I’m Not Welcome at IWBC 2022.

At a passing glance, it may seem odd that the International Women’s Brass Conference, a nonprofit that’s worked with (at least some) gender-marginalized people since its inception, might not handle gender very well. Folks who can’t see non-cis microaggressions may never spot any issues in their social media content. People who have never been to an IWBC conference (or who only stayed for the competitions) may be unfamiliar with the ways in which gatekeeping is enforced not only in how expensive attendance is but in how attendees are treated once they arrive. Those who aren’t aware of the current legislative firestorm around trans and gender-expansive people in the U.S. may not think to question the assertions IWBC has made regarding its upcoming 2022 conference at the University of North Texas.

However, all of these things and more have crossed my mind over the course of 2021. And in light of continuing missteps and inaction from IWBC leadership, particularly as acceptance and rejection letters are being sent to hopeful presenters, I’d like to chronicle some of the biggest red flags here so those interested can access many of them in one place. This is by no means a comprehensive accounting—my own experiences with IWBC only date back to about mid-2018, I’m white and abled, and I attended the 2019 conference at ASU while all but the handful of folks I’d confided in assumed I was a cis woman. There are important, differently-marginalized perspectives that I can reference but cannot represent myself, especially the experiences and concerns of our Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian colleagues. As more writings and public online commentary about IWBC cross my desk, I’ll link them within this post. If you’re here, I implore you to seek out not only the thoughts I’ve laid out below but also insights I’ve missed and those that are yet to be articulated.

As transformative an experience as IWBC 2019 was for me in some ways, certain events made me pay close attention to the organization’s forthcoming endeavors. I’d hoped to see scholarships (to the conference or otherwise) and other opportunities specifically aimed at offering financial assistance or recognition to Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian brass players, preferably alongside other endeavors targeting trans, nonbinary, gender-expansive, and Two-Spirit brass musicians. Because I wasn’t familiar with IWBC’s specific policies on gender-marginalized people who aren’t cis women, and in part because I was largely still closeted at the time, I held off on being too loud in the aftermath of the 2019 conference. I knew I’d want to talk shortcomings eventually (and I did, a little), but at the time, I was clinging tightly to the sense of belonging I’d found in small pockets, even as I feared it was both conditional and temporary. Then we had the pandemic, and then ADHD fucked up most of my 2021, so I’m much later to writing more about IWBC than I wanted to be, but here I am.

For ease of reading, I’ve separated some of the events that highlight my biggest concerns regarding IWBC and gender into the sections listed below. Use the links in this paragraph to access specific topics at will, though I’d recommend a full read through to get a bird’s-eye view of what I’m seeing.

Full disclosure: my membership lapsed quite some time ago, but while I am not currently a dues-paying IWBC member, much of my current decision not to renew is based on one idea: I cannot in good conscience financially support an organization that claims to welcome (in some capacity) me and so many other gender-marginalized people yet does not have the expertise or the infrastructure to ensure they can deliver on that promise.


March 1, 2021 Mentorship Program announcement

I started wondering if IWBC’s gender problems ran deeper than I was initially aware almost immediately after the 2019 conference, but my concern started increasing in March of this year, when IWBC posted information on several of their 2021 opportunities including their new mentorship program and the Penny Turner Young Artist Award. The two announcements, shared on IWBC’s Instagram on March 1 and March 10 respectively, both included language that made me pause—so much so that I reached out for clarification.

The first of the two posts, announcing the IWBC Mentorship Program, contained the following sentence on the last slide: “The Mentorship Program is open to any female-identifying brass musicians over the age of 18.” I dropped the IWBC Instagram a line on March 8, inquiring how many trans and/or nonbinary people were on the mentor team. (It’s kind of terrifying to ask anyone “do I, a nonbinary person, meet your eligibility requirements? Because based on your post, I don’t know that I do.” Usually, though, you can get a decent idea of how much an organization thinks about non-cis gender-marginalized people by counting how many of them they know they have around.)

