Rant – Accessibility And Exclusion

 
Exclusion
The social exclusion trap
From the cover of the August 2005 issue of Legal Action 7
© Legal Action Group, 2008

 
 
In my local poly group, I have been having some recurring difficulties which have popped up again recently.   Most of my difficulties have been related to the group organiser’s apparent disinterest in ensuring venue accessibility.

These difficulties have been ongoing since last summer.   Recent correspondence with the group organiser has demonstrated to me that venue accessibility is  very low  on his list of priorities  (despite his protestations of being an “inclusive person“).

This disheartens me.

I’ll let the correspondence speak for itself.   I have added in more complete date and time information in quoted message headings.   I have removed names and parts for brevity.   The bits I’ve left remain unchanged.   I’ve marked my edits with square brackets “[]”.
 
 

Non-Confidentiality Has Been Established

 
After I started a thread about this on the poly message board, Randy wrote to me.   This email discussion concluded with the following message from me:
 

    From:   Lubyanka
    Subject:   Re: ???
    Date:   14 May 2008 00:12:50 IST
    To:     Randy
     
    Hello Randy,

    Thank you for your message.

    […] Please be aware that I do *not* consent to keep your communications to me about the group private and confidential […] Please keep this in mind when composing any communications to me.   If you want anything specific kept confidential, please ask me in advance prior to disclosing the information to me, so that I may retain my right to give or decline my consent in each instance.

    My right to give or decline my consent is extremely important to me, and I need you to respect that.

    You may maintain your right to keep your information confidential by not disclosing anything to me which you do not want shared […]

    I hope that clarifies my position.

    Regards,

    Lubyanka.

 
So Randy knows that anything he writes to me might not be kept confidential.
 
 

The Thread On The Poly Message Board – Part I

 
On the group’s discussion board, I started this thread in May last year.
 

    Subject  –  Some mails
    Posted By  –  Lubyanka
    Post Date  –  May 12, 2008 5:45 PM
     
    Hello the group :)

    For some reason none of my emails are accepted by meetup and forwarded to the rest of the group.   I’m unable to wrangle with them about it at the moment, so I thought I’d post the contents of them here.
     

      [From:   Randy
      Subject: Great night last night
      Date:   23 April 2008 19:06:54 IST]
       
      Hi gang,

      […] It might be time to search for a new location for the meetings, one that would better facilitate a focused discussion so that everyone can hear (and see) each other better.   At this rate, we’ll top 20 next month. If anyone has good ideas about where this might work, please email me and tell me more about it. […]

      I’ll leave you with a nice saying I heard recently: “True love stories never have endings”.

      Works for me.

      Peace & Love,

      – Randy
       
       
      [From:   Lubyanka
      Subject: Re: Great night last night
      Date:   24 April 2008 04:23:34 IST]
       
      Hello The Group,

      I had a great time at the meetup!   It was lovely to see familiar faces and meet some shiny new ones. :)

      And a big YAY to Peter, for contributing edibles! :D

      (mmmmm, caramel waferrrssssssss……)
       

        On 23 Apr 2008, at 19:06, Randy R. wrote:

        It might be time to search for a new location for the meetings, one that would better facilitate a focused discussion so that everyone can hear (and see) each other better.   At this rate, we’ll top 20 next month.

       
      […] Personally I enjoy [our current venue] very much, and think it’s a HUGE improvement over the original venue.   I very much hope that the poly meetups will not move from [our current venue].   I feel that I am much less likely to want to attend a meeting in some sterile room where we are all compelled to focus on the minutiae of issues surrounding being poly in a world which excludes diversity.   I know that I myself do not respond well to rigidly organised discussions which are required to stay on topic.

      (heh, who knew :p )

      Since the whole world has a habit of excluding diversity, I am very much hoping that our poly meetup group will include and welcome the diversity of ALL of us.   I think this would have to include those who seek pleasant socialising with other poly people in an inclusive environment,  as well as  those who seek a focused facilitated poly discussion seminar.

      Best regards,

      Lubyanka.
       
       
      [From:   Randy
      Subject: Re: Great night last night
      Date:   24 April 2008 14:54:38 IST
      To:   Lubyanka]
       
      […] I’ll respond to you directly.

