Activist/academic space guidelines

This event is explicitly designed to include a diversity of people, as both contributors and attendees. The list includes but is not limited to:

  • academics, educators and researchers from a number of different disciplines
  • activists, charity workers and community members
  • artists and other creative workers

In addition, there will be people present from a number of different social, cultural and generational backgrounds with a variety of different first languages.

For these reasons we ask that you are mindful of the different backgrounds and perspectives of the attendees. To help in this we offer the following list of eleven guidelines which we invite attendees to follow: presenters when preparing their materials for the conference, and everyone when taking part on the day.

1: Please keep your terminology simple such that it can be understood easily by people from all of the groups listed above

If you are using words which are specific to your academic discipline or professional world then please explain them for those who are unfamiliar with them. This might include, for example: statistical terms, specific theoretical ideas (e.g. post-structuralism), or references to thinkers/activists/artists who others will not necessarily be familiar with. You might simply consider stripping some of these elements out of your presentation if it would be difficult to explain all of the background in simple terms. We will also ask chairs of sessions to pick up on any unfamiliar terminology and ask for explanations in order that all presentations are understandable to the whole audience.

2: Please don’t assume that people will be familiar with the norms and conventions of your world

We have very different ways of doing things across different kinds of academic, professional and community spaces, and people will also have different social, cultural and generational norms as well as different levels of experience and expertise. Please be aware of this when interacting with people. For example, people may ask questions or make points that feel clumsy or ignorant to you, but – if possible – try to ‘call them in’ by explaining things gently rather than ‘calling them out’ by publicly dismissing or challenging them. If you don’t have the energy to do this yourself then it’s fine to suggest that the person talks to one of the organisers who can do their best to explain.

3: Please don’t make assumptions about people themselves

People at the event will have diverse genders, sexualities, relationship styles, ages, dis/abilities, employment statuses and professions, nationalities, political and religious beliefs, and class, cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds. Please try not to make assumptions about these, and to take somebody’s self-identity at face value.

Use the names and pronouns that people provide, or ask if you can’t see one. Don’t make jokes or derogatory comments about an entire gender, sexuality or other social or cultural group. Don’t assume that somebody will be able to afford to join you in eating out, or that they will be an alcohol drinker, or that they will be able to hear in a noisy venue.

4: Please treat presenters with respect

It can be very daunting to present in front of a group, especially about your own work and ideas. For some people this may be their first time. Also please bear in mind that people sometimes make errors in their language when under pressure and do check out whether that might have happened before criticising them.

5: Please try to frame questions and discussion points in a way that leaves room for other people to contribute

It’s common at events to get excited about what people are presenting and to want to join the discussion. We really hope that you feel this way! However, it is easy for discussions to become dominated by certain individuals or views. Please keep your contributions brief enough that everybody present has the possibility of taking part. Remember that some people need a period of silence to consider what to say before contributing or putting their hand up, so don’t rush to fill the space. If you’ve already contributed, or tend to do so a lot, consider stepping back to give others space. If you don’t often contribute, think about stepping forward (if you speak quietly or find it too daunting you can write a comment on a post-it to be passed down to the chair rather than speaking).

6: Please try to frame questions and discussion points in a way that leaves it open that other people may disagree with you

There will be people present with very different political views, religious backgrounds, theoretical approaches, and opinions on how to conduct relationships and what political strategies are most effective. Please consider whether your contribution leaves space for other people to express different points of view to your own. It’s fine to disagree but please try to keep criticism constructive and to own your perspective: ‘I think…’ rather than ‘you’re wrong’.

7: Please provide content warnings if the material you are sharing has the potential to be upsetting or personally triggering

This counts both for presentations (which can have a brief content warning up front) and for comments in discussion. Please think first about whether your comment might feel too personally exposing for you afterwards, or triggering for others. For example, it is worth flagging up front if there is going to be any mention – or imagery – of sexual abuse, violence, mental health problems, traumatic experiences, or racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise derogatory sentiments. It is fine for people to decide to leave a session – temporarily or permanently – if they aren’t comfortable with the material.

8: Please keep what people share confidential after the event

If people discuss personal experiences, or if professionals mention people they work with, remember not to discuss these outside of the event (with others, or with them if it is a confidential space). Also please be very careful only to talk about other people who have given you explicit permission to do so.

9: Please use social media generously

We very much hope that people will live tweet the event using the hashtag #contemporarygender and blog about it. However, please don’t use this media to publicly criticise or condemn individuals. If you have a complaint or criticism about the event please consider discussing it with the organisers before making it public. We have confirmed with presenters that they are happy to be named and/or tagged in Twitter posts, but please don’t name or tag other attendees in social media posts unless they have provided explicit permission for you to do so.

10: Please refrain from taking photos without permission

As this conference has a strong trans focus, there is a chance that attendance at the event may be taken to be an indication of whether someone is themself trans. Not everyone who is trans is out about this, and being out can pose a risk to many of us in certain contexts. As such, please avoid including people in any photos unless they have provided explicit permission for you to do so. In the event that permission is given, don’t assume this includes permission to post photos on social media or share them with other individuals in any other form. In order to minimise risk to attendees, ensure you have their explicit permission for any capture or specific use of photos in which they are visible.

11: Dealing with problems

If you have any problems with the event, please talk to the organisers individually. We’ll do our very best but there will inevitably be some mistakes and imperfections and we’re very keen to address those and to keep improving. It can be helpful to put yourself in the shoes of the organisers, recognising the pressures that they are under. For example, you might consider whether your query or point is urgent – in which case we want to hear it right away – or whether it might be one that is okay to feed back after the event when people have had time to recover or as part of the event’s built-in feedback mechanisms.


Guidelines adapted from Rewriting the Rules (under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License – this version falls under the same license).