No dragons were lost in the making of this little universe, but many a snail found its way to beautifully green pastures.
Since December 2019, the community l’Infini has hosted many open discussions exploring the current and emerging challenges at the intersection of the Queer culture and that of intentional housing communities.
The idea of these meetings is to do a recap on the experiences of a multitude of folkx having lived in or hanged around communities and to share what learning experiences made us grow recently.
What follows is an account of the ideas we started inquiring about together, as well as those we hope to further develop.
In what way can seeing the relations between people living in community as Queer relationalities help us better approach and develop them healthily and fully consciously?
The deep love that can be felt towards a community allows for greater emotional involvement towards it. Learning to cultivate this love is beneficial for the development of the community as well as for the person who involves themselves in it. How can we understand the emotional intermingling between individuals and communities as a relationship where we give and receive, where we are sometimes present and sometimes we have to step back, where we have to learn to recognize our limits and respect them? When to do self-care, and when to do group care?
Furthermore, how does visualizing our relationship to the community as a whole (a bit like a legal entity) allow us to better understand and apprehend the fluctuations of the feelings we may have towards it? This relationship is necessarily polyamorous because other relationships exist (if only with other members of the community), and it is necessary to learn to juggle between these relationships for one’s own well-being and that of others. It also encourages the abolition of jealousy between members as well as the competitive aspect that is inherent to the functioning of our society.
This relationship with the community can also be seen as romantic because there is an element of fantasy, utopia, and magic in the exploratory development of communities, if only in their field of possibilities. How can this way of thinking about community engagement from a romantic polyamorous perspective help us to better exchange and understand each other in community?
What do we do when our boundaries, needs, desires, projects, aspirations, and values merge with those of the community? How can we differentiate the I from the us when we seek to respect ourselves? Where to draw the line between the I and the us in a collective decision-making context? How can we define ourselves as independent in and of ourselves after having defined a collective identity that defined us afterwards? How should we welcome our emotions in this context?
What, lacking within us, pushes us on a search for individual uniqueness in the global culture? Possibly, in communities, this need for identity is being met by the radiance of the collective identity rather than being a constant individual struggle. This is possibly a more present phenomenon if the collective identity is niche because the sense of uniqueness is preserved beyond the community.
To understand the influence of gendered spaces through their contrast with non-gendered spaces: when stereotypes no longer ring the bells of the norm, what can gender be compared to if not perceived tangents. Possibly, when gender becomes descriptive instead of normative, it loses its interest.
To what extent is a crystallization of identities a necessary step for the emancipation of those who would not otherwise be recognized and accepted in society? In other words, do we need labels to legitimize the identities that would subsequently need to be liquefied? Are there alternatives to this strategy?
The exploration of emotional vulnerability is at the heart of many intentional communities. How do these organizational structures forge “emotional commons” available to, and malleable by, the individuals within them through conscious emotional vulnerability?
To materialize the concept of personal space as a bubble. To imagine collective bubbles of intimacy as spaces of vulnerability where physical walls serve as emotional walls.
How is presenting oneself emotionally a political act that fights against the expectations of our patriarchal society? Moreover, how can radical gentleness benefit the collective and community life?
In many collective settings, conscious vulnerability is encouraged and explored. Conscious vulnerability is an element of the tell culture, which encourages transparency about one’s lived emotions, sharing one’s insecurities, trusting the benevolence of one’s peers, and being open to having discussions when one is uncomfortable (even about the tiniest details) to prevent things from getting out of hand. In other words, a symbiotic approach to radical honesty and non-violent communication. How can we live while embodying conscious vulnerability outside of safer spaces?
In what contexts does greater awareness of one’s body lead to better stress management through listening to ourselves with greater inner peace? In parallel, in what contexts does the development of hypersensitivity makes it more difficult to achieve emotional stability as we identify more strongly with our emotions? Furthermore, in what ways can having developed hypersensitivity be especially harmful in stressful contexts, particularly for less privileged individuals who are already at the mercy of systemic oppressions or adverse circumstances? Finally, should greater body awareness be encouraged through systemic education?
How can we understand consent as a broad way to change society? What are the different forms that consent can take, how can we visualize them as layers of consent, and what would that entail in relation to society? In other words, how can we unravel the concept of consent to better understand its broad implications?
In order to practice informed consent, it is important to be able to set our limits verbally and non-verbally, to know how to express and receive the “no” and the “fuck yes”, but also to know how to act when our desires are grey areas. What concrete tools are available to put these concepts into practice?
