As I said in this post, it’s the way in which the phrase ‘m/m community’ has been flung around over the last 12 months – not unlike Harry yelling Expelliarmus – that has had me thinking.
I’m probably one of many people who feels (or felt) extremely comfortable with this m/m community because of the sense of belonging it gives (or gave) me.
You know; that idea you’re among friends who have the same interests; the relationships you can build you might be unable to in ‘real’ life; and, because of the anonymity of the internet, the freedom to openly share your beliefs and values.
Putting aside the fact it also allows for major douchebaggery, there is no doubt the internet can be extraordinarily empowering. To therefore question an online community (or any community for that matter); whether you perceive it to be a construction, an assumption, just plain nostalgic, etc, is risky as it is can be seen as an attack.
If you believe the word ‘attack’ is too strong a term, think about some of the situations which have occurred within the m/m community.
Intended or not, responsible or not, irrational or not, questioning or challenging those things about which people care cause reactions.
Dismissed, disregarded, abused, criticised, hurt, assaulted, ostracised, excluded. These are all feelings which create tension, anger and frustration. It tends to result in division; the old ‘us’ versus ‘them’ chestnut, with some thinking it necessary to take ‘sides’. Another thing the instancy of the internet allows.
Is any of this starting to ring any bells? Yeah.
Oh, and those feelings happening to the ‘us’? They are also being felt by ‘them’. Those on the other ‘side’ of the argument.
In some cases, the ‘them’ happen to be minority groups. Those communities who, and this may come as a shocker I know, actually make up the whole. ‘They’ contribute just as much as any of the various communities, and ‘they’ have a voice.
Recent incidents in the m/m communities have meant those who identify and support the GQ/T* part of the spectrum have had to shout increasingly louder to have their voices heard as well as use quite confronting language. Unfortunately, instead of making people stop, listen and acknowledge there may actually be a bigger picture, lines have been drawn and heels dug in.
Such circumstances have led to a breakdown in what could have been open, civil and respectful discussions. Issues which could have strengthened relationships within the m/m communities, have resulted in shit storms of epic proportions with a number of readers, reviewers, authors and publishers looking like complete and utter fucktards.
On both ‘sides’.
Regrettably, I think what has been lost in the furor is recognition of there being a third side to this story. Yep, there is another ‘side’ affected and we need to be made more aware about it.
Despite how sympathetic to a particular POV they might be, this third group are those who have become so totally disillusioned with what has been happening in the m/m communities that they no longer want any part of it.
Oldies and newbies to the genre are pissed off. Not only because of the seemingly constant recommencement of hostilities, but of the blatant unwillingness of some to hear – let alone consider – anyone else’s opinions but their own. This group have become onlookers; left feeling they are unable to express themselves or ask questions for fear of being lumped, labelled and attacked.
This is one of the consequences I find distressing. That people are left with the sense they have been excluded, and are just walking away after deciding phobic behaviour of all sorts is rampant within the m/m communities.
It also makes me angry. Do none of you remember what happened last November? The role I played, the fact I admitted to fucking up and owned my growing awareness, and then the steps others and I took to create a safe space for education and tolerance? Bloody hell.
I’ve no wish to dismiss or down play anyone’s emotions here. I know how it feels when something happens or is said and it’s like a kick in the gut (or a knife in the back). God, but I know. You feel sick. All you want to do is lash out in reaction to the hurt or curl up and hide. It’s the natural fight or flight instinct we all have.
However, we’re not in high school anymore, my Totos and none of us – the communities, cliques or individuals – are perfect. Nor do we remain static. Like me (I hope), people can learn and grow in positive ways… if they are willing, that is.
So the next time such heated incidents occur perhaps you should take the time to stop, take a deep breath and listen. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to ask ‘why?’.
That applies to all of you, of us, by the way.
All three ‘sides’.
Those who dared:
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