A screenshot of one slide from the International Women's Brass Conference announcing its 2021 Mentorship Program. The heading, over a purple watercolor background, reads: "Who is it for?" The text below, plum-colored on a white background, reads: "The Mentorship Program is open to any female-identifying brass musicians over the age of 18. All levels of experience are welcome."

After I sent the message, also mentioning I was considering applying (though realistically the chances of that were low), I was quickly directed over to an IWBC-branded email, which isn’t an uncommon response when I ask questions that don’t have a simple answer. Later that day, I reiterated the question over email while also voicing my concern about how the post from March 1 listed eligibility as open to “female-identifying” people: “…that’s a pretty specific (and small) chunk of folks—likely fewer than y’all may realize.” (I didn’t mention how easy it is for TERFs to weaponize anything with the word “female” in it, but we’ll talk more about that later.)

In the reply I received that day, IWBC General Manager Lauren Rudzinskas thanked me for reaching out and clarified that while IWBC ensured the Mentorship Program had “strong representation” from LGBTQIA+ members and knew they had mentors with experience mentoring trans and/or nonbinary artists, they didn’t actually know if any of their mentors were trans or nonbinary because they hadn’t asked. As someone innately familiar with how daunting disclosing gender information can be, I’m not actually mad IWBC didn’t ask for it—however, that admission also meant that IWBC also didn’t have anyone on their mentor team who they knew as openly trans or nonbinary. And considering that at least some of their mentors were personally asked to volunteer for the program (Ashley Killam, for example, has confirmed to me that she was), IWBC should have gone out of their way to make sure openly trans people were on their mentor team.

As Lauren’s response continued, she admitted IWBC could improve in this area, which was a nice acknowledgment. She also thanked me for mentioning the “female-identifying” sticking point in the March 1 post, telling me that IWBC had realized the mistake not long after they posted and, after being advised by several people (who were hopefully trans, but I don’t know), updated their official wording to “women.” Lauren attached an updated flier, which did contain the “women” update, with an asterisk explained at the bottom: “IWBC is an inclusive space welcome to all. If you have questions about your eligibility, please reach out to us anytime: info@myiwbc.org.”

(As I’ve discussed with ICD in the past, having to out yourself to a stranger on the other end of an email thread is not going to make most trans people excited about whatever opportunity you’re offering.)

For the curious, on “female-identifying” vs “woman,” etc.

I’m familiar with two general schools of thought on the choice between “female-identifying people” and “women.” The first points out that for a variety of reasons, not everyone who is a woman may find “female” an affirming term, and that explicitly choosing “female” instead of “woman” is a popular choice by TERFs and GCs who use insidious (and misinformed) “sex, not gender” arguments to keep trans women out of their spaces. The other view says that attaching “-identifying” labels to things also for cis people isn’t inherently bad, because it can serve as a reminder that being a cis man or woman is an identification just like any non-cis gender identity. I find both of these viewpoints to be incredibly helpful to understanding gendered language more broadly, but in IWBC’s case, I at the time figured that avoiding actively transmisogynist interpretations (especially those that could embolden IWBC members with transphobic views) was a decently good choice to make sure trans women weren’t inevitably ostracized. (In this way, at least.)

However, the new wording (which may have been uploaded to their website and Facebook but was never put on Instagram as far as I can tell) didn’t really say anything about transmasc, nonbinary, genderless, gender-expansive, or Two-Spirit people. When I replied a couple days later, I included the following: “…if your intention is to include everyone who’s not a cis man [Lauren had told me this was the goal], this is still going to leave some folks feeling at best left out and at worst really misgendered.” Considering that providing a full, nuanced education on what words work for what demographics (which IWBC clearly needed) would likely take some time and effort well beyond “use ‘gender-marginalized people’ instead,” I offered to teleconference in to the entire Board and share my expertise to make sure best (or better) practices could be instituted in ways that would facilitate long-term success. I didn’t offer to do it for free, but I wanted to see the org do better. They would’ve gotten a much cheaper rate than, say, ICD at the time.

