Mark Oshiro Says ConQuesT Didn’t Act On His Harassment Complaints

Two-time Hugo nominated fanwriter Mark Oshiro (Mark Watches Star Trek), ConQuesT’s Fan Guest of Honor in 2015, has publicly aired on Facebook his grievances about the racism, sexual harassment, and abuse he experienced at the con after working within the con’s complaint process produced no action.

In light of what I’ll reveal at the end, I find it more important than ever to talk about the persistent and pervasive racial and sexual abuse/harassment I was the victim of at ConQuesT because I did everything I was told to do in the event that I was harassed. I reported most of the events you’ll see described below, and I did not do so anonymously. I stuck my name on every incident report, partly because I was not afraid, but mostly because I wanted things to change. If putting my name on a report ensured that a better community could be built from my actions, then I felt it was worth it.

Alas, that does not seem to be the case.

ConQuesT is held annually over Memorial Day Weekend in Kansas City. The three-paragraph Behavior policy in effect at last year’s con began with clear expectations:

Behavior

ConQuesT is committed to offering a convention experience as free from harassment as we can make it for our members, regardless of characteristics such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, age, race, religion, nationality, or social class. We do not tolerate harassment of convention participants in any form. ConQuesT attendees violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the convention without a refund, at the discretion of the convention organizers.

Before suffering any violations of the con’s behavior policy, Oshiro’s weekend as ConQuesT 46 Fan Guest of Honor got off to a rocky start because of poor hospitality. He was due a comp room but had to use his own card to register ‘til the committee straightened that out. The room was in the hotel’s secondary tower. He and his friend (now partner) were driven to a restaurant for the guest of honor dinner, but were not seated at the chairperson’s table with the rest of the GoH’s (George R.R. Martin, Nene Thomas, Brandon Sanderson, and Toastmaster Selina Rosen). At the end of the meal they were asked to pay, another mistake that had to be fixed. Oshiro says there were added reasons for his sensitivity about these problems.

As a brief aside, I wanted to provide some emotional context to this. Baize and I were the only people of color in this entire group, and both of us are gay. I’ve struggled my whole life with reading situations to see if I’m actually being discriminated against, and the fear that that had happened to us was particularly strong that whole dinner. We are both part of marginalized communities that had very little representation in this group, and it became impossible not to consider the possibility that we were treated differently because of it.

At Oshiro’s first program item he was sexually harassed – by the con’s toastmaster.

I was moderating a panel titled, “Are Fans More Open Minded?” The panel progressed wonderfully for about ten minutes before it was derailed and then never made it back to normal. Early into the panel, someone in the audience made a joke about the panelist Selina Rosen, who sat next to me on my left and was ALSO a Guest of Honor at the convention. They called her a princess, and in response, she stood up and pulled her pants down to her ankles. For the next few minutes, Selina, wearing nothing but men’s boxers, proceeded to periodically rub her bare leg against mine. At first, I thought she was merely bumping me, but she kept doing it, over and over, and if I looked at her while she was doing it, she would make a face at me.

I texted Keri O’Brien, the Vice Chair for the convention, and told her that Selina had taken off her pants again. (She had done so at ConQuesT 45.) Within a few minutes, Selina had pulled her pants back up and Keri arrived and pulled Selina out of the room. Selina returned, and she made the bulk of the remainder of the panel about how fandom was NOT open-minded because someone had reported her for removing her pants. Multiple things happened in response to this. In a strange sign of solidarity, another panelist, Robin Wayne Bailey, removed his OWN shirt and kept talking about his nice body and his big muscles. Selina tried to grill multiple members of the audience to determine if they had been the ones to report her, even going so far as to yell at anyone who chose to leave the room, accusing them of being a “rat.”

(Tiffany Robbins saw Rosen’s act in 2014 and wrote in ConQuesT 45: 10 Things I Learned From Selina Rosen – “8. Sometimes, it’s okay to pull your pants down to your ankles in a public setting.”)

Then Oshiro described how, later that night at a room party in the main hotel, his partner Baize was sexually and racially harassed. (The full text of Oshiro’s post appears below, following the jump.)

On Sunday he was the moderator on a panel titled, “Erasure is Not Equality” and had this experience:

This panel was specifically about the erasure of people of color in historical fiction, fantasy, and other genres. I was the only person on the panel who was not white. Furthermore, not one person on the panel seemed to understand the point of the panel, which was to talk about erasure. Instead, the conversation teetered between self-righteous back-patting and flat-out racism. Within the first five minutes of the start of the panel, I brought up a topic for us to discuss: how “historical accuracy” is often poorly used as a defense of the erasure of people of color. One panelist, Chris Gerrib, then began to talk about how people misunderstood history. The “Indian” people in Central America were already busy “killing each other” by the time the Spaniards arrived. When I asked for clarification, Gerrib confirmed that he believed that the Spaniards were “unfairly blamed” for the genocide of the indigenous cultures in Central America. I was so horrified by his continued talk of this ahistorical point that, after very little conversation, I asked that we change topic.

