The past 6 – 12 months of witnessing as well as being personally involved in shit storm after shit storm has really made me wonder about this so-called m/m community of ours.
I wonder if we cling to this notion of being a close-knit community. Remember those times when it was us against them – them being the mainstream romance genre?
I wonder if we’ve become overly comfortable in the niches we’ve created for ourselves. Remember what it was like to be the expert – the one who was approached by newbies? Who was listened to and respected without question?
I wonder if we’ve become too complacent. Remember when reading this genre made us automatically knowledgeable and supportive of the whole alphabet of GLBTQQ people?
I wonder if we ever really were a safe community, a space where all people could freely be themselves. Remember when we all sat around our monitors squirming in titillation at the thought of two men *whispers* having sex?
And I wonder if there are any others who, when they began to see these rosy assumptions for what they were and those cardboard pedestals collapsing, have become as disillusioned as I am about the m/m community?
It’s been the way in which the word ‘community’ has been flung around – in some cases slapped across the face of the ‘other’ in the internet version of challenge to protect one’s honour – that has really got me thinking.
Because we aren’t really, are we? We aren’t a ‘community’.
Sure we may be a bunch of people who come together because of a shared love for m/m romance and gay fiction, but that doesn’t make us one entity, one whole, one community.
The fact of the matter is we are way more complex than that.
We are communities.
With the exploding popularity of the genre (and the sub-genres), the numbers of readers, authors and publishers has increased dramatically. As have the many groups that have come to be in/formally established due common interests in and around the genre and its varied themes.
Whether you view this as a good or a bad thing is entirely up to you. What we should all remember however, is that societies grow and develop, and they change.
Neither communities nor individuals remain static.
People can become more conservative in the face of uncertainty, they can sigh nostalgically and ramble about the ‘good, old days’, they can build up barriers and avoid what is happening, or they can grow and learn.
It is the latter which creates possibilities, not the bubble-wrap approach.
Let’s face it, there’s no such thing as The Perfect Utopian Society, and the m/m community as it once supposedly was doesn’t – if it ever really did – exist.
We can sit in small circles crying about the terrifying divisiveness of disagreements, or we can see differences of opinion as an opportunity for all communities to have open and civil discussions and become more aware and tolerant.
Besides, I don’t know about you lot, but I’m not so easily ‘fit’ into just that one m/m squared-shaped whole. I tend to drift vaguely from one place to another, staying longer when my inherent nosiness demands it.
Plus, I’d start to think I was going even crazier if a whole bunch of mini-mes started popping up everywhere.
Not to mention bored shitless.
Not to mention bored shitless.
I think Sean just about summed it up for me, too.
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Community my bumhole. The m/m 'community' is nothing more than a group of warring tribes with a number of authors and several reader/reviewers fighting to be the dominant voice. It never has been a nurturing or safe place except for those who are prepare to suck long and hard on the ecocks of the queens/kings of the genre.
“Remember when reading this genre made us automatically knowledgeable and supportive of the whole alphabet of GLBTQQ people?”
This genre has always been as “knowledgeable and supportive of the whole alphabet of GLBTQQ people” as a strip club is of women's rights.
It exists now almost entirely to get a bunch of straight women off and those who wrote it as a way of exploring their own sexuality and gender identities, or their reaction to patriarchal oppression, have been entirely frozen out. At least in fandom, they pay somewhat more than lipservice to social justice. In m/m, it's nothing more than a figleaf used to hide the nasty objectification of gay men, and the blatant, rampant homophobia and transphobia.
And that's before you get into the sickening and ubiquitous misogyny.
I'm kinda proud of not being 'welcome' by this 'community'. If you're welcome in it, you're welcome to it, because you can only be welcome there by being part of what I personally despise.
oops, did I just say that in my outdoor voice again?
(I sure wish Blogger had an editing function!)
Okay, I'll try this again.
I'd like to believe all the recent upheaval is simply a communal growth spurt. I really would. But after seeing some truly condescending and mean-spirited remarks on all kinds of platforms (especially Twitter) — and I mean remarks larded with pointedly disparaging nouns and adjectives — I despair.
When I'm at my most pessimistic, I'm convinced the entire world has fragmented into individual agendas (and accompanying notions of appropriate attitudes, language, and behavior) that verbal bridges can only partially span. Seems people are increasingly eager to castigate each other for perceived limitations/ transgressions rather than exercise common sense, equitable consideration, and forbearance. None of us has a monopoly on truth and righteousness.
So until a whole shitload of counterproductive words and accusations are excised from our “discussions,” I have a feeling those discussions ain't goin' nowhere. We'll just have to content ourselves with glaring at each other across Giovanni's room.
…so until a whole shitload of counterproductive words and accusations are excised from our 'discussions'…
You mean the criticisms the LGBTQ members try to voice but always get shouted down about because other people's feelings get hurt? I assume that's what you mean by 'discussion', inverted commas so nicely.
LGBTQ within this community always get derailed when they have a legitimate complaint.
And what you wrote about becoming conservative in the face of change, or using the opportunity to learn and grow – that seems to sum up the fundamental split in the US these days…
Not sure what else to say other than I agree with what your post is saying. I'll have to stew a bit to get a more cohesive response.
Sean and Juni: Don't be slackarses. Yep to what exactly?
Ann: What?! *rubs ear* I couldn't quite read you. 😛
“This genre has always been as “knowledgeable and supportive of the whole alphabet of GLBTQQ people” as a strip club is of women's rights.”
I think this one of the things which has particularly hit home with me, because people seem to be coming from two assumptions:
1. Reading and promoting m/m romance means you obviously and automatically support the entire spectrum of GLBTQQ communities, not just gay rights, and therefore no one has the right to question your POV EVA; and,
2. If you're not aware of every single issue faced by GLBTQQ people, than you have no right whatsoever to be reading m/m romance.
I was certainly accused of the second point during The November Incident.
Apparently, I should have osmosisly gained an awareness of all GLBTQQ issues through reading m/m romance.
Moreover, I should have been ashamed of myself for taking responsibility for my ignorance and expressing a desire to become educated and encourage others to do so as well.
Given this, it is interesting – but not really surprising – it was/is those who actually identify as GQ/T*, who appreciate my genuine wish to learn more. I will always be appreciative of that.
Oh, jeez . . .
I'm not trying to derail anybody. I don't have either the inclination or the power to derail anybody, especially by shouting them down.
My point was simply this: tossing around word bombs does nothing but alienate people. This is clearly at odds with the goal of generating constructive dialogue — the kind that leads to understanding, mutual respect, and, in the end, fellowship.
Bye, Kris. It was a good post.
KZ: “We'll just have to content ourselves with glaring at each other across Giovanni's room.” *snort*
I agree none of us have a monopoly on believing ourselves to be acting in the name of truth and righteousness, and this is obviously not limited to one particular 'side'.
The dismissal of differing opinions and the unwillingness to ask questions reflects a certain arrogance pervasive of the m/m communities.
Perhaps the fight for equal rights has somehow been taken to mean we are always right in everything to do with our personal views of GLBTQQ issues?? *shrugs* Who knows.
Like you, I believe these issues should be dealt with constructively as opposed to the dogmatic 'stand your ground' approach.
I do think, however, we all need to be more aware and sensitive about the language we tend to use, especially within the context of the varied groups and individuals making up the m/m communities.
Sure there might be people who think we are being overly-PC, but to not appear even willing to discuss language, terms, etc? Well, it's hard not see this as being anything else except unhelpful and hurtful.
We've changed. It just seems more sensible and positive to me to embrace it and grow.
And what a ramble… Er, sorry??
“We can sit in small circles crying about the terrifying divisiveness of disagreements, or we can see differences of opinion as an opportunity for all communities to have open and civil discussions and become more aware and tolerant.”
Also, since “the incident”, I've realised that I can defend my words until I'm blue in the face, but it doesn't change the fact that I've hurt someone or offended a group of people.
