Keffy

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Category: Advice!

The Potty Post: Gender-free restrooms at SF&F Conventions

I’ve been to (and peed at) a large number of science fiction and fantasy conventions in the past ten years (oh god, ten???).

I will say that there are two main reasons for “failures” on the part of conventions in this area. One is that society in general is extremely cis-binary, and thus, most hotels, convention centers, etc, are set up with a strict MALE/FEMALE toilet situation. The second is a combination of ignorance and not having thought about whether or not someone who is neither male nor female is going to need to take a piss at some point over a long weekend.

Besides the situation in which someone is not male or female, and thus neither room “fits,” there are also a lot of binary trans people who either don’t pass, or pass weirdly, or pass sometimes, or aren’t sure if they pass, or etc, who are made nervous by the notion of going into one room or the other.

I’m short, fat, and up until last May, had an extremely large chest that I tried unsuccessfully to flatten with binders — and oh, do I have a binder rant, but I’ll get to that later, and won’t be paid for it.

Anyway, even after three, five, seven… years on testosterone, it was questionable as to whether or not I would be perceived as male or female. I got a random smattering of he or she in public, even from people who had known me for years and should have known better. However, I almost never got a non-binary pronoun, since presumably anyone who knows the option exists to just not gender people if you don’t know, also are aware enough to know my pronouns. So, even when I didn’t bind, my hairline marked me as other, and even if my massive chest was clearly unbound and visible, I would still get Suspicious Eyes in women’s restrooms at times. Typically men’s rooms don’t involve making eye contact (that could make you GAY, I guess), but occasionally some cheerful cis man would explain to me where the women’s room was, since I was quite obviously lost.

Gender neutral restrooms would have been much more comfortable if they were available, but if they weren’t, I would frequently make the journey back to my hotel room to use the toilet, sometimes even if it was in a different hotel, if I didn’t feel like dealing with the potential awkward situation.

In any case, some conventions are coming on board with being more welcoming to non-binary people by making gender-neutral toilets available. Some. More would be nice. Add this to your to-do list, along with making sure that your harassment policy is on board, that you have guests who aren’t all white and male, or all white, or all male, and remembering to ask the hotel for fucking ramps for your motherfucking stages.

(Also, I just want to throw it out there that although I’m non-binary, I still use male pronouns and I am not the appointed leader of the non-binary contingent, so others may and will have their own opinions about this stuff.)

 

The naming of the names.

This is not an exhaustive list of the gender-neutral toilet situation at every science fiction convention. Nor is it exhaustive for the ones I’ve been to. Overwhelmingly, though, most of the conventions are in the first category.

Norwescon/Orycon/Most conventions I’ve attended: No public gender-neutral restrooms at all. If you’re not comfortable in either a MEN’s or WOMEN’s room, you better plan on running to your hotel room every time you have to go… which sucks if you’re cheap like me and stay in a different hotel altogether.

Worldcon 75(Helsinki): I did see a gender-neutral toilet. Unfortunately, the one that I saw also seemed to be an accessible toilet, by which I mean, the only accessible toilet? I think? I spoke to several non-binary people who were a bit uncomfortable taking up an accessible toilet, but I spent so much time not figuring out the layout of Messukeskus that I could be wrong, in which case, I apologize.

Wiscon: There is always a gender-neutral toilet on the second floor of the convention, which is not officially a public restroom, but is in one of the meeting rooms/hotel rooms that is rented by the convention. It’s centrally located… but really insufficient in quantity for the number of non-binary people who attend Wiscon. Good, solid effort, but we need more toilets.

Arisia: I attended Arisia for the first time in… uh…I think 2017? I honestly can’t remember if I went this year or last year, though I’m pretty sure it was this year. That just shows you how busy I’ve been. In any case, they solved the problem in the hotel by just labeling both rooms as gender-neutral. This worked fine. I never knew if I was going to end up walking past people using the urinals, but overall, it worked fine. Nobody spontaneously combusted.

I haven’t attended a convention that did this, but apparently at least one person has seen restrooms labeled “urinals” or “no urinals”, which is mostly a good plan, I guess, although I would prefer an explicit gender-neutral tag on the sign as well, otherwise I, personally, would get caught up in assuming cis biological essentialism and guessing that urinals = men’s room. (TFW you don’t agree with a cis-normative line of thought, but fall back on it frequently in a desperate attempt to guess what others are thinking.)

