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abhorsen.

safe spaces on discord

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abhorsen.

hey, all!

we value the diversity in our member base and are very happy with the way everyone in the community strives to be accepting of others' lived experiences. however, we also know that even within the most supportive and respectful communities, it can sometimes be really valuable to have space where we can talk about those experiences with smaller groups who can empathize with us as well as sympathize, and some members of the community have expressed in interest in having a space for that here as well.

after some discussion among the staff, we like the idea of having a space for people to talk about facets of their identity they might feel less comfortable talking about with a broader audience - e.g., race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, etc. our current thinking is to do the following:

  1. create channels on the site discord for these spaces
    • channels (and who has access to them) would be invisible to anyone who isn't either in them or logged into the main hpft account
    • a list of existing channels would be available, and participation in them would be opt-in; individuals could be added (or removed) from them by contacting a staff member
    • there would be a signup channel for people to ask if others have interest in a group
    • assign access based on self-identification
  2. channel types
    • channels would be available on request. if 3+ people want a channel for a facet of their identity/lived experience, we'll create it - they can contact us individually or have one person do it
    • overlap is fine - for example, you could still request a group for bi people if there's already a group for queer people
  3. content of channels
    • channels shouldn't be used to bash individual members
    • channels shouldn't be used to harass or otherwise behave inappropriately toward other members
    • if you saw something on a channel that made you uncomfortable, you could notify a staff member - if they weren't in the group, they would use screenshots and/or the main hpft account to look at the conversation (we wouldn't use it in that way for any other reason)

before we move ahead with this, though, we wanted to get the community's feelings about it. we welcome any feedback, suggestions, or questions you might have, especially if there's something you feel like we've missed or could do better!

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magemadi

As an avid discord user and lover of discussions in general, I think this is a super great idea and I love the idea of having smaller group discussions about various aspects of identity  ❤️ 

My main question though is for those who aren't discord users/don't want to have to create a discord account, how could those members still participate in these discussions if they want to? 

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magnifique

I agree with ^Madi's comment because I wouldn't want to gatekeep in any way members who choose not to use discord or simply aren't as familiar/comfortable with it. That being said, on the forum or on discord, I would love a space to share more unique facets of my identities/experiences because it can be sometimes hard to talk about them with an "audience" so to speak of people who either don't understand or might say/ask harmful questions at an awkward or inappropriate moment (which, isn't a judgment call it happens to the best of us, but it is nice to have a space where that isn't a worry). ❤️ 

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hotel california

i love this idea so much!! ❤️ i really just have the same concerns as madi and julie, but obviously a thread on the forums is different from a discord channel, since things travel much faster there.

maybe there's still a way to bring forum threads into it, though? like idk that this would work so much for all of the potential subchannels - translated into threads, i could see a lot of them falling to the wayside, especially if you need 3+ people and, hypothetically, all 3 people are already avid discord users. but we could have 'main' threads for overarching identity aspects, and maybe for 'bigger' exchanges, or in the case of more needed feedback (or opinions, or just wanting to talk about it with more people), members could go to those threads to discuss. and if certain topics are more talked about than others within those threads, then they?? can have their own thread??

✨ basic trial ideas ✨

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sibilant

while I totally understand the desire to not gatekeep, I feel uncomfortable with the idea of having forum threads or spaces on the forums for this sort of discussion...I think it feels a lot more public to me? This could be remediated by having those threads in private clubs, but idk, I think I generally have a preference for off-site chat for topics like these. I think the on-site-ness just makes it feel way more public and formal, even if in a very private and informal setting. (I feel like I’m not making sense, sorry 😬).

To the point of including folks who don’t want to be on discord but do want to engage these conversations, I wonder if maybe the middle ground is having the discord, but inviting folks in the channels to create threads on the forums when big topics come up, which can be entry points to the discord? It’s not ideal since all roads lead back to discord, though. 😕

I had one point of confusion...would the safe spaces be open to allies as well, or only to those that identify with that particular identity? I know that the access is based on self-identification—can you elaborate on that?

The final note of concern for me is about harassment within these spaces and what happens as a result. I understand that the process currently is to talk to a staff member and it will be Dealt With, but I’m concerned because a) what if the harasser is a staff member? Will they get to be part of the discussion of their own harassment? and b) more importantly, how do we resolve such conflicts in a peaceful and restorative way? Does it require us to temporarily revoke access to that space? How do we avoid that space from then becoming a very policed environment while still resolving the conflicts that might arise and making sure that everyone genuinely feels safe?

I feel like these questions are mildly paranoid but I’ve seen safe spaces explode in the past when exactly these nuances were not considered and prepared for in advance, and I really want to make sure that doesn’t happen here. I’m really excited about the concept.