      As stated in the description, the intention of the group is for support/discussion. It is not a social/drinks hour to talk about other things.

      I am an inclusive person and want to include as many people as possible.   So far, everyone has been welcome and nobody has been turned away, although one person left on his own after the meeting that Mel hosted.

      […] I also love [our current venue], but, for example, the long table makes it impossible for someone at one end to hear what someone at the other end is saying.   There needs to be a better alternative and I’m looking for it.

      Thanks for your input, very much appreciated.

      Peace & Love,

      – Randy

      p.s. it’s still quite a new group and still finding its feet.   I think we should revisit this in a few more months and see how things stand then.

     
     
    I know that I’d find it very difficult to only talk about poly the whole night, since being poly is only part of who I am as a human being. On the group’s “About” page, it says:
     

      “Important Note:

      We welcome all loving, respectful, and genuinely interested people. However, if you are rude, harassing, offensive, hostile or the like, you will be asked to leave and not return and will be banned from the group. If your motivations are not in harmony with the stated objectives, please do us all a favour and refrain from joining or attending events. Thanks.”

     
    So should I refrain from coming along since I don’t *only* want to talk about poly with other poly people, and since I love [our current venue] and would rather keep meeting there?

    Best regards,

    Lubyanka.
    Edited by Randy R. on May 13, 2008 3:54 PM

 
There was no response on the thread.   The only response I had from Randy was the email conversation which culminated in the non-confidentiality email I quoted above.   This conversation did not address the queries I raised in the thread.
 
 

An Intermediary Email

 
An unrelated email from Randy to the group followed my post to the thread.
 

    From:   Randy
    Subject: June meeting – change of date and location
    Date:   1 June 2008 15:57:04 IST
     
    Hello all,

    […] In the spirit of the season, our next meeting will be held in St. Stephen’s Green on Saturday June 21st. You could call it a ‘poly picnic in the park’.

    […] This should be a very relaxed and fun social day out.   We’ll meet at NOON at a specific location within the park (to be announced closer to the day).   There will be a ‘plan B’ in the event of rain but of course that won’t happen…

    Please RSVP (one way or another).

    Looking forward to meeting you all on the Saturday after the Summer Solstice to celebrate love and life!

    Peace & Love,

    – Randy

 
 

The Thread On The Poly Message Board – Part II

 

    Posted By  –  David
    Post Date  –  Jun 2, 2008 11:16 AM
     
    HI Guys,

    Its good to see an active group here in Ireland , i was wondering if there was an actual group here or not.

    First like to say Hi to Lubyanka, We seem to meet in some interesting circles you and i.

    Let me say for the record that this lady is well organised and one of the best writers i know.

    Anyway, just a helllo and hope to see you all soon!

    PB
     
     
    Posted By  –  Randy R.
    Post Date  –  Jun 2, 2008 9:39 PM
     
    Hi David,

    Yes, we’re alive and well. Started in January and have monthly gatherings. Sign up and come meet us (and the Dangerous & Delicious Lubyanka! Irving too!).

    – Randy
     
     
    Posted By  –  Lubyanka
    Post Date  –  Jun 3, 2008 12:59 PM
     
    Hello PB, how lovely to see you here, I didn’t know you were interested in poly, cool! I must thank you for your yummy affirmation. :D

    Just for the record, I won’t be at the June meeting because of my accessibility issues with the venue. Perhaps we can meet up afterwards?
     
    I do have some queries for Randy –

    In your previous response to me, which I quoted above, you describe the Dublin Poly group in these terms:

      As stated in the description, the intention of the group is for support/discussion. It is not a social/drinks hour to talk about other things.

     
    Yet in your description for the June meet, you say:

      This should be a very relaxed and fun social day out.

     
    What happened to the focused, facilitated discussion of poly issues, and the minimal unrelated socialising which you appear to be striving for at the group meetings?

    I’m confused.

    Also, for the record, I will assume in the absence of a response, that I, and my expressed difficulties with remaining on poly topics all evening, and my liking of [our current venue], (and my rubber chicken) will all be welcomed at the poly meetings until I am specifically told otherwise.

