Big Gay Sword Day 2: Sword Harder was held at Valkyrie this November 16th, with eight amazing workshops from Sam Swords, Jon Mills, Claire Wemyss, and Kaja Sadowski.
We had 16 attendees from as far away as London, England, and were able to run a killer event at accessible rates thanks to our sponsors Costin Law, Ash Banks, Dillon Beyer, Owen Elliot, Sigmund Werndorf, and The Proving Ground. Thank you all!
This year, we’re not going to try to write about the weekend ourselves. Instead, here’s what some of our attendees and instructors had to say about what Big Gay Sword Day meant to them.
“This weekend I had the opportunity to learn historical fencing in a queer space. It’s the first time in years I have had the chance to do anything like this, and this was by far the most significant instance I have experienced. In the past I was not allowed to learn sword and buckler, and I was not allowed to look at the source material and develop my own interpretations. I got to do both of those things at this workshop. I got to meet and share my stories and collaborate with people from all kinds of different places and who had all kinds of different skill levels. It was enriching and fulfilling and more than anything else it was fun.
I went to Vancouver feeling overwhelmed and anxious and afraid. And I came home feeling euphoric and strong and confident in myself for the first time in longer than I can remember.”
— Astrid Carter
“From the second I stepped through the door I was made to feel like part of a family. A cool family with swords. A cool, aggressively accepting and inclusive family with swords, where we’re all that cool uncle/aunt/equivalent who pops round with sweets and takes you to the park to build tree houses and gives you a tape of the punk band they played in when they were 15 and helps you dye your hair.
And throughout the day just cool queer people talking. Sharing their journeys and experiences in a space that felt completely natural and welcoming to do so. And I think that’s the biggest part. To have a space like this anywhere can be a struggle. To have this within a typically toxic bro culture environment is something to be really, really proud of. This stands as a triumphant testimony to all the community building and hard work of all the people involved in BGSD and their respective clubs.”
— Owen Elliott
“Today was Big Gay Sword Day 2: Sword Harder. As with last year’s event, it was an incredible day full of incredible people and I feel so lucky to be part of this community. We spent 6 hours learning new plays and new weapons + arts we don’t train in regularly; examining and fiddling with how to interpret the historical texts; talking strategy for building training relationships based in collaborative delight and desire to get better at doing the violence and using our bodies and how to keep each other safe while doing so.
We talked about how coming into a space where there’s an understanding that we share a commitment to reducing the cost of marginalization makes it easier to show up wholeheartedly and bring more of ourselves to the study, hell to be ABLE to focus on the study.
I had a blast and I know everyone else did too. To repeat a comment I left last night: “Martial Arts? More like martial HEARTS.” 💙”
— Paige Knorr
“I have been in martial arts for nearly 20 years.
I have done so much. I have been a student, a leader, an instructor. I have worked with some of the world’s biggest names.
I have also worked in private security.
In so many of those environments, queer and trans folks are at best tolerated, at worst face threats of discrimination and violence.
When I told stories from queer samurai [in my seminar], I got to introduce folks to a culture where queerness was not “tolerated”. It was not framed as an outside thing that was allowed in. This proud and noble warrior culture was not “open” to queerness. It was queer, through and through.
It made me realise in telling those stories how much I had come to think of myself as “tolerated”, and that makes sense because being tolerated means survival.
But it also made me realise how much I had come to believe I only deserved to be tolerated and nothing more.
We are not here to be welcomed, or tolerated, or even celebrated.
Those things are great.
We are not here to be tokens of how progressive your school is.
Throughout history warrior cultures were tied to queerness. Your community is weaker for keeping us out.
We never ceased being fighters. We’re just here to create new, better spaces, that draw on more diverse lived experiences.
And we’re doing it.”
— Jon Mills