In the end, I can only improve myself by accepting responsibility if I upset someone unintentionally and making an effort to educate myself so it doesn't happen again.
In terms of community, I'm not feeling it so much anymore.
I'm sure I could have said all of this in a much better way, but you caught me on a low-caffeine day. 🙂
“If you're not aware of every single issue faced by GLBTQQ people, than you have no right whatsoever to be reading m/m romance.”
I would say that if you're not *open* to listening and learning about the issues – all of them, not just the sexy ones – you have no business branding yourself as an ally, as too many readers and writers are prepared to do.
Your personal willingness to educate yourself is a shining example to all, and followed by too few, as witnessed by the defensiveness and ignorance recently on display at a certain blog you wrote about just…oooh, a couple of posts ago 🙂
I agree that the notion of community is an illusion. We have a common interest, but that doesn't mean we'll all agree even on all the issues around that interest, never mind related and outside ones.
“Community” is almost always an illusion. I'm in a community with my neighbours because we live on the same street. Does that mean we all agree on everything? Obviously not. We don't even agree on what the important issues are for residents of our street, never mind how to solve them.
It's a political word I think. Politicians love “communities”, because they think they can deal with all the people in that community as one homogeneous mass and that the community forms a block vote. If they just get a particular issue right then all of the people in community X will vote for them. It ignores the complexity of individual people.
I just want to say…. I am so happy that I can read a blog and not have to get my knickers in a twist. 🙂 my life in the last week has been perfect. I read what I read, I support the charities I want and I no longer have to comply with the sheep if I want to not get slammed into the pavement by marauding bovines. I can no longer get my nouns mixed up with adverbs and my alphabet starts at A.
Okay this makes no sense except to kris.
But I am happy and is that not what life is suppose to be.
Chris: It's the same in Australia. I truly despair of the current opposition leader becoming our next PM. I'm moving to NZ if that happens.
Kassandra: Understood. Stewing is something I do very well too. 🙂
Nic: “In the end, I can only improve myself by accepting responsibility if I upset someone unintentionally and making an effort to educate myself so it doesn't happen again.”
Exactly. That is my view as well. Well said, Nic… despite the low level of caffeine.
Oh yeah, I'll show up on Tam's doorstep if the extremists win here… Apparently with Jase in tow! 🙂
Ann: Thank you for saying that about me, Ann. I know there are a few who have called me the gamut of names about my admission of ignorance, etc so I appreciate it when people understand why I've been very public in attempting to learn more.
“I would say that if you're not *open* to listening and learning about the issues – all of them, not just the sexy ones – you have no business branding yourself as an ally, as too many readers and writers are prepared to do.”
I've so many things I'd love to say in response to this, but I've another post in mind about issue of listening to others when they call you out on something you've said and done, particularly if these individuals represent minorities and/or part of the communities you support.
It's bound to go down a real treat. 😛
Also, if I had a dollar for all the times I've called you a shit stirrer…
Becky: “It ignores the complexity of individual people.”
It definitely does.
As you say so well, Becky, the word 'community' also tends to ignore the fact that people do disagree with each other and are *horrors* actually allowed to have opinions of their own even on the issues in which 'we' all may have a common interest.
My mind is churning with even more thoughts about my next blog on this topic. I'll be interested to see what you think, Becky, given your thoughts about the so-called notion of community.
Tish: It does make sense to me, Tish. 🙂
I'm hoping my next blog will try and articulate some of what we've been discussing offline as well as the conversations I've had with others.
Chris: I think Canada will be too cold for Sean and I. LOL
Pish posh, not with the Global Weirding weather! 🙂
” if I had a dollar for all the times I've called you a shit stirrer…”
You'd have two dollars? 🙂 Anyway, from you, that's just peer recognition 🙂
“tossing around word bombs does nothing but alienate people.”
Oh good – here's a couple more. Bullies and sooks. This genre has a surfeit of them.
