From Facebook, posted 01 June 2022 7:59 AM
Sigh. I was asked to make a response to File 770 cause there were questions. This is what I posted. I have come to realize that I am better at defending others than I am at defending myself. My nerves are still shot and my stomach is a wreck so I’m going to post this, take my meds, and try to have a nap. I apologize for the typos I see now… ugh. I think my brain has gone on strike.
I want to thank everyone who is sharing and offering their stories, opinions, and support. I just try to do the right thing so that people won’t feel what negativity I have experienced in the past and that everyone has a voice. I never thought I would have so much support. Again, thank you all for your words, deeds, emails and DMs. They have prevented me from totally spiraling downwards and I am doing my best to try and self-care. I can’t say it enough, thank you all.
My name is Stephanie Burke and I was told that my complaint had made it this far and that I was informed that I should read up and answer a few questions that were posed.
To start off, I never found out directly what the complaint was about. I was led into that room and joined by my niece, a Marine Corps reservist and baby nephew. This was my niece’s first Balticon and I convinced her to come along and try costuming because Balticon could be a place where she could meet more of her tribe. I am glad that she came back, she was leaving to go home for the day early, but returned when I texted her that I was being taken to con ops for something. To be fair, I didn’t think of anything but that something had happened to my husband and that emergency services had been told to contact Balticon for someone to find me. He just last year had been bitten by a brown recluse spider and it took almost a year and 8 surgeries thus far to try and fix the damage. He just started with a prosthetic glove to be able to ride his motorcycle again and the only thing that I could think of was that something had happened to him. Thank goodness it wasn’t that, but what happened next was almost as bad.
Some male appearing staffer approached me and snapped out loudly, Stephanie Burke? We had just finished one panel and were in the waiting period for the second which was moments from starting. There were people in the seats and more coming in as we were about to talk about how tp discover your people or tribe. I said yes and asked what was going on. I was snapped at to get my belongings and growled to follow them. I asked what was going on and was told I was needed in con ops. Then I got the evil glare. I asked if I should bring my things and I was all but growled at to take all of my stuff. That’s when I started to realize that this wasn’t about my husband. I was led to the elevators where they loudly demanded to know why I didn’t answer an email. And I told them it was because I didn’t receive an email and what was going on. Now everyone at the elevators are staring, a few people who wanted to say hi backed off and were giving us curious looks. They demanded to know again why I didn’t answer Lisa’s email and I told them again that I hadn’t received one and I had no idea what they was talking about. I got narrowed eyes over a mask and snapped at that Lisa needed me in con ops.
I was taken to the ops room and my niece got there just before the doors we we inside so she came with me. I was told that I had made transphobic comments on 2 panels, that I advocated for people to not take their meds, that I advocated for people to be strapped and the last thing that Lisa got in my face, literally, and all but shouted was that I used the G word to refer to Romany people. She said it outright more than once and I had to correct her. I told her fist off the term is Romany and that the G-word was akin to the N-word in my book and that I never said that. Then I refuted the claims while she got up closer in my face and called me a liar, claiming that it was Balticon 45, then 48, then 46 where I was supposed to have said this and that she was right beside me when I said it. I told her she was lying and she laughed so manically in my face I stood back for a second with my mouth open. There were witnesses to this fact. Then she stormed out of the room and started telling the people who were in the hall outside of con ops that I had said the horrifying words. She was shouting and laughing and I stood there, well, feeling like a fish out of water with a gaping mouth. Then the doors were closed and the con director made her way inside.
Next, I demanded to see the complaints. I was told that I couldn’t know who made the complaints and I responded that I didn’t care who said them, I just wanted to see what they stated so I could refute them. Again, it was transphobic statements, advocating for strapping, telling people not to take their meds with the added charge of prejudice against the Romany people.
The only think I could think of that even sounded like this was when I was questioned about trans-people and I informed the panel that my eldest was trans. Then I said after she told me for about thirty seconds I felt anger and disgust but not at her. I felt it towards myself because I had failed her by giving birth to her in the wrong body and I knew the fight she was going to have. It’s irrational guilt but all I could think of was that my body failed my baby yet again. I lost her twin and had to struggle to hold on to her. It is a statement I had made several times on and off panels over the years and was the truth. I was mad at myself because my body had given birth to my baby in the wrong body and because of that her life was going to be harder with possible corrective surgeries and discrimination, and the mental and physical changes, and how she would be treated by society. I was interrupted twice I think while trying to make this statement and asked if they could be quiet so I could finish. When I did someone in the audience stated that it was a different perspective and I got a hug after the panel because it was something that the audience member had never considered, that a parent would feel this way.
As for strapping and not taking meds, I said that when I was a child, there were no ADHD meds. I was strapped on the thighs by my grandmother’s pocketbook strap and told to sit still. After that I said that I learned to park my but on a bench but later learned other coping mechanisms. That’s all that I said about meds and strapping. I didn’t call for it, I just said what had happened to me as a child. Then I told the audience that I had ADHD, bipolar depression, anxiety, PTSD and a few other divergencies, about on par with my fellow panelists and the conversation went on after a laugh or two.
When I stated this, I was again told that I couldn’t see the people who made the complaint. I repeated I didn’t care who made them, I just wanted to see what the complaints were. They told me the best they could do was pull the recording and by this time the guy who was supposed to be pulling the video was starring at me like I was dirt. I told them good, to pull the recording from both of the panels and let’s all hear it.
The recording went first to the director’s phone and when she started to play it, she told me she couldn’t hear it clearly. A blue tooth speaker was offered but she left the room with the tech guy who called for the recording to be pulled. No, I was not invited to go with them. They came back about thirty or so minutes later… I kind of lost time there… and was told that I was an amazing panelist and that the director wanted to see this panel but that she had skipped it because of responsibilities, but heard nothing problematic. My response was okay, that’s nice and thank you but that’s not why we are here. I was told then that it was one panel not two, and it was Friday’s sensitivity reader panel. I told them okay, so where are the recordings, and I was told that they didn’t have them but my panels were still being stripped by decision of the board.
I was apologized to about the emails because my niece got angry at that point. She pointed out that I had seen her and several members of the staff since Friday and no one mentioned anything about emails or any complaints and it was no Sunday. They had over a day and a half to speak to me and didn’t. I didn’t receive an email and there was no follow up. At any given moment since Friday when the complaints were supposedly made, I had spoken to several members of staff including Lisa and no one had said anything or even hinted that there were some complaints. I was informed that the process would be changed so that it wouldn’t happen to anyone else, but that didn’t help me any. I told her I was being castigated for hearsay and that it wasn’t fair, but announcements and been made and I was pulled from panels….mand that Lisa was still out there telling people I was racist against the Romany like she was telling people before they closed the door when I first walked in con ops. I was told she was sorry but the decision of the board stood. I wanted to know what happened to that particular recording but I was just told that my panels would remain stripped and I wasn’t given any answers.
My nice then made several points I wanted to make but was in too much of shock to say. She pointed out that with this system, anyone or groups of people could lodge a complaint out of anger or fear or jealousy or if they wanted someone pulled for a panel or kicked out of the con for any reason, and that there were no checks and balances there. Again, I was told that they were going to try and fix it so that it wouldn’t happen to anyone else in the future but I was still stripped of my panels. I was told I didn’t have to leave the con, but I could not have my panels back.
When I niece demanded to know how they were going to investigate if there were no recordings, we were told that they were going to ask people who were there. Already I’ve been told by a few panelists and people in the audience that no one asked them anything at all and that they saw noting transphobic or anything like I was generally told I was being accused of.
At that moment, I didn’t care. I was anxious, ripping my hair out, and trying not to throw up. It was then that I decided that I would never come back and that I was done at Balticon. I was told it could be made right and that next year, but I cut them off. They didn’t understand my perspective on this so I informed them.
I told them that I was done forever at this con. They really did look shocked about this. I told them that because of this hearsay and the outright lies told, I could never return. I had no idea how many people Lisa told her G-word lies to, but I did know that as a con staffer, her would would be taken over mine and at most she maybe would receive a slap on the wrist. I informed them that if any publishers I spoken to this weekend heard these rumors, then I would never get work with them. I am a writer and my reputation is over half my business and that my reputation that took nearly 20 years had been damaged beyond repair. I informed them that any networking I had done I couldn’t count on because they might have heard those rumors and I would be dismissed as a intolerant racist. I told them that friendships I had and acquaintances I wanted to strengthen into friendships could be lost because of some belief in these rumors. Then I told them that my safe space had been ripped from me because even when I am exonerated if they can ever find the recordings or speak to some people on the panel, that I would always feel paranoid, wondering if these people believed those rumors or wondering if someone else with an ax to grind could tell a few lies and have me pulled and banned from the con. Worse than that, even when I am exonerated I could never speak on the panel because some might have heard those rumors and believed them and I would sound like a liar or a hypocrite to them, and that everything I told them that from this point on, that every POV or experience I shared would be tainted by those rumors. I told them I didn’t have a word for what I was feeling at that moment but I still felt sick to my stomach and that my hometown safe space wasn’t safe, that it was gone and I could never return. Even now thinking about it and typing these words has my hands shaking and is making me feel ill.
I left and I can say I can’t think of anything that would make me go back.
It took me close to 20 years to build up my reputation there as a person who did her best to make sure everyone had representation, that willful ignorance would be avoided, to be someone who was safe for anyone to speak to, to offer info, links, and some perspective that may help them as well as learn how I can improv myself, and now it is gone here with no proof and no way to defend myself. All I got was the decision of the board still stands and I still don’t have an idea of what exactly I was supposed to have said. They told me they didn’t have the recordings in the room where every panel was recorded so unless someone is lying about the recording, I’ll never get the chance to defend myself. Unless of course, the recording is found at the last moment but to me that sounds like looking for proof of guilt than proof of evidence of innocence.
One of the last things I told them and still remains true, was that closest feeling I could equate with being walked out of that room like that was a time when I was a teen working at a summer camp when some woman claimed that I had stolen her wallet. I was marched out of the room like the cops knew I was guilty, the accusing eyes and twisted lips, only to be let back in a few moments later with the woman happily calling out that she just misplaced her wallet and just found it in her purse and everything was all good and okay now, right? The cops kind of shrugged at me and said okay and that was it but I went into the bathroom and threw up my lunch. This was the closest I had ever come to feeling like that and I never want to feel like that again. I know would feel it again if I walked into another Balticon event.
Thank you and I hope this answered some questions. Please excuse any typos but I am severely dyslexic and when I get upset or stressed, my typing gets worse.