Saturday Morning Program—An Invitation to Inclusion

On Saturday morning, following the opening circle, we will be assembling as a group to co-create a dialogue about difference. This shared morning program will be an invitation to inclusion, to see one another more clearly, and represent all our stories, and to visibilize the undercurrents of identity in our community. In order to understand how we can move together holding the values we share, we will engage in difficult conversations together in supportive space, doing both large – and small group work, plus some one-on-one time, and sharing back.

It’s time to see each other, and move toward trust in each other. We are in this together. Remember, we are older than categories. Our interdependence makes us lethal to our oppressors.

This space will be held and guided by friend of community Ava Pipitone, an inter-generational bridge builder, who creates tools to scaffold the imaginations of others. Housing LGBT folx, building collective worker power, and organizing transgender communities are her focus. Ava helps communities heal through conversation and organization design.

A Short History of Trans Inclusion at the Women’s Gathering

The Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering has been an annual event since 1983. Within the first few years, the question of trans-inclusiveness was brought to the attention of the organizers and it was decided sometime in ‘84 or ‘85 that trans women would be welcome at our gathering. In 1997 the issue came up anew, and the organizers again made the decision to officially welcome trans women to our event. Since that year, trans women have been in attendance at every Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering.

In 2017, the organizers decided to take a hiatus year to address concerns about the implications of trans inclusion in women’s space. No public event was hosted that year; instead, the organizers hosted a private gathering including some Twin Oaks members and some past Gathering attendees. Only people who were assigned female at birth were invited. In retrospect, we feel that this choice was insensitive, offensive, and harmful. Many other conversations were had within the organizing team, and within the larger network of Twin Oaks Community and past Women’s Gathering attendees, to help us re-evaluate our definition of women’s space and how to move forward with our Gathering. We sincerely regret the choices we made in 2017 and apologize to those that were excluded from that private event.

The organizing team re-formed in 2018 with some old and some new organizers. We re-affirmed our commitment to trans-inclusiveness and vow to never again exclude trans women from events related to our Women’s Gathering.

While the 2018 gathering included many great workshops with transformative and healing moments, we made a mistake in allowing a workshop titled “The Disappearing Woman” to occur. In this workshop, things were said that were offensive and insulting to trans women, culminating in an angry outburst in which one of our trans participants was verbally attacked. We failed to properly vet the workshop and to prepare our team of “angels” to intervene and de-escalate the situation. The events at that workshop were in violation of our inclusion statement and a participant was asked to leave. We believe that we were naïve and not sensitive enough to the tensions underlying the workshop topic, and we apologize to everyone who was adversely affected by this situation.

For 2019, we’ve updated our Inclusion Statement after meeting face-to-face with several trans women and nonbinary participants to figure out how we can better meet their needs. We are designing a more intensive training for Angels, and are working on creating a program for all attendees that fosters understanding and connection across difference to address issues diversity, transphobia, and trans inclusion.

We’re excited and hopeful for the 2019 Gathering, which is themed “Coming Together to Empower Each Other.” We are seeking workshops and tools that can help to create more supportive space within our gathering; we eagerly anticipate any helpful suggestions or contributions you may want to make.

In Sisterhood,
The Women’s Gathering Organizers,
Anna, Alexis, Gabby, Hawina, and Julia

A Strong Brew of Medicine by Bell

The 2018 Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering will be my first experience sharing space exclusively with women and femme folk in such a celebratory and communal setting. This opportunity means a lot to me as a great lover of our collective culture and herstory. I am looking forward to learning about and connecting with my sisters who will be joining together from so many different walks of life and sharing our unique definitions of what it means to be our true selves as women. I am looking forward to the nourishment, understanding and compassion that an event like this aims to cultivate. To me, women gathering together in this empowering fashion is a strong brew of medicine that can shift our lives back into much needed balance.

Feeling Free at the Women’s Gathering by Hawina

I like to say that there is nowhere I feel as free to be me as at our Women’s Gathering.

Part of what inspires this is my memory of the last summer before my boobs came in: I was going topless at any possible opportunity. I mourned the huge loss of freedom coming my way, knowing as a pre-teen it was going to be the last time ever in my life I would be able to walk around without a shirt on. I was so mad. And sad. And determined to do it all the time while I still could.

The Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering has given that going topless freedom back to me. Again, I find myself walking around shirtless as much as I can, but this time it’s with joy and not with sadness. My favorite part is when I start feeling cold at day’s end and suddenly remember “O, right, I’m not wearing a top”

For me the true freedom does not lie in being able to go topless, even though that is very powerfully important to me. The deeper truer freedom lies in being able to forget about it.