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Aphoride

While I think there is a point about gatekeeping issues with use of discord versus the forums, imo channels created where people can simply discuss things specifically related to any aspect of identity, however casually or emotionally or in-depth that may be would be really useful and helpful. I know I would personally feel a lot better and find it easier to use a discord channel which had a limited audience to discuss some things than I would about posting on the forums - which, as Shreya said, is a much more public place and requires, for me at least, a lot more thought and effort to put into posts, especially where they touch on emotional or personal topics. 

I think in general, perhaps the question is more what is better suited to the forums and to the discord? We already have topics on the site where people have written posts about their individual experiences of a particular aspect of their identity, resource guides or threads where people have written advice/guides about writing more general topics (like mental illness or representation), and an area of expertise thread where people can put themselves forward for asking - potentially - about any topic they list after their name. Plus, there's always the option for people to create their own threads if they wanted to know about a particular thing, where people could then volunteer their own thoughts/experiences/etc if they feel comfortable doing so. So guide-wise and advice-wise, for people who aren't members of that community, those things already exist or can be created, as Shreya said, when things come up which would be enough to create a thread for - or when someone wants to know about something in particular and reaches out. 

Otherwise, I'm not sure a forum thread is the best answer to a space for people to chat openly and honestly and privately about aspects of their lives related to a specific part of their identity within a particular limited community who share those or similar experiences? Forum threads can create brilliant resources and yes, ofc you can use them to chat, but I think for casual chatting and discussion, especially about personal things on a day-to-day basis, discord is perhaps a better answer :/ 

My only question is kinda linked to part of what Shreya asked: where would the lines be drawn over who says what is/isn't making people uncomfortable and at what point stepping in by a more senior member in some way is necessary? Because limits for people might be different, especially in channels where there are a wide range of people with different experiences, and I think as a community we're all self-aware enough to know that we won't all understand how or why something might be offensive or uncomfortable for others. 

I don't want to come across as shutting ideas down but for me privacy in discussing emotional and personal things - and the choice of what/who I respond to and what I say in public about those things - is super important and a real part of what makes this community feel safe for me and I feel that needs to be prioritised in discussions of those kinds of safe spaces? 

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toomanycurls
On 7/25/2020 at 9:47 PM, hotel california said:

maybe there's still a way to bring forum threads into it, though?

The other idea that was discussed but staff felt would be less inclusive (but this is open to discussion, obvs) is that we have the idea of clubs on the site If you've been on prefect/staff/newsletter teams in the past you've seen that for various planning aspects but the essential ideas of a club are that they are

  • Only visible to members (there are clubs I can't see)
  • Kept on the forum
  • Can be visible (like that the exist) but hidden content 
  • I would want a staff person on the team (at least I think) for set up and pushing topic moderation buttons. 
    • If people have a strong opinion about not needing a staff or prefect or some site person in clubs, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts. 

There are some issues there -

  • Clubs might feel too broad (like a BIPOC club might not feel welcoming for someone who is a BIPOC but wants to discuss issues specific to immigration or a LGBT club would be hella broad and would have a lot of staff who could be on it but if you needed a finer grained club (like a club for bisexual women to commiserate) there could be issues if the staffer who was the staff "chair" person stepped down from staff, would the club be in jeopardy? idk, we didn't really hammer this all out. 
  • Would we moderate the content? We don't moderate discord which makes it easier to just set up a space and let it grow. 
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TidalDragon
Posted (edited)

It's after midnight here so I hope this makes any sense at all.

Personally, I think the moderation issue would be a big concern for me. Theoretically I suppose it wouldn't have to be moderated here but everything else is and not doing so on these threads feels a bit inconsistent and can blur the lines between personal opinion(s)/participation and staff acting ex officio (personally I don't see that as an issue, but it could be). For me this kind of jives with the point @sibilant mentioned above - moderation, even where a majority of people in the thread feel it's appropriate - can still come off as an intrusion on discussions that are likely to be very private. This is especially true for people who aren't long-term members who don't know the other members and in this instance particularly staffers on a personal level (to whatever degree) because they may not understand people's tone, etc. of their remarks as well as those who have been here for awhile and do know each other better might. I don't think this is a risk we necessarily want to take.

That said, we obviously have to deal with those same members who want to be part of the conversation. I think there are ways to make people aware of the availability of private channels for these discussions and I know we've obviously had many new and 'new' members join the Discord even if they're not really familiar with it or it's not necessarily their jam. Unfortunately, like anything, there's only so much we can do about that issue if this is handled on Discord (or whatever platform outside the forums).

