SHARED SPACES AGREEMENT
This agreement was created with the intention of being usable by any groups or organizations. This agreement was started for the Mindful Queer Collective and Maine Transgender Lobby by Alianne Harper, Ivy Quigley, Evan McVeigh, and Eden Dyer.
The language “shared spaces agreement” is used rather than “safe spaces policy” so as not to pretend that absolute safety can be guaranteed. Concepts like safer spaces are implemented and evolved so that they may be self-reflecting, increasingly inclusive, and so that privilege doesn’t define them. Communities require collective accountability to grow, and this agreement will be vigilantly updated as necessity arises and input is given.
This agreement encourages the implementation of Community Liaisons (CLs) responsible for monitoring the emotional atmosphere of a room, ensuring the agreement is being applied, and checking in with members throughout events. CLs must be passionate about making spaces welcoming, nurturing, and responsive. Members should feel free to reach out to CLs outside of events for conflict mediation or addressing of concerns. CLs will try to actively engage with anyone isolating or appearing troubled at an event, but will also respect the need for space and disengagement. CLs may be approached during events for emotional labor and will hold space for members as privately as possible. If someone at a gathering is violating this agreement or the safety of members, please alert a CL.
Respect & Consent
Members will be respectful of autonomy, identities, and needs, including, but not limited to, names, pronouns, gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, immigrant status, housing status, job status, body shapes and sizes, religion and secularity, ability, lifestyle, triggers, levels of engagement, confidentiality, and experiences. Identities and needs may change over time, and all members are expected to support all explorations of identity. Members are expected to remain open to perspectives they do not or cannot share. Members are expected to respect and peacefully facilitate when another member must disengage. Members will strive to be inclusive at all times, and they will address any exclusionary language or activism that occurs.
Members will practice enthusiastic consent for engagement, such as activities, conversation subjects, emotional labor, any forms of touch, and for taking pictures. Enthusiastic consent means clear encouragement. The absence of a “no” does not mean the presence of a “yes.” When stressed, overstimulated, or anxious, many people experience an urge to passively agree until their situation has changed. Mutual interest, not mutual tolerance, should guide the group.
No members are ever entitled to knowledge of another member’s experiences. Members sharing personal information should be met with respect to privacy and acknowledgement of their experiences. Members will prioritize, and be receptive to, the words of people with lived experiences of oppression, marginalization, and/or hate because of their identity, when offered. Within a shared space, members accept responsibility to be receptive, remain open, and validate identities and experiences.
Members should be aware of their privilege. Consider who can casually discuss unlearning a specific privilege or norm and who may not find it casual conversation. Members must hold themselves accountable for reaching out or offering help in ways appropriate to themselves, others, and the shared environment. Situations that would violate consent and privilege-checking include, but are not limited to, expecting someone to share their experiences of oppression, probing individuals for details about their traumas or triggers, and dominating conversations by taking space away from those with lived experience on the subject.
Accountability & Reconciliation Practices
Members are expected to be mindful, honest, and accountable for their actions. This means not just striving to act with integrity, but a commitment to responsiveness, receptiveness, and communication.
Members will strive to protect survivors, provide space for reconciliation, and be mindful of all sides and aspects of every situation. Members should create neutral ground for people to learn from mistakes, (re)learn how to share spaces after damaging incidents, and bridge what can otherwise turn into unresolved divides in the wider communities. If a member involved in a conflict resolution isn’t willing or able to do the work, the Community Liaisons or other members may help create or enforce solid boundaries to respect trauma, situational limitations, and autonomy. Members are expected to believe and validate the experiences of others and support all established boundaries. CLs will remain a neutral party until a member has violated the shared spaces agreement, and if reconciliation cannot happen, offenders will be asked to leave this space until they have shown a commitment to behavioral change and are ready to participate in restorative justice.
Attitude of Self-Education
Members will not put the burden of their education on those around them. If a member is uninformed about a subject, they should admit lack of knowledge, respectfully disengage, and follow up by seeking out sources such as documentaries, books, articles, community talks and workshops, etc., on the subject that were created by those with personally lived experience. Members should acknowledge when it is their turn to take space and when it is time to elevate others with lived experiences.
Members are responsible for understanding their privileges. Members are expected to challenge themselves to grow empathetically and improve their activism. Members will strive to increase their cultural competency, their capacity for understanding privilege and oppression in different situations, by seeking out information, dialogues, and learning tools. Members should familiarize themselves with event agendas ahead of time, research accordingly, and come prepared.
Members will strive to create inclusive communities and dialogues wherein systemic oppression can be unlearned, personal and social liberation can be discovered, and the problematic idea of “normal” can be dispelled. No two people can perform the same physical, mental, and emotional tasks, and by assuming any particular ability of its participants, spaces become erasive and inaccessible to those without that capability. Members will strive to only use spaces and engage in activities that all members can fully participate in. Members should never make assumptions about the abilities of others, and they should strive to create and normalize accessibility at all times. This includes, but is not limited to, avoiding the use of flashing lights or loud music, awareness of scent sensitivities, listing the ingredients of food, keeping smoking space separate, and maintaining safe (not icy!) wheelchair accessibility.
Recreationally partaking in substances is a personal choice. It is important to recognize the use of substances to ease social situations, but members shouldn’t tolerate discomforting or belligerent behavior for any reason. It is necessary to remember that substances can be triggering or disruptive. Those in recovery or with traumatic experiences around substances may be blocked from community participation by witnessing intoxication or intoxicants. If at any event that includes substance use, members should be mindful of their consumption and the boundaries of those around them. DO NOT interrupt anyone’s sobriety. If a member is going to drink at an event, they are personally responsible to secure safe transportation and to inform a Community Liaison in the case of any safety risk. If an event is held at a space with specific rules, such as no substances or smoking allowed, members are ultimately bound by those rules and should never break them.
Sharing space means enabling people with different ways of being to participate fully; just as an omnivore sharing a meal with a vegetarian means there must be either a meatless meal or multiple options for food with at least one within the vegetarian’s boundaries. It is not enough to create a space one demographic of people could share. It is necessary to hold a shared space accountable to the differing needs of those of varying backgrounds, cultures, and identities. Many minority groups experience barriers to being in general community, because their particular needs for self-actualization or safety or dignity are not generally recognized nor prepared for. Respecting different peoples’ ways of being means making space for them to occupy without added effort and making the same effort for those not (yet) in the room as for those first in the room.
Call In Culture
Members are expected to call out injustice and to call in group consciousness to how shared space could be more inviting, inspiring, and inclusive. Members will promote an atmosphere of positive confrontation. Members will address all problems, including, but not limited to, microaggressions (the casual use of ideas, language, or power dynamics, that root in oppression), exclusionary language, emotional manipulation, and controversial actions.
Members must be mindful of the difference between intention and impact, because members are accountable for the impact of their actions, even impact that was not their intention. Members will strive to be receptive to constructive criticism and will be responsible for following through with any they receive. Members should recognize how they communicate best in different capacities. Members are encouraged to express when they are unable to constructively engage in criticism, strive to disengage peacefully, and take the space to correct their actions in their own time. Respect and active understanding take priority over who is right and wrong, but the ultimate goal is still restorative justice.