What Use, a Blog?Posted: October 20, 2011
This is my first post here. I’ve been working mostly behind the scenes, helping Queer Kid’s Mom with the technical bits, reading avidly, commenting sporadically.
I’ve been hesitant to jump into the discussion with the same fervor as QKMom. Partly it is just because I have been surprisingly busy in the weeks since we launched this blog; partly because I’ve been a bit paralyzed by the what, how, and why of saying things in this forum.
Don’t get me wrong. I support this endeavor completely, and I love and respect QKMom all the more in the last few weeks because of the way that she has stepped up and supported our wonderful kid. But the question that has me blocked up is: what can I really do to improve my baby’s quality of life by posting on a blog?
Now I have an answer.
I think we have to acknowledge two truths:
- Compared to 10, 20, 30 years ago, life today is much better for queer kids and queer adults.
- We have a LONG way to go before life for queer persons is equitable, fair, morally acceptable.
Let’s not give in to pessimism. Gay marriage is a reality in multiple places in the world, including multiple states in the U.S. (Iowa!?!) and, by the way, Portugal, which happens to be one of our favorite European countries. It’s getting better all the time. Change is in the air. You can almost feel it.
But let’s not have rose-colored glasses cloud our vision. Bullying of queer kids is more and more in the public eye, and in some prominent cases, it has led to the worst possible outcome. I actually think the “increase” in bullying is a positive thing, but only because I think real rates of bullying aren’t actually increasing, but rather awareness and reporting have gone up.* Still, it is a real and pressing problem.
While where at it, let’s acknowledge a third important truth:
- While things are improving for queer teens and adults, queer children—prepubescent kids and preteens—are an almost invisible category.
The reaction of people to hearing that your 10-year old kid is gay is almost uniform (amongst all but those with firsthand experience)—disbelief that it is even possible. (On this, see QKMom’s very important post, How Do You Know for Sure?) I know: up until a few months ago, I didn’t actually believe that it was possible for a kid our daughter’s age to have a determinate sexual preference, to for certain be or know she is queer. (Topic for a later post: the difference between the claim that she is (or knows she is) for sure queer vs. is/knows she is for sure a lesbian.)
(2) and (3) are complicated problems, but two major aspects of the problem are cultural and epistemic. Cultural problems are of course extremely complicated. For example, the causes and reasons behind the cultural conflict between fundamentalist Christians and secularists and mainline Christians over the status of the theory of evolution by natural selection are almost certainly more complicated than most advocates on either side are willing to commit. Culture involves upbringing, habit, central stories, practices, rituals, etc. It is reflected in our language, in popular music, and in our most deep feelings about the sacred and the profane. Culture is like a giant boulder rolling down hill, always moving, always changing, and always open to influence, but also carrying great inertia, such that forces pressing against it may only seem to have a minute effect.
By epistemic I mean that the problem is also just a problem about what one knows; in the case of the lives of queer people, especially queer children, the missing knowledge is simply a lack of experience and awareness of the lives of the people in question. Heterosexual feelings and attitudes are near invisible because so are ubiquitous (due largely to cultural factors), so most of us may not even be aware of them in the environment and expression of small children. On the other hand, the experience of queer children is invisible because we don’t acknowledge it, it isn’t spoken, it goes unseen.
Some of these epistemic problems can be addressed by statistical data. (See Gay Sex Study Reveals Totally Normal Details at Feminist Philosophesr for an example.) But a lot of them can be addressed by simply making manifest the experience of a person or a family dealing with these things and doing the best they can. And we might even hope that despite great divides about cultural values, the more people know about the lives of actual people, the more that basic human sympathy and empathy will kick in and start to push on those cultural values from the inside.
This, for me, is why this blog is so important. This is a contribution I can make. Not the only contribution, perhaps, but an important and needful one.
* That’s of course an empirical claim that is up to the social scientists to settle. I think this is a really important issue that ought to be getting lots of attention right now in the relevant scientific fields.