Accountability Pod Updates and Reflections on Direct Work with Reid.
Since our last update, we’ve had information shared from the survivor’s pod (read here), which has been our focus along with continuing the work we’d been doing around overall accountability and education. This has meant an ability to include feedback from that pod into Reid’s drafting a code of conduct for himself, to apply going forward, both in his work and personally. We’ve also gotten feedback from a few community members, and have done our best to honor that feedback and respond.
Our weekly pod meetings have mostly focused around sharpening our analysis, both of Reid’s specific harmful patterns and of our focus on transformative justice and finding ways to translate that work into tangible ways to create change. Here’s how we’ve worked independently to achieve those goals:
Over the past five months, Reid and I have had a dozen one-on-one calls. The focus of these calls since the last pod update has primarily been on two topics.
One focus has been helping Reid to recognize some of his habits and to work on building the habit of alternative behaviors. Some of these habits are: performative emoting (which can be interpreted as manipulative), people-pleasing (it’s impossible to please everyone all the time and attempting to do so has caused harm), and approaching new-to-him knowledge with the mindset of “How can I teach this” (which doesn’t acknowledge or accept that he’s not the right person to teach everything he learns).
Another focus has been assisting Reid with understanding that his communication style is considered by many people, particularly marginalized folks, to be abrasive. His “embracing of the awkward” has left some people feeling put upon, uncomfortable, and/or disrespected. An offshoot of this focus has been Reid coming to a greater understanding of power dynamics and how the forms of communication he had been using benefit from privilege.
I want to emphasize that neither restorative nor transformative justice processes are a ‘cure.’ Missteps can, and always will, be made, regardless of new understanding, insight, and tools. As Angel says, our aim has been to provide the framework for Reid to “fuck up better.” I believe that Reid has a strong grasp on many parts of that framework and that if he remains committed to transformative justice his future fuckups will cause less harm. As our pod gets closer to wrapping up, I hope that Reid will continue to be as (or more) dedicated to this work as he has been throughout this process.
I’ve had some health challenges since the last update that have impacted both my ability and availability. That said, I’ve focused on helping Reid make the shift from relying primarily or exclusively on explicit verbal communication, especially in high-sensory-input environments, to working on consciously looking for signs of disengagement, discomfort, dissociation, or anything less than being met in enthusiasm.
At this point, he has an understanding that explicit verbal or written communication is not always likely or possible, that power dynamics can impact how comfortable a given person is using explicit verbal or written communication (especially to communicate discomfort), and that there are times when just asking the question is inappropriate and is itself the problem.
Key to this understanding has been accepting that people who work in sexuality can be in a variety of places with their own personal relationships to sex and relating, that not all professional colleagues are also professional peers, and that distinguishing between peers who are in a fairly similar place and colleagues more generally acknowledges existing power dynamics of influence, experience, network, and institutional and economic access (in addition to other axes of power and privilege) rather than creating them.
With Cassandra’s input, we’ve discussed best practices, particularly slowing everything down and consciously letting others take the lead in flirtation or potential sexual or romantic encounters. We also addressed the importance of regularly evaluating and setting his own boundaries when it comes to initiating or reciprocating sexual and romantic engagement, particularly where Reid’s updated ethical lines are drawn and which risks he is not willing to take (since there is no truly risk-free way to engage with other humans, but a lot of room for useful risk reduction).
As with other aspects of this process, the focus has been on a framework for doing lifelong work. It is both my earnest hope and my expectation that Reid will continue to do this impactful and necessary personal work in the months and years to come.
I’ve spent a good part of the time since our last update trying to make certain that Reid has the basic concepts in place to avoid compounding harm when he causes it. Some specifics: avoiding using language to obscure rather than being truthful, working on apologizing cleaner, building checks in to reveal the power dynamics we’re always within, getting more comfortable with the discomfort that this awareness brings, and respecting shared community members enough to share the burden of risk with them. Since we all harm others, breaking down the fragility that avoids accountability and working on building resilience and tools for fucking up better is often where I aim in this work. I want Reid to be able to return to his community ready to fuck up better. I’ve also become even more committed to the concept of transformative justice instead of only restorative justice. I don’t want to help restore things to how they were before this process, I want transformation. I want that for our community, for myself and for Reid.
My work with Reid has focused mainly on reducing reliance on a one-size-fits-all solution, but practicing putting in place what he is learning about how social power flows and impacts his interactions — whether he’s feeling like it should or not. Breaking a fix-it or set-it-and-forget-it mentality is tough but crucial to being able to approach life with the flexibility it needs. Some of the questions we’re digging into are: How do we evaluate what ‘mode’ we should be operating in right now? How can we pair a minimalistic best practice with being present to unique situations? How can we increase our resiliency to the discomfort of not knowing, resisting the urge to shrug it off or make sweeping generalizations often don’t serve the needs of the moment? What does leadership mean and who says that and why might we want to reject some of what we consider ‘the way things are done?’
We’ve also worked on editing processes. Focusing on making writings more succinct, and grouping ideas together for better flow. The aim of this work is to increase the readability of Reid’s writings and reduce the risk of his personal style being read as an attempt at obscurification.
On a more personal front, this process has anchored deeply the importance of relationships and how the word community must mean so much more than the warm fuzzy feelings that come from sharing space in a bubble withdrawn from the rest of the world. Don’t get me wrong, warm fuzzies are nice, but we need so much more if we’re actually trying to create spaces that are different than status quo. We need interconnectedness that allows space for the good, the challenging, and the straight up shitty parts of life. We need to be honest about how our spaces function and what needs to change in order to make them actually welcoming and inhabitable to more people. Some of the questions I’m reflecting on are: What else does community mean? What are the commitments I can make aspirationally, and what are my basic commitments to this community? What are my boundaries with this community? How am I showing up in my community and for whom?
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Now that we’ve been in the formal accountability process for six months, we’re planning for the wrap-up and end of this process. We moved our calls to every other week, are working on making sure that Reid has both therapeutic and mentoring support going forward, and are stepping back bit by bit from being in direct support. We see this work of accountability and reducing harm as lifelong regardless of the ending of the structured accountability process.