The Secular Social Justice 2018 conference last weekend was interesting, in that it highlighted the work of secular activists around the country who were working on various issues of importance. After a fiery opening address by Sikivu Hutchinson, we had an array of speakers who spoke on local community organizing, elimination racial inequality in the criminal justice system, disability rights, immigration issues, the war on drugs, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the role of direct action. The presenters were entirely people of color directly involved in this work, not academic types, and thus spoke from personal experience.
Since I do not go to many conferences, I did not know many people personally but I did run into a few. Monette Richards, from the group Secular Woman, and her husband were there, both of whom I have known for many years because of their tireless work in Ohio to promote social justice issues from a secular perspective. I briefly chatted with PZ Myers who needs no introduction to people on this blog. And I also had the pleasure of meeting Greta Christina again after many years. Two readers of this blog also introduced themselves to me and it was nice to be able to connect with them face-to-face.
I noticed what might be a new trend in that when a speaker said something an audience member strongly agreed with, some would applaud, which is the common reaction. But there were others who raised their hands and snapped their fingers instead. I had not seen this response before. The latter action has the benefit of showing appreciation but not interrupting or drowning out the voice of the speaker.
Another feature is that the bathroom was gender neutral. It consisted of four enclosed stalls and sinks in the common area. It was the first time I had been at an event where this was the case. What happened? Absolutely nothing. People used them just as they would gender-segregated bathrooms. The fact that someone at the next sink may have had a different gender presentation did not matter in the least. I wish those who freak out about the dangers of gender–neutral bathrooms would experience this at least once to see how utterly boring it is.