We are the future! Aka the future of CoG as an organization a letter from the founder and ED.
Conspiracy of geniuses has always been an organization working to provide needed opportunities to queer and trans artists. We have always been led by those with intersectional identities. We are a ragtag group of misfits who come together because we do not have anywhere else to go. We have always been indigenous led. We have always been led by people with disabilities.
Now, nearly twenty years later, many have taken up the calling. It seems like everyone has their own project. In a lot of ways this is great. In a lot of ways it shows the disposability of our culture. Despite all the work CoG has done in the world (the work that i- smitty have done in the world), i am still struggling; CoG is still struggling. Struggling to survive. People like to project on me the worst part of masculinity; the worst parts of having light skin. But mostly i get to actually deal with the worst parts of being trans, of being nonbinary, of not being masculine nor feminism enough, of not ever being able to assimilate into white supremacy, too native, too latinx.
People love problematic people. They love to protect them. Instead of coming together and making change in the world, we are tearing each other apart desperately trying to prove ourselves to the white supremacist cishet patriarchal oligarchy. We are quick to tear down another qtibpoc intersectional disabled artist organizer for not having enough resources to throw money at them like the savior complex does to privileged artists. But slow to challenge privileged organizations, individuals, who ask us to perform, to make art, for little to no money, for exposure. When we started we were rare and that was how we survived. Now it is less about the work and more about a popularity contest. We do not want to spend all our time and resources to make Mark Zuckerberg richer.
We need a space outside of the toxic patriarchy and white supremacy. We deserve to access nature. We deserve retreat. We need it. We need reprise from the constant violence. We need space to transition.
Understanding the changing needs of our communities, we have decided to move towards creating a land project, an art retreat center. This will be a space where people can come live and work in a space where for a moment they can feel safe and relaxed.
First we must acquire land and from there we will start to co-imagine. We have already imagined a space with an organic garden we use for a seed to table cafe on site. Creating a rescue for animals and large dogs which also gives our guests (and workers) another source of therapeutic touch which increases dopamine. We will have work parties for short term accessible respite. Once we are ready to start hosting, we will create opportunities for individuals to apply for longer stays. These will be temporary positions allowing for individuals in need of time away from the bustle of society for life transitions. This can be a gender transition. As trans people, we face a lot of discrimination and we often need space to transition out of a unhealthy situation. When we just move from one abusive situation to another, we lose the will to live. We need this space for our survival.
We have outlined that also part of this path is creating opportunities for qt/ibpoc youth… and adults. By creating recreation opportunities, we create entry points for individuals struggling. Through offering access to nature and healing arts such as yoga we are already proving a benefit but also attracting individuals from our communities who are looking for that social emotional support but cannot access it due to lack of culturally appropriate programming.
Colonization has taken nature from us. That is part of how it works. By removing our connection to nature, we forget that we are the land. We forget that we do not need the colonizer. We do not need colonization in our brain. In her book, , bell hooks deconstructs how in the south Black people were taken from their connection from the land and how this was a part of colonization.
There have been numerous studies that show that time in nature and even simply sitting on a beach and listening to waves improves mental health. White supremacy teaches us that these are “white” things and the ibpoc communities reject them in an attempt to separate themselves from their oppressor but this is also a part of colonization. White supremacy is what sets up this separation. My light skin does not retract from my culture. As a child, white supremacy did not separate me from my siblings nor from my peers. It can be hard for city folks to understand that i did not grow up with the white privilege that had colonized everything around me. I grew up as mixed.
But i grew up with trees, animals, insects – nature. This connection to the land has gifted me with the ability to survive despite everything that has happened in my life. Sitting on the beach, learning to calm my heartbeat.
Learning how to code switch at a young age and being shown how to access alternate ways of being has allowed me to harness my own healing. Code switching taught me how to get opportunities for free to cheap. My mom taught me how to survive. We come from a family of survivors. Of this i am proud.
Also some days i feel as though i sold my soul to the devil (metaphorically as i do not actually believe in the devil as such). It is exhausting to fake a personality so that you can access resources. To pretend you are just like them to make them feel better about themselves, to relieve some of their privilege guilt. Then we have to carry this with us. That we alone are not good enough for resources. That we are only worthy when we create a false persona. This also damages our thriving rate but also survival rate.
We need basic resources. We also need roses. “Give them bread but also give them roses.” The human spirit needs hope, connection, a sense of place, a sense of beauty and love. We need to feed our humanity, our spirit as much as wwe need to feed our belly.
Short term goals is to create more recreation opportunities for intersectional qtibpoc, specifically artists and people with disabilities. Long term goals are to develop these programs to become an entry path to engage with our other long term goal, a healing land project.
Short term programming incorporates various outdoors activities: Sailing, kayaking, hiking, camping, surfing, rollerskating and skateboarding, bicycling, and really whatever we can make happen that folks want to do outdoors. We also offer some indoor programming such as yoga, Ball/Voguing and other dance classes.
Offering both on sight and field trips will enable us to give more job opportunities to more people but also give folks a chance to either stay on site or start to venture out as their new/healed self. Additionally on site we will offer various arts classes, intensives and residencies. We have always been artists and this at some point started to include healing artists as many of us switched modalities for economic or other reasons. The artist’s job in society is the fool, the healer. Where we are formally medical providers or providing catharsis and understanding through an art piece – both heal the individual and society. Instead of the colonial separation of the artist and the healer, we provide space for our ancestral legacy to bloom. We are the future.