The Butch Voices Conference is working hard to create an environment in which everyone experiences the conference as comfortable for sharing thoughts and ideas. In keeping with this goal, our stance is that the conference space be a scent-aware environment. While we cannot force each attendee to be scent-free, we want to address what being scent-free will mean for scent-sensitive conference participants.
Why Should we be Scent Aware?
We all know someone with an allergy to the dander of cats, cigarette smoke, pollen, or dust AND there are people who are sensitive to the chemicals used to fragrance common body preparations. For many this sensitivity takes the form of headaches, dizziness, nausea, and difficulty breathing. These are all immune responses not unlike those experienced by someone who has asthma. For some people this is what it sounds like – a hypersensitivity to fragrances; for others this response can be caused by Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), sometimes referred to as Environmental Illness (EI); for everyone, it’s serious. Those who are sensitive to scents or fragrances will describe the difficulty of balancing personal comfort with other people’s personal style and expression. Often times scent-sensitive folks don’t want to encroach on other people’s space, and instead will either sit in discomfort or simply leave public spaces in which particular perfumes or cosmetics are being used. This is why we believe a scent-aware environment at the Butch Voices Conference is important.
What if I feel that I need to wear some of these products?
We understand that perfumes, oils and hair products can be part of one’s gender identity, ethnic identity or spiritual practice. In addition, we understand that it may not be feasible to completely abandon your daily practices. Don’t worry, no one will be policing anybody’s use of cologne, skin, and/or hair preparations. All we ask is that, when you know you’re going to be in the communal space of the conference, you consider how using certain products could diminish someone else’s ability to enjoy the same panels or workshops that are of interest to you.
Things Participants can do to be supportive within a scent free environment:
If possible, use products that are scent or fragrance-free when you know you’re going to be in the shared spaces of the conference. While not all fragrance-free products are chemical-free (it’s actually the chemicals used in the products that are harmful), it is still a good rule of thumb to follow when trying to be scent-aware. Granted, some of these products are not financially feasible for many, difficult to find depending on where you live, or will not work for certain ethnic groups.
Below is a useful resource to help facilitate your quest:
Be understanding. If someone asks you to move or if, after you enter a space, they simply get up and move. Don’t assume that it’s you. It might be the fragrance on your person.
Smoke as far away from entryways as possible. 15 feet away is legal, 50 feet away is ideal. California is a smoke-free state, and smoking indoors is allowed only in designated areas. These are few and far between. If you smoke, you’ll most likely be doing so outdoors. Be mindful of entryways and other common areas.
For more information on scent-sensitivities, MCS and EI: