Context: there were a lot of sessions called at Devoted & Disgruntled 13 about intersectionality, on being a good White Ally, about access provisions and, basically, on not being an asshole, and yet almost every person of colour I talked to told me about something that made them uncomfortable at the event. I spent my time at the event “visibly” transgender (I was one of the only people wearing a pronoun badge), and even so, I was misgendered. Not one ally I talked to at the event went to get themselves a pronoun badge after I’d pointed out the need for them.

I think it might help for us to set ourselves some participation guidelines. Open Space belongs to everyone - it’s not a top-down rules-and-regs place, so it’s up to all participants, including the Improbable/D&D team, to educate ourselves and each other, and to hold the space as safely as we can.

-Open Space is exactly that. There are principles, and there is a Rule, and the process was invented by Harrison Owen. There are rumblings that people don’t like these things being messed with.
-Our session does not like this ‘purist’ way of thinking. We believe it ignores the structural inequality we were witness to at D&D13.
-While the principles (whoever/wherever/whatever/whenever etc.) are great for session structure and for giving confidence to session callers, they ignore the fact that while New Diorama purchased 150 tickets for BAMER artists, the event was still overwhelmingly White.
-While the people at the session may be the ‘right people’, they are not ALL of the right people.
-Is this because minorities do not feel safe / respected / valid / welcome at the event?
-Is this because D&D is not ‘visibly’ a safe space (no code of conduct / official complaint procedure?)

-Nine Worlds is an annual Geek Convention aimed to be intersectional and accessible. Their website has clear links to their Anti-harassment Policy, Exclusion Policy and Participation Guidelines.

-From ADA Initiative website:
-Often, the person […] honestly believed that their behavior was acceptable for the venue.
-Just as often, many other people went on record agreeing with them.
-People who saw these incidents didn’t know how to respond to these incidents or weren’t sure who to report them to.
-Conference organizers sometimes didn’t learn about an incident until long after it happened. When they did find out in time to take action, they often didn’t know how to respond to the incident.
-[Policies] educate attendees in advance that specific behaviours commonly believed to be okay […] are not acceptable at this conference.
-Tell attendees how to report these behaviours if they see them, and assure them they will be treated respectfully if they do so.
-Have established, documented procedures for how the conference staff will respond to these reports.

-D&D 14 needs a list of policies to be handed out before and during the event – which are also mentioned in the morning Housekeeping announcements, just as Accessibility reminders are.
-Difference between Rules and Policies
-Policies are intended as a Prevention (vs. a Cure)
-Helps to structure Responsibility (more on this later)
-Normalises a kinder, safer Culture at D&D
-“I didn’t know that was offensive” isn’t good enough.

-Open Space allows a lack of responsibility. It allows a certain kind of behaviour: a person will derail a conversation with a ‘provocative statement’ / plays ‘Devil’s Advocate’ (the Bomb) and leaves immediately / rushes away to another session.
-This behaviour says to us that they do not / are not listening to the conversation – especially since they are not remaining to hear the answer.
-Usually this ‘provocation’ is a thinly-veiled -phobia / -ism distanced from the bomb dropper who is unhappy with the conversation flow but does not want a) repercussion b) to be ‘called out’ on their behaviour c) to learn
-We think that people should be more aware of what they are leaving behind – it affects everyone but themselves.


-A ‘FACTSHEET’ set in each breakout space, sent with the invite and on walls with some principles.

1. Don’t Make Assumptions.
a. People aren’t cisgender, white, straight and able-bodied by default / until proven otherwise.
b. Don’t gender your group (e.g. ‘we’re all ladies here’, ‘ladies and gentlemen’) – as this marginalises / can misgender transgender people.
c. This goes for every ‘protected characteristic’ – someone’s ability, religion, age, class, race and whether they’re LGBTQIA+.
2. Who’s Speaking?
a. Check yourself. Are you speaking: too much? Out of turn? Over someone? Without listening?
b. This doesn’t mean policing people, to speak more/less but being aware of your surroundings.
3. What’s the Energy?
a. What did you intend by calling the session?
b. Is there anger? Why?
c. Is there productivity? Does there need to be?

-Gives session caller (perhaps a first-time moderator) some direction to avoid sessions ‘going wrong’
-Phrased to avoid railroading / accusation – serves as a reminder / education rather than as policing
-Self-enforced – the more people who read it, the more who understand the shift in culture from self-taught (usually putting the emotional labour on the minority) to community
-Gives people who are attacked a physical document to point to (lending their voice authority)

-A Formal Complaint Procedure – one-on-one

1) When you said…
2) I heard…
3) And it made me feel…

-Eg. Person giving complaint is a trans man: When you said “when did you decide to transition”, I heard “being transgender is a choice” and I felt like my identity was invalidated.

-It is a useful tool / support system
-Not about ‘call out’ culture / accusations
-It is a Learning Experience
-Prevents ‘defensiveness’ / falling back on “I didn’t know” excuse

-Some sort of longer, less vague Anti-harassment / Exclusion / Participation
-Clear statement of repercussion from Improbable / D&D
-Re-enforced structure around pronoun badges – an open space equivalent of a phone conversation that starts with ‘how would you like to be referred?’

-We don’t want to ‘ruin’ Open Space, we want to make it safer.
-This is far from a comprehensive list of policies, but is what we believe to be a good start.
-We want to change the culture of expectation for / from the event.