It seems like it’s been two thousand years since I posted….and I have a number of posts in the works, but I come out of my long hiatus to consider the role of professional organizations and support.
As SIGDOC is about to kick off its annual conference in FL this week, I want to bring some nuance into discussions of conferences and locations. Why? Cause I know some people did not submit to the conference because of its location. I know some people are not attending in person in solidarity with those who feel the state it unwelcoming. Some states, like California, took the position of a travel ban.
Bans such as the ones dictated by the CA state government are meant to put financial pressure on other states that have laws that are discriminatory. Until recently (9-2023), folks from California were prohibited from traveling to a large number of states. In writing studies, organizers and scholars have had debates about locations well before the pandemic. For example, the 2018 CCCC location of Kansas City generated a lot of debate when the NAACP issues a travel advisory for the state. CCCC met in Kansas City, MO while ATTW moved across to Kansas City, KS.
Many of the same questions about whether to locate in a state with troublesome laws arose when SIGDOC announced the 2023 conference would be held in Orlando.(##) SIGDOC chose to use the moment to bring attention to issues and to do its own form of solidarity with those of us who live and work in FL. Any decision such as this can be criticized and much of that criticism would be justified. But there is also a justification to be made for holding a conference in tricky locations. This is what I mean by nuance. We can as organizations (and people) hold two competing ideas—to show up to support and to stay away to support.
It’s important to note that Orlando is a multicultural, progressive city, like many university “towns.” Looking at voting maps, the areas around Orlando, Tampa, Gainesville are blue in a sea of read, and mimic trends in other states where large universities are located. That diversity was on full display on 10-21-23 in downtown Orlando. The Orlando Pride Festival took place, which is the culmination of pride week. Over 200,000 people came to downtown to celebrate “come out with pride.” The highlight of the day is the parade. Having attended this event in the past, I was struck by three things in the parade. First, it was long. Lots and lots of participants. Over two hours of floats and groups coming out. So many allies and accomplices. My favorite slogan for the latter was “straight but narrow.” I was also moved to tears at the band, the flag team, and drill team comprised of people of all ages. Such a surprise and such a beautiful showing of queer talent.
Second, the wide array of participants. I lost count of the number of healthcare organizations that openly supported—in spite of state legislation—transgender healthcare and healthcare for the entire LBGTQIA+ communities. And many were vocal supporters of women’s health care. There was the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and Enterprise Car rentals and UPS and Marriott International, and a number of financial institutions. There were employees of Delta and JetBLue, and all sorts of local groups and representatives to the state legislature. There were several floats from cornerstones of the LGBTQAI+ entertainment district. And Tito’s vodka. And course there was Disney and Universal.
And this partial list of organizations and groups that participated in the parade leads me to my final observation. The participants in the parade—the people walking that official mile of the parade route—offer an example of activism and resistance that we can all follow. These are people who call Orlando and its surrounding suburbs home. They are people who refuse to give in and move out. They work in their organizations and in their communities to provide support for one another and to try to effect change. They are people who do good work in front and behind the scenes. They are people who support their neighbors and co-workers and communities. They are activists and coalitions in action, pushing back and leading forward.
This is a lesson for technical communication and professional communicators writ large. This is how change happens, from lots of directions simultaneously. Changing cultures means pushing back against workplace dynamics and management hierarchies. Seeing so many people who are working at the grassroots level within their organizations and communities gives me hope. And gives insights into how build alliances and coalitions that can move to affect change.
As someone who lives and teaches in FL, it was important for me to show up. The local activists and communities so close geographically to my own are why I supported leadership’s decision to hold the conference in Orlando, and it is for them that I will attend the conference.
Wishing you health, peace, and joy.
##Setting aside the fact that for smaller organizations like SIGDOC, conference locations depend almost exclusively on someone’s willingness to be local host. This means someone takes the lead locally and works with program chairs. Being local host is not onerous, but it is work, and it requires some departmental or college support. And some years, small organizations have to look hard to find someone to even try and convince them to consider being host.