Thursday, April 16, 2015

Speaking at University of Minnesota

I have no writing to talk about this week either so let me just tell you what I was doing instead.

So I was invited to speak at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and it was overall a lovely experience. A representative of the ace/aro group fACES (which in turn is part of their queer program) contacted me a while back to arrange this presentation, and it happened on Monday of this week. They flew me out there and put me up in a hotel to go back home the next day, so it was a pretty quick trip, but everything was paid for (plus a speaking fee) and they treated me really nicely the whole time, and my handler, so to speak, was really cool about my difficulties with navigation. (I didn't have any such difficulties because she took steps to give me very good directions and met me at the airport to show me the way to the campus.)

I was there to give a presentation on asexual, aromantic, demisexual, and graysexual inclusion in broader queer spaces, and I had a nifty little PowerPoint to guide my rambling. We had pizza and my lecture was attended by a decent-sized crowd, and we had a minimum of technology problems. I also asked for feedback from the audience at the end (because nobody had questions or comments on the content!) and got some food for thought on what some of the ace/aro-spectrum folks' experience has been in queer spaces, which will help inform one section I want to revise for the next edition of my book.

I also got to attend another speaker's event before mine--a really cool presentation on trans inclusivity by a guy named JAC. I got to talk to him a little after the presentation and we exchanged business cards. He wanted to make it to mine but I think he had some other stuff he had to do because I didn't see him. I had assured him it'd be on the Internet later though. I did record the presentation but I haven't processed the video yet. Not looking forward to subtitling that whole dang thing.

But to be honest, the highlight of the trip for me was getting to meet really cool queer people, especially during the period of time when we were chilling in their queer student center just waiting for our event. For my traveling clothes, I wore my new shirt with characters from Steven Universe on it:

Ruby & Sapphire are adorable.
Fury + patience babyyyy~

Now, I was planning to change into a different shirt to look more "professional" once the time came for my presentation; I like to travel in different clothes for obvious reasons, but considering both the very casual atmosphere at the university and the fact that frigging everyone loved my shirt, I decided not to change it for the event. :) I swear, though, I guess I should have guessed that all the queer kids would like this show and be into it, but I actually didn't expect so many people to recognize it--especially since this isn't the usual model of these characters and the logo for the show isn't even on the shirt. These characters are on for a few minutes in one episode (though granted, it was extremely memorable). Many major characters on this show are aliens and technically they don't exactly have a sex or gender, but they all use feminine pronouns and present female by our standards, so these two are widely considered to be a same-sex romantic couple. (On-screen, their relationship is definitely, obviously romantic, and it doesn't matter that they are on a kids' show on the Cartoon Network. Queer folks tend to find this inspiring.)

So the person who picked me up at the airport commented on my shirt right away. A cool person in the queer center excitedly pointed it out and commenced a thirty-minute discussion about representation in cartoons with me. A couple other people mentioned it. Before my presentation one of the attendees said "I didn't know they had shirts yet!" And when I went back to the meeting room to get my stuff, someone started singing one of the songs from the show which is basically about these characters. :D Dang, it's like, I found my people. My queer, cartoon-obsessed, intellectual nerdy people. Too bad they were all like fifteen years younger than me and queer organizations like this that were ace inclusive were nonexistent when I was their age.

One of the flags on the wall was even an asexual flag!

Anyway, except for how tired I was because I didn't get enough sleep the night before I left, everything went off without a hitch. I didn't get lost on my way back to the airport even though I had to take the light rail alone and change trains. The presentation was well received and I didn't have any problems with anything. I didn't lose any items or injure myself or have any bad travel experiences. And I met great people and had a really good time. The only thing that really surprised me was how much I slept when I got back to the hotel room. I went to bed early and I assumed I would be waking up super early, but I woke up at a more normal time--it was a lot of sleep for me.

And I got through a book and a half while traveling too, so I'm ahead on my reading. :)

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