At the Translating Identity Conference, we strive to be as inclusive and accessible as possible.

Low-Scent Policy

Historically, TIC has held a no-scent policy in an effort to accommodate those in our community who have multiple chemical/fragrance sensitivities (MCS) who came forward with the request many years ago. A significant number of people have expressed their need for a low- or no-scent space so that they, too, can attend and engage with others at the conference without putting their health at risk. MCS is a serious medical condition that affects folks in many different ways. Given that our event is committed to being a part of ending all forms of oppression, we feel as though it is important to create a space for people with many different kinds of abilities to interact safely and fully. Everyday Feminism has a great piece on scent-free policies that outlines what multiple chemical/fragrance sensitivities are and why it is important to aim for low- or no-scent public spaces.

However, we recognize that a strict no-scent policy may negatively impact folks of color and folks with natural hair who require specific haircare products that are often strongly scented. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha has a great blog post called “Fragrance free femme of colour realness” that outlines the challenge of the intersection of these two identities. She also offers a large and well-researched list of unscented or low-scent products specifically for black and brown folks, along with tips for low- or no-cost alternatives. In addition to providing a great list of products, Leah’s explanation of the relationship between temporarily able-bodied QTPOC and disabled QTPOC is particularly powerful.

Given that TIC is only a one-day event, a few simple and even no-cost options can make a big difference in accommodating folks with MCS. If at all possible, we hope that folks will:

  • refrain from using perfume, cologne, body spray, or aftershave for a few days leading up to the weekend
  • avoid using fabric softener and dryer sheets when washing the clothes they plan to wear that day
  • refrain from smoking that day (if applicable and if possible)
  • and, if possible financially, use low/no-scent lotion/hair products/other beauty products that day – for POC, that could include items from the list linked above

As a planning committee, we work to make sure there is only unscented soap available that day, that there are no air fresheners in use, and that all presenters use unscented markers during the conference, as these are sometimes the bigger issues for folks with MCS. We do not, however, expect attendees to purchase a whole new set of personal care products if this is the only scent-free space they plan to be in. We simply hope that attendees will be mindful of their use of scented products and opt-out of unnecessary or overly scented options that day, and we recognize the differential impact that this might have on people of color with natural hair.