This set a tone for the remainder of the panel, which was easily the worst panel I have ever been a part of. All three of the white panelists confidently stated things that were simply not true; each of them kept saying “Indian” when they actually meant Native American or indigenous; every few minutes, more than half the audience was viscerally horrified by what the other panelists said. At one point, Jan Gephardt derailed the panel into talking about women instead of race and said that she was “happy to see any sort of women, like black or white or green.” Gerrib then chimed in with, “Or purple.” She also responded to a lengthy point that myself and an audience member made about the physical and emotional injury that can come from experiencing racism by reminding us that “racism is not real” because race “is just a social construct.” During a different conversation about how many authors mistakenly blur the line between different cultural groups, Chris Gerrib jokingly said, “Did you know that the Japanese aren’t the same as the Chinese?” Jan’s response? The Japanese and Chinese just think they’re different in their heads. She heavily implied that they were mistaken in this belief.

Oshiro told about several other disturbing comments on the panel. And he outlined another harassing experience he had at a fireworks viewing party. That night, he reported all of these incidents to committee members Keri O’Brien and Jesi Pershing.

They were both incredibly professional and sympathetic to myself and Baize, and I have nothing negative to say about that specific experience. They did exactly as they should: they made the two of us feel better, and they were very thorough in getting details about all of the above experiences. I was asked what I wanted done. I did not recommend that anyone get kicked out or un-invited for future years. I simply wanted two things:

1) That those I reported not be allowed on programming that triggered such a terrible response in them. (That was mostly in regards to the “Erasure is Not Equality” panel. A panel about race should not have one lone person of color on it.)

2) That someone tell these people that there’d been a report made about their behavior and that they should not behave in a way to make people feel so upset and unwanted.

I was realistic about what I wanted. You can’t make everything a teaching moment, and some people might not want to learn. But I needed someone to tell each of these people that their actions made someone else feel terribly unwelcome at the convention. I just wanted the conversation to be started.

Oshiro completed about seven incident reports and signed them.

I was told that the concom would discuss them, and that, at the very least, some action would be taken, either a notification about their behavior and a warning, OR people would not be invited back for programming in the future.

Months went by. Jesi Pershing, in her official capacity as part of the concom, would give me periodic updates. Sometimes, if I saw her at another con, I would ask her what the status of my reports were. She had recommended specific courses of action in response to my incident reports, and [convention chair Kristina Hiner] seemed to agree to them. But last month, she finally told me that, nearly eight months after I’d reported multiple people, ConQuesT and Kristina Hiner had done absolutely nothing with my reports.

In contrast, at another convention where he experienced a problem, the committee immediately resolved his complaint:

Harassment is unfortunately a part of my experience at SF/F conventions. Not at all of them, but at most of them, something happens to me. I’m an outspoken queer Latinx, and it’s inevitable. However, since ConQuesT, every con staff that I’ve had to make a report to has dealt with my report quickly and fairly. At ConFusion this year, the concom dealt with my incident report in two hours. Meaning they spoke to the person and that person apologized to my face within two hours.

Oshiro recognized that ConQuesT was not going to take action, and decided it was time to go public.

And a month ago, after she told Oshiro about the committee’s inaction, Jesi Pershing left the committee, as she explained today on Facebook:

Shortly after the ConQuesT 2015 ended, I typed up the incident reports I had taken, along with my recommended follow-up for each incident, and passed them along to the chair. My understanding was that she agreed with the actions I recommended, and that the Board did as well. The actions I recommended either needed to come from the Chair or Board, or required certain decisions to be made by the Chair or Board before I could enact them. This is where things stalled out. I heard that the Chair and Board agreed with what I had recommended…and then I basically heard nothing.

I inquired several times, both in email and in person, over the next several months, as to where things stood, whether anything had been done, what the hold up was. At one point, it was expressed to me that the Chair was wondering, since we hadn’t done anything by now (I believe this was about four months after the con), should we even bother at this point? To which I gave an emphatic “YES” and was once again under the impression that action would be taken. It never was.

As Mark relates in his post, he was asking me for updates during this time. I let him know that a course of action had been agreed upon on (early on in the process when I thought that action being agreed upon meant action would be taken), and then, as time went on, I would have to tell him that, no, to my knowledge, nothing had been done. Still nothing. Still nothing.

In January, I had a sudden lightning bolt epiphany that, if nothing had happened up to this point, nothing was going to happen. I let Mark know that, in my opinion, the con was never going to take action on his reports, and that I was stepping down from the committee.

Combating harassment in our community is an issue that is very important to me – I’ve worked on writing and implementing Codes of Conduct at multiple conventions. When I take on a role like this at a convention, I feel that I am making a promise – a promise that complaints will be taken seriously and that, if warranted, action will be taken. I cannot work for a con that has made me break that promise, which is why I stepped down from the committee.

Keri O’Brien, who has stayed on as the 2016 ConQuesT chairperson, made this comment on Oshiro’s Facebook post:

I have never felt comfortable talking from the perspective of a whole group of people. That is not something I think I can easily do here. I am also the current chair of ConQuesT in Kansas City. A good friend of mine, Mark Oshiro, told his story today. This needed to happen I feel. There were some horrible things that happened last year and they did not get the attention they deserved. This post is part apology. Mark Oshiro and Baize Latif White should not have found out 9 months later that nothing had happened. This was a mistake, a terrible one. Caused by a series of miscommunications over the course of those months. The reasons are not as important as the hurt the mistake and miscommunication caused. ConQuesT is a very old convention but has only very very recently instated any sort of behavior policy. ConQuesT 46 was one of the first years that formal reports were taken in under this system. It was not handled well, at all. But this does not mean that it cannot learn from those mistakes. As chair for this year, it is my responsibility to ensure that any reports taken at con are dealt with in ways that respect our membership and our policies. Thank you for taking the time to read this, Keri O’Brien