Bodily reappropriation is the act of initiating, exploring and deepening the relationship of intimacy and trust one has with one’s own body. Why does consent, a concept that is rather easy to understand in theory, seem so difficult to fully implement in practice for many of us? And what does this have to do with bodily reappropriation?
Our desires, non-desires and ambivalences can reveal themselves to us in a multitude of ways, including through bodily sensations. How can we develop a deep awareness to what is expressed within our bodies?
What transformations in narrative could lead us to see and experience things differently, in healthier and more caring ways? For example, the reception of the “no” would change from a narrative where one feels rejected to one where one feels that the other person is listening to themselves.
What can we do about the recurring need for weekly intra-community mediation, shared by members of several communities, of having regular weekly meetings with a social worker or a psychologist? What mechanisms can be put in place to reduce this need? Or, on the contrary, would this kind of monitoring applied on a permanent basis be a better long-term solution? Where does the reluctance to bring in outside mediators come from, and what can be done to overcome this reluctance in cases where it is necessary for the collective well-being?
Many communities cultivate a culture of honesty which leads to a greater openness to regular confrontations on subjects that would not previously have given rise to particular discussions. What are the long-term benefits of such an openness to confrontation when practiced in a caring manner and how does it help to harmonize exchanges within communities?
In what contexts is non-violent communication out of place? In environments already engaged in a culture of care, in what contexts is so-called “violent” communication more effective in restoring harmony in the long run? Would it sometimes be legitimate in certain contexts to be hyper-direct or violent in one’s comments (for example, if someone is tone policing)?
When should we prioritize call-outs instead of calls-in? In other words, when should we reproach someone in public (often from a position of authority), instead of telling them in private (often with a discussion and with care)?
To use non-violent communication as a power tool establishing a hierarchy of self-control. The perverse use of the demonstration of self-control as a tool of individual and systemically racist oppression.
The impacts of patriarchy are not the same for male-assigned and female-assigned folks. A better way to conceptualize these impacts is to consider two types of privileges and oppressions: internal privileges and non-privileges, which relate to how one lives and manages one’s emotions, communicates with others, and takes care of oneself; and external privileges and non-privileges, which relate to the material world and the related privileges and non-privileges. What privileges and non-privileges have never been brought to light?
Many of the struggles against patriarchy were led by female-assigned and trans folks. To go beyond the conceptualization of ally, what are the roles that male-assigned folks can take against patriarchy?
How can we synthesize current feminist tools to avoid mansplaining, discriminatory division of labor, and invisible work in communities with little involvement in feminist struggles?
Chosen mixity can greatly facilitate opening up and exploring conscious vulnerability among marginalized folks and thus enable individual emancipation, mutual understanding, and better group cohesion. Under what circumstances does chosen mixity become toxic exclusivity and has no place? What can be done to overcome the fact that the social fabric within communities is very often homogeneous in terms of culture, social class, age and education, to name but a few examples?
How do we reconcile our head (theory) which invites us to follow our values of inclusiveness and our heart (practice) which associates us with people alike ourselves? Where is the line between discrimination and affinity group? How can diversity be encouraged without tokenizing or engaging in positive racism?
By its very existence, a cultural heritage excludes others. How can we reconcile ourselves with the fact that cultural heritages are exclusive by default? How can we understand the impacts of space size on normative assessments of decision-making systems? In other words, which organizational structures are preferable at each scale (roommates, collectives, groupings of collectives, neighborhoods, municipalities, regions, nations)?
It is important to recognize that everything else equal, less privileged folks often have to work harder to receive the same recognition as more privileged folks. How can we deconstruct the implicit conditioning by which less privileged folks are taken less seriously and listened to? And how can we encourage them to notice this conditioning and feel legitimate to take their place?
How can an ageist hierarchy take shape within communities when there are major age differences between members? What are the oppressions that can arise when those in positions of authority are older, and how do they differ from the ones that arise when younger folks are in positions of authority? How can we better conceptualize ageist oppressions and what mechanisms can be put in place to reduce them?
Many aspire to live in community for the long term. How can we deal with the increased need for comfort and loss of autonomy that comes with aging? What mechanisms can intergenerational communities use to accompany the elderly?
Children born in marginal communities are exposed to a way of life that is derived from the community in which they grew up. What are the rights of these children with regard to their own developmental choices and how they are viewed in relation to adults?
Getting Back To The Land™ is a dream of many people who have lived all their lives in urban centers. The idealization of a return to the land in these environments is often synonymous with colonialism, and is at risk of contributing to the oppression of the indigenous folks who still inhabit these lands. How can we reconcile this desire for nature, ecology, and self-sufficiency with current Indigenous struggles?