Lauren delivered (theoretically) happy news in her reply—IWBC had already set up multiple training sessions on DEI! She did say she’d pass my offer on to their Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee (which may be a new addition, if I’ve heard correctly) in case it was ever useful in the future. I hoped—quite fervently—those training sessions would set the Board up for success.

That hope wouldn’t last long.


March 10, 2021 Penny Turner Young Artist Award announcement

That same week, the Peggy Turner Young Artist Award was opened for submissions, and IWBC made different choices in their wording. This time around, eligibility was listed as “Open to female* brass musicians age 12-18.” Where did the asterisk lead? To microscopically small font in the lower right corner of the panel, distanced from the rest of the eligibility criteria, that read “*inclusive of all female identifying, transgender and/or non-binary musicians.” At the time, I didn’t have the spoons to send another correction message, but this was a more publicly explicit misrepresentation than the Mentorship Program announcement had been.

A slide from IWBC's Instagram post announcing the 2021 Penny Turner Young Artist Award. The heading bears the name of the award; text below it reads: "Prize: $400 Gift Certificate, 1 year IWBC Membership, and Feature. Open to female* brass musicians age 12-18. Deadline: April 1, 2021. Visit www.myiwbc.org to nominate your student and for more details." Below the main text, in very VERY small font in the bottom right corner, reads: "*inclusive of all female identifying, transgender and/or non-binary musicians."

See, to a casual observer, either version of the mentorship ad would read like the program was open to women only. This Penny Turner criteria list explicitly mentions trans and nonbinary students—but it lumps them into an asterisk after the word “female.” Whereas most nonbinary and transmasc folks would likely skip the mentorship ad entirely based on it is wording (since, you know, we’re not women, or if our genders are fluid, we aren’t always—or even mostly—women), the Penny Turner announcement explicitly names our gender modalities but tells us IWBC just sees us as a subset of Girls And Women. In 2021 (or even quite a bit earlier), that’s just misgendering.


Giving Tuesday (November 30, 2021) fundraising video

If I’m being honest with myself, I was probably pretty sure IWBC 2022 wasn’t in the cards from the moment I saw the Penny Turner post. But that decision was reinforced late last month, when I watched IWBC President Joanna Ross Hersey’s video recorded and posted to IWBC’s socials to support their Giving Tuesday campaign. A transcript follows:

“Hello, everyone. I am Joanna Ross Hersey, and I am proud to serve as President of the International Women’s Brass Conference. And I am here on this Giving Tuesday, asking for your support and aid of our mission, which is to provide opportunities for brass musicians who identify as female in safe spaces where all gender identities are welcome, such as the one we’re planning at the University of North Texas next May. There, the students will be able to see role models and mentors who look like them, and sharpen their skills in competition, where they can win prize money that will help them purchase the equipment they need and further their education.

“If you join together with us in this mission, we will be able to see what these students can give back to the world after we have given to them. I hope you’ll consider it. Thank you so much; stay safe and well.”

Joanna Ross Hersey, IWBC President, in a video statement posted to IWBC’s Facebook page on November 30, 2021. Emphasis and punctuation in this transcript has been applied in an effort to best approximate the manner in which it was originally spoken.

To a familiar (or non-cis) eye, the text of the statement reveals the extent of IWBC’s performativity, as evidenced by continually inconsistent messaging and an overall lack of awareness of the challenges trans, nonbinary, and Two-Spirit brass players can face when trying to engage with IWBC as an organization and a conference.

The first red flag: “brass musicians who identify as female.” As we discussed earlier, IWBC has already been warned about how overly-restrictive that wording is, and we’re once again seeing inconsistent word choices regarding their mission (which, on their Facebook profile, begins as: “We are humans of all genders…. Our mission is to educate, develop, support, and promote brass musicians”—no genders specified, although the assertion their organization is comprised of all genders is laughable). Once again, I find myself asking: does IWBC actually intend to include nonbinary and transmasculine genders in their endeavors? And if they do, when will we start consistently seeing that in their marketing?

