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whole festival is not a safe space for bipoc & tina* people

in 2020, a crowdfunding campaign for the Whole Festival urged people to "join in the effort to keep our queer utopia alive", after the event was cancelled due to the pandemic. by the 2023 edition, the pandemic is no longer an issue, but the so-called "United Queer Festival" faces the challenge of not becoming another circuit party for white-cis-gays, despite their efforts to prevent it.

this year’s edition, which motto was “Manifesting a world all our own” (sic), left many of us, BIPOC/TINA* people, with an unsettling feeling. while we acknowledge the big challenge it must be to organise a large-scale event like this and the complex implications of trying to fulfill the needs of such a diverse community, we believe it’s important to share our experiences at the festival and some ideas on why we feel discouraged to attend again:

like everyday life, but slightly bit worse

sadly, Whole is very far from being a "United Queer” festival, and the way it’s “branded" sets unrealistic expectations. we are aware that it is not possible to create a space with zero oppression, but the level of violence that some of us experienced at the festival is simply unacceptable, and it has little to no difference from the one we are used to in our everyday lives, ranging from sassy-white-gay physical violence on the dance floor to the purest and most basic misogyny on the Whole App forum.

we no longer want to fight for space

the amount of cis-gay-presenting white people attending the festival dramatically outweighs that of TINA/BIPOC people, and they don’t seem to care about other communities but their own: if you don’t behave and look like them, you’re basically on their way and they will push you around carelessly and take up your space. we tried hard to enjoy ourselves at the festival and filter out these unpleasant interactions, but when things keep happening over and over again, and it’s always the same archetype of person, it becomes very hard to ignore it and the Whole experience becomes unenjoyable.

it’s just inaccessible for most of us

TINA & BIPOC people face greater challenges to access resources, obtain jobs, achieve migration stability, etcetera. the overall pricing made the festival completely inaccessible for most of us (5,50 € each drink, ticket prices, etcetera), and the 100 solidarity tickets that Whole gave away feel rather symbolic if we take into consideration the scale of the festival. all things considered, Whole is no longer worth the financial effort.

we want to fuck in a safe environment

the 2022 edition of Whole already sparked some criticism because the tent where FLINTA* folks could get intimate was far away from all the action and way too “soft”. this year the orga team tried to improve the experience by creating a larger cruising space that caters to a more diverse range of needs (shout out to that!). however, these efforts won’t succeed if the festival keeps being dominated by cis-gay-presenting people who bring their own sex culture, that excludes other identities and sometimes disregards active consent as a fundamental rule of sexual interaction.

the FLINTA* paradox

as part of the cruising village, Whole created a pillow palace in which FLINTA* people were able to connect and enjoy themselves to the extent that they wanted. the feedback from people who managed to enter the space was generally very positive and this effort was certainly a significant improvement compared to the previous year. nonetheless, as diverse and complex as we are, some people also had negative experiences that shouldn’t go unnoticed. several trans, inter, nonbinary and agender people got turned down Berghain-style, as they apparently didn’t look FLINTA* enough according to the definition of people at the entrance. unfortunately, this is not an isolated experience for TINA* people, as FLINTA* spaces are usually cis-dominated and encountering discrimination there is not uncommon.

a BIPOC space featuring white people

excerpts from a post on the Whole App forum:

“don’t have a festival that has a lineup full of black and brown people to then treat its black and brown goers like this, because it just gives performative”
“it was a shame that i met so many bipoc cuties but we mostly talked about how uncomfortable the environment was making us feel”
“and all you people talking about others spreading hate when they are verbalizing discomfort are actually the problem, get a grip and look at yourselves. position yourselves and try to understand the dynamics at play. you can still enjoy yourself and be mindful of others. being free doesn't mean being a fucking asshole”
“one last thing, how dare you have a bipoc space and not make sure there is someone working awareness there to ensure it remains as such? had way too many interactions with white people trying to chill in there. and no, this space is for bipoc only not for white people as well, why would it be called a bipoc space?”

we appreciate the measures that Whole Festival has put in place in order to improve the experience of BIPOC/TINA people at the festival. Still, unfortunately, they’re yet not enough and some of us don’t want to keep fighting for space against people who don’t want to listen and, instead, underestimate and dehumanise us:

while this whole discussion might seem like a first-world problem (and it is to a great, great extent), we believe it’s a good illustration of the power dynamics that get in the way of our global fight for rights and freedom. to put it in perspective: Whole Festival started in a city that is known for its diversity, in the biggest economy in Europe, in one of the regions of the world in which it is easier to access education and resources, and still, we’re incapable of creating a space to cohabitate for three days in which the bare minimum conditions are met for everyone who attends to feel welcome and safe. even if the Whole Festival organisers are not the ones to blame for this mess, we, BIPOC/TINA people, have gathered enough reasons and experiences not to come back.




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