 

Thoughts and suggestions and whatever.

1.) Single-use rooms should always be non-gendered. Gendering these rooms is fucking stupid anyway, because what happens when there’s a line for the arbitrarily-marked women’s room? Cis women will just piss in the other room, anyway, in an attempt to shorten the line, which is only logical. Just. Come on.

2.) Single-use accessible restrooms should be non-gendered, because, hey! People who use wheelchairs come in all the genders of people who don’t. But, the single-use accessible restrooms should not be the only non-gendered restrooms.

3.) Assume that non-gendered restrooms will be used by more than one person. It’s really not just a theoretical exercise. Non-binary (or binary people who don’t “pass” and feel more comfortable not worrying about it) people do come to conventions.

4.) If at all possible, just make all the toilets non-gendered.

5.) Regardless of gender, I want everyone to just stop pissing on the floor, for fuck’s sake.

 

Pee.S.

Finally, if you must gender your fucking restrooms, (which is stupid), can everyone stop using cutesy-ass weird words to denote male and female? I DON’T KNOW, WHICH ROOM IS PRESUMABLY FOR MEN IF I HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN A MOOSE AND AN ELK? IS THIS SOMETHING I WOULD KNOW IF I WAS CIS??? WHY DO YOU FUCKERS HAVE TO MAKE IT SO HARD.

Pee.Pee.S

People in Switzerland Want to Know Who Is Clogging Their Toilets With Wads of Cash

AUTHOR WEBSITES

I still sometimes see people asking questions about author websites. Do I need one? What do I put on it? Who should I pay for it? Do I really need to blog? Do I need to social network facespacepintwitlr? Blah blah blah.

Okay, first, the obligatory HA HA, why would anybody take website information from a site as ugly as this one? (I don’t know.)

There are roughly a million billion sites that will tell you stupid minutiae about what your website should look like, and how to blog, and whatever. 99% of all that shit is optional. I won’t say that nobody cares about that stuff, but it’s not essential. I’m not saying that more advanced/complicated questions aren’t good. But sometimes I see websites that are full of all sorts of fancy bullshit but not the basics.

I don’t care how pretty your design is. Your website exists to tell people who you are and what you write. If it doesn’t do that, fix it.

You need:

a website
with your name on it
and a way to contact you
and a list of your published fiction (if you have any).

Website!

It does not have to be a fancy website. You can go to WordPress.com or blogspot, or even LiveJournal if you are feeling nostalgic for 2003. Try not to make your site look like it was designed in 1996. If you don’t know what means, just choose something like WordPress and use one of the free themes. It’s sufficient.

Name!

It does not need to be your legal name. It needs to be the name that you put (or intend to put) on your fiction. Recently, I went to an author’s site to try and figure out who the author was, since their Twitter account didn’t have their name attached. I had to dig through several pages of the site until I finally found a jpeg file of a book cover with the author’s byline. Their name was not on the main page, in the header, in their bio, or on the “about this blog” page.

Don’t do that. Make sure it’s visible on the main page of your site.

Contact!

Shit happens. Especially in slush piles. Your email provider can decide that the magazine you’ve submitted to is spam. You might fuck up and send a submission with no contact information. I don’t know. Name anything that could possibly go wrong when submitting a story. It’s happened.

Editors become very, very sad if they read a story, want to buy it, and can’t get into contact with the author. No, if you somehow forget contact info, good editors are not going to automatically reject the story. Why? Because if it’s worth publishing, it’s worth the (admittedly annoying) task of typing the author’s name into Google and sending an email.

It can also result in awesome stuff falling in your lap. Example: a few weeks ago I got an email out of the blue from an independent film producer who wanted to give me money and make a short film based on one of my stories. So that’s cool. I felt all validated about making myself easy to contact.

Bibliography!

List things you’ve had published (or published yourself). Link to everything that’s online. If I find one of your ancient stories in a back issue of a magazine, make it easy for me to find something more recent to read.

Okay? Okay. Everything else is optional, so stop freaking out about how some person is claiming that you ABSOLUTELY NEED an account in the current trendy social media site.

