A Bunch of Heretics Walk Into Miami
It was appropriately named Hereticon.
Hereticon 2022 has come and gone, and I’d say it made a fairly large impact both on the individuals that attended and possibly a viable future path forward to discourse about polarizing topics. Although the event was irl, I suspect that the execution might just foster more meaningful interactions than Twitter dunks.
My journey to the conference was probably different than a lot of others who attended. Sometime towards the end of 2021, I did a ritual (I am a crystals person now) for 2022 being the most prosperous, exciting, magical year yet. The next day, I had a phone call about Hereticon’s approach to trans topics. The next week, I had an invite. I can’t say enough about how easy the Founders Fund team made the whole process, they are truly experts at event logistics.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I am adjacent to a lot of circles that one might describe as having an air of heresy: Neoreactionaries, Post-rationalists, Rationalists, etc. Based on the original Medium post, and the predictable reactions from the journalism establishment, I knew the possibilities were very very wide open.
The day of my flight from Vancouver to Miami eventually arrived, and it was a very eventful one. Due to my own delinquency and procrastination I barely made the flight (I had about 10 minutes to spare before boarding would have been refused). Thanking my deities, I spent most of Monday on a plane feeling my N95 mask become moister on each connecting flight.
It was my first trip to Miami, and my second trip to the US. My previous trip was to a retreat in Sonoma county in which the scenery very closely resembled British Columbia’s lower mainland, so I regard Miami as my first ‘real’ trip to the USA. It certainly delivered in spades.
Miami has this air of magic to it that you can’t really describe, only experience when you go there. During the day it has a calm, relaxed atmosphere that really belies what’s possible. At night, Miami transforms into a magical place, and that magic permeates into you regardless of where you are. The only experience I can really compare it to is the boom era in the Canadian cannabis industry concentrated in one city.
For the conference itself, I would say that Aella was fairly accurate in characterizing it as some kind of wacky cross between Burning Man and a conference. I arrived late Monday, checked in and caught what I could of that day’s festivities (essentially an evening get-together outdoors). I was very taken by the welcoming and inquisitive atmosphere; my first conversation was literally with someone who asked me what my most heretical opinion was (I have several when it comes to the whole trans thing).
This was also my first real public outing after coming out that I had my wardrobe somewhat together for (Monday was leopard print night), and I was a little bit nervous about being a very openly queer transwoman given some of my preconceptions about the attendees. Yes, there were some of the customary stares but in general I really felt like it was a safe environment. This went a very long way to putting a lot of my anxiety at ease.
So what was Hereticon, actually? The ‘serious’ programming was during the day at various parts of our venue, and lot of interesting material was covered (you can view the agenda here). I disagreed with a lot of it, but thought it was very brave of the organizers to include some of the lineup. We’ve lived in echo chambers for far, far too long and I’m kind of over discourse being reduced to listening to normies parrot whatever talking points they picked up in the New York Times or some Vox publication.
Later in the evening, there were festivities a-plenty. Thinking back to my time in the cannabis industry , the best networking (yes this was just a tiny bit of a business event for me as well) happened at those parties as well as the best connections. The most intense was Grimes doing a set (which was fucking awesome, to put it mildly) on the last official night. Overall though, I think we could all feel the frustration of the past 2 years and it was such a wonderful relief. There were options for just about every level of Covid caution-ness, you could stick to the outdoor events or also attend some indoor (I would say that most of the programming locations that were indoor were quite spacious).
I have a few highlights of the conference, and in a way I really took the conference to be my coming out party in a certain respect. There was a makeup and hair station on site you could sign up for in addition to things like tattoos and piercings, and it was the first time I had makeup done professionally (I make a very good Ice Queen).
There was an open mic night, and I signed up to do a talk about the ‘Trans Discourse’ problem. I wouldn’t quite say that I was the anti-Brianna Wu, but instead went for a more middle of the road series of points such as the fact that it should be okay for anyone to say that I have XY chromosomes without having a bunch of sociopaths showing up on their internet doorsteps.
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that I killed it, and at several points for the rest of the conference I had people approach me and say how much they enjoyed the talk. I was so gratified that I didn’t really know what to say to most of them, and given it was my first irl talk (even if it was a short one), I was over the moon for the rest of my stay in Miami.
To quickly summarize: I think the inaugural Hereticon was the birth of something that’s going to be supremely world changing. I would say that it gave a real voice to the ‘interesting enough to be reviled’ section of the population. My opinions and experiences of coming out and transitioning are definitely not popular in a lot of LGBTQ+ circles, so I usually only really get vocal when I see something especially stupid on Twitter such as the Chappelle / Netflix fallout. At Hereticon, I felt celebrated for having something unique to say rather than shoved out of the way by the established orthodoxy. I think that’s really important.
Hereticon also nailed that dynamic that made Clubhouse great; Non-attribution for anything that wasn’t main stage material. There are a few people like me, who are foolish enough to be completely transparent and public with their heresy. Many are not though, so this conference gave that majority a place to speak without fear of having what they said show up on Twitter and having to have uncomfortable conversations with investors and employers.
On a personal level, it also gave me such a great opportunity to connect with friends separated by vast distances under normal circumstances. I finally connected irl with a mentor as well as many of the Twitterati (who are the most fun group of people I’ve ever socialized with), and that segment of things probably peaked in dancing right below Grimes delivering an amazing set. Seeing a conference embrace partying so transparently rather than pretending it doesn’t happen is something that we will hopefully see more of as we are at some point in the future allowed to be humans with each other again.
I can’t wait for Hereticon 2023 (plz make a Hereticon 2 this year FF!), but it was really a privilege to be at the inaugural edition. Sort of like the first Burning Man, it was a really once in a lifetime experience that I’m rather grateful for and I’ve taken so much away from. It was the best event execution I’ve ever seen, and credit for that goes to Founders Fund and in particular Mike Solana who was often seen running around making sure everything went off without a hitch.
Speaking of hitch, another high point was an actual wedding at the conference, which is perhaps another way it resembles Burning Man. Kat Cole is partially known for getting married at BM, and in this case it was Delian Asparouhov who tied the knot. A photo posted is already being meme’d so I would also consider those nuptials to be a huge success.
I’m very hopeful that Hereticon will not just be remembered as that time a bunch of us went to Miami to have fun and share our wrong opinions, but as an innovative event that will eventually cause ripples in how we view a way forward in discourse with each other. For all that the event provided, the greatest gift of all was showing a viable way forward in talking to each other that doesn’t degenerate into simply yelling politics at each other.