Starting a Meet-Up Group or Getting Involved in One
There’s three big reasons to get involved with our unofficial groups or get one off the ground yourself:
- To get to know some like-minded badasses;
- To foster community and connection among your fellow queermos;
- To help create spaces where everyone feels safe and welcome.
You can find meet-up groups and communities related to Autostraddle in our directory here. Find a group near you, join it, and dive right in! Post a short introduction, attend some events, post items of queer interest and chime in to discussions – do it all! Try to set the standard when you’re getting involved: talk and act like a friendly, kind adult (because you are). Feel free to join groups centered on cities you’re passing through, places you like far from but go to often, and cities you’re moving to. Just because there isn’t a group formed in your hometown doesn’t mean you can’t find a community a little further away or somewhere you visit often! Go ahead and involve yourself wherever it makes sense.
If you want to really commit to an Autostraddle community but can’t find one, just start one yourself! It’s seriously within your realm of possibility, and it’s a lot of fun and very rewarding. Plus, you can put your group on the map in just a few clicks! Click here to start an Autostraddle Social group and go for it! Include the location of your meet-up group in the group name, add a photo, and make it official. (You can also make a group on Facebook, although it will make us a little sad.) Then, email it to carmen [at] autostraddle [dot] com to get it added to our directory. After that, people will start to find you – that is, if you haven’t alkready found them and spammed them with link a dozen times.
Tips for Starting a Meet-Up Group
- Get a buddy. Do you know someone else near you who reads ./ fervently comments on / is deeply passionate about Autostraddle who you can get on board to help you plan? Any queer friend at all who you can convert to a reader and co-conspirator? If so, enlist them in this mission immediately. Starting a group from scratch is totally possible, and lots of folks have done it – but it’ll be more fun with some back-up.
- Because not everyone in the Autostraddle community is out, it may be wise to give your group a name that doesn’t mention terms and acronyms within the LGBT umbrella. This is especially true on Facebook, where someone’s group activity could show up in their grandpa’s timeline. Try to go for something like “We Straddle [Place]” or “Autostraddle in [Place]” or “[Place] Straddlers” that keeps it simple, makes things clear, but doesn’t actually tell Uncle Jim too much.
- Once your group is part of the world wide web, post a hello! Let members know how to invite new folks, how to plan events, and encourage them to introduce themselves.
Hosting a Meet-Up
To get moving on building community, host a meet-up! In order to do that, you just need to do the following:
- Come up with an activity. Brunch? Board games? DIY hour? OITNB marathon?
- Pick a date, time, and place to meet.
- Create an RSVP mechanism. You can make a Facebook or Eventbrite event, have folks email you, ask people to reply to a thread in an Autostraddle Social group, or even just invite folks to comment on the event listing once it goes live on our calendar to RSVP.
- Submit the event online. It goes up within 48 hours!
When we approve your event, get going on getting the word out! Copy and paste that link everywhere: toss it into Facebook groups you belong to, send it to your friends and chosen family, tweet about it, create a short link at bit.ly and direct people to it at the club. Whatever it takes! Just push out your event as much as possible and people will totally come! And don’t forget to invite literally every queer you know.
“Don’t assume you know what the group wants! Ask. Do you think you have a killer idea for a meetup? You probably do! But to get hype around it, post in the group first and ask if people would go to it or if they have any ideas to add to it. People are more willing to go to things if they are invested.” – Whitney, Twin Cities
- Board game night
- Crafting meetups
- Cooking nights and potlucks
- Completely chill hangouts
- Roller skating
- Bonfires w/ s’mores
- Attend Roller Derby or other sports game
- Attend film festivals, go to a movie, or snag tickets to a play
- Host a themed discussion
- A writing meet-up
- Attend and participate in an open mic
- Karaoke night
- Watch documentaries at someone’s house
- Go see some live performances at a bar, concert venue, or house
- Study / Work parties
- Museum, zoo, and aquarium visits
- DIY meet-ups
- Birthday parties
- Pajama party
- A cheesy mixer
- Book Club
- Be-A-Kid Day (chalk art, jumping rope, bubble-blowing)
- Volunteer together
- Speed Dating / Speed-Friending
- Pumpkin picking and other seasonal activities
- Bike rides
- Form an adult rec league team
- Read-In Day
- Coffee house meet-up
- Blanket fort night
- Mocktail party
- Historic or scenic walks and hikes
Variety is key if you wanna attract lots of different people and keep them engaged. The things above require a little planning – you can also just chill at someone’s house, post in the group to meet at a bar or coffee shop, etc. You could also organize a meet-up around a pre-planned event to ease your planning load! Also, sometimes we’ll put out a call for meet-ups of a specifc nature: we’ve encouraged y’all to host brunches, Babe-B-Q’s, and pride parties in the last few years. Those are an awesome opportunity to launch a new group, meet a whole lot of the ‘straddlers in your area at once, or bring a group without many meet-ups back together again.