Also to another of Shreya's points, I wonder about the participation of allies in these threads/channels. Perhaps there could be a broader thread for their participation? I think we also need to consider people who are questioning. I'm hopefully not offending anyone by saying this, but addressing that could be more important than the issue of allies. Are they going to tell whomever 'I'm wondering if I might be and I'd like to talk to people who identify that way because it might help' and be allowed in a channel based on 'what' (IDK if that's really the right word) exactly they might be questioning or are those people going to be in a separate thread where people who participate in one or more of the other identity-specific threads can see and participate even though people may be scared to discuss their own specifics in front of a broader audience at a given point?

TL;DR: I think it should be handled on Discord where it will not be moderated - maybe I'm an idealist, but I feel that unless people are just lying about how they identify to engage in harassment or spew hate, these threads/channels are going to be somewhat self-policing. We also need to address how we handle people who may be questioning as well as allies.

Edited by TidalDragon
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sibilant

Returning with more thoughts, to build off what others said...

I think another reason that I don’t want these spaces on the forums is because I really do not want people to interpret sharing experiences as fodder for writing. This might be just me and my own personal paranoia, but I feel like being hosted off-site would help it feel like the discussion is less to inform writing and more to just, idk, talk about stuff (which could include our experiences on the site itself, which feel so much easier to share off-site).

I think re: questioning people, I would want them to be able to join the channels. I feel like we should not ask people to validate whether they “are” or are not a certain identity, and if someone ends up realizing that they identify as something else, they should be allowed to easily leave a channel.

I agree with the sense that these channels will likely be self-moderating (do not like the phrase “self-policing”). I would, however, feel more comfortable, if there were some ground rules set for discussions, mostly intended to actually create a safe space. (You can’t just say that a space is a “safe space”; there needs to be the right intentionality and structure). I’m envisioning ground rules like:

  • Approach with questions and curiosity, not with accusations. Start by asking questions to clarify and assuming good intent.
  • You can share what you learned from discussions, but not the details of the discussions themselves. And always assume that you can’t share the exact details of someone else’s stories unless otherwise stated.
  • Speak from your own experiences; don’t assume that something is true or not true of someone else’s experience.

There’s probably more that could be added to the list. I know these might feel quite obvious and are things that we do implicitly anyways, but I feel like in order to create a truly safe space, these “rules” need to be made explicit. I’m putting “rules” in quotes since I actually think of them as more guidelines/a community agreement, and I think it makes perfect sense for the members in each channel to adapt these rules to fit their channel.

I’m still concerned about what happens when conflicts arise in these spaces, and feel like there should be guidelines around that. I only bring it up again since it’s been a problem in the past, and I really want us to be able to figure out a way to resolve conflicts peacefully. I think it starts with encouraging people to reach out individually if someone said something that was hurtful and ask questions to understand their intent, though I don’t know what to do if there was ill-intent intended, or if someone’s words hurt many people, therefore threatening the safe space. I feel really uneasy about creating these spaces without having a sense of how we might address a conflict like that.

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MalfoysAngel

would there be a way for individuals who don't necessarily identify in any particular way to ask questions of the groups in an effort to learn more in an effort to correct personal bias and ignorance? I know for myself there have been times where I asked a question or made a comment without realizing it was offensive. 

That being said, in cases where a statement is made or question is asked and it is interpreted to be offensive by one or more individuals, how are things going to be handled if it wasn't the OPs intent to be offensive? 

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toomanycurls
1 hour ago, MalfoysAngel said:

would there be a way for individuals who don't necessarily identify in any particular way to ask questions of the groups in an effort to learn more in an effort to correct personal bias and ignorance? I know for myself there have been times where I asked a question or made a comment without realizing it was offensive. 

 

People of a group may chose to conduct their safe space differently than this but no - safe spaces aren't for people who don't identify as that group to come in and fix their own bias and ignorance. ❤️ There are resources threads, twitter, and general discord channels where you can ask about that stuff. ^_^

 

2 hours ago, sibilant said:

I think another reason that I don’t want these spaces on the forums is because I really do not want people to interpret sharing experiences as fodder for writing

I hear you. I do want to emphasize that anything on the forum would be in a club and only visible to members of that club. Anyone using your experiences are fodder for writing would be members of that club who also identify with the group for the club. 

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CambAngst

For all of the reasons @sibilant and @TidalDragon have pointed out, Discord seems like the best venue for this. To me, it's easy to imagine a situation where HPFT Staff gets put in the terrible position of trying to referee disagreements between members who, with all the best intentions, simply don't agree on what boundaries should exist and what topics cross those boundaries. These are deeply emotional issues.

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