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:
ouaqquwcgk on my confession dkmhwgijnw on random awesomeness Kris on maybe it’s me, but… kaetrin on maybe it’s me, but… Kris on maybe it’s me, but…
Many excellent points, Kris – as usual. It's exhausting… to me, at least. I guess some must feel energized by the constant state of conflict?
I have to wonder if a lot of it is part of what seems like similar polarization in politics, in religion, and pretty much every facet of our lives. Things are being oversimplified and framed as good and evil, us and them, black and white, etc, ignoring the betweens, where the colors and beliefs overlap and bleed together…
I might love you a little bit more after that post. I know that I have withdrawn from a lot of online “communities” for the reasons you stated.
Maybe your post will encourage a bit more active “listening” in times of conflict so that both sides can feel heard and move forward in a positive way.
Sorry to get fluffy… My inner social worker is trying desperately to be released. 🙂
LOVE! I tend not to lend my opinion too much online, if I feel safe and compelled I'll say a little something, but for the most part I keep it zipped. I do observe though… and the behaviors displayed by the players does affect how I view them and what their particular agenda is. The cynical me thinks nothing will change, but hoping things do.
I've been one of those people watching, for the most part. Generally my hope is for civil discussions and more education.
I wonder if some people are so used to having to defend themselves from genuine attacks from outside, that their first reaction of anything critical or questioning them is to assume it's being done with malice and must be met with an instant counter-attack. And the other “side” is just as used to being on the defensive, so any dispute quickly degenerates into trench warfare as both sides pound away at each other and nobody gets anywhere.
*nods* Agreement from me, all around.
I think it's great that some actively seek to educate. While there is a great deal out there on the internet with which one can educate themselves if so inclined, sometimes it's difficult to know where to look to find reliable sources. And discussion is a healthy tool as well. For all involved.
I've found myself with an increasing lack of tolerance for belligerent ignorance of late, though. I never considered myself one of those who actually had “triggers” to be honest, but I'm discovering that I stumble over them entirely too often in this mess of drama. Or maybe the triggers are wired to IEDs, for me.
So I've pretty much… walked off the battlefield so to speak. Doesn't mean I'm safe, but at least I'm avoiding most of the flack. I stopped fighting some time ago. I don't have the emotional energy to do it anymore.
Chris: “Things are being oversimplified and framed as good and evil, us and them, black and white, etc, ignoring the betweens, where the colors and beliefs overlap and bleed together…”
Yes. As I said in my previous post on communities:
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.
Nic: I think it's a pretty natural response to want to withdraw from a situation that erupts into ugliness. No one wants to step into that, not even the people – those inner social workers 🙂 – who could be a calming, positive influence and facilitate active listening.
Mariana: “… if I feel safe…”
This is exactly what should be highlighted in the aftermath of the recent incidents.
The need for people to feel safe enough to put forward their POVs, argue for/against them in a civil and respectful manner, and to ask sincere questions which, in turn, are answered in acknowledgement of a genuine desire to learn more.
This is why Aleks, Amara and I established the 'embrace the rainbow' site – to offer people a 'safe' space in order to become more aware and educated about GQ/T* people and issues. This is a hope we had/have and one which seems to be working so far.
Em: “Generally my hope is for civil discussions and more education.”
Exactly. Maybe I – or the EtR site – can put in place a policy where people let me know if there are any shit storms they would like to see discussed more openly and civilly and I'll act as moderator of the topic?? Who knows, it might even work. 🙂
Becky: I think you're right and that's exactly what we witnessed in relation to the attempt to define what some people perceived the 'm/m' of m/m romance to be.
It was when I was reading some of the posts and comments with regard to this situation that I became increasingly angry because of the bloody mindedness of a few of the people.
Seriously, though, how bloody hard is it to say 'Hold up. There's something we're obviously not getting here. Let's start asking why.'
It's really not that scary to admit you may not have all the answers you thought you did.
Rhi: “I've found myself with an increasing lack of tolerance for belligerent ignorance of late, though.”
I agree. I've been completely mystified by what seems to be an unwillingness of a few people to remember what happened in November and the hurt caused – even from those who supported GQ/T* people at the time.
I would've thought (or hoped) November's incident had led to more sensitivity about the use of certain language, or, at the very least, led lightbulbs going off sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, the situation has also caused a backlash against GQ/T* people with some feeling they were also being taken to task for not understanding the 'whys' underlying the GQ/T* issues.
It very much reminded me of the position in which I found myself in November and my own ignorance:
You see, and as I said in my previous post, one of my biggest regrets about the current situation in the m/m romance community was the part I played in 'perpetuating an over-simplistic or binary view of gender/s and sexuality/ies'.