O’Brien is just one of hundreds of fans who left comments on Oshiro’s Facebook page. Among them was Chris Gerrib who set out to apologize, only getting it right on the second try after Oshiro answered his first attempt, “I don’t se an apology here.” Gerrib wrote in his initial comment:

Since I was mentioned by name in the original post, I feel I should respond. I want to apologize. What I *intended* to say was that the Inca and Aztec empires were unpopular with other native tribes, and that the Spanish used that unpopularity to form an army with themselves at the head. I did not communicate that correctly, and I’m sorry. I don’t recall saying that the Spanish were unfairly blamed for anything, but if I said or implied otherwise I was wrong. Much of the current issues with Central and South America can be traced to bad Spanish decisions and/or conduct.

Then he followed up:

I am sorry you were miserable on the panel, and I’m sorry what I said caused that. My statement at the time was in error.

(Gerrib also discussed this at File 770 and in a similar comment on Vox Day’s post about Oshiro’s revelation.)

Other notable responses include K. Tempest Bradford’s “Expect More From Your Regional Convention”:

Kansas City fans have pointed out that it is the very essence of a local con. Most folks running it and putting people on panels know each other well and know the panelists. Robin Wayne Bailey  is a local and, from what I can gather, a regular at that con. Selina Rosen, who pulled down her pants, is apparently a serial pants taker off-er at that very con. Yes, this is a small local con. That means it’s probably even easier for programming volunteers to know that they’ve staffed a panel about diversity and erasure with one person of color and a bunch of problematic white folks who are prone to undressing at the slightest provocation.

And Rachel Caine is calling upon audiences not to let things slide, in “Dear Regional SFF Conventions: Enough Already”

But you know what? It’s not necessarily the fault of the volunteers throwing conventions. Audiences and panelists must hold each other accountable if fandom is going to continue as it began. ConComs are not gods. They can’t vet moderators, they can’t interview panelists about every panel topic to see if they’re qualified. They are organizers of a show for which they don’t get paid, and while they do shoulder the burden for responding to bad behavior, WE are responsible for responding immediately to the bad behavior in the first place. (I have been guilty of letting things slide, of trying to play “can’t we all get along,” of not pushing myself hard enough to be articulate and responsible. And I’m sorry. If you see me falling short or saying dumbass things, stand up and say so. I will learn and grow as a person from that discussion.)

Surprisingly, Oshiro says he’s still going to the Worldcon in Kansas City this year.

Mark Oshiro gave general permission to share his Facebook post; the full text follows the jump.

TRIGGER WARNING: For extended, detailed talk of racism, sexual harassment, abuse

This has not been an easy post for me to write. I’m keeping the introduction of it relatively short because I’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Over the past nine months or so, the events of my weekend at ConQuesT 46 have haunted me, and recent events inspired me to finally talk about my experience. I have spoken to nearly fifteen people, most of whom are a part of the SF/F community, about what happened to me so that I could get some insight. Was what I experienced wrong? Was I imagining the intensity of the weekend? Is it wrong for me to publicly talk about it?

In light of what I’ll reveal at the end, I find it more important than ever to talk about the persistent and pervasive racial and sexual abuse/harassment I was the victim of at ConQuesT because I did everything I was told to do in the event that I was harassed. I reported most of the events you’ll see described below, and I did not do so anonymously. I stuck my name on every incident report, partly because I was not afraid, but mostly because I wanted things to change. If putting my name on a report ensured that a better community could be built from my actions, then I felt it was worth it.

Alas, that does not seem to be the case.

*

I was invited to be the Fan Guest of Honor at ConQuesT 46. (From here on out, GoH will stand for Guest of Honor.) I was thrilled to take part in it, not just because I’d attended ConQuesT 45, but because George R.R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson would be guests alongside me. Hey, for my first GoH gig, that’s a pretty spectacular line-up! I arrived to Kansas City on the Wednesday before the convention, and my friend at the time (now partner) Baize was my guest. We headed to the con hotel and, upon check-in, discovered that we were placed in the secondary tower of the hotel, not the main one; the room was also not paid for, so I had to put my own card down. This was fixed by the time dinner was over, but it was a disconcerting start to a bad weekend. On Thursday evening, I was driven to Jack Stack BBQ for the guest of honor dinner, which Baize and I were quite excited about. We are both fans of the Song of Ice and Fire books and the show, so it felt like a very special occasion. We were ten minutes or so late due to going to the wrong location first. When we arrived, all of the guests of honor were present with their own guests, and they were all seated at the table. There were two open spots next to George R.R. Martin, so I gestured to them as I arrived, and Baize and I moved to sit in them.

The con chair, Kristina Hiner, stopped us. She told us the seats were for her and her husband. She then gestured behind us to an empty table two tables away from the main one, and told us we could sit there. By ourselves. I am certain she saw the glare of anger on my face and the confusion on my guest’s. We were so shocked that we couldn’t even say anything. She then quickly suggested that we sit at the table with the staff members, and we took the only two spots left at said table. They were literally the farthest point away from the Guest of Honor table. If it were not for our friend Jesi and two other staff members who briefly greeted us, not one person at that table would have ever said a word to us. We were ignored and segregated from the main table the entire time. (As a brief aside, I wanted to provide some emotional context to this. Baize and I were the only people of color in this entire group, and both of us are gay. I’ve struggled my whole life with reading situations to see if I’m actually being discriminated against, and the fear that that had happened to us was particularly strong that whole dinner. We are both part of marginalized communities that had very little representation in this group, and it became impossible not to consider the possibility that we were treated differently because of it.)