    If anybody has any issues with that, right now would be an excellent time to express them. :)

    xx Lubyanka.

    ps: PB, welcome to the cat herd. ;)
     
     
    Posted By  –  Randy R.
    Post Date  –  Jun 3, 2008 9:00 PM
     
    Lubyanka,

    To briefly answer your questions:

    Anyone (including you!) is welcome to our discussion/support group.   The more focused and in-tune with the group energy and objectives they are, the more welcome they will be (and vice versa).

    With regards to our next gathering, I thought I’d try something a little different this time, in the spirit of the season.   For midsummer, it seems a good time to get outside get out of the more formal confines and just relax a bit.   We’ll have been around for six months and we seem to have a nice core of people. I think it’s better to separate the focused discussion groups from socialising.   The others have been more for discussions, one’s more for socialising.   We’ll see how it goes.   Wish you could be there.   You could bring whatever seating arrangement might suit for yourself (or there might be something already in the park).

    – Randy
     
     
    Posted By  –  Lubyanka
    Post Date  –  Jun 3, 2008 11:10 PM
     

      You could bring whatever seating arrangement might suit for yourself (or there might be something already in the park).

     
    Unfortunately, I just don’t feel that it’s practical to risk my physical health and pain levels by either chancing some dodgy existing seating arrangements in the park, or by having to make a special trip before the event to scope out whatever existing seating arrangements there are, or by having to carry a seat and cushion with me there and back again.   It just isn’t a very disability-friendly arrangement, so I won’t be able to participate.
     

      Anyone (including you!) is welcome to our discussion/support group. The more focused and in-tune with the group energy and objectives they are, the more welcome they will be (and vice versa).

     
    It’s nice to know I’ll still be welcome, even if I have trouble staying on topic, and even if that means the amount of welcome I’m offered will depend on how my focus and in-tune-ness are judged. Thank you for clarifying.

    Regards,

    Lubyanka.
     
     
    Posted By  –  Randy R.
    Post Date  –  Jun 4, 2008 11:59 AM
     
    I have faith that knowing this, you’ll make every effort to stay with the group discussions.   That would be great for everyone.

    I plan on scoping out the park in advance of the day so if you tell me what your seating requirements are (privately, if you wish) I might be able to find something suitable.   It would be great to have you there, Lubyanka.

    – Randy
     
     
    Posted By  –  Lubyanka
    Post Date  –  Jun 4, 2008 5:53 PM
     
    Thank you Randy, it’s sweet of you to offer, and I regret having to disappoint you.   It just isn’t worth the extra hassle to me, honestly.

    I can’t guarantee that I’ll either have remembered to tell you everything that you need to know, or that you will be able to prioritise features appropriately yourself.   Either way, I’ll be the one who ends up paying if appropriate choices aren’t made or if there are any detrimental unreported or last minute changes.

    If new venue information had been presented to the group as an idea prior to decisions having been taken, then perhaps any difficulties with the venue could have been resolved at that time.

    So I’ll just give this month’s meeting a miss, and hopefully I’ll see you all at a more accessible venue in July.

    Best regards,

    Lubyanka.

 
 
There were no more responses to me from him on this thread.
 
 

The Issue Recurs

 
Seven months later, this message was emailed to the group.
 

    From:   Randy
    Subject: Anniversary Movie Night – Tuesday, January 20th – RSVP now!
    Date:   7 January 2009 09:49:57 GMT
     
    Hello again and Happy New Year to you all.

    This month marks our group’s one year anniversary (yea!).   To celebrate, we’re doing something different.   Instead of our regular meeting, we’re going to have a movie night where we can watch a polyamory-related film together.

    The film I’ve selected is a comedy. […] I’m keeping the title a surprise, just to add a little mystique.   It’s unlikely you’ve seen it but even if you have it’s very worth seeing again – especially with this very special group of people.

    […] Our anniversary Poly Movie Night will take place in the City Centre, just north of the Liffey.   the exact location will be disclosed to those who have RSVP’d, closer to the time.

    […] Looking forward to seeing you for a night I know will be a fun and memorable one!

    Peace & Love,

    – Randy R.

