My friends at Valkyrie Martial Arts recently ran an event called Big Gay Sword Day. The point of it was to make it super-explicitly minority-friendly, though not in the least exclusive.
And yet they’ve come under fire from people who feel that this is unfairly excluding straight white men from the HEMA world. Seriously.
All events are exclusive to one degree or another. You can be excluded by age (eg. no kids! or, kids only!), interest (longsword? messer? wrestling? crochet?), geography (it’s a long way to Vancouver from Ipswich) and sometimes by gender (you can read about my feelings on women-only classes here). But the thing that marks Big Gay Sword Day out is exactly not its exclusivity. It’s inclusivity.
On the event page, they wrote:
Who’s invited? you are! BGSD is open to students of all backgrounds, experience levels, and identities. Everyone is welcome, and there are no pre-requisites for any of our workshops.
Could it be more inclusive? I don’t see how. You don’t have to be gay to go. You just have to be comfortable training with people who might not have the same sexual or social identity that you do. And be interested in the topics that the instructors are covering. I didn’t go because I was busy in Ireland that weekend, and have done two US trips in the last two months. But I think I would have had a blast.
If you want more women in class, run classes for women. If you want more heavyweight wrestlers, run classes for… you guessed it, heavyweight wrestlers. And if you want to open up your club to gay, trans, or whatever other demographic, the surest way to do that is to create classes that are explicitly aimed at them. Are minorities under-represented in your club? If so, it’s either your advertising, or your class environment, or both.
In case it’s not obvious, I think swordsmanship should be for everyone who can train safely. And I think there should be many more events that are explicitly aimed at demographics that are currently under-represented in our community.
Other posts on related topics: