Friday, October 22, 2010

some queer thoughts

So, lately queerness has come up a lot in the media and in my experience of social media. Coming Out day was recently and lots of my friends were very gung ho about coming out... as allies. At first, I felt really proud and happy. I am glad to have so many allies and that they are proud. But eventually when I saw about 4 times as many allies and many ambiguous messages by the folks I know who are queer things started to look a bit different.

Coming out is complicated and has consequences.

I'm not fully out of the closet in all situations. I'm sure out in my current town and in my work place and with my friends. I even came out super awkwardly to my mom after my sister outed me herself and lied about it. But, that's a story for another time and the bad poetry involved will never see the light of day. But, I am not explicitly out to my father (he totally knows though) or my husband's parents or to everyone I ever met back in super rural Kentucky. I'd like to be, but Its complicated (I'm working on it).

So, when I didn't feel fully comfortable shouting out my queerness on Facebook, I started to feel alienated by all of the happy cheerful straight people enjoying their participation in queer visibility. Though there can be complication for allies, coming out as supportive of homosexuality doesn't strike me as the same level of magnitude as truly publicly coming out as gay, or queer, or bi, or trans, or asexual, or gender queer, or any number of the mindblowingly diverse flavors that sexuality holds.

Allies, I appreciate your participation in queer activism. I really do.

So, I questioned this emotional response. I do not want to take away any support of queer issues, and I don't want to quash anyone's self-expression of sexuality or activism or visibility. I stand by this, but I do think my questioning led me to something a bit more complicated. What got me there was this. A very smart male straight pastor, for whom I have the deepest respect, posted to his FB wall a neat article by a queer female pastor. The gist of the article was a very rousing challenge for victims of bullying and other forms of oppression to do the Christian thing and bless their enemies and also to learn from them. It was very smart and thought provoking. I did find it uncomfortable to see this explicit challenge being shown to me by straight person. I didn't want to reject such a smart good thing, but I also don't want someone in a position of privilege (even the nicest, coolest, most open-minded person-in-a-position-of-privilege ever) to be telling queers how to deal with our bullies or oppressors. So, I went back to thinking.

Queer people are confronted with their identity in almost every space in culture at almost every moment. This is not our choice. As a result, there are parts of queerness that even the most intelligent, empathetic straight people may only catch a glimpse of, and because our allies are more numerous than we are, I think some of these perspectives and experiences risk being drowned out in the happy noise of the newly expanded pride parade.

I do not want to silence or censor folks. I especially don't want to do that to people fighting a good fight and showing their love. But I am totally willing to advocate for a bit of self-awareness. For everyone. I hope I can take my own medicine; I certainly try. I benefit from privilege, and I try not to forget that. So here's where I'm going with this.

Think about other people. Think about them when you advocate for their rights, or your own rights (for your rights will always affect others). Take time to put yourself in the position of people different from yourself and look at your own actions from the outside. Think about how other people feel. Think about people who have been thinking about this and working on this for longer than you've been alive. Think about people who have multiple minority statuses, all of which complicate each other. Think about the differences of opinion and desire and politics within the spectrum of queerness. Think about the very young and very old who don't necessarily have the freedoms many others enjoy. Think about the fact that not everyone defines queer in anything like the same way. Be a conscientious activist.

Hopefully the parade has room for everyone who wants to participate. I think it does. We just need to be sure that our participation doesn't overshadow or displace anyone else's.


Since writing this two amazing blog posts have come to my attention. Both deal with this same issue in different ways and I think they do an amazing job of sensitively but honestly addressing allies.

The Day After That

The Do's and Don'ts of Being a Good Ally

Friday, October 8, 2010

Leave a difference at all

I feel trapped sometimes, and weirdly enough I think it is partly the color of the light around me that affects this feeling. I hate yellow light. It is the part of fall and winter that holds no love or fascination.

Golden light I love; every photographer needs their golden hours of the day. That gentle gilded glow adds so much to any subject. No, what I cannot handle is harsh yellow light. Summer afternoons radiate with it and winter evenings do in the hours just after the sun has gone. Through most artificial light in these evenings, everything becomes stale, too warm, and itchy and yet toes stay slightly too cold. Escape and change become my inner chant at these times.

I want to run in the dark, tell secrets, and laugh airlessly with my friends far away and do it by the strange shadows of summer nights or the white brightness of winter mornings.

Fall gives birth to many urges and experiences, but sadly one of them has left me in these years living too far south for true seasons. Back in Ohio when fall turned cold and brown and deep after its earlier kaleidoscopes I would get what I called "land urges". It felt like longing and loyalty and fierceness all at once. I wanted to stand on a hill with a stick in my hand surrounded by wind and earth and belonging. This feeling rooted me to my place and told me of future connections that could grow even deeper. This cannot happen here; I feel nothing for this shifting sanddirt it isn't the earth and clay that I love. It holds biting ants and spiky strange growths. Lovely and wild yes, but never ever mine.

I wonder how connected everything is sometimes. If I exercise again today will I feel like I can live here longer without losing something precious? Does applying for lifetime jobs all over the country attune me to my gypsy self? Does growing older inspire rebellion? These answers elude me solidly.

My hands want to grasp and my eyes to scan. My location cannot change now, and my work requires me to be grounded for months and months yet. Sometimes it is all I can do to transubstantiate my desires into the realm of the possible. But then in the realm of reality, as always, I trip into conflict, compromise, contention.

Monday, I walk into the house of law. Interviewers will try to find out about me and make guesses like those addicted to horse races. Strangers and I might become a jury together and put on blindfolds so as to be many faces of justice. Sunday, my escapes appear like clockwork. Saturday, I could hunt and watch the gavel fall many times. But what about tonight? I do not know what I can do.