I also want to note, in what I will go into in a separate post, that there were many, many things I loved about this con: including the focus on transformative works craft, the multi-fandom attendees and the really fantastic efforts of accommodation the Con Staff made towards folks with special needs, including dietary. I have never, ever felt like a con staff cared more about each of its attendees on an individual basis.
Which is why when fail came, I was like "woah, what the fuck?!"
Sadly, I think much of the fail is a product of the fact that people have become defensive. People are scared of these discussions, and I have to say while they are often unfun and heartbreaking (who wants to be the target of this stuff? who wants to realize they've hurt people or a community they care about no matter how inadvertently?) -- jeez they are not going to kill you, and they certainly aren't a reason to fail more.
Then I had to leave to catch my flight.
And then apparently other things happened that people who were there and people who were on the panel will address at more length and more accurately than me, but the phone call I got at the airport included the report that someone got up and said they felt marginalized for being straight and that they felt marginalized for being in a fandom and having a child, and I can't not address this. (ETA: I have subsequently learned that in small post-panel discussions the woman's point was actually about age-ism in fandom, which is a very real and legitimate problem, but hopefully those discussions also highlighted how incredibly fail-y and rude it was to say "am I not fucked up enough to be in fandom?" -- I'm not fucked up for being queer and my friends aren't fucked up for being transfolk or PoC: further insight into events here: http://community.livejournal.com/writer
I am queer every day. And every once in a while I get to hang out in a queer space, such that I don't have to worry if I'm dressing femininely enough to get through airport security or if kissing my girlfriend on my street corner at 11:30 at night is really the best fucking idea in the world.
And I get that feeling marginalized even for a minute is weird and can be heartrending. I get this specifically as it applies to fandom: a lot of us were outcasts growing up, a lot of us don't have face-to-face fannish communities to be a part of where we live, and when we go to a con, we want everyone to be just like us. We don't want to be outcasts -- not still, not again.
But I gotta tell you something -- and this isn't about bias and oppression and marginalization, it's just about life -- it's what I learned from fencing, from learning to fight: We all die alone. And we all fight alone. And we all live alone. On some level, we are always, always, always in a space where no one can know what we are feeling and how strange and terrible and lonely we are -- whether we're straight white guys or people of color or queer folks or a mom at a con.
And in being who I am -- someone who is melancholy and mournful, who views the solid presence of other people in my life as a one-in-a-billion craps shoot I can't believe I won -- you have all my compassion, all my love, all my sympathy and all my interest, because that is, innately, how I react to people who, like me, who know this nature of aloneness. You are beautiful to me.
But you need to step back. Because no, you are not marginalized or oppressed because you are part of the dominant group and people who are part of other groups are stepping up to say that we want some damn consideration. Nor are you marginalized or oppressed because you chose to have a kid. I spent most of the weekend with a woman who is second-generation fen and her baby; we wrote fic together, talked about slash and hung out with her wife. So no matter how different you may feel from what you perceive to be the majority of fandom, no one is being oppressed because they have a kid -- if someone's rude to you, that's actually something else -- the -ism's are something way beyond rudeness or you feeling awkward or out of place.
Look, I don't like being part of a marginalized group. It's not fun or romantic. Some of us -- both in these groups and outside of them -- have to learn this, just as many of us have to go through the thing where we learn there's nothing cool or fun about poverty or having to whore (as opposed to choosing to engage in sex work) to put food on the table or get the damn rent paid.
And that's about all I'm capable of saying without resorting to a great deal of obscenity, so I'm going to stop there on this particular part of the situation.
The discussion included a hand-out of potential discussion questions, many of which I found mind-blowingly offensive (I've made a deal with at least one other attendee that we're going to post them all with our answers on LJ over the next week or so), and the woman hosting the panel repeatedly snarked on our table (we were not the only queer people speaking up, but we could, rather legitimately, be perceived as a unified force, as it were) for being articulate and was particularly dismissive to the two PoC people at our table (and the combination of "articulate" and PoC is one of those very loaded, sneaky RaceFail things that happen sometimes and that was seriously, seriously sketchy).
I was shocked and appalled, and while some of this woman's viewpoint would have been potentially useful on a panel, to be an individual with an agenda on a sensitive issue with unvetted programming?!?!?! -- WOW. Not Okay.
So what good came out of all of this for me personally:
- I have even more love and respect for my friends, especially having watched ones who don't want to have to be the educators on these issues do it anyway.
- I met some really cool new people.
- I did see people have ah-hah! moments.
- I did learn that there are actually large swathes of fandom that missed the RaceFail thing entirely, and so were just sort of getting caught up on how big the problems are.
- I did see the larger community of the con close ranks against fail when it happened.
- I feel more confident in the value of my being willing to talk about this stuff. I don't like falling on this grenade over and over again, but since no one expects me to be "nice" or "non-threatening" or "look the other way" I have more latitude to say what needs to be said.
- I have new frameworks for the discussion.
- Hey, the Carl Brandon society totally deserves my money.