 
 
I didn’t respond because of not knowing the venue, not knowing the film, and because of my reservations from last time. And then this message arrived a week later.
 

    From:   Randy R.
    Subject: Tuesday’s Polyamory Movie Night! – Please RSVP, there’s still room!
    Date:   15 January 2009 10:37:56 GMT
    To:     Lubyanka
     
    Your Organizer, Randy R., sent the following message to some members of The Polyamory Discussion/Support Group:
    —————————————————————-
    There’s still room for this Tuesday’s anniversary meeting where we’ll be having a movie night and showing a great, fun film.

    So far there are about 12 people who are definitely coming.

    I know there are more of you planning on coming because I’ve spoken to you!   But please if you are or aren’t coming, do RSVP so we have an idea of who and how many to expect.   I’ll send you the detailed location information when you RSVP YES but please only do so if you’re really planning on attending.

    This is going to be a fun night. […] Hope to see you next Tuesday night the 20th!

    Peace & Love,

    – Randy R.

 
Feeling encouraged that Randy really wanted us to attend, and was going to feel accommodating in order to make that happen, I emailed him straight away.
 

    From:   Lubyanka
    Subject: Re: Tuesday’s Polyamory Movie Night! – Please RSVP, there’s still room!
    Date:   15 January 2009 10:55:50 GMT
    To:     Randy
     
    Hello Randy,

    In principle, I may be interested in attending.   However, I have been having some difficulties with the limited information you have provided.

    I would like to know the title of the film you are showing.   I need to limit my exposure to media which can trigger some unpleasant reactions in myself, so I will need the title in order to check it out.   Third party assurances can’t help me since everybody’s responses differ, and only I can know what my personal needs are.   I cannot make a decision to attend without that information.

    I also would like to know the name of the venue, so that I can check it out for accessibility and suitable seating arrangements for me.   I will need to check this out myself, and cannot rely on third party assurances, because only I know best what I require.   I cannot make a decision to attend without that information either.

    As a personal opinion, I feel that mystique notwithstanding, withholding the name of the film and the venue limits people’s ability to informedly consent about their attendance.

    I really appreciate your cooperation.

    Best regards,

    Lubyanka.

 
 

New Thread – Now It’s Here – Now It’s Not

 
Four days later, I posted the above message on the group message board, because it was two days before the event (18 January) and I hadn’t heard from him.

Then, without a word, that post was deleted, presumably by the organiser.   He never mentioned doing it, nor did he ever give a reason for doing so.
 
 

The Emails Resume – Attitudes Revealed

 
The day I posted that message, I got this emailed reply, and our messages resumed.
 

    From:   Randy
    Subject: Re: Tuesday’s Polyamory Movie Night! – Please RSVP, there’s still room!
    Date:   18 January 2009 18:44:51 GMT
    To:     Lubyanka
     
    Hello Lubyanka,

    Sorry about the tardiness of my reply.   I’m involved in a huge project which is taking all my time (evenings and weekends) and leaving me with very little time online.

    To answer your queries, the title of the movie is “French Twist”. […] The venue is [a local venue] with which you may already be familiar.   To the best of my recollection, It’s an old Georgian-era building with dilapidated stairs down to the room in the basement.   The movie will be projected on the wall.   The chairs would be the standard, fold up town-hall variety (maybe they’re plastic).

    I’m sure you will make the right decision for yourself, and look forward to seeing you again, whether on Tuesday or some other time & place. Hope you’ve been keeping well.

    Oh, and Happy New Year!

    Randy
     
     
    From:   Lubyanka
    Subject: Re: Tuesday’s Polyamory Movie Night! – Please RSVP, there’s still room!
    Date:   18 January 2009 19:18:41 GMT
    To:     Randy
     
    Hello Randy,

    Thank you for the information.   I have RSVP’d my “not coming”, because regardless of the film, the venue inaccessibility unfortunately excludes me.

    I’m sure you are interested in keeping your events accessible to as many people as possible.   Perhaps consulting people prior to confirming a venue decision might be helpful.   I hope this occasion will be the last time this issue recurs?

    Best regards,

    Lubyanka.
     
