Beyond the Love- One of the best cons -EVAR!!!

This past weekend I had the honor to be a presenter at one of the country’s newest polyamory conferences, Beyond the Love Polyamory Summit.  Hosted in Columbus Ohio by Dawn, Dank and Karen (DD&K) and the Columbus Poly community.  This event was scheduled as a 2 day 3 night event.  It had a strong line up of presenters and educators from around the country.  From new presenters like myself to some of the most recognizable names in education Sarah Sloane, Master So’N’So, and others.

BTL FB Banner

Registration began on Friday afternoon.  Lindsey and I had driven for 2 days to get here and were couldnt wait to get checked in. We had arrived early so we went to get some lunch at a nearby restaurant.  There were a lot of options very close by.  Registration opened at 4pm and we got checked in. We got our ggoodiebags for attending, and I got a cool thank you bag for being a presenter.  It was full of small things but it was a nice thank you, unexpected, and thoughtful. The I was offered a “dot” Green, Yellow, or Red.  These were indicator dots as to the level of flirtation you were open to. Green was “Open to flirtatious conversation” Yellow, “Ask before flirting”  Red “No Flirting please”.  I felt this was a great way to passively express our individual level of openess.  I had 4 Green dots for the record.

Shortly after getting checked in we wandered around into the merchant room, and found all the classrooms. Easily enough everything was together and labeled plainly to find. In our wanderings, we came to our first class. A Poly Primer 101 class by PolyAnna and partner.  It was very informative , even from an experienced poly person. Never forget the basics and always learn something. They discussed terminology and structure as well as common early pitfalls to watch out for.  Then came the group discussion where Poly Bucks were handed out to attendees for participation.

Poly Bucks?  Yes they were a sort of fake money that wasn’t worth anything but it was fun to have an incentive to use to encourage class participation. Later in the weekend one could use their poly bucks to ” rent a presenter ” for a 15 min 1 on 1 exclusive time.  More about that later.

After the first class I experienced the coolest mixer meet and greet game ever. It was a poly scavenger hunt.  The object, find people and ask them questions from the list of things like, ” Someone in a Poly relationship over 15 years”, Someone who traveled over 100 Miles to get here”, Someone who has been to Mardi Gras”.  Once found, you wrote the name of the person on your paper next to that item.  This was a lot of fun as it sparked conversation and got the name exchange going. This was huge.  We (APW2015) will be doing something very similar in JUNE).

From here we went to the 5 love languages mixer. Led by Boi Kris, an energetic and fun host, we went through a 20 question quiz and answered questions from the 5 Love languages. Once complete we were sorted into groups of our primary love language, seated in long rows (almost 100 people took part in this activity) . The al-a Speed Dating style we rotated chair to chair chatting with the person across from us.  Gender didnt matter,  it was a get to know you session, not a hook up event.  I really liked the no pressure atmosphere. It did get a little loud and there was initially a little confusion but Boi Kris sorted us out and kept us moving.  WHAT A BLAST!  The night wound down and we were getting tired after 2 days on the road. We turned in somewhat early, Knowing I had a class to teach in the AM.

Saturday started out stronger than Friday finished, which I thought was very impressive.  With Yoga at 8am and then classes beginning promptly at 9.  Pastries and coffee were supplied for a morning snack. One of the main things that stood out to me was how punctual everything was. There was no “Con standard time” An event went on on time and ended on time, EVERYTIME. This is hard to ensure at a convention.  The organizers and staff did a great job ensuring that this happened.  Kudos!

My class was at 10:30am.  Coming out poly was the topic and I had a great turn out .  A lively bunch of engaged participants made the class more fun for me as well.  Lots of people were live tweeting  the class highlights can be found on the twitter #comingoutpoly  #BTL2014 A few of my favorite bits,  People will react to your by taking your cues; make it a big deal then it will be.  There is a natural opportunity for cooperation between the and the lgbt community. (benefit of) @btl2014 .  “the more secrets you have, the more other people can hurt you with them.” –  . Lindsey being in the class was a HUGE help because she got to share her stories about coming out when partnered to a national Polyamory figure.  Being in the media kinda requires being out.  Overall this was a great class not just for the attendees but also for me.