At the end of the meal, I was asked to pay for mine and my guest’s meal, unlike the entire guest of honor table. This was rectified after I told the server to please tell Kristina to include us on the main bill, which had nearly been paid for without us on it. After the meal, Kristina finally spoke to me after our initial confrontation, and I told her that we were in the wrong hotel, that my room had not been paid for, and that I felt weird about the evening. She assured me that everything would be taken care of and that my guest and I would be treated well.

I’m including this at the start of this because I want everyone to have context. While I didn’t make a report about this or opening ceremonies, I thought it relevant to include it here. It is necessary to help explain the atmosphere of this convention. When it wasn’t outright hostile to Baize and I, we were utterly invisible. Mistakes happen at cons, and by no means do I think that ConQuesT or ANY convention should never have anything go wrong ever. However, this was the start of an unnerving pattern.

By the time I got to programming on Friday afternoon, I felt deeply uncomfortable about my experience at ConQuesT thus far. I had two panels that I was on prior to Opening Ceremonies. I was moderating a panel titled, “Are Fans More Open Minded?” The panel progressed wonderfully for about ten minutes before it was derailed and then never made it back to normal. Early into the panel, someone in the audience made a joke about the panelist Selina Rosen, who sat next to me on my left and was ALSO a Guest of Honor at the convention. They called her a princess, and in response, she stood up and pulled her pants down to her ankles. For the next few minutes, Selina, wearing nothing but men’s boxers, proceeded to periodically rub her bare leg against mine. At first, I thought she was merely bumping me, but she kept doing it, over and over, and if I looked at her while she was doing it, she would make a face at me.

I texted Keri O’Brien, the Vice Chair for the convention, and told her that Selina had taken off her pants again. (She had done so at ConQuesT 45.) Within a few minutes, Selina had pulled her pants back up and Keri arrived and pulled Selina out of the room. Selina returned, and she made the bulk of the remainder of the panel about how fandom was NOT open-minded because someone had reported her for removing her pants. Multiple things happened in response to this. In a strange sign of solidarity, another panelist, Robin Wayne Bailey, removed his OWN shirt and kept talking about his nice body and his big muscles. Selina tried to grill multiple members of the audience to determine if they had been the ones to report her, even going so far as to yell at anyone who chose to leave the room, accusing them of being a “rat.” Near the end of the panel, an audience member asked the panel if fandom could be considered open-minded when it clung to so many of its own racist/sexist/homophobic heroes uncritically. Specifically, I addressed this in the context of the World Fantasy Award and brought up the fact that many people do not think we should criticize H.P. Lovecraft. Robin Bailey then responded by saying that anyone who spoke about Lovecraft’s racism should be considered “human garbage,” and said that Lovecraft was just a product of his time.

Following this panel, I went to opening ceremonies, where I once again felt invisible when Selina Rosen skipped introducing me. It was not until people in the audience yelled this out that they came back to me.

On Friday night, at a room party in the main hotel, my partner Baize was sexually and racially harassed by someone attending the same dance party: Liz Gooch. At multiple points during the evening, she gestured behind him as if she were going to grab his butt. She kept referring to it as his “juicy booty.” She danced around him and told me to “not let this sweet piece of chocolate go.” Despite that our body language clearly showed discomfort, Liz would not stop harassing either of us. We had to move to another side of the room, and we eventually told the person running the party what she was doing. We both considered that perhaps she had been so forward and gross because she was drunk, but I had multiple interactions with Liz Gooch when she was sober following that night. The next morning, she was leaving an elevator as I was getting in a different one. She turned around and made a number of sexual gestures while pointing at Baize, which including kissing faces, winks, and licking her lips in an exaggerated manner.

On Sunday afternoon, I was the moderator on a panel titled, “Erasure is Not Equality.” This panel was specifically about the erasure of people of color in historical fiction, fantasy, and other genres. I was the only person on the panel who was not white. Furthermore, not one person on the panel seemed to understand the point of the panel, which was to talk about erasure. Instead, the conversation teetered between self-righteous back-patting and flat-out racism. Within the first five minutes of the start of the panel, I brought up a topic for us to discuss: how “historical accuracy” is often poorly used as a defense of the erasure of people of color. One panelist, Chris Gerrib, then began to talk about how people misunderstood history. The “Indian” people in Central America were already busy “killing each other” by the time the Spaniards arrived. When I asked for clarification, Gerrib confirmed that he believed that the Spaniards were “unfairly blamed” for the genocide of the indigenous cultures in Central America. I was so horrified by his continued talk of this ahistorical point that, after very little conversation, I asked that we change topic.

