Monday, January 31, 2022

Why I won't be attending LTUE 2022 (and likely won't be invited back)

 It pains me to make this announcement, but I will not be attending this year's Life, the Universe, & Everything Symposium (LTUE) this year due to the new COVID policy they enacted after they had made their panel selections and I had made my travel arrangements. 

For those who are curious, the policy -- which has proven so divisive that the page has restricted who can comment -- can be found here

My letter to the LTUE committee in response to this new policy was this:

Here is the response to my letter, which came a few hours later. This makes it sound like they are willing to have a dialog with me, and perhaps reach a compromise.

Just for the sake of completeness, here is my reply to the LTUE committee accepting their offer.

Finally, here is their response. You can clearly see that this is not an invitation to dialog, but rather a very firm "No, we aren't interested in what you have to say, and we aren't changing our minds."

Since it was clear they had no interest in discussion or compromise, I have decided to go public with this exchange.

For those of you who have read this far, let me explain why I am taking this position:
  1. My medical records, be they proof of vaccination or the results of a test, are my own business and no one else's. I may, if I wish, share them with medical personnel who are bound by HIPAA regulations. People who run conventions like LTUE are not bound by HIPAA, so in addition to it being none of their business there is no incentive to them to keep my medical information private.
  2. This policy has the potential to harm transgender people. Not every transgender person is able to legally change their name; many still have to file paperwork under their legal birth name. Having to show a test or vaccination paperwork is bad enough, but when the name on the paperwork doesn't match the name of the person submitting it, identification will inevitably need to be produced, forcing the transgender person to "deadname" themselves.
  3. This policy of "papers, please" makes every Jewish person I know uncomfortable for plainly obvious reasons.
  4. Neither the state of Utah nor the hotel where the symposium is being held require the measures LTUE is now requiring. This is something I researched before I booked my flight, as did most people. If this policy had simply been announced well ahead of time, before people made non-refundable travel arrangements, then those of us who objected to it would simply not have attended. However, announcing it a mere month before the symposium is more than an inconvenience; it is a financial hardship for many, and rude besides. Furthermore, LTUE is refusing to issue refunds to those who have purchased memberships, which I am fairly certain is illegal. It's definitely unethical.
  5. LTUE is held every mid-February -- in other words, during cold and flu season. COVID is also firmly entrenched in the biosphere, meaning that it's going to be a part of our lives from now on, persistent and mutating. If I let this go unchallenged, then expect every LTUE from now on to require such proof.
  6. None of this even addresses the utter lunacy of the rest of the policy. They will enforce mask-wearing... except that panelists will take theirs off for speaking! Every LTUE panel I've been on has had speakers sitting next to each other, often sharing microphones. Furthermore, they say they will enforce social distancing, while at the same time not reducing the number of people admitted to the symposium or the number of seats in rooms! This is not a policy grounded in sense. They want to have their proverbial cake (COVID restrictions) and eat it too (full panels and rooms).
I'm sure some of you will think I am in the wrong. That I am being unreasonable. That's your right, just as it's my right to say "No, I will NOT bend the knee. My medical records are private, and to demand them before granting access to a convention is as disgusting as it is to demand a transwoman show her ID before allowing her to use the women's restroom."

I fully expect that this will result in me never being invited to another LTUE Symposium ever again. That will be unfortunate, but it is far more important to me that I be able to live with myself. I became an advocate for the marginalized and unheard in 2016, and even though this is a different situation, the result is the same: I must speak up for those unable to speak for themselves.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you, Erin! I'm sending supportive thoughts and prayers your way. :)

    True story: My workplace required every employee to upload their vaccine records (or exception approval) to HR. That got shared with other, partner organizations, because we're all in the same "bubble", and a master list kept in one central location.

    Well, that master list was "accidentally disclosed" to the public (their term).

    When that came to light, they asked if we employees had any comments.

    Oh, boy did I ever! *rubs hands and giggles maniacally*

    Starting with "stop saying 'accidentally disclosed' and call it a 'breach of personal information', as is proper for these things," I proceeded to politely, anonymously tear them a new one. No words were minced. I invoked HIPAA and pointed out that requiring actual documents and then maintaining a master list was a violation, as is not properly safeguarding it. I demanded the executive responsible issue a public apology on pain of termination, the organization offer a year of ID theft protection for every person on the list, that all personal information on the list (other than a "yes/no" flag for compliance with the vaccination/exception mandate, but no other details) be destroyed, and that all employees be compensated for any time or resources they must now spend further safeguarding our identities.

    It. Was. Epic. (If I may say so myself.)

    All of which is just a long explanation of why I agree with your stance and support your decision; we were required to submit that personal medical information, they didn't properly protect it, and now too many people outside my circle may know part of my medical history.

    If I were in your shoes, I would have done the exact same thing.


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