I did not realize I was already speaking until I was neck-deep in it, and so I will speak. I have friends who have very wisely and with great love counselled me to stay silent, keep my head down, and focus on working; this is not to silence me, but because they have seen me break down many times, most recently at the start of this year, and they know that once I get into an issue I over-invest and it usually makes me ill. I have also told myself that I’m no one, really, so what right have I to speak? But to the first point — dear friends, I am sorry, it has gotten to the point that it hurts not to speak because the dam has broken; to the second point, let me say that this is defiance too, speaking. To speak as if I had a voice, had a right to one, just as other people who live in the center, who have power, do.
I will start at a margin. A little over three years ago, my family cast me out because I was queer. It almost, quite literally, killed me. Since then I have lived with a great deal of trauma; the only reason I do not say “it may yet kill me” is because I am trying to hold on to hope.
One thing that left me with is a fear of my wrongness — of committing some error, doing something that is not quite right and not quite perfect, of breaking a rule of ideology or faith — and thus being cast out. Part of me, watching the conversation about the Hugos, about RH, about Laura J Mixon’s report, can feel that old fear rising up my throat again, choking me. It is a very particular kind of pain, being this afraid, flinching at nothing because you know it will happen again. You have marched out of lock-step and you will be punished.
(Incidentally, I find it laughable — the kind of laughter one resorts to so as not to weep — that some of RH’s supporters are framing things this way: “march out of lock-step and this is what happens”. But I digress.)
After my family cast me out, it was my community that saved me. It was my community that provided me with constant support, financial and emotional and mental; my community took my hands every time I reached out, my community did not tire of telling me, it is not your fault, you have worth. My community told me, again and again, please live. Right now I am watching my community at a loss, fractured and wounded, full of distrust and betrayal and pain, and it hurts as if it were one of my limbs experiencing the injury. Because I care about the people in the community and I care about all the energy it took to build the community, I care about its strength and well-being — and it hurts, too, because I am afraid I will lose my community for what I have said and what I will say.
One thing that I think has been overlooked in a lot of discussion about this matter is the deep damage suffered by communities comprised of women and gender minorities of color. There are a thousand thousand different conversations that could be had in these communities about the RH matter and they are all very fraught and painfully difficult to have. I have seen people speak of race traitors and collusion with whiteness; I have seen people question fellow people of color’s commitment to– I will call it anti-racism, for now; I have seen people doubting the stories of those who have come forward about abuse because they are anonymous; I have seen people believing victims, but at the same time saying, and yet, the abuser is doing important anti-racism work, and so we cannot support you. I have seen questions of authenticity and the “right” way of going about doing things, as if such a thing existed; I have seen people doubting fellow marginalized people’s awareness of their actions, as if we were children. And yes, I have seen things that have made me wonder whether I will lose my place in this community if I say, I am glad the Mixon report exists, I would vote for it if I could, as if I did not have the right to my own opinion but must vote with some overwhelmingly ascendant cause. I have seen people speaking out of places of isolation and doubt and fear, I have seen so much, so much vulnerability and rawness.
I have seen so many marginalized people afraid, like me, of being cast out and shunned because of what they feel, what they fear to speak. This is wrong. It should not be happening.
It is a complex painful horrible mess, and we from the margins are in the center of it. I have not seen half as much acknowledgment of that as there should be, in my mind. But then, usually, there never is.
Here are a number of things I will say:
If the Mixon report did not exist, I would have dropped out of the scene entirely. It was the thought that someone was trying to do something concrete against RH that made me stay. I have said before that I would nominate and/or vote for it were I able to; this is still true.
The Mixon report was very painful for many people of color, as many white people seized on it to self-justify and to further fortify themselves against call-outs of racism, sexism and problematic behavior. It was not painful to me personally; to me it felt like suddenly being able to breathe — but it has been used by white people as a defense in that way, and– look, is there a more eloquent way to say this? Stop it, white people. Stop it.
I do not care one way or another whether people vote for the Mixon report or not. That it is on the ballot is enough for me.
However, if people start talking about why one should not vote for the Mixon report because RH was an undeserving target (untrue), because it did nothing good (untrue, unless you count it a loss that I’m still here, and, well, I don’t count it a loss), because RH is not our problem — well. I will not bore you with details, but suffice to say that RH is a problem of mine, as is VD, as are the Sad and Rabid Puppies, as is every abuser in every community I am in, as is every privileged person who has told me that my English is wrong, as is everyone who makes me have to fight so hard for the right to speak. RH may not be your problem, but she is mine, and for you to dismiss the deep and lasting harm she has inflicted on people — including marginalized people, by the way — just goes to show why it is so incredibly hard for me to be in this community.
“Would RH have been subjected to this treatment were she a white man?” That is a difficult question. I am not thinking about it because it is difficult in ways that are very complicated including ways that are specific to RH and the fandom — not, let’s be clear, because white men don’t get free passes, because they do — and also the way that this question has been used to defend abuse is sickening. Yes, people of color can be abusers too. Yes, the way in which you say “RH was punching up, she was doing good work” is appalling. I am going to proceed quickly to the next point before today’s mental health unravels.