Later I went to the Leadership and Activism panel moderated by Alan of Poly In the News.  This was a great chance for new and experienced community organizers to come together and discuss the current trends and where we should go from here. What are we missing? Who are we missing?  ANd it was obvious by looking around the room that the greater poly community is underrepresented in the People of Color community. We all agreed that more needs to be done to reach out to this group of people and see what we can learn .  This community cannot move forward with out ALL the people in it working together.  Phone calls were made with in the hour and connections were begun. Hopefully we as one side of the community can reach out to the other sides of the community and work together to build a greater community.

After that panel was over it was time to break for lunch.  We went out to a nearby restaurant with a newly made friend.  We enjoyed laughs and conversation and decided we would use the coloring pad they gave us as an opportunity to fill a Flirt mail. 🙂  We returned to the conference bellies full and brains ready to go.

I attended the panel Navigating our Differences led by the amazing Sarah Slone. This was a fantastic open discussion about the ways we communicate to our partners and what we can do better to accept our differences and still grow as a relationship.  I was live tweeting this one.  Highlights include “If you do not ask you will not get. navigating Differences in relationships.. Determine needs vs wants for EACH realtionship independent.  .. Our success is not dependent on the other people in our relationships.  Using nonviolent communication is a great way to discuss differences in relationships Example… when ________ , I feel _________. … Shorter is better when discussing differences,.  Overall this was my favorite class.

The afternoon was spent socializing and making connections with new people and community organizers from across the country. This was facilitated by the organizers putting tables in open pre function space to invite people to sit talk and relax if they didn’t want to go to any of the classes or who needed a break.   This was brilliant!  Again great job to the organizers on this one.

As the afternoon came close, we remembered we needed to change for the Masquerade Ball and that we had a dinner to attend.  So we excused ourselves and went upstairs to change and get ready for the evening events.

The dinner that the organizers planned for the guests and their partners as well as VIPs and Sponsors was simply amazing.  What a great way to say thank you to the presenters.  It also gave us an opportunity to sit with other presenters and discuss classes, life and organizing in a private setting.  It truly was a positive experience.

The Masquerade Ball was a lot of fun. they had wonderful decorations and some pretty good music too.  Which for a con dance sometimes that’s iffy, however the DJ did a good job.  In addition to the dance , music and decorations, they had a Prom Photographer there who took everyones photo and emailed them to us for purchase.  It was a great way to create a memorable moment of the weekend with all of ones partners if they were there.  Something you don’t normally get to do in general society.  The night went on after a bit we left the dance and sat in on a game of Cards against humanity.  This is a really fun game to play and even more so with strangers.  If you haven’t played CAH then ill let you google it.  Its basically Apple to Apples for Adults.  We played for an hour or two then went back to the dance to socialize some more.  But as the Clock struck 1am the dance was closed and we all had to find somewhere/one else to party with.    (it was a pre arranged time line as the hotel had other guests and they didnt want to disturb them.)

We asked a few folks up to our room and chatted for the next 2 hours about community organizing and ethical communities and connections between people and communities.  It was a great big community organizer nerd fest.  i loved every minuet of it.  The people we invited up were so intelligent about everything we discussed. They listened , even if disagreed, but thats part of it too; challenging each others ideas and making us think outside of our bubble.  At about 3am we decided enough was enough and to bed we went.  9 am class to teach on Sunday. *thud*

Sunday was hard.  Not enough sleep means that I was not at my best for my class.  Then after ymy class I only wanted more coffee and socializing.  I knew that I was leaving soon there were connections I wanted ot make between this community and the one I have at home.  I spent the next 3 hours talking and visiting with folks from the northeast and the midwest.  We discussed organizational styles, types of poly people and how we can better communicate our message with a unified look, sound and feel to the greater society. Several of us agreed on talking more indepth about these topics via email.

Sadly it was time for closing ceremonies.  Lots of misty eyes and hugs. One REALLY cool part… they gave anyone who wanted to promote their group 30 seconds on the floor in front of everyone.  It didnt have to be poy specific. It was a great way to get the word out about groups open to poly folks and run by poly folks.  Another great idea for inclusion.  As we said our goodbyes and gave our final hugs to this group, I felt like I was part of something great that had just happened. On the way home, Lindsey and I couldn’t stop talking about all the great experiences and people we had just encountered.

Overall the event was a huge success and I highly recommend this one to everyone.  Ive been going to cons for over 20 years and this is by far one of the best organized and best executed events in the country.  I will be back next year.  I hope you will come too.

Stay upto date with all the Beyond the Love info at  BEYOND THE LOVE

 

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