     
    From:   Randy
    Subject: Re: Tuesday’s Polyamory Movie Night! – Please RSVP, there’s still room!
    Date:   18 January 2009 19:45:35 GMT
    To:     Lubyanka
     
    Really sorry you can’t be there, Lubyanka.   I didn’t realise your accessibility issue was so serious.   Ireland must be a crap place for you in that regard!   Of course I want things to be as accessible as possible for people but accessibility is not the only issue.   Simple availability is a big one.   We actually discussed possible locations at the last few meetings and the only runner was this one.   Do you have any city-centre ideas for future venues? If you do, I’d love to hear about them.

    Thanks for RSVPing, much appreciated.

    Peace & Love,

    – Randy

    p.s. the stairs are undergoing renovation so maybe when they’re done they’ll be OK for you, or is it all stairs?   We could all carry you. ;-)
     

      (fortunately, I didn’t notice this extra bit of ps vileness at the bottom of his message until after I’d already replied)

     
     
    From:   Lubyanka
    Subject: Re: Tuesday’s Polyamory Movie Night! – Please RSVP, there’s still room!
    Date:   18 January 2009 23:18:13 GMT
    To:     Randy

      On 18 Jan 2009, at 19:45, Randy wrote:

      I didn’t realise your accessibility issue was so serious.   Ireland must be a crap place for you in that regard!

    […] I don’t regard “my accessibility issue” as being serious  to me.   It only becomes “serious” for others when it inconveniences them, apparently.   I do regard other people’s careless exclusion as being a serious issue for everybody.

    I believe I mentioned to you back in the summer that the St Stephen’s Green outing wasn’t accessible to me because of the seating arrangements.   I believe I suggested at that time that prior consultation regarding venue choice might have been helpful to me.   I had been hoping that you’d take note of my remarks for future occasions.

    Regarding accessibility, Ireland itself is fine, the problem is more usually individuals making ill-considered choices of venues for a particular purpose.   And I’ve encountered that kind of thoughtless exclusion in many countries.
     

      Do you have any city-centre ideas for future venues? If you do, I’d love to hear about them.

    I believe that I have told you before that [our current venue] is accessible to me for the evening meetings I’ve attended, if that counts as a city centre idea?   I believe that I mentioned to you before that I was disinclined to change it because of that reason.

    If you had specific venues which you wanted to suggest, then I’d be able to tell you whether they were accessible to me or not.   It just isn’t possible or practical for me to suggest random venues to you without knowing what you intend to use them for.   “Mystique” is really of no use to me in this context.

    I appreciate your efforts to include me after the fact.

    Regards,

    Lubyanka.
     
     
    From:   Randy
    Subject: Re: Tuesday’s Polyamory Movie Night! – Please RSVP, there’s still room!
    Date:   19 January 2009 10:30:05 GMT
    To:     Lubyanka
     
    Lubyanka,

    We have one person with a serious accessibility issue who attends the meetings regularly (she walks with crutches) and she was quite OK with the venue.   Not every decision can be run past you with “prior consultation”.   If the way this group is run doesn’t suit you, you do have the option of no longer participating.

    Thank you for your input.

    Peace & Love,

    – Randy
     

      That was the message in which I felt he had put all of his exclusionary, issue-ridden attitudes concisely into one place.

     
     
    From:   Lubyanka
    Subject: Re: Tuesday’s Polyamory Movie Night! – Please RSVP, there’s still room!
    Date:   19 January 2009 11:28:12 GMT
    To:     Randy
     
    Hello Randy,

    Unfortunately, not every disability is the same, so what works for one is no guarantee of general inclusivity.   [The other person]’s accessibility requirements are quite different to mine.   The presence or absence of the number and type of visible aids is not necessarily an accurate way to measure the scope of an individual’s limitations, or how “serious” they are.

    I wish I could participate more.   I wish I could choose my accessibility requirements.   But I can’t.   Unfortunately, my participation choices are restricted to accommodating the limitations of my body.   I’m glad for those whose choices are less restricted.

    Although my disability inconveniences me every second of every day, I hope you know that I have no wish to use my disability to cause inconvenience to you or anybody else.   I’m sorry you don’t feel able to consider my accessibility needs in your decision making.