Elizabeth Bear has said some appalling things in the past. Some, to me: I was someone who called her out about using “death march” to describe hard writing, four or so years ago now, I think. I however am glad for her behavior throughout all this, I am glad for her unstinting support of Rochita and this post was heartening to me. I want to believe that people can change, and in any case grudges are heavy things to carry; having seen more of her, I like her and I am going to read her work. I do not expect this of anyone else. I fully understand people’s side-eyes. Should people start talking about more collusion with whitey I will side-eye you.
It is true that white people supporting people of color get more applause than people of color supporting other people of color. So for all those retweeting and linking to what GRRM, Elizabeth Bear, and other white writers are saying, please consider boosting the words of writers of color with even greater force. Here are some links, even: SAFE, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. (I am not linking to things on journal communities as I don’t feel very comfortable linking to them from an external site. If you would like me to link to you please just contact me.)
I am not going to comment about TNH for the sake of my mental health.
I will defend, with as much vigor as I can, the right of people of color to not vote for the Mixon report and analyze and critique and criticize and dissect it as much as we please. I will defend our right to hold different opinions and not be a monolith and have complicated conversations and not be some sort of ideological prop or tool for people only wishing to use us to amplify their voices. I will defend our right to yell at each other (how I’ve wanted to yell at people the past few weeks! as, I’m sure, some people have wanted to yell at me) and be complicated and get into fights and be human without having to be analyzed by outsiders for it as they seek evidence to buttress their racist positions.
I am really tired. I wish we did not have to fight so hard simply to exist. I wish that when an abuser turned out to be a person of color it did not turn into opportunities for white people to gleefully excuse their racism. I wish we did not identity-police each other and pressure each other to toe some sort of “POC enough” line. I wish my beloved community were not tearing itself apart. I wish, at this point, I were not shaking from the dread of being set upon by racists or judged by fellow people of color for my naivete or lack of awareness.
The safest space for me to discuss RH, outside of private conversations with friends, has been FFA. Thank you, meme.
I am focusing on building — on creation, on doing work — because it is what I can do. There was a time when I had more energy to write posts ripping racist arguments to shreds, critiquing oppressive power structures. No longer. But, truly, this work is no less difficult, requires no less courage — in fact, it requires more. I say this to the voices in my head telling me I have gone soft and weak, and to voices I have seen saying that to put one’s nose to the grindstone is to acquiesce to silence, a form of surrender. But this is my form of speaking out; this is my resistance. Every time I sit down to create art or to try and cobble some sentences or lines together, that is my battle. To create, to build, to love; this isn’t soft. I think of Perelandra manifest: “fiery, sharp, bright and ruthless, ready to kill, ready to die, outspeeding light…” I believe in love. As shield and sword, as song, as revolution and resistance, as defiance.
I had other things to say, I thought. At this point I’m exhausted. I’m also questioning what good it would do if I spoke about the current Hugo ballot, which I had intended to write about as well. Do you know what it feels like when people speak of your existence, of the acknowledgment of your humanity, of your right to speak and read and have stories, as if it were mere ideological discussion, a theoretical point to be resolved between schools of political thought?
Perhaps that is something to be revisited. For now I am dealing with a wound I have opened knowing full well what I was doing, and I can’t speak of painful things anymore. For now here is what I will say: to you who have been reading this, who may or may have not been caught up in the discussions surrounding matters pertaining to RH, to you who are thinking of the Hugos, or the Mixon report, or this pesky thing called diversity in SFF–
Here are some things. Please consider reading them. Some of them are stories. Some are poems. One, the first, is a very important essay.
We are lovers of words, of stories, first and foremost. So then: here they are. Read them, if you like; boost them, if you like. I am linking to them not because they pertain to what I was saying (they don’t) but because they are good work and I like sharing good work; I chose them based on what I am feeling right now and the way I can read them to deal with my pain. They belong to the core of SFF, they are things that speak from the margins with beauty and bravery. What do these brilliant stories care of the bigots who wish them silence and ignominy and ashes? They will shine on. They will endure.
- The stories I wanted to read, Aliette de Bodard
- Hi Bugan ya Hi Kinggawan, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
- Wine, Yoon Ha Lee
- Patterns of a Murmuration, in Billions of Data Points, J.Y. Yang
- The House of Aunts, Zen Cho
- Family Obligation, Alessa Hinlo
- The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family, Usman T. Malik
- The Multiple Lives of Juan and Pedro, Isabel Yap
- Scarecrow, Alyssa Wong
- Long Shadow, Rose Lemberg
- The Devil in America, Kai Ashante Wilson
- And You Shall Know Her By The Trail of Dead, Brooke Bolander
- On Shine Wings, Polenth Blake
- This Shall Serve As a Demarcation, Bogi Takács
- How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps, A. Merc Rustad
- With Tales in Their Teeth, From the Mountain They Came, A.C. Wise
- The Truth About Owls, Amal el-Mohtar
- Eyes of Carven Emerald, Shweta Narayan
Here is what I will do after I post this: I will go offline, and I will read a good book. And I will go forward into another day of this long struggle ahead.