This set a tone for the remainder of the panel, which was easily the worst panel I have ever been a part of. All three of the white panelists confidently stated things that were simply not true; each of them kept saying “Indian” when they actually meant Native American or indigenous; every few minutes, more than half the audience was viscerally horrified by what the other panelists said. At one point, Jan Gephardt derailed the panel into talking about women instead of race and said that she was “happy to see any sort of women, like black or white or green.” Gerrib then chimed in with, “Or purple.” She also responded to a lengthy point that myself and an audience member made about the physical and emotional injury that can come from experiencing racism by reminding us that “racism is not real” because race “is just a social construct.” During a different conversation about how many authors mistakenly blur the line between different cultural groups, Chris Gerrib jokingly said, “Did you know that the Japanese aren’t the same as the Chinese?” Jan’s response? The Japanese and Chinese just think they’re different in their heads. She heavily implied that they were mistaken in this belief.

Holly Messinger, a ConQuesT staff member, was also on the panel. She spent a great deal of time talking only about her own work, repeating the message that she had read “five books on Indians” and that she had written her first black character, who kept the white character “sane.” She stated at one point that she was “terrified” about the response her book would get because people would get “mad” about her writing an “Indian” character. When I asked for clarification – specifically, was she worried about getting representation wrong? – she told the room that she had no concern about that. She’d read five books about “Indians.” She was concerned that people of color would misinterpret her.

There were many more incidents on this panel, and I could not recount them all here. The panel ended on a sour note, too. Baize spoke up and pointed out that part of the problem with erasure was that there was only one person of color on a panel about race. Holly Messinger shot back, “Well, we’re in the Midwest.” I left the panel feeling drained and numb. If you were at ConQuesT that weekend and you wondered why Closing Ceremonies started late, it’s my fault. I dashed up to my hotel room to cry because I felt so triggered, rejected, and alone. I’ve been on uncomfortable panels, but this was unique. The entire panel was argumentative; my questions as moderator were constantly avoided or ignored; anything I tried to state was fought or dismissed or contradicted. It was exhausting.

Sunday night, at the viewing party for the fireworks display, someone accidentally sat on a remote and turned off the live news broadcast. A man behind Baize and I yelled out, “Cocksucker!” at whomever made the TV go off. We were both holding hands at the time, and while we didn’t think the expletive was directed at us, we still turned around and glared at the man. After the fireworks, I left the room quickly because… well, I’d heard so much nonsense all weekend that I needed to get out of that space before I lost my temper. The man sent his friend after us – some young woman whose name I did not get – who then harassed us for nearly a minute by repeatedly telling us that her friend was sorry and that we “needed” to know that he was a nice person and not a bigot. When I told her that I didn’t care, she actually said, “But I need you to know he’s a really nice guy.” It took me telling her, “Please leave me alone right now” for her to leave the hallway.

That night, I reported all of these incidents in one long session with Keri O’Brien and Jesi Pershing. They were both incredibly professional and sympathetic to myself and Baize, and I have nothing negative to say about that specific experience. They did exactly as they should: they made the two of us feel better, and they were very thorough in getting details about all of the above experiences. I was asked what I wanted done. I did not recommend that anyone get kicked out or un-invited for future years. I simply wanted two things:

1) That those I reported not be allowed on programming that triggered such a terrible response in them. (That was mostly in regards to the “Erasure is Not Equality” panel. A panel about race should not have one lone person of color on it.)

2) That someone tell these people that there’d been a report made about their behavior and that they should not behave in a way to make people feel so upset and unwanted.

I was realistic about what I wanted. You can’t make everything a teaching moment, and some people might not want to learn. But I needed someone to tell each of these people that their actions made someone else feel terribly unwelcome at the convention. I just wanted the conversation to be started.

*

I moved on. It’s now been nearly nine months since this happened. Why did I wait so long? Why didn’t I say anything earlier? Initially, it’s because I believed the process would work. I completed about seven incident reports total, as far as I can recall. I put my name on them, and I signed them. I was told that the concom would discuss them, and that, at the very least, some action would be taken, either a notification about their behavior and a warning, OR people would not be invited back for programming in the future. Months went by. Jesi Pershing, in her official capacity as part of the concom, would give me periodic updates. Sometimes, if I saw her at another con, I would ask her what the status of my reports were. She had recommended specific courses of action in response to my incident reports, and Kristina seemed to agree to them. But last month, she finally told me that, nearly eight months after I’d reported multiple people, ConQuesT and Kristina Hiner had done absolutely nothing with my reports.

I’ll reiterate that. No one was contacted. No one was spoken to. As far as I know, none of these people even know that they harassed me or my partner. Neither Kristina Hiner nor any of the Board ever took the steps to make any sort of follow-up happen. When Jesi realized that there was not going to be any movement whatsoever on this, she decided to step down from ConQuesT as a staff member. She could not, in good conscious, continue to work for an organizing that refuses to take action.

Harassment is unfortunately a part of my experience at SF/F conventions. Not at all of them, but at most of them, something happens to me. I’m an outspoken queer Latinx, and it’s inevitable. However, since ConQuesT, every con staff that I’ve had to make a report to has dealt with my report quickly and fairly. At ConFusion this year, the concom dealt with my incident report in two hours. Meaning they spoke to the person and that person apologized to my face within two hours. At that point, it almost seemed comical that over half a year had passed, and both ConQuesT and Kristina Hiner did nothing at all.

That’s why I’m talking. I did what I was supposed to. I kept quiet, I trusted the system in place, and it completely failed me. I will not be attending ConQuesT this year or for the foreseeable future. (I’m going to WisCon for the first time instead!) I don’t feel safe there, and ultimately, that’s why this bothers me so much. There are people who are part of that community who were actively hostile to me, and when I reported them, the message was sent loud and clear:

We don’t care about you. At all.