I have to admit I didn't always think like this.
Picture me sitting in front of my computer with my 'The Trevor Project' shirt on, reading a few comments people had sent me links to, and getting more and more upset because 'HOW VERY DARE THEY?! I'M NOT TRANSPHOBIC!'
Yeah, talk about being a self-righteous douchecopter.
Maybe I wasn't necessarily transphobic, but, geezus kerrist, I was as ignorant as fuck.
It wasn't until I saw a Twitter mate expressing hir frustration at the 'binary mind-set' of those participating in the, erm, discussions that I began to sit up and think to myself 'Kris, there is so much more to this than you realise and maybe you need to actually find out about it before opening your big, fat mouth… again…'.
So I started asking questions.
It's a hard thing to admit when you're wrong or, more correctly, you're not quite as informed as you believed, especially when you've always thought yourself to be a supporter of the full spectrum of the rainbow.
At the end of the day, though, being open in such circumstances will be all the more rewarding.
“It wasn't until I saw a Twitter mate expressing hir frustration at the 'binary mind-set' of those participating in the, erm, discussions that I began to sit up and think to myself 'Kris, there is so much more to this than you realise and maybe you need to actually find out about it before opening your big, fat mouth… again…'.”
The moment of realization.
Sadly, the triggering mechanism for such moments is different for everyone. I've made an effort, publicly on my blog, to present alternative perspectives to subjects and attitudes and perceptions that cause me discomfort and offend. I'm not entirely certain the impact it has made or the reach it has had. I figure even if it only influences one person, that is sufficient and I've succeeded.
The problem is an individual has to want to understand before that trigger can occur. That will rarely happen in heated “discussions” that have less a resemblance of debate and more an ambiance of “attack” from all involved. Thus, I tend to steer clear. 🙂
Great post, Kris. I'm one of those people in the third group who won't be noticed because they'll be gone when the next round of drama shows up.
I'm tired of the implication that if I criticize specific behavior I'm slamming everything about the person. I'm tired of the implication that if I don't think a book is good, I'm letting down the side (what side? The side of Upholding Not Very Good Books?). I'm tired of being told that because someone contributes to LGBT causes, they cannot possibly be criticized about any stance relating to any letters of the alphabet.
And I'm REALLY tired of self-promotion being put forward as ideological commitment. Please.
Enough already. I'll keep reading and reviewing quality authors of LGBT romance, and thanks to online friends and Twitter, I keep finding new ones. But life's too short to engage with this on a regular basis.
Rhi: “The problem is an individual has to want to understand before that trigger can occur. That will rarely happen in heated “discussions” that have less a resemblance of debate and more an ambiance of “attack” from all involved.”
This is very true – both the need to want to understand and the need to have a safe, respectful environment in which you are able to have a voice and able to listen.
None of this can happen when the people involved are in attack and defend mode, or, should I say, it is highly unlikely to find someone willing to stand up and say 'okay, I'm wrong' or 'okay, I'm just not getting this'.
No one likes to admit to a lack of knowledge or understanding in the middle of an emotional confrontation, which is essentially what these situations have become in the m/m communities.
Sunita: This is exactly what worries me; that people like you and Rhi no longer wish to participate in these discussions because of weariness and wariness.
Sure you might have a particular POV, but you always articulate these extraordinarily well and put forward clear, thought-provoking arguments.
These are the kind of articles which lead to interesting and valuable discourses.
Whereas the posts spewing rhetoric and vitriolic language tend to bring out the barriers and war cries, and, yes, can be poorly hidden self-promotion.
Possibly what people are thinking of me about this post. *shrugs*
Possibly what people are thinking of me about this post.
If what you're pimping is EtR, more power to you I say.
Interesting and valuable discourse perhaps, yes. But the restraint it takes not to pistol-whip them with a 45 Magnum, I think you can imagine. Believe me, the urge is most certainly there. And the more they squeal like a bunch of skewered boars, the stronger the desire grows.
Preferring to comport myself in a fashion resembling a civilized human being, I opt out. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what got everyone hackling and hissing and unsheathed the claws this time. I just glimpsed a bit of vomit-spewing and ducked my head back in my cave *lol*
Rhi: “But the restraint it takes not to pistol-whip them with a 45 Magnum, I think you can imagine. Believe me, the urge is most certainly there. And the more they squeal like a bunch of skewered boars, the stronger the desire grows.”
Yes, I can easily imagine, particularly if it is a situation in which the people involved refuse to listen. This is when what may have been said without understanding becomes more offensive and appears intentional. Fuel to the fire.
And, hell yes, it's about pimping EtR. 🙂
You have such an amazing way with words. Thank you for that post.
Thank you for saying that, Tracy.