshot is that the FEC is talking about changing this to an “anti-oppression” clause. 

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Soul Fire Farm 

My vision is of a communities movement where there were Black communities, Jewish communities, queer communities, communities of women, communities filled with trans and genderqueer folks, and many other possibilities.   

Don’t get me wrong.  I really want to see diverse income-sharing communities becoming a reality  and would love to live in one, but I also think that having a diversity of communities is an important step in this process. I don’t think that a large community that is mostly white but has one or two African-American members is a diverse community. I would rather see a variety of communes where people felt safe and valued for who they are. 

I would rather see a diversity of communes and communities.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

 

 

A Diversity of Communities

Quink Fair: Fail Soft

by Paxus Calta

from Your Passport to Complaining

I had my heart set on Ignition.  Maud and i had spoken half a dozen times about the theory and set up.  We had emailed much more about the tests we could administer in the relatively short amount of time new participants would be willing to self reflect before they hit the festival space.  We discussed if Re-Evaluation Counseling (AKA co-counseling) could be synthesized to untrained practitioners quickly and if it was too trauma focused which would likely be the wrong mood to spark going into a fair.  We had rough questions and scripts and Enneagram experts consulting us. And it is not for nothing that the principal volunteers for this event are called “disorganizers”.

We had wanted a space for Ignition’s operation and Darrell from Camp Contact offered us a smaller (25’ diameter) geodesic dome.  But even a small dome was too large for the trivial amount of furniture we had acquired. And we were underprepared in half a dozen other ways.

Maud called it first; “we should cancel it.” My heart was broken, but she was right.  And in leaving this failure early we were both able to concentrate on other aspects of this inaugural celebration.  Maud took ignition “wifi;” doing personal orientation to new arrivals and helping everyone she could find their way. And i ran around doing errands for Angie’s amazing kitchen, working the front gate, driving compost away, shuttling participants to Twin Oaks and Cambia tours.  Reverting to the axiom “no job is too low for a (dis)organizer.”

By failing soft in this ambitious aspect, the entire event was served.

Numerous participants said they had quink experiences large and small.  We started several promising romances. Several people were asked what their pronouns were for the first time in their lives, and some were surprised to discover they didn’t know what pronouns they would like to be referred to as.

Lila described her quink experience to me.  “I was in the Temple of Oracles late last night and there was this lovely cuddle pile that formed which was sensual w/o being sexual.  It felt very safe because people were checking in with everyone about touching. I’ve never been in anything like that, i want more of it in my life.”  It was at that moment i realized i was not only excited about, but felt obligated to organize Quink Fair 2020.

A disorganizers planning session

I had another lovely experience during the event. On the Sunday morning i got a call from my son Willow. “You should know that the police have set up a check point between the Quink event and Twin Oaks and they are stopping all the cars going through and questioning people.” My frustration with this police harassment was quickly abated by my appreciation of my son. He knew what was important to me, that the event participants did not have problems with police and he called so i could do something about it.

Willow and Paxus – Circa 2017

Angie has a plan, she actually maybe the only person who has more plans than Elizabeth Warren.  Angie will come down to Virginia in November to help dis-organize a mini reunion and QuinkFair 2020 planning session.  On this trip she also wants to network with the fine folks from Network for New Culture and act as an ambassador for the QuinkFair project. Part of the reason for this is the New Culture participants were largely absent from our event because their own summer camp overlaps. New Culture builds the high consent culture which permits more daring workshops and events than is normally possible.

Her planning continues, we are deep into negotiations about dates, likely earlier in the summer as it will be cooler and avoid some of the key conflicts.  On the other hand, we may move the event into the armpit of August, on the weekend before the Queer Gathering, to spark synchronicity and build solidarity. We have to find a new venue, raise money, round up disorganizers and do all the stuff it takes to make this amazing event happen again, only bigger and better.

If you want to attend or help out with QuinkFair 2020 write QuinkFair@gmail.com.

Nadia with the Phoenix she built.
Quink Fair: Fail Soft

The 2019 Communities Conference

by Raven (with help from Rejoice) 

The Communities Conference nearly didn’t happen this year. In late May, Julia sent out an email to several communards wondering if we should have the Conference this year. It was late and most of the usual organizers were busy elsewhere. Fortunately, a bunch of people stepped up to the plate. 

The principle organizing team this year was Alexis, Wes, Rejoice, Maximus, Hayley, Anna, Gabby, and Brooke. In record time they helped pull together the longest-running of the three August gatherings at Twin Oaks.  And as a result of their work, the Communities Conference happened.  

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Julia (who didn’t organize but managed the site)
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Rejoice 
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Maximus 
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Wes
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Alexis 
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Anna 
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Brooke 

There were many similarities to previous Conferences.  The meals were great, there were workshops, “Meet the Communities” happened on Saturday morning, and there was lots of networking and connections.  There were tours of Twin Oaks and of Cambia, a dance party Saturday night at ZK at Twin Oaks, and hang out dinners at Acorn and Living Energy Farm on Sunday night.   But there were also differences.

Most of the food this year was dumpstered. There was no printed workshop schedule and all the workshops were created at the Conference. A lot of the Conference was created at the Conference. And it all worked out and worked out well. 

