When We (White, CISgender people) Plan Things

Today I got word that the Wild Goose Festival has decided NOT to move their summer festival from North Carolina.  See this from their e-blast:

The Wild Goose Festival is staying in Hot Springs this summer and we hope you’ll stay and stand up with us. As you may know, an attempt to repeal “HB2,” the highly controversial and offensive North Carolina “Bathroom Bill” failed in the days just before Christmas leading to some questions as to whether we should stay or go.

We’ve examined alternative sites in some other states and we face logistical and financial challenges in making them happen BUT we stay because we ought to – we stay to stand and to fight. We stay because it’s our battle and it’s our cause and it’s our calling and it’s our community – not because we find it inconvenient to go. I can’t find it in my spirit to believe otherwise.

We’re calling on you to walk toward the need, to stake your position, to show your commitment, and to DEVELOP your plan of action. We’re committed to offering practical sessions on how to run for office, how to lobby a legislative body, how to organize opposition, and more. We’ll leave Hot Springs more deeply connected, more highly motivated, and better equipped!

We‘ll stay as a watering hole for the beleaguered fighters and we’ll stay to help provide a safer space for the thousands of people hurt by this hate-filled law and the overall current socio-political climate.

There was more… and it was signed by the President and Producer of the festival – a white, cisgender, boomer male. (My own demographic, by the way.)


I have a few things to say. First, many of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have attended WGF in the 5 years since its inception. I have heard them talk about what they received there with gratitude. Second, I have never been able to attend. It is cost prohibitive and I have some minor quibbling with, among other things, the emphasis on the “specialness” of keynoters. (see also my engagement with UNCO.us). Third, I am the mother of a genderqueer person and have many trans friends whose presence in my life teaches me about my gender privilege and the need for absolute certainty about their safety. Today, and in light of everything that faces trying-to-be-progressive Christians in our country at this time, this letter and what it means is really the straw that has broken this particular camel’s back. So…


This letter, with its apologetic for holding WGF in North Carolina, makes me feel ill. No. It makes me so angry, I feel ill! Let me tell you why:

  1. Holding the expectation that queer people, especially trans people should attend this event when the moment they cross the state line, their very existence is questioned, should be anathema to the planners and to all allies who would attend. 
  2. The call for “resistance” in these circumstances is a very privileged thing. It’s not surprising that cisgender white people would be at the center of planning. But to expect that our queer siblings would welcome the opportunity to travel to a place where their safety cannot be guaranteed and where their very presence is an abomination to many who live in that state is, at a minimum, hubris, and to me, a sin grounded in the logic of white supremacy.

Just as we cringe when friends, family members and colleagues say: #NotAllWhitePeople or #NotAllCops or #AllLivesMatter, we should not pretend that somehow people will magically arrive for one week in the hills of North Carolina where they will find a utopian progressive enclave.Unless WGF is planning to parachute queer participants in and airlift them out, there are still highway restrooms, airports, train stations and restaurants to be navigated. #NotOurCampground isn’t enough. Not Nearly Enough.

White, cisgender readers, listen up! If we’re really going to be in solidarity with oppressed and marginalized communities, we have got to stop asking them to take risks in order to participate in something that we’re hoping to be energizing and equipping and intersectional. Imagine if, in 1962, white clergy had said to their black colleagues: “Hey! We’re gonna have a pastors’ retreat in Alabama. It’s really nice there and affordable. We’ve got a nice parish hall and some lovely homestays with well-vetted, open-minded Christians. We promise to create safe space for you so you can come on down. We’ll use the time to build relationships and strengthen ourselves for the resistance.” Not resonating?  Substitute Muslim clergy, use today’s date and pick any location outside a major urban hub.

We, the so-called “allies,” really need to get our collective shit together and wake the hell up. If it costs us more to provide safety for the people we want to attend so we can have the diversity we seek, so be it. Reparations are real. If we are more inconvenienced, if we have to struggle more, to work harder, to risk more so that none of our siblings have to suffer, struggle or risk a single damn thing, that’s exactly as it should be.  And if it turns out that queer people or POC decide they DO want to risk something, let it be at their initiation, organized by them with us following their lead.


2 thoughts on “When We (White, CISgender people) Plan Things

  1. Well said, Deb. I love Montreat as only a child raised in the Presbyterian Church, US, can, but I’m beginning to question whether PC(USA) should continue to hold that ground in North Carolina. I don’t know the answer, but I’m beginning to wonder what all our pronouncements at GA mean if we continue to stay there. It would break my heart if we sold it, but what does our “connected church” mean if we stay?

    1. My hope is that our mostly white church can work for change in NC through the leverage of that historic property but I won’t attend events there until the bathroom ban is repealed.

      I’ve had some conversation with organizers at Montreat and they seem to be pretty self-reflective. We’ll see.
      I also hope that we won’t promote events in such a way that makes it sound like an oppressed/marginalized group should join the work anyway because Montreat is safe space. What I wrote about Wild Goose would also apply, then.

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