    I wish you success with your group and those whom you choose to include in it.

    Regards,

    Lubyanka.

 
I have received no further messages from Randy.
 
 

The Lubyanka Exclusion Report

 
I feel really unhappy about the messages I had from Randy in that conversation.   I really felt like he was blaming me not only for his excluding behaviour, but also for minding it, and objecting to it.
 

    I hate that.

 
I feel that Randy is denigrating my accessibility requirements by behaving as if they were negotiable.   I feel that he is doing this by unfairly and unconsensually using another person’s accessibility requirements to try to get me to reduce mine.

I feel that Randy is responding to me as if I am being unreasonable and difficult because of my accessibility needs, even though I cannot control them.

I feel that Randy is minimising and denigrating my accessibility requirements by behaving as though I am deliberately and unnecessarily trying to inconvenience him.

I feel that Randy is comparing my accessibility requirements to another person’s, that he is judging mine as being less “serious”, and that he has therefore concluded that both myself and my needs are less deserving of his consideration.

I feel disappointed that Randy, who is polyamorous, has all of these attitudes.   I feel as if Randy can not ever have experienced marginalisation and exclusion, because if he had, then he would know more about how to be inclusive of diversity than the average person.   Yet he has not demonstrated that knowledge.

So ultimately I feel that Randy regards my accessibility needs as negotiable, within my control, a deliberate inconvenience, not worth considering, unimportant within the context of inclusion, and that it’s my fault for objecting to his excluding and denigrating behaviour.
 

  • I feel that both myself and my needs are being minimised, dismissed, and invalidated.
  • I feel unfairly compared and unfairly judged.
  • I feel unheard and disregarded.
  • I feel demoralised, depressed, denigrated, and excluded.

 
And when members of a marginalised diversity  (such as the polyamorous community)bitch regularly about their personal experience of exclusion, and when they still behave just as excludingly as mainstream people do, then I feel utterly without hope for myself and for the human race.
 

 
 

The Lubyanka Group Organiser Report

 
My personal opinion is that in the event that he feels examined and found to be unsatisfactory, Randy has an incapacitating fear that his fragile self image will crumble.   I think that this may be preventing him from being able to distinguish between a personal attack against him, and a person expressing their own needs.  

I also think that Randy’s inability to recognise, establish, and clearly communicate his boundary requirements to others, must be at the root of many of his interpersonal difficulties.

Furthermore, I recognise traits in Randy which identify him to me as one of those people who expect and assume that others will be able to read his mind.   I base this conclusion on my observation that Randy often makes assumptions about other people which he does not discuss with them, and then he tends to get quite upset when his unspoken assumptions turn out to be inaccurate.

I think that all of these issues must constantly arise in Randy’s personal relationships.
 

    Randy  –  I am not a mind reader.   Most of us are not mind readers.  

    You will have to communicate your needs if you expect us to accommodate them.   Please take note of this.

 
Now, I can be understanding of a person’s issues, I can.   I can be understanding of Randy’s issues.   However, I cannot be expected to accommodate those issues if he fails to disclose or discuss them with me.  

And no matter what his issues are, I cannot excuse his unacceptable exclusion of me.  

Randy is an adult, and is therefore responsible and accountable for his own behaviour.
 
 
I am an adult human being.   Like all human beings, I am entitled to have myself and my needs included, considered, and respected.   I will not tolerate myself and my needs being treated as an awkward inconvenience.
 

    And I feel angry about that.

 
One final thing.

I really intensely resent the way Randy signs his messages with “Peace & Love” whilst he blithely excludes and denigrates, over and over again.

I do not regard his behaviour as either peaceful  or  loving.

That is all.
 

About Lady Lubyanka

I am a 45 year old musician, and also a multisexual, polyamourous, Jewish, socially dominant woman within my romantic BDSM relationships.
This entry was posted in correspondence, Dublin, exclusion, fuckwit, fuckwitism, fuckwittedness, Human Beingness 101, Hypocrism, Polyamory, Psychology, Rant, The Scene, This should've been a whole lot rantier. Bookmark the permalink.

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