Screenshot of IWBC's "About" section on their Facebook page. Two subsections appear. The first reads: "IWBC's mission is to promote inclusivity, diversity, and equity in the brass community." The second reads: "We are humans of all genders. We are professional and amateur performers, students and teachers, from all walks of life, brass players and beyond. Our mission is to educate, develop, support, and promote brass musicians, and inspire continued excellence and opportunities in the broader musical world. Together, we can create a more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming community of musicians." After the second subsection, a "See less" button appears.

The second red flag in the video follows immediately: “…in safe spaces where all gender identities are welcome….” I’m surprised to see “safe space” used in this messaging at all, considering for at least the past several years it’s predominantly been used sarcastically by people who are generally fine with things like sexism and transphobia. Regardless of the exact word choice, though, the rest of this phrase throws me, especially when combined with the previous passage. If only “brass musicians who identify as female” are provided opportunities (which, again, doesn’t match their 2021 listings), are transmasc, nonbinary, and Two-Spirit attendees only welcome to spend our money? Are we viewed no differently than the cisgender men at IWBC and in the world at large, who benefit from our oppression as well?

The third red flag, again appearing immediately after its predecessor, illuminates that IWBC’s “safe space” comment was not only overly optimistic but actively incorrect: “…such as the one we’re planning at the University of North Texas next May.” No, IWBC. You CANNOT tell me the 2022 conference is going to be a “safe space” at a school with a reputation for toxicity within numerous programs, where this year a musicology professor decided to sue a student and over a dozen of his colleagues for standing against his racist publication, IN A STATE WHICH HAS MADE IT A PRIORITY IN 2021 TO PREVENT TRANS PEOPLE FROM OPENLY PARTICIPATING IN PUBLIC LIFE WHILE ALSO RESTRICTING VOTING AND ABORTION RIGHTS. The Texas legislature has introduced dozens of anti-trans bills in the past year in a concerted effort culminating with the passage of TX-HB25, which bans trans minors from competing on sports teams that match their gender and will subject some of these children to invasive genital inspections. Hell, the state of Texas doesn’t even legally recognize nonbinary people unless you got to change your gender marker in a different state before moving there. Additionally, to drive to Denton from the west via I-10, you have to go through a Border Patrol checkpoint, which can especially put our Indigenous and Black colleagues at risk. And you’re telling me an organization that repeatedly decides that transmasculine, nonbinary, and Two-Spirit people are a subset of “women” is CAPABLE of crafting an environment that’s safe for us in spite of the severe and deepening systemic oppression of gender-marginalized and nonwhite people in Texas?

Yeah, no.

When I saw the Giving Tuesday video, I asked a question in the comment section: “are your opportunities/competitions/etc. now unavailable for nonbinary and transmasculine people? This video is at odds with eligibility requirements we’ve seen from y’all in the past.”

The IWBC page replied: “The competitions that we accept donations for on Giving Tuesday are the solo, ensemble, and mock competitions. These are open to all brass musicians.” This by no means answered the very specific question I’d asked, but maybe it hadn’t translated as well on the page. I figured I’d reword for clarity.

My second attempt went as follows: “let me rephrase, since I think I see a clearer path to the answer I’m looking for. When Joanna says IWBC’s mission is to “provide opportunities for brass musicians who identify as female,” does that mean IWBC will no longer be opening Penny Turner, etc. to nonbinary/transmasculine folks?”

They never answered my question.

For the curious: why am I continuing to ask this particular question?

