Discourse Needs Closed Spaces, Open Discussions

The Queer Resource Center has recently reevaluated how open and
closed spaces best serve the queer community, specifically for those who
experience intersectional oppression. Prior to this semester, nearly all
of the identity-based dialogues hosted by the Queer Resource Center were open, and while they generally served the community well, there were some people who
felt their experiences were misunderstood, spoken over and marginalized. 

As a
result, the Queer Resource Center has hosted both open and closed
dialogue series this semester. A closed space is a space where only certain people can
attend, by either invitation or identity. In contrast, an open space is an event that everyone can attend—regardless of identity—and does not require an
invitation. They are generally more casual community building events and often
have a learning component to them.

Both types of spaces have their merits and drawbacks, but for
obvious reasons closed spaces are far more controversial. By their very nature,
some people cannot attend, and some have even gone as far as to accuse closed
spaces of being discriminatory. While there are certainly disadvantages behind
closed spaces, the way they manifest themselves in academic spaces is generally

Most people would not advocate for spaces that are closed
based on privilege, because they are clearly discriminatory. For instance, if I
created a closed social event for women of color that excluded transgender
women, it would be discriminatory. The sole reason the event is not accessible
to transgender women is to exclude them. 

The only scenario where a closed space
based on privilege would not be discriminatory is if the reason for the closed
space was to examine the privilege of the attendees. Even then, the closed
space exists to protect the marginalized from potentially offensive things that
may be said during the learning process.

In contrast, closed spaces centered on identity-based oppression
serve as a means to heal. It can be very exhausting for people of oppressed
identities to explain how they are oppressed all the time. Furthermore, open
spaces require folks to have a level of vulnerability that not everyone is
comfortable with having. 

Speaking about one’s experiences of oppression, violence and
exploitation can be a scary thing, especially if you think people may call into
question the legitimacy of your experiences as they often do in open spaces. Having a closed space allows for a sense of safety and solidarity that is
simply not possible in open spaces.

Additionally, closed spaces allow for the type of coalition
building that rarely happens in open spaces. Often, organizing against
oppression can inaccurately seem like organizing against identities. For
instance, if I were to protest the treatment of neurodiverse people, or those with neurological differences as a result of natural variations in the human genome, in
academia, I may acknowledge that neurotypical people benefit from such a
system. If there are people in a space who disagree, the focus of the space
can shift from productive organizing to teaching that is important but derails
from the intention of the space. When you have limited time, resources and
energy, derailing can cause a serious loss to effective organizing.

Open spaces play a crucial role in personal and community
growth. On one hand, open spaces help build solidarity and understanding among
people of different identities. This understanding plays a crucial role in
intersectional coalition building. 

On the other hand, the most oppressed
members of our community are not responsible for teaching others about how they are
oppressed. While it is important to discuss these experiences with those who have not lived them, the process of doing so is not necessarily conducive to a safe, healing atmosphere. As a result, closed
spaces offer healing and coalition building that open spaces just cannot.

Here is a list of the closed Dialogues the QRC is
hosting for the spring 2015 semester:

March 30th 7 p.m.—8 p.m.: Trans and/or Non-Binary Dialogue

This dialogue is for people who identify as
trans/non-binary/genderqueer/non-cis and/or are gender questioning.

April 6th 5 p.m.—6 p.m.: Asexual Dialogue

This dialogue is for people who identify on the asexual spectrum
and/or are questioning.

April 20th 5 p.m.—6 p.m.: Queer Survivor Dialogue

This dialogue is for people who are survivors of sexual assault.

May 4th 5 p.m.—6 p.m.: Class Dialogue

This dialogue is for people who come from low-income

Denys Reyes CM ’16 is majoring in government and religious studies Her. She
works at the Queer Resource Center.


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