Hopefully next year the Communities Conference will be planned out well ahead of time. But this year’s Conference showed what a bunch of motivated communards could do.  We can build communities and we can build conferences.

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My favorite outhouse at the Conference site 

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish

Thanks! 

 

The 2019 Communities Conference

Thoughts on the Twin Oaks Queer Gathering

Written by Warren:

I’ve been curious about the FEC communes for a little over a year and this past August I finally had an opportunity to visit Twin Oaks during the Queer Gathering. Generally speaking, it’s not difficult to arrange a visit to these communities, but I live in Sweden and I have a small daughter which makes logistics somewhat trickier. Both visiting and membership procedures are (understandably) much more restricted when it comes to children. However, as a long-time activist in the LGBTQ rights movement, I was really looking forward to experiencing an American queer gathering. Would it be similar to the Danish and Swedish queer festivals that I’d been to? Most of my experience with American queer politics has been through the internet, what would it feel like to meet the thoughts and ideas and personalities of my queer siblings across the ocean in person?

First, a bit about the word “queer.” Queer has become something of an umbrella term for the LGBT community as a way to say sexual or gender minority without getting into specifics. But this hasn’t always been the case and in the Scandinavia capitol cities (and Berlin and perhaps a few other places) “queer” had been long used to describe the so-called faction of LGBT people who were far-left leaning politically, almost exclusively vegan and not at all interested in respectability politics. Conversations at Scandinavian queer gatherings ten years ago were more likely to focus on abolishing marriage and legal gender than marriage equality and third gender markers. There were designated sex-spaces, hands-on BDSM workshops and yes, orgies. I wouldn’t be surprised if the term “pink washing” was actually coined over a pot of vegan stew in the cafeteria of an abandoned school building squatted by queer anarchists. These were also spaces haunted by traumatic childhoods and unhealthy coping mechanisms. The Queers were a crazy, beautiful, amazing, bizarre, radical hot mess. Today, the English-language influence has grown stronger and “queer” is now being used more and more as a catchall term for the alphabet soup even over here. With a shift in language, comes a shift of ideas and culture and that which has no name tends to fade away.

 

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They had buttons like this at the gathering 

My first delight upon arriving at Twin Oaks, was seeing queers in the woods. This was, in fact, the first time I’d ever seen queers camping en masse. Despite being outdoorsy myself, my own LGBTQ-community experiences have mostly been urban. If you missed the sign announcing the grass parking lot, you would know you were in the right place from all the Subarus.  The secluded location combined with intense heat (for me, omg I was dying, never sweated so much in my life) and clothing-optional policy created a vibrant visual “all-bodies welcome” setting that was powerful. Judging by the pronoun nametags, around half of the participants were nonbinary and many more had binary identities with nonbinary bodies comfortably taking up space and freely existing. This alone is something I wish for all trans people to experience at least once in their lives.

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Street sign in New York City near the Stonewall Inn 

The spaces between and beyond gender were stronger and more tangible during this gathering than I’ve seen them.  The flip side of this coin, was that the presence of solidly binary-identified cisgender gay men, lesbians and bisexuals was little more than a murmur. This brings me back around to the question of how big of an umbrella is the word “queer” in reality? Who feels welcomed/described by the word? Is it enough for the author of an online glossary to define a word as a catchall for it to function as a catchall? 

As for the leftist-coloring of the word, that I couldn’t judge at this opportunity– this was afterall a gathering at an income-sharing egalitarian commune. Socialist leanings would be a given. I did however attend a food justice queer revolution workshop during the gathering which trojan horsed Marxism as the solution to climate breakdown and post-apocolyptic governance. If Americans are so scared of socialism they have to carefully dance around it (one participant even quoted Marx without attributing the quote to Marx) at a queer gathering on an income-sharing commune…well, Bernie Sanders has his work cut out for him.

I learned from a workshop on being queer in community, that approximately the same amount of transphobia exists at Twin Oaks and some of the other communities as in the wider American culture, maybe shifted a bit to exclude the extreme negative end of the scale. The usual generational divide between those who get it and those who feel the fundamental rules of nature have been shifted beneath their vary noses, can be felt as much at Twin Oaks as anywhere else. The Queer Gathering is a bubble of freedom and liberation even within the communities movement.

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Author with daughter and friends in the background 

I did bring my 5-year-old daughter with me and was grateful for the free babysitting provided by volunteers. Being babysat by a wonderful, mostly naked man with large breasts was an experience that stimulated questions that led to conversations I was happy to have the opportunity to have with my daughter. Despite being trans myself, back home transness as topic in itself is not one that comes up very often in our day-to-day life. She even took the stage during the audience-participation queer, drag, burlesque, talent show event– I love that she felt safe enough to confront her stage fright and that she too got to experience empowerment and acceptance.

It was wonderful to meet some familiar faces from this blog and other internet spaces, in person– the people you see here are every bit as delightful in real life. Warm, compassionate and inspiring. If you’re thinking about taking the leap and going to visit a community, do it. 

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish

Thanks! 

 

Thoughts on the Twin Oaks Queer Gathering

Instagrams from the Communities Conference

 

from the Commune Life Instagram account

Instagrams from the Communities Conference