From Blank Wall to Full Minds, Hearts and More: ToroGru3

“One of the things I love the most about the GRUE Unconference model is that there are no predetermined topics or workshops, no set schedule before the morning of the event,” reveals JP Robichaud, organizer of the upcoming ToroGru3 in Toronto. “It's the first thing we do, once we have all the attendees in the space. We look at a blank wall and say ‘Okay, there's the schedule.’ After the look of confusion fades from everyone's faces, Gray will explain that the schedule is made up by the people in the room, right now.”

The guru of GRUE is Graydancer, a sex educator, erotic author, sex-positive activist and rope aficionado. He has facilitated GRUE Unconferences across North America. While GRUE actually stands of ‘Graydancer’s Ropetastic Unconference Extragaza,’ rope is just one of many sex-related topics that could end up on the agenda. The GRUE follows the rules of Open Space as created by Harrison Owen.

“I've known Gray for about five years now, and I remember the first time I heard about the GRUE format I thought it was something I'd love to bring to Toronto,” offers JP. “My background is in theatre and event planning, so matching my experience and skill set in that arena with my passion for kink & conversation just meant the GRUE was kind of a perfect fit.” JP has worked with people such as Madison Young, Samantha Fraser and Tristan Taormino to present workshops around town.

The three-day event begins with a meet and greet on Friday evening so that people can break the ice and get to know each other. On Saturday the unconference reconvenes and goes “full tilt for about 8 hours.” Attendees gather around and the event begins. JP describes how the process can flow so naturally. “Everyone has the chance to grab a piece of paper and write down on it what topic they'd like to lead a discussion on, what skill they'd like to share with the group, what subject they'd like to have covered—often by someone else—and then once we have all those sheets of paper gathered up, we organize them into something that resembles (if you kind of squint your eyes and tilt your head to the left) an actual schedule!”

Any number of topics across the sexual rainbow can be shared and offered up. Graydancer describes the event as similar to good sex. “At the end you're exhausted, giddy, amazed at the passion, pleasantly surprised by a few things you didn't expect and you can't wait to come again. There are usually fewer condoms to clean up after a GRUE, though. Usually...” But just like new and intriguing sex, the GRUE concept can be a little daunting at first. Graydancer admits that sometimes that blank wall can be a little intimidating—for attendees and himself. “The Open Space model fills that wall with amazing subjects and ideas that you don't see in regular cons, and some that you do, and all of them have one essential common factor: somebody cares passionately about it. And when things get started, just about everyone is too busy doing things to remain apprehensive.“

After a day of talking and connecting attendees break for dinner and then dance (among activities) the night away, this time at Northbound Leather’s Fetish Night. The next day Graydancer gets to partake in his pancake fetish for some more discussion over brunch. For the event, the GRUE is breaking early enough to give people the chance to participate in SlutWalk. JP set the schedule to give people the opportunity to participate in SlutWalk. “I don't feel like we're cutting the GrU3 short, at all, 'cos the engagement and connection and conversations will continue, I'm sure, during SlutWalk, and afterwards as well.”



ToroGru3 takes places April 1–3 at Goodhandy's in Toronto. Event tickets are $45 and include admission in Northbound Leather's Fetish Night on April. Tickets can be purchased here.