This past week I attended Women’s World 2011, an international conference on women’s issues held in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. In the weeks leading up to the event, I was really excited about the fact that I was going to join together with a large group of fellow feminists to talk about an assortment of important and often neglected issues. As the conference drew to a close, however, my thoughts did not settle on the benefits of sisterly bonding, but on how Women’s World needs to engage in some serious discussions on inclusion and oppression.
Dear commenters on the internet,
The internet is full of wonderful things and mountains upon mountains of articles that you can read and learn from. No matter who you are, you can always find something that will suit your personal preferences. However, you will also find many things that will take you outside of your comfort zone. To be prudent, therefore, you should think before you post responses.
This advice is particularly important when you have no experience in the topic being discussed. That is not to say that you should never engage in conversations that are difficult for you, but sometimes the best involvement is silence. For example, say you stumble across a piece of writing on sex workers. If you are not a sex worker, then perhaps you should not tell one what they should be feeling in any particular situation. You should be listening. You should be learning. Not all discussions need your voice and you are benefiting no one when you explode without thinking, including yourself.
For instance, I like to explore and read about trans issues since they come up frequently in my blog circles. However, being a cisgendered person with no trans friends, all of my experience with the topic comes from the internet. Sometimes what I see inspires confusion and knee-jerk reactions from myself. However, part of understanding my privileges comes from my ability to step back and allow myself time to absorb, digest and analyse what I have just read.
Sometimes, even with time, you may never truly understand a subject. Since my experience with trans issues has not evolved past the internet, I can only intellectualize the concepts. Since I can only intellectualize them, the anger and rage that is expressed by trans people is understandable to me only by comparing it to my own anger and rage. However, the situations are not the same. I cannot necessarily juxtapose my lessons onto their lives.
So the lesson is that sometimes it is better just to shut up and be quiet. You don’t always have to add to the discussion. You don’t always have to understand. It isn’t always about you. Sometimes you are not and will never be a part of someone’s story. Maybe your righteous indignation is an opportunity to educate yourself rather than to “teach” others.
A blog reader who is really damn sick of seeing people go utterly stark raving mad in comment threads on things that they know nothing about
I am not straight. Yes, I know that I live with a man in a romantic relationship and I even have an engagement ring on my finger. That does not mean that I am straight.
I know I dress conservatively and choose feminine clothing most of the time. I like heels occasionally and I prefer skirts over pants. Yet none of this tells you anything about me. Not my gender, not my sexuality, not anything concrete.
Just because I don’t hang out with artsy people does not mean I am straight either. Being queer is not correlated with a particular love of musicals or avant-garde galleries. Being queer does not necessitate that I have studied a humanities or fine arts field. I don’t like guitar circles and I don’t watch the L Word. I can’t paint and I haven’t written poetry since I was a teen. I don’t wear rainbows (much) either.
I am still not straight.
I am queer, regardless of who I date. I identify as pansexual. I am attracted to people, not gender.
Yes, I have only dated men, but that is due to my own fears and opportunities, not my sexuality. Just because I have not been involved with a girl does not mean that I am not queer. Also, I do not need to be with a girl just to prove that I am queer. I simply am.
I am queer.
When people look at me they see a straight person. That is the default view of the world unless something triggers suspicion. I look too straight for that. My queerness is silenced and invisible.
But why do we believe sexual identity is something we must see? There are so many ways a person can feel, act and live their sexual identity. To package the world up in a box of normal denies this variety and labels it deviance. Some of us pass and this is a privilege. We don’t have to explain ourselves. We can be queer without question for we are straight to the world.
I hate this. Barriers and divisions are all that are born of such thoughts. We force the annihilation of everything beyond ordinary. We deny ourselves, all of us to some extent. Oftentimes, if you look like me, you are not given a choice. You are simply constructed, set like concrete into a neat definition of what you are supposed to be.
So please, stop saying that we are all heterosexuals here. Stop your assumptions and your proclamations of unity. Queer people are not a different species. Look at me. Am I so different? Am I other? Because I often feel that way even when I pass for straight. Especially when I pass for straight.
I am queer. I want to be allowed to be queer. I want to have the privilege to be queer even if that means that in our imperfect world I am giving up privilege.
I simply want to be.
I am queer.