You have my permission to share this post on your own pages or outside Facebook.

 

429 thoughts on “Mark Oshiro Says ConQuesT Didn’t Act On His Harassment Complaints

  1. Huh. Today’s personal Lucky 10,000 moment: turns out hall monitor is not the equivalent of prefect. I still don’t really have an idea of how that role works, but I guess I can tell why people were unhappy with that description.

    Is there an equivalent role to a prefect in the US school system, or is hall monitor it?

  2. Lexica: If it’s appropriate, could somebody quote the JOF post for those of us who don’t have Facebook? It’s giving a “you must log in to continue” message.

    I feel comfortable sharing these excerpts with those here who do not have a Facebook account, because JOF is a Public Group there. The original post is someone linking to Oshiro’s Facebook post (the one linked in the main post above) and asking if anyone there has some insights. Apart from numerous general comments of dismay and support from various commenters, the first comment on the post is a copy of Keri O’Brien’s statement (linked in the main post above); then a copy of Jesi Pershing’s statement (linked in the main post above). Farther on, in response to another person asking about the GoH Liaison, Pershing elaborates in another comment:
    The hotel issues were just the hotel being stupid (they put a ton of ConQuesT people in the second tower, when all the ConQuesT bookings were supposed to be in the main tower), but it was the first thing that happened, and it definitely felt like it set the tone for the weekend.

    The GoH dinner was just – I have no idea. The GoH dinner has never had the GoHs sit at a separate table from the staff before that year, we’ve always had the GoHs and staff intermingle. I have no idea why all the GoHs were put at one table, and then why another table just wasn’t added when it ran out of space. Maybe the payment issue was on the server, who misunderstood who was on what check; maybe it was on the chair who forgot there were people she was supposed to be paying for who weren’t at her table.

    Opening Ceremonies – My understanding is that the Toastmaster’s notes listed all the guests out, and that Mark was on a second page, and after she finished the first page, she turned two pages. If everything else hadn’t already gone wrong, and if the Toastmaster wasn’t the person who had been involved in the incident at the panel just before Opening Ceremonies, it probably would have just been one of those awkward things that happens. But, with all the other context…it was excruciating to watch.

    In regards to GoH liaison – ConQuesT does have a GoH liaison who works with all the GoHs. On Thursday, I was talking with Mark about some issue, some piece of information he didn’t have, and asked “didn’t the GoH liaison tell you this?” To which he responded, “What GoH liaision?” I went and asked the chair why Mark had never been put in contact with the GoH liaison, and was told, “oh, I assumed you wanted to be his liaison.” I had never volunteered to be his liaison; I had never been asked to be his liaison.

    Someone links to Mark’s follow-up statement and someone else links to the statement from KACSFFS. That’s pretty much the substance of the thread.

  3. I completely lucked into the Walling warning — it was a FOAF and I just happened to be standing there. I wasn’t involved at all. A woman said she couldn’t leave her current post at a con b/c the other people there were Walling and a lovely busty teenage blonde*. FOAF said “I can’t leave her alone with Rene, it’s her first con, and he (sigh) … I can’t leave.” We all looked at him flirting with the girl (since there were other women present, he restrained himself slightly) and we left FOAF there to protect the girl.

    He was a missing stair, but I had no way of telling anyone. I’d only found out accidentally. It was hearsay. I’m nobody and he was a BNF. But when the Readercon thing came up over 10 years later, I by God remembered his name and knew he’d done what he was accused of.

    This is why we need to talk openly about these things, have ENFORCED WITH TEETH Codes of Conduct, and the like.

    And the idea of giving them a set period of time to deal with stuff (privately) and make an acceptable report to the victims is very very good. If they don’t do that, and it hits the fan like this does, the least they can do is say “We screwed up. We didn’t keep our word.” Not this namby-pamby “Mistakes were made” non-pology.

    *I mean, seriously. I’m a straight woman and my first thought on seeing her was “BOOBS! PRETTY.” I think she was barely 19.

  4. JJ: To extrapolate on your quote from Keri O’Brien, I had the good fortune to be a fan GoH at a lot of conventions in the 80s and 90s, and I can tell you stuff happens. If the ONLY negative experiences Oshiro had were the hotel reservation, the GoH dinner, and the Opening Ceremonies intro, and he had posted about them, I wouldn’t have considered it an important story. The sexual harassment is the real story, to me anyway.

    Fairly often I was treated like royalty, however, I learned that depended on each convention’s own culture and ethic about these things. Three experiences of mine where things went wrong: (1) I was told to expect to be picked up at the airport, and wasn’t, so took a cab, arrived late for opening ceremonies and the committee was a bit anxious about what happened to me. (2) A different con had a Saturday night award ceremony and I was expected to be on hand. My guest liaison didn’t tell me about it, so I looked like an ingrate when I didn’t show up. (3) At a third con, I was assigned to a midnight panel opposite what I would call the Gardner-Dozois-jokes-about-sex-panel, which everyone naturally preferred to attend (I would have liked to go myself), and the panelists and our tiny audience spent the time hearing waves of laughter through the airwall….

    For full disclosure — I was a fan GoH at ConQuesT in 1996 and that was definitely a treated-like-royalty weekend.

