Queer Ecotopia Biketour ?

Story behind, problems, critique

2 years ago we decided to put some keywords on the poster and the flyers to describe the biketour in a short way. We put amongst others as well “Queer” because we felt like it is a significant part of our community – that we are explicitly not only Cis*-hetero-people and that we are opposing heteronormative* society norms.
We received critique from members of the queer community, who experienced homophobia on Ecotopia Biketour 2015.
I am very set up when i read queer on that poster!!! I think it is a lie. On the ecotopia biketour in sweden and norway in 2015 a situation occures where our gay guest holder for the biketour in oslo get attacked in physical and several times verbal by two members of the biketour. All other members of the biketour was allright with that. No consequesses. Me, also gay, reminde seweral times to that and ask for consequences for those violence cis mens. but just ignorance. So i get excluded too. I left the bike tour witch is soooooo queer. (…) And there was more gayphobic stuff going on! 
Another heterosexist* issue happend then, done by the same cis mens but this time against two womens. This time it was a big issue and alot of people participate. Why are gay and bisexuals not protected by the (queer) biketour group while hetero cis women are protected?! The answer is just: there is nothing like queer, nobody is queer, not me not you nor any biketour. There is just queer behavior. With writing queer it just help normativ people to hide their problematic way of thinking, and acting. And the ecotopia biketour becomes again a vehicle to transport right-wing violence into queer saver spaces, like 2015 in oslo. When hetero living people assimilate words like queer for their own purpose and acualy have no contact to people who had to live nonnormativ, then something wrong happend.
For the full conversation, check the following pad.

We changed our guidelines as a reaction to that incident. They now say that the Biketour “is not open to people who show persistent oppressive behavior. 
The Biketour commits to supporting and promoting the safety of participants from all kinds of oppression and discrimination.”  When in 2017s Biketour, we were again confronted with persistent oppressive behavior, we (after long discussions https://www.ecotopiabiketour.net/…/dealing-with…) decided to kick the person out.

What is queer?

It means originally “strange”, “peculiar”. 
This term has a long story, first used as a pejorative way to call people who were not having a “regular’ sexuality or gender behavior in the 19th century, it has been reappropriated by this community in the 1980’s. 
On http://www.transstudent.org/definitions/ queer is defined as: “a term for people of marginalized gender identities* and sexual orientations* who are not cisgender and/or heterosexual” and the word “queer community” can be use as a synonym as LGBT* community.
The criticism we received made us realize, that there are plenty of different interpretations and meanings of this word. But we think all of those should be respected.
Am I queer if I feel attracted to people of the same gender? Am I queer if I’m cis and hetero but I don’t feel comfortable with the behavior of my gender? Am I queer if I don’t identity with any other label: nor hetero, nor homo, nor bi?
In a personal level, each person should define themselves, if they identify with this term. As a group, it’s necessary to use it as a general inclusive category, that’s why, in the biketour 2018, we will understand it as any sexuality, gender identity and ways of expressing them, which doesn’t fit with the society norms!
We want to be a group where it is normal that somebody who has the physical attributes of a man uses female fashion items, such as a dress or nail polish (crossdressing). Where it’s normal, that somebody assigned at birth* as a woman decides to live as a man(Transgender*), to use the pronoun he‘ and to take hormones that transform his body (transsexual*). Or where it’s normal, that a man decides to use a name that is normally used for women.
In general it should be possible to express freely without being labeled or put into categories. It is the people themselves that decide if they want.
Only two gender-boxes are not enough to fit all people! (genderspectrum*)
The norms are put upside down; what is strange in society, becomes normal here and we refuse any heterosexist or cissexist behavior.