Some advice for people heading to Clarion:

At Wiscon, I was on a panel about workshops that was utterly remarkable in that the audience primarily consisted of people who hadn’t been to major SF workshops yet. This was a pleasant surprise, since usually when I’m on a Clarion and/or workshop panel at a con, I show up to discover that almost all of the audience has already gone to Clarion. I mean, at that point, we might as well just have a pan-Clarion bar meet-up. One person was an incoming Clarion West student, though, and she told me that one of the things I’d said on the panel was helpful. So, I’m fighting down my natural urge to go, “ADVICE BLOG POST? BLEEEEECH” and writing this.

When you’re at Clarion for six weeks, you’re supposed to write six short stories, one for each week. These stories will then be critiqued by your classmates and instructor.

You should write stories that require you to use techniques you’re unfamiliar with, in genres that you don’t typically touch, with themes and characters you’ve never considered writing about before. Stretch yourself. Challenge yourself. Learn some shit. Blah, blah blah.

Everyone says that.

Okay, so here’s the important part: Do not write these stories with the intent to publish them later. They should still be complete stories, obviously. It needs to be enough of a draft that it can be critiqued. But your goal for these six weeks is to learn how to write better stories, not to sell these six. I mean, if all you want is six weeks off of work to write short stories for publication and send those off? Shit, you can do that at home.

I’m not saying you can’t or won’t be able to sell those stories, just that you have every other moment outside of these six weeks to sit down thinking, “AND NOW I WILL WRITE AN AWESOME STORY FOR BLAH MAGAZINE.”

So… when I was at Clarion, I had not written very many stories. In fact, I had only written three short stories at that point (one of which was The Ghost of a Girl Who Never Lived, one of my application stories). Writing a whole SIX short stories in a six week period was going to be a huge stretch for me. I thought, well, at least I’ll have six more stories to sell later!

Sigh.

So. I did end up selling my first three stories. Two of them went out the door with fairly minor rewrites, one of them is completely unrecognizable from its original form. Which is good! Because the original draft sucked.

But weeks four, five, and six were pretty much unmitigated disasters. These aren’t even in the category of “Oh, I’ll just rewrite them,” because the shit goes all the way down to the premise. I got super stressed out while writing them which is why they were all written between noon and 3pm of the day that I needed to turn in my drafts (by 3!). I hated writing them. I hated that I knew they weren’t going to sell while I wrote them. I wasn’t quite sure why I was doing it anyway. I mean, I could have just gone downstairs and taken pot-shots at Hugo Award Winning Authors with a water pistol. Or pick through the giant wad of glued-together action figures that Grá found in a dumpster. Or go to the beach and wonder if it was the nude beach, and if it’s a horrible faux pas to be at a nude beach with pants on.

I turned the stories in, and I did learn some stuff from the critiques… but mostly I shot myself in the foot. I felt like crap because I knew that they weren’t going to sell, so no matter what the crits said, I couldn’t turn them around. So why bother. (Eeyore moment.)

AND. WORSE.

I knew that other people, better people, amazing people, had written award winning stories at Clarion! Because those stories were in the archives! And someone from my class had looked them up! So I knew that it was possible! But my stories weren’t that good yet. So, obviously, I had failed at some imaginary Clarion … measure. And by imaginary, I mean really super imaginary, as in, probably only in my head.

AND. WORSE.

You’d think that I’d have figured out that this was an unhealthy way to look at my Clarion experience as of, oh, August 2008. But no. It kind of dragged along behind me for a few years like a string out of a cat’s butthole. That part probably won’t apply to you unless you’re similarly neurotic (or a cat). But I felt for a long time like those unmitigated disasters from weeks 4-6 were proof that I’d wasted at least half of my Clarion experience, and someone else would have been a better choice for my spot.

Phf. I learned plenty from those stories. Like, how to not write something that sucks the same way again.

But, my point isn’t that you can’t write salable stories at Clarion, or that you should write crap on purpose. I’m just saying, if you get stressed out, remember that you’re ONLY writing for the workshop and to learn some shit. It’s okay. Just write some stories, try some things. Worry about your Duotrope stats when you get home.

At least that way if your Clarion stories suck, they’ll suck in new and interesting ways.

 

(This is one of the blog posts I’m writing as part of my participation in the Clarion UCSD Write-A-Thon.)

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