For a lot of us, clarifying if “women” is being used to mean “people who are only women all the time,” “anyone who experiences womanhood or genders they find adjacent to womanhood,” or (the incorrectly-applied, mass-misgendering) “gender-marginalized people” is critically important. Although as a genderflux person womanhood is still floating around in my broader gender identity somewhere, I don’t identify as female or a woman. Labeling me as such, as I’ve stated elsewhere, is misgendering, and I’m far from the only one in this situation. IWBC’s overt willingness to throw trans men and nonbinary people into a box as a subcategory of “women” (while never even mentioning Two-Spirit people anywhere I can find, thus forcing them to assert their gender identities in terms set forth by colonizers) shows that they truly do see everyone who was incorrectly assigned female at birth as “women-lite” while not acknowledging the fact that those incorrectly assigned male at birth can be nonbinary without having to be trans women or even transfeminine.

Still confused? All women are gender-marginalized people, but not all gender-marginalized people are women.


Misrepresentation on the IWBC website

You can find evidence of this neglect and disregard throughout IWBC’s online presence as well as at the conference itself. On the IWBC website, their mentorship page says the program “partners women with accomplished professionals in their field,” and the caveat of “oh we actually accept more than just women” is hidden from view when the page loads, nested within an accordion FAQ rather like this one:

This is an accordion! In an FAQ, a question would go here, like “what are your eligibility requirements?”. Now click the arrow!

SEE HOW YOU WOULD NEVER SEE THIS WHEN THE WEBPAGE FIRST LOADED?

Their list of sample marginalized gender identities is also extremely skewed and, frankly, inappropriate. Check out the wild array of things IWBC chose to include:

  • “LGBTQQIAA+” (over half of the listed letters aren’t genders at all, they’re orientations that cis men can and do possess—I’ve referred to this misstep as the Vaguely Gay checkbox in the past)
  • Separate listings for “women” and “transgender women” (almost always a transphobic dogwhistle, as it implies trans women aren’t women)
  • “AFAB” (not a gender identity) and “FAAB” (same thing, but also virtually never used and likely to confuse people) but not “AMAB” (wouldn’t make it better, but would at least be more consistent)
  • “Demigirl” but not “demiboy” (though they could swap for “demigender” and call it good, as these all fall within nonbinary categorizations)
  • “GSM” (which I, a queer theory researcher, had to look up to be sure I knew what they were referencing in this context—it stands for “gender and sexuality minorities,” which once again does not only include gender-marginalized people)
  • “MTF” (a description of a transition process, which has largely fallen out of use for describing people and is viewed as actively offensive by some) with no mention of “FTM” (again, this wouldn’t make it better, but it would at least imply consistency)
  • “Female Bodied” (often viewed as explicitly transphobic, because this can be weaponized to either tell trans women they aren’t legitimate or to tell nonbinary and transmasculine people with vaginas you only see them through an aesthetic lens of womanhood)
  • “Cisgender” with NO SPECIFICATIONS (so by this listing, cis men actually CAN apply for mentorship, but spoiler alert: trans men don’t even get a passing mention)
  • No inclusion of Two-Spirit people or any genders that cannot be viewed through a Western imperialist gender framing
  • Explicit mentions of trans women and transfeminine folks but NOT A SINGLE FUCKING MENTION OF ANY SPECIFICALLY TRANSMASCULINE GENDER IDENTITIES.

And yes, the list says “includes but is not limited to,” but when you don’t include ANYTHING explicitly transmasc AND include AFAB but not AMAB, you should expect a shit ton of nonbinary people and trans guys to feel unwelcome, even though we belong in that broader category of “gender-marginalized people” the eligibility section begins by outlining.

Though the Instagram ad said otherwise, the Penny Turner Young Artist Award page still only says it is open to female brass players. No additional genders are specified.