Tips and Tricks for Planning and Submitting Your Meet-Up
- Try to plan for a neutral location (i.e. not a nightclub or a yoga class) that appeals to a lot of people for your first event, and shoot for a casual, accessible public place. For your next few meet-ups, keep things interesting and switch up the locations. Don’t just go to bars or the bakery – different people will come out to different things, so mixing it up means making even more friends!Tips and Tricks for Online Event Listings
- Your description should be clear (can people quickly answer the questions “what is this?” & “why was I invited?”) and as concise as possible, include all the necessary information to make a new ‘straddler feel like they’re welcome, and get people very excited. Did you know Whitney from the Twin Cities suggests using lots of !!! and smiley faces because people respond well to those? Well, now you do! Here’s some examples:
- For a New Group: Hello Cincinnati and Tristate Straddlers! We are Claire and Caroline, two devoted readers of Autostraddle.com who would love to meet more of you! So we’re planning this little meetup at Sitwells Coffee House. It’s going to be very relaxed – just come meet us, meet each other, have a drink (alcoholic or not), talk about Autostraddle and our queer lives in the Midwest. :) Bring a friend or come alone – even if you are an infrequent reader of AS, but just want to meet more queer ladies/ people, you are totally welcome. Everyone is welcome! We will be there at 7:30, but feel free to show up later, too.
- Established Group: Come and watch a cool documentary, and then discuss it together! Next up is “Paris is Burning.” A short description: “This Sundance prize-winning documentary is an intimate portrait of 1980s Harlem drag balls: a world of fierce competition, sustenance, and survival.” Feel free to bring a light snack if you want, I’ll have a few things as well. I live in an apartment building and have to come down to let you in the gate – just park on the side street, K****** Ave., and call me when you get here, 513 ***-****.
- If people come, rejoice! Ask them if they’re interested in making it a regular thing and make plans for the next sesh. If no one comes, don’t be discouraged! Hopefully you at least have your buddy with you and still had a nice time drinking tea or whatever. Try again, seriously!
- Get into the habit early of doing introduction circles and asking folks their name, pronouns, and fun facts at meetings. This helps new folks feel less overwhelmed at the idea of meeting everyone and gives people a good refresher so they don’t have to go around saying “hey, you!” all night.
Sustaining a Meet-Up Group
Some stuff to consider as your group grows:
- Does your group have specific stated goals? If it doesn’t, what would they be? Focus on what’s working and what people seem to enjoy getting out of it already as you expand.
- What gets posted in your page? Help people utilize the group for what they most often utilize it for: Create resource-sharing documents that everyone can collab on, create a weekly newsletter of events for people in the space, etc.
- A lot depends on size. If you’re a small group, having this safe catch-all space is a perfect resource, particularly in cities where not a lot of online queer community is happening. But if you’ve got 300+ queers and they’re posting everything all on one wall, it might be time to clarify what the group is for and find ways to make it more productive and less overwhelming.
- How does your group consciously work to be a safe space? If feelings get hurt, or there’s drama, are there resources or guidelines in place for conflict resolution and group decision-making? If your group is larger, it may be best to write out some formal rules for your members. (Keep in mind that safe space ≠ comfortable space.)
- Who is allowed in the group, and what communities within your queer community is it serving? (A pro tip from Claire, who runs Cincy Straddlers: We choose to welcome anyone that wants to hang out with us, so long as they respect that the space is centered around the experiences of queer women and trans people. This way we’re not excluding anyone’s best friend or significant other from the fun, and we’re focusing on individual relationships, not identity labels that might change or be defined differently by different people. But we also tell members that they’re definitely allowed to plan events with a more specific audience, if they see fit – such as hosting a trans women’s brunch.)
- Do you do a lot of outreach within or outside of your group? How can you centralize it and make communication easier? What groups should you be reaching out to more as well?
- Look at other ‘straddler group pages and talk to other leaders. What do they do well? How do they operate the same as you or differently? Learn from them and pass on some of your own wisdom in the process.
- What are your big dreams for your group? How do you get there?