Wow, I came to it from such a different direction. I'd read het romance through my teens. I was in a GLB (they've since added a T and a couple other letters) group in college. I started reading GLBT non-fiction then. I got into reading gay fiction, then learned about the Romentics, Scott & Scott, and their books. The books are described as having Harlequin-like plots and gay heroes. From there I got “if you liked this, you may like that…” “That” was m/m romance, and I liked it, though I kept comparing it to the real lives of my friends and being very aware of the differences.
I hadn't stopped reading GLBT non-fiction, though, and I got involved with the student group again as an alumna and volunteer. I didn't think of myself as an expert, but I thought of myself of knowing people I could ask, people who'd lived the experiences. I added reading about the I (intersex) in the alphabet.
I didn't stop reading straight romance, and didn't think of myself as being against it. I just thought of myself as reading a wide range of books. I didn't start reading fan fiction until a couple years after I started reading original m/m fiction, and much about tropes and plots became clearer to me.
I hadn't read fiction about two men having sex until after I'd heard real life stories from my friends. I was surprised to find groups online that talked about their love of the romances, but happy to join in.
I've watched readers get hit with information about real issues in the GLBT community. The thing I feel bad about is how much pain and hurt feelings have accompanied this process. Aside from that I'm glad that there's a learning process going on.
So there's where I'm coming from. I've learned much more about people who don't identify as being on one end or the other of the gender binary — who don't feel they fit in a binary at all — in the last couple of years. I'm starting to learn about intersectionality. I feel it's important to keep educating myself, and I appreciate those folks who have taken the time to educate me.
As per usual I have absolutely no idea what is going on – I'm sure I live under a rock most days – but it is hard to know everything about…well…everything. All you can do is be open to learning. Oh and:
It's the same in Australia. I truly despair of the current opposition leader becoming our next PM. I'm moving to NZ if that happens.
And we would be honoured to have you 🙂
Ann: You have such a gift for winning friends and alienating people.
Em: “I've watched readers get hit with information about real issues in the GLBT community. The thing I feel bad about is how much pain and hurt feelings have accompanied this process. Aside from that I'm glad that there's a learning process going on.”
The thing I worry about – and one of the issues I want to discuss in my follow up post – is the need to facilitate this learning process in constructive ways. Some of what I've seen in the last year or so has been obstructive to say the least.
Orannia: “All you can do is be open to learning.”
True that. Oh, and I'm bring my Blues with me. I figure they can move in with you. 😉
Well at the moment I am a kitty free zone (still not ready yet), but this means Birds 1 Fruit Trees 0…so your baby boys would be more than welcome to re-explain the pecking order 🙂
I have opinions. I haven't had enough sleep to formulate them in a way that will not piss someone off. And I already had a row with my girlfriend this weekend, thanks. So bear with.
I believed there was a community, until about 4 years ago. Now, I see it as the same political morass you find anywhere women are in chartges. I'm terrible at female social politics. Didn't like them in the SCA. Didn't play them in fandom. Don't deal with them in writing.
Please, note, this is not to denigrate the male readers and writers, or the trans*folk. At base, m/m romance is 90s fanfic all grown up, which means female-dominated. Even the names are the same.
But yes, everyone is pursuing their own agenda. Some people think they have more say in what the genre should be.
Some of us are starting to drift out of the genre, unhappy at being pinned down like butterflies. We're experimenting with bisexual characters, or heterosexual ones. And we're not afraid to put women in our stories. in defiance of those who demand “No females in my fiction!” (Can you imagine sayin “No blacks in my fiction!” or “No Catholics in my fiction!” or “No Chinese people in my fiction!”)
I've made some good friends. I've made a few, well, if not enemies, people to avoid. You know, just like real life.
Orannia: The pecking order of my boys seems to change on a daily basis so it should be interesting. 🙂
Angelia: “But yes, everyone is pursuing their own agenda. Some people think they have more say in what the genre should be.”
Yes. This I think is what creates the division; that is, the difference between 'should be' and 'could be'.
“I've made some good friends. I've made a few, well, if not enemies, people to avoid. You know, just like real life.”
And isn't that the truth of it. Well said, Angelia.