How we apply it

A lot of time, disrespect arrives through a lack of knowledge and not necessarily because of a will to hurt. 
If someone never heard about the nonbinary* pronoun “they* in English, they will maybe forget to use it and it can be felt as an oppression. Or to say to two men,Oh it’s soo cute that you are cuddling!, whilst you would never say it to a man and a women doing the same thing. We are not animals in a zoo! Being particularly nice to somebody because they are different might feel weird to them. Even though you had good intentions, the result is the opposite. Just try to treat anybody the same way. If you are not sure about a persons gender identity just ask them. As this is an intimate topic some people might not want to talk about it openly, and this should be respected. But others again are very happy to share their experiences.
We have to stay aware that those patterns are integrated deep into us and even if we all personally work on deconstructing them, it’s very probable that some of these situations will happen during the biketour. 
This year we decided to put a special effort on information, bringing material and zine about all queer thematics and organising workshops, because we believe that the majority of the people who will join us agreed with our values and so are open to learn about them.
Last years we had awareness teams, which were supposed to prevent those situations, but in practice it has been hard to apply and we only had a few cases of conflicts which have been resolved through a moderation. We also had an “oppression sheet”, which was an anonymous paper where everyone could write about some oppression they had been suffering during the tour and it was read in the general meeting. 
This year (2018) we try to improve the efficiency with a fixed procedure how to react to oppressive situations. 
Only a persistent oppressive behaviour, when someone is not open to critic or discussion, will be sanctioned.
In the end, the biketour is a place where we can express our feelings about any kinds of oppression being taken seriously.

Why do we keep the word “queer” on our poster?

We decided to keep it nevertheless, because the organisers of the biketour have changed almost completely since 2015 and we are constantly working on making it safer. 

Anyways, we are not perfect in any of the keywords that are written on the poster, but they show our goals, and with the poster we want to make people interested who have similar goals. 

We don’t want the whole biketour to be queer, as that would imply it only includes queer people but excludes non-queer folks.
We want to be a group/project that offers possibilities to live differently from the system. This includes the opportunity to express freely your gender indentity and your sexual orientation. For some of us it might mean to discover those things a first time, to be able to educate themselves about them and maybe to become “queer” themselves.
*vocabulary
Cisgender: Is a person who identifies with their gender assigned on birth. “cisman” or “ciswomen” is a person who is not transgender.
Heteronormativity: is the belief that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (male and female) with natural roles in life. It assumes that heterosexuality is the “normal” sexual orientation and that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between people of opposite sex. In the biketour we would use it to refer as a close minded way to understand genders roles into a relationship.
heterosexism: discrimination against people that are not fitting in the heteronomative society
Gender Identity: One’s internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or other gender(s). Everyone has a gender identity, including you. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity are not necessarily the same.
Sexual Orientation: A person’s physical, romantic, emotional, aesthetic, and/or other form of attraction to others. Anybody, independent from their gender identity can be straight/hetero(women attracted to men and the other way around) bisexual (somebody attracted to women and men), lesbian, gay, asexual(not sexually attracted to anyone), pansexual (attracted to all genders), queer, etc. For example, a trans woman who is exclusively attracted to other women would often identify as lesbian.
LGBT, LGBTQ+: shortcut for “Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Trans-Queer” It is often used to describe non-heteronormative contexts, groups, places or events.
Sex Assigned At Birth: The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex assigned at birth often based on physical anatomy at birth and/or karyotyping(genetics).
non-binairy: Adjective for people who don’t identify with a gender or an other, they may not feel comfortable about being associated to a gender category (man, women…) even if they don’t use neutral pronouns.
gender spectrum is a way of describing gender without conforming to the gender binary. It denotes gender as a continuum that includes male and female, but without establishing them as absolutes or polar opposites. The view of gender as a spectrum allows for the inclusion of identities besides male and female– specifically, it allows for the inclusion of intersex people, nonbinary gender identities, and nonbinary gender expressions.
Transgender or Trans : Is a person who doesn’t identify with their gender assigned on birth. They can be non binair or identify themselves with another gender. Transgender people can have been operated, having an hormone treatment, or nothing. 
Transsexual: A medical term that is often considered pejorative, similar to transgender in that it indicates a difference between one’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth. Transsexual often – though not always – implicates hormonal/surgical transition from one binary gender (male or female) to the other.
They: In english, the pronoun “they” can be used as a neutral gender pronoun (opposed to “it” which is rather used for objects). It makes sense to use “they” when you don’t know about somebodies pronoun or when you don’t speak about a specific person.
ex : They are so fast
In spanish, neutral pronoun is “elle”, and you would put a “e” at the end of the adjectives as neutral gender mark.
ex : elle es muy rapide
Pronouns of people can be different of what you think they are. That’s why, when you introduce yourself in a circle, you are invited to say which pronoun you want us to use for you. And it’s also good, when you don’t know someone, to ask their pronoun. It’s important to take care about respecting preferred pronoun of everybody and put attention on it.
Queer: A term for people of marginalized gender identities and sexual orientations who are not cisgender and/or heterosexual.

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