Given all the missteps and explicit misgendering on IWBC’s socials, the odds of a significant contingent of transmasc or nonbinary or Two-Spirit folks deciding to attend are very low. But even if they did, would IWBC be prepared to accommodate their presence in ways that are just as affirming as the environment is for cisgender white women? Are they really going to get rid of the “ladies and gentlemen” (or sometimes just “ladies”) that opened nearly every concert and session in 2019? Have they considered that based on the housing information currently available on the IWBC website, nonbinary attendees (who in Texas would likely have difficulties getting approved for shared-room dorm accommodations without misgendering themselves) would have to pay an additional $12/night for a private dorm room or likely even more for a hotel room even with the group rate? Will scholarships be offered to offset these costs, or must we pay more than our cis counterparts to even attend?

A side note on gender markers and dorms and Texas

UNT may not even offer an X field for gender markers on the dorm registration forms attendees hoping to obtain on-campus housing would need to fill out, since the state of Texas doesn’t offer them to its own residents. Nonbinary people are often forced to misgender ourselves, since a huge swath of the forms we all fill out every day don’t even have an option for us to provide correct information. Particularly as Texas continues its assault on trans people via the state legislature, it may be actively unsafe for some trans and nonbinary people to even try to correctly gender themselves on those housing forms.

Oh, and in case you were curious, more anti-trans bills were proposed in the U.S. in the first five months of this year than have been proposed nationwide in the last ten years combined.

Overwhelmingly, based on IWBC leadership’s conduct and marketing choices, the only reasonable conclusion I can draw after reviewing my notes and their online presence is that IWBC does not intend to support any trans men, transmasculine people, and nonbinary people who don’t meet arbitrary, likely Eurocentric standards of femininity while being willing to be chronically misgendered and omitted from conversations of equality and inclusion.


What Should IWBC Do?

Unfortunately, this is the part where I do that unpaid labor I tried to avoid doing for free in March. (Not all of it, but some of it.) If IWBC wants to actually begin to assert itself as an organization that supports all gender-marginalized brass players rather than just the ones it decides are feminine enough, here are some of the absolutely critical first steps I’d recommend toward that eventual goal:

  • Your diversity consultants should not just be members of your board. Yes, I saw that announcement yesterday, and only hiring in-house is a good way to ensure that very little changes. (Another note: anecdotally, I’ve never seen two plus signs at the end of the acronym, like you put in your flier, anywhere other than academia, and I don’t mean the gender studies part of academia.) As a good rule of thumb, every training on queer issues done by a cis person should be presented alongside one given by a trans person (and nonbinary people should not be forgotten in either event). Prioritizing the voices of our Black and Indigenous queer, trans, and Two-Spirit colleagues is also critically important when booking queer diversity training of any kind, as white queerness very often leans into the power structures of white supremacy and imperialism.
  • Hire experts (plural) on transgender, nonbinary, and culture-specific gender identities, and under their direction, write a single statement that answers a critical question: what does IWBC mean by “women?” This statement should avoid anything like “when we say women, we mean all marginalized genders,” because no trans men will ever go near you ever again. Instead, this is a chance to address trans and nonbinary people who might not be sure if they fit: people who are women but don’t present feminine (or who do but worry it’s not feminine enough), folks whose genders are non-static and may experience womanhood sometimes but not all the time, those whose genders are feminine without being women, and generally people who know in their heart of hearts they belong in the category but expect to be told they’re not welcome.
  • Also use these consultants to create a similar passage for “gender-marginalized people,” and do a better job than that hodgepodge list of various queer terms that aren’t all actually genders. Transmasculine people, trans men, folks whose genders can’t be described within a Western colonial framework, and all nonbinary people regardless of assigned gender at birth MUST appear on this list along with the trans women and transfeminine people you’ve already done a much better job including.
  • Have the Board of Directors approve this wording, and display it prominently on IWBC’s site and in all calls for submissions, entries, etc. If you do a good job on the definitions, this will ensure everyone understands what opportunities are open to them and which ones aren’t, without having to play guessing games regarding what you deem “woman” enough. (If you can’t get the Board to approve the statements because they refuse to accept the inclusion of trans men as gender-marginalized, you have much bigger institutional problems and need a new Board.)
  • Hire sensitivity readers—plural, spanning a wide array of marginalized backgrounds—to comb through the entire IWBC website. Make the corrections they recommend. You are paying for their time and expertise, so to disregard the changes they say are necessary is to completely negate the point of hiring them at all.
  • For the IWBC conference itself, every staff member down to the people managing volunteer proctors for the mock auditions needs to have appropriate training so attendees will be treated respectfully no matter what forms of systemic oppression they are affected by.
  • Regarding conference housing, IWBC needs to find a way to offer scholarships for any non-cisgender person who is unable to book a gender-affirming shared room at the $28/night rate quoted by UNT. (If the building’s floors or hallways are assigned by gender, this will likely include all openly nonbinary people, as dorms don’t generally have nonbinary floors.) This scholarship needs to be at least enough to offset the difference in price, including any differences in paying for parking (some folks may not be able to walk from the hotel to the main site and will need to drive regardless of how short the distance is!), food if any is provided at the dorms, etc.
  • Put out a fucking apology. Y’all have screwed this up publicly for a year and probably in passing conversation for much longer than that. If we’re an important part of your demographic, even if you just like making money off of us, the Board and Executive Staff needs to say they’re sorry and mean it. And if you mess up gender things in your apology, yes, you will be hearing from me in your comment section.
  • Ensure diversity training across all marginalizations continues to be a priority for future Boards of Directors, staffs, and Presidents, especially anyone policy-focused or public-facing. Enshrine it into your bylaws. Earmark funding. Make sure it happens.
  • Future hosts need to be in communication with their universities to ensure trans and nonbinary attendees can access the cheapest housing options at no extra cost. This may not get approved overnight, but hosts need to be proactive about making sure nobody has to pay extra because the school who’s hosting can’t accommodate their identity. This is also extra important for disabled attendees—accessibility needs to be thought through from start to finish!
  • In the long run, IWBC needs to consider a name change. If supporting all gender-marginalized brass musicians is truly the overarching goal, once that goal is being regularly put into practice, the organization’s branding should also reflect that. This is a question for future Boards, certainly (and if openly trans and nonbinary people aren’t welcomed as Board members at any point, that’ll send a strong message).

