This was originally posted to the Visions of Alice forum.
This past weekend, I traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, United States, to participate in the B4U-ACT 2018 Symposium: Expanding Focus. This was my first time attending such an event, and my first time meeting other self-proclaimed MAPs.
Upon arriving at the conference center, I seen a group of people at a table. They were an odd mixture of people, that you wouldn’t normally find sitting together. People ranging in age from early twenties up into their eighties. Some dressed in business casual, some dressed in punk attire, and everything in between.
While I was looking for the official conference room, one of them noticed that I appeared to be lost and subtly asked if I was here for something that started with B. One of the board members from B4U-ACT then asked if I was Katie. I confirmed and joined them.
We all made small talk and introduced ourselves, most using pseudonyms, as we were still in a common area. I was shortly joined by another member of VoA, and we all decided to go to the restaurant across the street.
While there, they didn’t have enough space to sit us all together, (there were about 15 of us). We divided into two age groups, 20’s to 30’s in one section and those 40 and older in another. The other VoA member and I sat in the younger group. We were soon joined by a third VoA member.
While in this group, we talked about our attractions, AoA and gender. (There were boy lovers in attendance, too.) Some shared parts of their life story. We also talked about non-childlove interests, like anime, sports and comparing the places we live. Everyone just clicked. At that dinner, I felt immediately safe and in good company. I know a few people were paranoid because we were talking about minor attraction rather loudly in a public setting. Gary dropped by our table and introduced himself, too.
After dinner the two MAP groups rejoined each other in the conference room. There were even more people than who attended dinner. Probably close to 25 or 30 people. We sat around a large table and went around introducing ourselves and sharing a brief life story about our orientation. There were people from several countries as well as different parts of the United States. Several people opened up, and it was an emotional time. It was here that I met another VoA member. After introductions, several people networked and talked among themselves. Gradually people started leaving to get some sleep.
The next day was the symposium with researchers and students presenting findings from various studies. In my opinion, about 70% was preaching to the choir about things most of us likely already knew. At the end, we had a time where the researchers asked us what we (MAPs) need. It was this time that I felt was most productive, as we could chime in on how to beat stigma, and the kind of mental health care we need. There was a bit of disagreement in the exact direction to go, but we were all under consensus that we needed compassionate care.
Afterwards we talked and networked some more, and several MAPs went separate directions. We talked about our attractions, shared stories, and even talked about non-MAP related interests. We even played a few games of Uno.
That night, I roomed at the hotel with one of the VoA members I met, and we further shared stories about our attraction. We watched some shows on Disney Channel that had little girls, and showed each other pics and videos of our loved ones.
The next morning this member and I went to breakfast, and we subtly checked out the little girls near us. It just felt so good that I had someone I could talk to, who understood and could appreciate the beauty around us. I could be myself for the first time in a long time.
We went back to the conference room, and shared our stories with some of the researchers. Several MAPs told stories that resonated with me. We are all in this struggle together.
Two of the VoA members and myself decided to leave early to check out the mall, and meet another girl lover who wasn’t attending the symposium. At the mall, we walked around and took in all the beautiful girls around us. We subtly pointed out girls to each other and even shared smiles and waves with them.
Unfortunately, I had to leave shortly after that, so I said my goodbyes to the group. It was great to finally see and meet the people I have been talking to online (some of them for years). I feel that this experience cemented a friendship with these people. And I can’t wait until the next event, or until we otherwise meet again.