Last October, Slagtog sent two trainers to Brussels for a conference on the topic of LGBTQIA+ feminist self defense (FSD). The conference was historic, as it is the first time that so many LGBTIQA+ trainers of FSD come together.
The conference lasted four days and was divided into two parts. For the first two days, a workshop was open to all trainers in feminist self-defense, LGBTQIA+ identified or not, and focused on how trainers can by allied with LGBTQIA+ participants during FSD workshops. The topic what it means to be an “ally” was explored. The second two days were intended only for LGBTQIA+ trainers of FSD and were primarily thought of as a time to adapt the methods that FSD uses to the reality and needs of all LGBTQIA+ people.
Such a project is big and takes way more than two days, as LGBTQIA+ people are a very broad group where various overlaps and intersections occur. For example, the discrimination that a white, lesbian person faces in society is different from the discrimination that an autistic, black, intersex person experiences, but both parties fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.
The work in the conference was led by two trans FSD trainers who have been teaching FSD in the spirit of the Riposte method in Marseille, France for the past 10+ years. As in FSD workshops in general, the work during the conference was conducted through games, discussions and group work, where the knowledge and experience of everyone present was valued thus giving space to the co-construction of further knowledge.
The conference was not without internal criticism. Not everyone felt the space was safe or validating, for example brown and black trainers wrote a powerful statement that was read out to the group at the end of the conference describing their experience during the four days. Bisexual trainers also spoke up on their experience and input being doubted by the group. It is important to create a platform where participants feel safe enough to speak out about any discrimination, marginalization or silencing that can happen anywhere, including at a LGBTQIA+ FSD trainers’ conference.
The trainers from Slagtog came home with increased knowledge and experience in their suitcases, as well as adapted methods and ideas on how to continue similar work. Slagtog is grateful to the organizers of the conference, organized by Garance, for giving us the opportunity to participate.