What Can Everyone Else (Including IWBC 2022 Presenters) Do?

Unless I get very lucky and this goes viral, the publication of this analysis will not have a significant impact on IWBC. However, if you’re here reading, you’re probably pretty invested, and you probably want to see them do better wherever possible. Here are my recommendations if you want to help and need ideas to get you started:

  • Either now or after/at the end of the 2022 conference (or both!!!), tell IWBC—in writing for more emphasis—that you will not be renewing your membership until they take meaningful action to consistently include and explicitly respect ALL gender-marginalized brass players, including our Two-Spirit colleagues and others in our communities whose gender identities cannot be accurately described by colonizer-imposed terminology. Telling IWBC they will not benefit from your financial contribution (and then holding to that, if they do nothing) is one of the most impactful choices you can make. It’s not easy, and it one hundred percent feels awful to withhold funds from an organization long heralded as one of the few trying to bring us together. But isn’t it long past time we started insisting IWBC make space for all our gender-marginalized colleagues? This may be one of the most effective ways to underscore the importance of this demand.
  • If you are already committed to IWBC 2022, express your disappointment that the organization is not explicitly welcoming all gender-marginalized people. I know I’m not the only one who wishes I could go see all your wonderful concerts and presentations but can’t justify the systemic transphobia that would greet me upon my arrival. A bunch of us wish we could safely join you.
  • If you have flexibility in your presentation or program, consider prioritizing work by gender-marginalized composers and musicians who aren’t cis women (especially cis white women)! There are lots of great places to look for help with this; check out organizations like Diversify the Stand if you’re just getting started.
  • Push for additional funding for our Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian colleagues who want to attend, especially our queer and trans nonwhite colleagues. IWBC 2019 was overwhelmingly white, as I assume previous conferences have been. The gender binary as we know it was actually emphasized as part of an effort to further white supremacy, so it’s important we work on being more gender-inclusive alongside stronger efforts to enable our colleagues who are oppressed by systemic racism.
  • Stop volunteering for IWBC while these inequities and others continue to go unaddressed. Don’t work the conference (unless it’s critical that you be there and you need the discount). Don’t sign up to be a mentor in 2022 (or tell them you’ll only do it if these issues are addressed and meaningful change is implemented). If you’re presenting at IWBC 2022, consider whether or not you really want to dedicate time and labor to IWBC’s programming at future conferences if their complacency continues.
  • If/when you can, support gender-marginalized people in our communities more than IWBC does. Don’t start with trans white people, either. Aim that support first and foremost at our Black and Indigenous trans and Two-Spirit colleagues! (And by “support,” I mean “pay them to be their badass selves without tokenizing them.”)

