Earlier this year, members of the CNR Advisory Committee attended a training session regarding safe spaces. The session was hosted by the Calgary Sexual Health Centre Training and Professional Development team. The objective of this session was to ensure we are doing everything possible to ensure our events are welcoming to all interested people (regardless of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation) and that we have adequate policies and procedures to respond to any issues that may occur at an event.
The first thing we learned was that the correct terminology is “safer spaces”, not “safe spaces”. Many of us had been burdened by the assumption that doing right by offering a “safe space” would transfer accountability of all participants behaviour to the organizers. It was a relief to learn there is an understanding that no one can ever guarantee a place is 100% safe, because it is understood that organizers cannot control the actions of others. Learning this helped us to settle into the session and hear what came next.
Overall, while many of the concepts emphasized (including boundaries, inclusivity, and intolerance of harassment) are already part of our “DNA”, we came away with some areas of focus to analyze to ensure we are meeting the needs of all members and meeting our objectives around inclusivity.
During the workshop, we had some interesting moments trying to “bridge the gap” between the training material originally developed for a corporate audience, and our reality of an organization that enables strangers to get naked together. In many ways, it was reassuring to hear that the language we already use, and the processes we already have in place, help to ensure our events are welcoming to all people. While a workplace may be struggling with which sign to put on which bathroom to be inclusive, the fact that all attendees use the same change room at our events is inclusive by default.
Something that has always been top-of-mind for CNR organizers is the rules we set around dress code and how that applies to women versus men, and how to provide accommodation for non-binary individuals. While the rule since the beginning has always had clarification for those who’s “gender falls between”, we learned more about the differences between sex and gender, and the correct terminology. We concluded (with the help of the facilitators) that the core intention of the policy is right, and we have worked to update the website and policies to reflect consistent terminology.
In terms of changes to existing policies and procedures, the biggest suggestion was to move from a “crime and punishment” model (how our current policies were interpreted by the facilitators) to that of “restorative justice”. After nearly 24 months of events, we agree with the notion that most issues stem from ignorance rather than intentional malice, so are currently discussing ways to make this shift.
One of the small changes you may have noticed is a new gender-inclusive sign which we now post over the “mens” graphic on the change room entrance. We hope this helps reinforce our commitment to inclusivity.
At the end of the day, the core objective of offering a “safer space” is for all persons to feel welcome, to feel included, and to feel that any acts of discrimination or harassment will not be tolerated by the group. We hope that our general Membership Terms, event regulations, and overall language make this clear. If there is anything you think we could improve, or have any questions about our policies, please email CalgaryNudeRecreation@gmail.com or reach out via Facebook Messenger.