Gay Spirit Vision’s Fall Conference is just a few days away. Our conference theme is Community and I am very excited to be in the community of a group of men that I first encountered fourteen years ago. As this is our twenty-fifth anniversary, we will look back at what we have created and where we might be headed.
As you prepare to make the trek to The Mountain, I would love you to be thinking about what it is you bring to this community and what this community has given to you. We will gather together to contemplate who we are, what we come together for, and where we want to go next.
I hope you are all anticipating a meaningful, full, and delightful conference. I know I am.
I await your arrival with hugs, good will, and an open heart.
Convener, Fall Conference 2014
Preparing for the Conference
Please take a moment to read about our time together and what you might consider bringing with you in preparation for this weekend, especially if this is your first time with us.
This weekend’s conference will start with a social time on Thursday at 5:30 pm in The Commons next to the dining room and will end with lunch on Sunday starting at 1:00 pm. You may check in as early as 3:00 pm on Thursday afternoon.
What Will I Need?
Small Group Gift Come with a small gift that has some personal meaning to exchange during your small group ritual. Some folks purchase something, others bring something from home or something found along the way.
Come with something to place on the altar; something that might represent your intentions for the retreat, some memory you hold dear, or a way to honor an ancestor.
Clothes for Movement
Come ready to move; bring clothing in which you will feel good doing so.
Come with sheet music or anything that might be necessary for your talent show performance.
Consider bringing any of the following optional items you may choose to share with our circle: personal writing journal, sketch pad, drums for drumming and other instruments, photos, sacred objects, floor pillows, night light, rain gear, layers and varieties of clothes, shoes for indoor/outdoor, for changing activities, water bottle and/or travel mug.
Consider making a donation to the Silent Auction to benefit the GSV Scholarship Fund. Bring one item you wish to donate and complete an auction form when you register, or download and bring the completed form with you.
Alcohol & Non-Prescription Drugs
Please leave all alcohol and non-prescription drugs at home.
Bring your item with you to The Mountain (or coordinate delivery with someone attending the conference).
When you arrive at The Mountain, please bring your donation to the Silent Auction display area. The Silent Auction will likely be displayed in the basement of the Tree House, and you can ask for more information when you check in at registration.
Community-led workshops are one feature returning to this year’s conference that we haven’t seen in a while. Our workshops will be facilitated by extremely capable and knowledgeable brothers and each workshop will be offered twice so you can attend more than one. I know that these men will make your time in the workshop worthwhile.
In addition to our community-led workshops, John Stasio will be offering a workshop for the entire gathering that will further explore his keynote address on Community.
Scott Dillard, 2014 Fall Conference Convener
Beginning Again…Reflections of Life on the Edge
Dennis Van Avery
The gift of a tragedy is that it can take you to a space in your life where you have never been before; a place to begin again. Our “tragic” experiences remain our own: a loss of Self, a life with HIV, a loss of dear love, growing old, an addiction, or leaving the world of work.
In this workshop, we will focus on our own journeys during a guided process. Using silence and sharing in a mutually supportive manner, we will reflect on: : awareness, blame, courage, help, humility, the losses, the cracks, and the Openings.
Beyond Gay Marriage:
Alternate Forms of Family Life for Gay Men
How do you say family for gay men? The institution of heterosexual marriage has a long history grounded in property rights for the male and submission/assent by the female party. The roots of this institution go back several millennia. Although modern western ideas of marriage have moved more toward the partnership concept and greater equality, there are serious hangovers in many areas both legally and in traditions. In many US religions, there is still a clause about “obey and until death do us part.” It is usually the female who is the party with less power. Since most gay men are raised by heterosexual couples or single parents, much of the unconscious as well as conscious thinking about marriage is based on the dominant cultural norms. Although a strong case can be made that heterosexual marriage has been a failing institution for at least 100 years, many gay men are now basing their committed relationships on that model. The push for legal gay marriage can be seen as acculturating a minority group into the dominant culture. However, for many, if not most, gay men, the current heterosexual model of marriage and family does not seem appropriate, functional, or even desirable. Fortunately, there are other evolving models, some of which have been around for a while in quiet ways. This workshop will examine alternate ways of conceiving of gay family, including partnering, open relationships, polyamorous lifestyles, communal families, and ways of developing a chosen family. Really, it is all about getting and giving the love that we need.
From Plague to PrEP: The Evolution of HIV Within Our Community
Bob Strain & David Salyer
Condoms, safer sex, Rock Hudson, ACT UP, drug cocktails, undetectable viral loads and barebacking…. HIV has been part of our consciousness since those first cases of AIDS were identified in 1981. How well have we navigated fear, stigmatization, and overwhelming loss? Is HIV the elephant in the room at GSV? Do people living with HIV feel invisible here?
If you’re ready to share ideas, opinions, and experiences about life with the virus, then join us for a guided conversation about all this and more—including slut shaming and the revolutionary emergence of PrEP, the pre-exposure prophylaxis pill that blocks the transmission of HIV.
The session is open to anyone, infected or affected by HIV.
For the past six months, I’ve been contemplating last fall’s introspective question, “Who am I?” and, looking forward to September, considering the outward question, “Who are we?” To help us explore this question, I’ve been working with the theme of Community and have invited keynote John Stasio of Easton Mountain to speak about his own experiences of how men participate in spiritually healthy community.
As this year’s convener, I want to invite you all to come and share, play, and grow with us; we’ve been preparing space for you at this year’s Fall Conference.
About the Conference
There will be a number of familiar aspects at the conference I think you’ll enjoy. One feature I’m particularly excited about is the return of workshops. I’ve asked a number of men to offer workshops relevant to the community that have been a part of our talk over the last year. Some of our topics include: HIV/AIDS and how it continues to affect our community, the creation of alternate forms of family, and how tragedy can be seen as a “gift” in our lives.
In addition to the workshops, we will continue our tradition of small group meetings, an evening dance, and a talent show. I’ve also done my best to leave free time each day for men to explore the mountain, rest on the porch with friends, and offer spontaneous workshops, experiences, and events.
Most of all, I want you to know that what makes the Fall Conference so special is you. What do you bring to this community? What would you like to share? What has this community meant to you and what has it given to you? These questions will guide our journey during our time together in September.
I look forward to greeting each of you as you arrive at The Mountain.