  5. lurkertype: *I mean, seriously. I’m a straight woman and my first thought on seeing her was “BOOBS! PRETTY.” I think she was barely 19.

    I guess I don’t see much point in the discussion if it can only be carried on by objectifying some woman who’s incidental to the dirt you want to shovel on Rene Walling.

  6. Tasha Turner: Mike Glyer was mentioned by Mark Oshiro in the list of people thanked for signal boosting and creating a place for discussion on his update today

    I hadn’t seen that yet. I often wonder what the right thing to do in situations where I am being thanked for what is actually the work of all of you who write comments. It’s really an astonishing thing to me how much thought and work everyone puts into writing for this community.

  7. Mike Glyer: If the ONLY negative experiences Oshiro had were the hotel reservation, the GoH dinner, and the Opening Ceremonies intro, and he had posted about them, I wouldn’t have considered it an important story. The sexual harassment is the real story, to me anyway.

    And Mark does say that he didn’t file reports on any of that, so he seems to have shared your perspective on that.

  8. I didn’t say I was proud of it. But it was an instinctive reaction. She was very bubbly and enthusiastic about working for the con. I was glad FOAF was there to keep her from being hassled. Because Rene was certainly objectifying her, even with several other women in the exact same room; we could see him doing it! Predatory.

    And it’s reactions like “the dirt you want to throw on Rene Walling” that kept me from passing along the missing stair warning. BNFs and pros would lecture me not to besmirch the good name of good ol’ Rene, our pal the GoH and concom guy. Who am I gonna believe, them or my own eyes? Don’t make a fuss, lurkertype!

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  9. @Mike Glyer

    I hadn’t seen that yet. I often wonder what the right thing to do in situations where I am being thanked for what is actually the work of all of you who write comments. It’s really an astonishing thing to me how much thought and work everyone puts into writing for this community.

    Take a moment to feel proud. Your moderation style and ability to make a comment to get us back in line when we are stepping out is one of the reasons so much good conversation goes on here. You put 3 hours into getting all the parts of this post together. Without all the pieces we couldn’t have had nearly as well thought out conversation. All the pixel scrolls with links as well as the individual pages is a phenomenal amount of work. It provides us with something to talk about, kickstart a conversation. Without you we wouldn’t have a place to show off our brilliance and I wouldn’t get nearly as much practice apologizing. 😉

  10. Tasha Turner: Mike Glyer was mentioned by Mark Oshiro in the list of people thanked for signal boosting and creating a place for discussion on his update today.

    Mike Glyer: I hadn’t seen that yet. I often wonder what the right thing to do in situations where I am being thanked for what is actually the work of all of you who write comments. It’s really an astonishing thing to me how much thought and work everyone puts into writing for this community.

    Here’s the relevant part. I’ll let you excerpt and link to the post itself in today’s Scroll:

    Mark Oshiro: It is very surreal to have think pieces written about it. But my post started a very necessary conversation, and it is one thing I’m very proud of. I want people to talk about this topic, and it’s happening all over the Internet and offline, and goddamn, that’s really cool. Super huge thanks to Diane Duane, Tamora Pierce, Jim C. Hines, Mike Glyer, Mikki Kendall, Mary Robinette Kowal, Keri O’Brien, Jesi Pershing, Natalie Luhrs, and the many, many people who have helped signal boost this and start conversations elsewhere. I appreciate you.

    He’s right, though. Even though the Filers have provided the vast majority of the commentary, you’ve spent years working hard to make File770 into a place which has the bandwidth and influence to boost that signal.

  11. Mike Glyer on February 24, 2016 at 5:43 pm said:
    I often wonder what the right thing to do in situations where I am being thanked for what is actually the work of all of you who write comments. It’s really an astonishing thing to me how much thought and work everyone puts into writing for this community.

    Decently civilized spaces on the internet where people can talk intelligently are uncommon, and worth the effort of trying to keep them interesting and civilized.

    Thank you, sir, for hosting such a space.

  12. Snugs to both @Lurkertype & Mike Glyer
    One of the problems with sexual harassment and knowing people is its hard. I was going to say more but brain fog and I’ve been making too many apologies for misspeaking today I think I’ll leave it at that.

  13. lurkertype: And it’s reactions like “the dirt you want to throw on Rene Walling” that kept me from passing along the missing stair warning.

    That’s certainly something I should keep in mind about my own turns of phrase (but Walling’s situation was the subject of several posts here, beginning with this one).

    With fandom of the 70s is getting its faults recalled here — an era where Bill Tuning writing admiringly about somebody’s “twin-mounted radar domes” in a story still passed for literature — I thought I should not let the BOOBS line pass lest people think I didn’t mind.

  14. Amoxtli: Thank you — that makes it much clearer. I’m going to file away that “sin-eater” analogy for future use.

  15. Great follow-up post by Mark on Facebook, and I’m very happy to hear O’Brien sent him a very good, real apology, it sounds like.

    @Mike Glyer: I believe @JJ was quoting something Pershing, not O’Brien, wrote (“Farther on, in response to another person asking about the GoH Liaison, Pershing elaborates in another comment:” followed by a ton of ital’d text). Just FYI.

    ETA: “Sin-eater” is new to me, too.

  16. Thanks, Mike, for providing this space for conversation and community, and thanks for demonstrating by example that it’s valuable to listen to both cheerful contributions and constructively-intended criticism. Lately I’ve been practicing with “get your ego out of the way”, and I’m grateful for how the overall intention of this space (and the ongoing, demonstrated-by-example commitment of many commenters) is one of constructive learning.

