What does it mean to be cliquey?

clique/klēk,klik/Learn to pronouncenoun

  1. a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.”the old-school clique”synonyms:coterie, circle, inner circle, crowd, in-crowd, set, group

I have been asking the question of my groups recently, is L2L cliquey? The question was prompted by a private message I received from a member stating that she felt unwelcome when she went to a recent dance. That does not set well with me.

When L2L was created, I had several thoughts in my mind about what I wanted it to be for me and for others. I went into the first planning meeting with a particular experience in my mind. I had gone to a Pride White Party. The place was packed with lesbians. They all seemed to know each other (my story!). They were laughing and joking and having such a good time. They were “part of” and they belonged, at least to each other. Again, this is my story. I felt alone and isolated. I kind of hovered around the groups but it felt awkward and forced. Even though I hovered, I wasn’t approached and nobody talked to me. That was the experience that I took with me when we talked about creating a group. I wanted to be in a “club”, “crew”, “tribe”, a community that welcomed newcomers even while they were hanging out with their favorite buds. I wanted to be able to go to community events and not feel alone in a crowd of people. That was my (part of my ) vision for L2L.

I am sure the other founders also had ideas about what they envisioned it to be. One of the ideas discussed while we were still working and organizing together was that L2L would ultimately garner enough support both as a community and financially to be able to open a bar or a space that would support itself.

The original planners (the only two left of the original planning group of L2L are Monica Murray and myself, fyi) never thought that a lesbian bar would be able to fully support itself. We felt that Lansing itself was not going to support another bar since so many were already closing. We were also concerned that the saying, “lesbians are hard parted from their money” might have some truth. I think it just might be that women might be a little more frugal. Or do lesbians get paid less or have less paying jobs and have to budget a little tighter? I don’t know and those are all valid questions for further investigation…but not today!

I have wandered like a hummingbird and I will focus.

We thought that we would have a building, home, office space or some such that would support tenants or “vendors” like at festival or provide services during the day and at night it would become a “bar” serving liquor but also offering activities such as bingo and such like Club 505 used to do, providing a community space while still being a bar.

that was the original goal but most of the planners dropped off and I was the only planner for a while. I created the events and hosted the events. I worked really super hard to greet people when they arrived at events. We had found a place that was willing to host events and not charge us (Thank you Connie & Sir Pizza Old Town!) That made it much easier.

But it was open to the public and I hadn’t been out for very long (1.5 years maybe?) so it wasn’t exactly comfortable to walk up to EVERY WOMEN that showed up at dances or events and introduce myself and identify myself as a lesbian (Hi, I’m Dawn. I’m an organizer of L2L, Lansing Lesbians, would you like a card? Are you here for the event? Are you a lesbian?”) I mean, I’m not an introvert but I do much better with a crew behind me. I didn’t always have that crew behind me.

Slowly but surely, it was building though. People started coming back. It started to really grow when Yvonne LeFave helped create the secret facebook group for L2L. It became easier to create discussions. It took time online and face to face to build the core of L2L.

then the core of L2L would shift and change. New people would start coming around but more of the same faces stayed around. New faces became familiar faces. A community started to grow and thrive. Connections were made between so many women. There were love connections and soul connections and friendship groups developed. L2L evolved.

Now it has grown to 500 women. L2L has not started a bar but we have reoccurring events and special events throughout the year. L2L has inclusive events for all lgbt+ and all self-identified women. L2L also does MFR, a womyn’s festival that is for WBW. Both have grown and thrived. All spaces can happen. It’s important to honor all people in their commonality but also honor our uniqueness.

Group dynamics are intriguing. The online group dynamics are very different than the face to face dynamics. I am thankful for the online group because it gives us a space to discuss issues. During face to face events, it can be overwhelming and not productive as far as creating change in the dynamics. But I also believe that we are thriving because are more than just an online group. Interpersonal contact is important and necessary. the world can seem very small and connected when interacting online but loneliness and disconnect is bigger for individuals than it has ever been. #weneedeachother

People as a group and individually do better emotionally and physically when they have a feeling of belonging and are connected to others.

I am always striving to help L2L and MFR to be better, more welcoming, more loving, more dynamic groups because if we become strong together, we can create change in the larger world. In an effort to see how and if we can do things differently, I am expanding my excursions to include attending events that another (local-ish) lesbian group hosts.

I loved watching the group dynamics. The people were welcoming (just like L2L) when newcomers came into the event. Each person was greeted by the hosts individually (like L2L) but they were not introduced around to the group (L2L works to do this) so they can get to know each other in the group. They planned to have each person rotate so they would not be just sitting and talking to the same people (great idea!!) but it didn’t happen. Once people sat down, they sat there and just talked to the people around them. It was hard to break into a conversation. Nobody approached me or started a conversation with me. It was uncomfortable. But I perservered. I tried to start conversations with several women. They were receptive but I felt I was “carrying the conversation.” I was not comfortable. But I also know that I have a responsibility as part of any interaction, it is NOT one sided. I also saw that they had a lot of newcomers or not regulars. The regulars stuck together and chatted together. They had a relationship. They were not unwelcoming. They were just spending time with those that they chose. The newcomers were welcomed but they were not pulled into conversations. Was it cliquey? No, I don’t think so. I think it was a group where people gravitated and spent time with people that they felt most comfortable with. #learninglessons

Anyhoo, it was a great night. I stayed for several hours. I will go back to their events. We might collaborate with the GR group to do events together with both groups. I learned some things about group dynamics. I also felt reassured that L2L is doing the best that it can but it will always strive to do better. That’s the best we can do.

It doesn’t seem based on my experience last night that L2L is cliquey. Rather it has formed a community that has a lot of people that have “found their tribe”. There is always room to do better. There is always room for feedback. I welcome hearing of women’s experiences. I welcome the discussion. I welcome the chance to continue to evolve and to develop our group to be stronger, kinder, fiercer, supportive, welcoming, and more loving.

#dobetter #keepevolving

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