Obviously, this is a pretty short list. I’m still figuring out my own plan for continuing my engagement with IWBC on this topic. You’re going to have great ideas of your own, too, and I’m so glad you’re here! I hope we can get through to the Board and Executive Staff and make it clear to them that these issues need to become top priorities, but it’s likely a long, slow climb ahead of us. Until then, thanks for being here.


Thanks for reading! If you learned something from this post and would like to tip me, head on over to my Ko-fi page. For more analysis and commentary like this in your life, come back every Saturday at 8pm MST. To support the long-term work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @honestlyeris on Instagram.

Eris DeJarnett

Eris DeJarnett (ey/they) is an interdisciplinary narrative artist working with music, text, and movement. Eris devotes a great deal of time to education and research, focusing on experimental music, performance ethics, and queer (especially transgender) theory. They are currently based in Tempe, AZ, accompanied by eir two cats, Marty and Lucas, and eir partner, Nick.

Works Cited

DeJarnett, Eris. “FAQ.” https://erisdejarnett.com/bio/faq.

DeJarnett, Eris. “I’m Taking My Name Off the Institute for Composer Diversity.” September 26, 2020. https://erisdejarnett.com/blog/2020/name-off-icd-2020/.

DeJarnett, Eris. “The International Women’s Brass Conference and the Price of Sisterhood.” May 27, 2019. https://erisdejarnett.com/blog/2019/iwbc-price-of-sisterhood/.

DeJarnett, Eris. “The Men at IWBC.” May 30, 2020. https://erisdejarnett.com/blog/2020/the-men-at-iwbc/.

Flaherty, Colleen. “Professor Counters Allegations of Racism — in Court.” Inside Higher Ed, Jan. 28, 2021. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2021/01/28/professor-counters-allegations-racism-court.

International Women’s Brass Conference. “About.” https://web.archive.org/web/20211211065025/https://myiwbc.org/about/.

International Women’s Brass Conference. “Mentorship Program.” https://web.archive.org/web/20211211065156/https://myiwbc.org/mentorship-program/.

International Women’s Brass Conference. “Penny Turner Young Artist Award.” https://web.archive.org/web/20211211065320/https://myiwbc.org/penny-turner-young-artist-award/.

International Women’s Brass Conference. “Conference Housing.” https://web.archive.org/web/20211211065425/https://myiwbc.org/conference-location/.

International Women’s Brass Conference (Facebook profile). https://www.facebook.com/intlwomensbrassconference/.

International Women’s Brass Conference (Facebook). Giving Tuesday promotional video, November 30, 2021. https://www.facebook.com/intlwomensbrassconference/videos/292007556178992.

@iwbc_brass (Instagram). Giving Tuesday promotional video, November 30, 2021. https://www.instagram.com/p/CW53x9atA8_/.

@iwbc_brass (Instagram). Mentorship Program announcement, March 1, 2021. https://www.instagram.com/p/CL4gT7dB7cY/

@iwbc_brass (Instagram). Penny Turner Young Artist Award announcement, March 10, 2021. https://www.instagram.com/p/CMPu5-bMBVH/