How do other folks who are members of historically marginalized groups, and who write about race and gender and sexuality, wrestle with writing for mainstream spaces? Do they? Should we? Are there topics writers will not or should not discuss outside of a "safe space"? Are there story ideas writers reserve for "of color" or GLBT spaces?
I asked some smart, writerly, social justice-minded folks to weigh in. And I'll be sharing their thinking all this week. Today, Christopher MacDonald Dennis.
CHRISTOPHER MACDONALD DENNIS
When I first think about having a conversation outside of a respective community to which I belong, I always ask what will members of the dominant group and/or outsiders do with this information. Let me give you an example: about 15 years ago, many gay men started to criticize gay male sexual behavior in the continuation of the HIV epidemic. They challenged the number of sexual partners some gay men had and asked if we should not begin to question some of the foundations of gay liberation. Was this an important conversation to have? Indeed. Many gay men *do* engage in lots of sex in order to silence feelings of inadequacy. But I know that many straight folks used these arguments to demean gay men. Many gay men reacted with fury and fear because of the ways that they knew the words of these writers would be used. I remember meetings that ended up in screaming matches because of this fear.
Having said that, I do not think that the gay male critics were responsible for the homophobia of some. We should not silence important conversations because of what others *might* say (I am thinking of the conversation we Jews need to have around Israel but fear because it could play into antisemitism), but it does worry me. I am not sure what we can do about this. Can we control what members of the dominant group will think?
Of course, if we do have the much-needed conversation in the privacy of our communities, the dominant group then says that we do not have them because they are not privvy to them (which I could care less about but it is another issue that arises).
To Tami’s point, I do cringe when the mainstream media “discovers” us or decides to discuss our lives. As a queer Jew of color, I know that the MSM will distort my life. Remember our fear about CNN’s “Black in America” and “Latino in America”? We knew that CNN would be talking to others, not to us. This is what I think is the issue: it seems that the MSM, when discussing marginalized lives, report as if they are on an athropological visit. It seems geered to others, not to us. Perhaps there should engagement with the MSM to help them report in a way that can speak to us and to teach others (which we know they will have to do) in a way that does not degrade us. Could we do this?
Tomorrow Jennifer (Mixed Race America)
Read Pt. 1
Read Pt. 2
Read Pt. 3