    When the biggest criticism I can come up with for this place is “sheesh, sometimes I wish folks would stop expending so much emotional energy on trying to persuade the latest troll to renounce trolling and join the discussion”… did I mention how much I like and appreciate you all? Just saying.

  17. Sin eater is a very useful term and less easily misunderstood than scapegoat.

    @snowcrash – .Is there an equivalent role to a prefect in the US school system, or is hall monitor it?

    Our two older children were prefects in their schools. Child number three goes to a school without prefects, but with a peer disciplinary board. I’m pretty sure hall monitors went out with Duran Duran, at the latest.

    ETA, because I hit post before I was done: Mike, you provide the forum, many of the topics, the even handed moderation and so much more. That makes you the public face, at least when credit is being handed out.

  18. Lexica: When the biggest criticism I can come up with for this place is “sheesh, sometimes I wish folks would stop expending so much emotional energy on trying to persuade the latest troll to renounce trolling and join the discussion”

    *snort*

    I have to admit that I get a huge amount of enjoyment at watching trolls come here and trying to provoke the sort of vicious hate-on that you see in the comment sections at VD’s, LC’s, and BT’s blogs and at MGC, and seeing them get progressively more and more baffled and frustrated because the people here don’t behave according to the company to which they’re accustomed.

    “OMG! Those SJWs are such horrible people! They didn’t get angry or call me names, they just responded with rationality and then they asked me what my favourite book is!”

  19. It probably helps that the interest is sincere. Many of us *would* like to know what newcomers’ favorite books are and would be happy to discuss them with them.

  20. @PIMMM It probably helps that the interest is sincere. Many of us *would* like to know what newcomers’ favorite books are and would be happy to discuss them with them.

    This is so true. Gun control is bad, what’s your favorite book. Twitter ban, what were your your favorite 2015 reads, mine were. Reverse racism, I’ve been reading these books this week what did you read. Religion is bad, have you read. Insults because we aren’t talking about books enough, your a jerk, book discussion.

    Maybe this is why we get different trolls every day with only a few regulars. Most trolls just can’t take it. They don’t come in groups because then book discussions get crazy – it’s scary.

  21. troll appears

    File 770, collectively: So, what do you think about [this work]? Did you notice subtext [x] and [y]? How do you assess the character development, because [Q] seemed out of character when [Z] happened? Did you like [other work]?

    troll flees away across hills

    F770,c: Where’d they go? Huh. Anyway, so, as we were discussing, about gardening and history and viruses and asteroids and badgers and…

  22. Cheryl: Actually, the other term suggested to me by the description of “sin-eater” was “token”.

    JJ: I suspect that some of the confusion is also because we don’t behave the way the straw-liberals on the Puppy blogs do, so everything the trolls have been told about how hate-filled those nasty SJWs are… just doesn’t match up to reality. And where have we heard that before?

  23. Anyway, so, as we were discussing, about gardening and history and viruses and asteroids and badgers and…

    I keep hoping I will discover Ursula Vernon has written the Great Terraforming Novel. No luck so far.

  24. “I joined LASFS in 1970, and as I learned about fanhistory, the Breendoggle was one subject covered because Bruce Pelz was among those who had been an advocate of having Breen banned from the 1964 Worldcon. I’m not aware of a 1976 incident, or whether Breen attended the 1976 Worldcon. (I would not yet have recognized him on sight then anyway.) All I can say from personal experience is I saw him at a 1987 Westercon.”

    It seems to me that this photo is IDed as Breen at Worldcon 1972 (obviously not 1976, I know) but is actually from a Westercon. Do I recall correctly? Maybe people got their cons confused?

    Breen is the old guy next to the young boy.

  25. James Davis Nicoll: I agree that photo looks misidentified. On the basis of old photos I don’t think Breen’s beard was gray/white in 1972 — look at the photo with this article that says it was taken in 1975 http://www.scvhistory.com/scvhistory/signal/coins/soltaylor071908.html

    http://www.scvhistory.com/gif/breenwalter1975.jpgWalter Breen 1975

    Other photos show it was white by 1983-1986.

    I don’t know what con the Moffatt/LASFS photo is from. Also, perhaps there are other photos of the LA International Hotel pool area from 1972 that could be used to deduce if there was a hot tub layout like that.

  26. Can we put the Breen thing to bed. I’ve admitted I was off by 10 years in my next comment. Does no one read the comments to the end before posting? Or even the next 5-10?

    I’m sorry that I let Curt Phillips tick me off when he claimed Fandom used to be wonderful not like today when people are rude. That Fandom didn’t condone sexual harassment 40 years ago. I made a mistake by not checking and was off by 10 years (although it still makes my point that Fandom was not wonderful for everyone in the past when people were polite). Please forgive me and move on.

  27. Mark Oshiro is very gracious, as Peace said. I don’t think that I would be anywhere near as kind if it were me.

    ETA I love your work Mike!

  28. Kendall, Marc Oshiro said he received a very good apology from Kristina Hiner.

    The person you named was one of two people Mark identified as handling the situation well at ConQuesT itself, so I find it extra distressing to see her name mistakenly substituted for Hiner’s.

    I’m very glad Kristina apologized to Mark.

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