Jan 10, 2010

The Sunday Salon - GLBTQ Mini-Challenge

The Sunday Salon.com glbtq January mini-challenge

My lovely friend Amanda at The Zen Leaf is hosting the second glbtq reading challenge, and she asked us to, during the month of January, answer the question "Why"? Why glbtq lit? Why this challenge? Why do we care? Why does it matter to us? I can't tell you how grateful I am for this mini-challenge, which result in a series of very powerful posts. Here's my own take on the topic:

When I sat at the computer to begin to write about this, I thought that nothing would be easier than to explain why glbtq rights matter to me. It seems so obvious, and yet for that very reason the only thing that comes to my mind is, "Well, because!" Because! Because it's unfair, unfair, UNFAIR. Because part of me can hardly believe that it's 2010 and we're still arguing about this; that homophobia is still considered socially acceptable. I hope that before too long it will become as unacceptable as racism - which isn't at all the same as disappearing, of course, and which brings with it a whole different set of problems. But still, I long for the day when people no longer argue about whether or not it's legitimate for about ten percent of the population to have equal rights, just because of the gender of the person they love.

lgbtq rights have been on the news a lot lately here, because gay marriage is on the verge of being legalized in my country (I'll believe it the day it happens, though). This, of course, means that certain sects are devoting every minute of their time to trying to stop it (do they ever sleep?), and that I constantly see or hear things that anger and upset me. One of the things that bothers me the most is how some people try to reduce homosexuality to a sexual quirk. They accuse people of all kinds of backgrounds and personalities, people they don't know AT ALL, of being "promiscuous", whatever that means. They equal gay marriage to trying to make the fact that they want to have "weird sex" respectable. They try to use an intimate part of people's lives to degrade them. They reduce them to nothing but their sexual lives.

This, for me, is where books come in. I was going to say that the first time I had a gay friend was when I was 18, but probably that's not true at all. That was the first time a friend opened up to me. But in my small Catholic town with no visible glbtq community, I bet many suffered in silence. Before that friend, however, there were books. That friend made it more personal, but because of books, glbtq rights were already something I deeply cared about.

I've seen people, even people I admire and respect, say that they dislike it when writers or artists specifically identity their work as glbtq, because it's like there's nothing else to it or to them; like they're solely defined by their sexuality. But the thing is, I think it's the opposite. We read lgbtq literature and see much, much more than just sexuality. We see people. We see real human beings. We are forced to confront the fact that a different sexual orientation doesn't turn people into Others, nor does it mean that there's nothing to their lives but sex. This seems so obvious, and yet...

So why glbtq literature? Because books promote empathy, and empathy is the enemy of prejudice.

27 comments:

  1. Amazing post! I get what you;re saying about 'because it's wrong', that's all I felt I had to say because I don't have any real personal connection to the issue, but y;know that's not an 'all' kind of thing to say it's the most important reason.

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  2. "We see people. We see real human beings."

    Your post gave me goosebumps. Thanks Ana.

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  3. I had no idea Portugal was on the verge of possibly legalizing gay marriage. That's wonderful news, although if you're not holding your breath, I won't either. I hope it passes soon. I imagine it'll be another 20 years or so before it goes through here. But 5 years ago I thought it would be 50, so maybe things are going faster than I realize.

    Thank you for your post, Ana.

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  4. Excellent post Nymeth! My own personal feelings are that GLBT literature is very important and deserves to be celebrated. As a mom of teens this feeling is even stronger. During my own adolescence I saw many friends battle their very being because of non-acceptance, now years later watching how the young adults are so accepting of one another feels so damn good! It really is wonderful to see my children being so accepting and loving of all their friends, and the support they offer when a friend "comes out" makes me feel so good about the changes in society.

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  5. I like that answer "Well, Because". It's so sad that there is so much prejudice in the world.

    I'm looking forward to reading everyone's reviews for this challenge :)

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  6. "Because books promote empathy, and empathy is the enemy of prejudice."

    I love this. Thank you.

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  7. Lovely post. This is of course something my country can be quite awful about - I'm glad yours is moving forward.

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  8. Thank you all for your comments/thoughts. I love that the book blogging world has been talking about this so openly lately.

    The gay marriage thing in my country: I think it's likely that the law will pass (though I'm cautious in my optimism), even thought its opponents are loud and fierce. But I'm pissed that the government included a clause specifying that gay marriage will NOT include adoption rights. It's like...you'll get married, same as straight couples, and you'll have the same rights, EXCEPT NOT. We must protect the children from teh geighs, after all A lot of people tell me, "well, baby steps", and yes, I know, but it's that they went out of their way to forbid it that gets to me. Especially when unmarried people can adopt. So, if a gay couple does get married, they are basically punished by having their right to adopt taken away from them.

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  9. I love this post. I admit, though, to being one of those people who worries about the glbtq label as a marketing function for writers because I think it closes off an audience. Part of what books do is help make us empathetic to experiences other than our own...some people who might otherwise read and respond to a work that dealt with glbtq issues if they simply were to pick it up and read it as general fiction might not touch it because of the label. Labels can be empowering, but they can also close down the discussion, and I hate to see that happen.

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  10. Priscilla, I definitely see your point. I wish artists and writers could talk about that facet of their work openly and identify with whatever label they wish, without that necessarily meaning they'll be assigned to the glbtq category alone, or - worse yet - moved to a special section of the bookshop. I think that's the status Sarah Waters has achieved, for example, but it doesn't happen for everyone, sadly :\

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  11. What a fantastic post. I feel in awe of all the wonderful posts that have been written about this.

    Personally, I just want the friends that I love to be treated exactly the same way as I am. I love them for who they are and do not see them as any different from anyone else. Everyone should be treated equally.

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  12. I agree with Priscilla's point, but I also think that widespread blogging about books helps creates more movement between sections in the bookstore/library, and this will help immensely. All of us can point to many books we read last year only because of blogger recommendations, and then we go and say to our friends, "read this!" and they say to their friends, etc. In short then, I think Amanda's challenge is a big step toward the realization of empathy and understanding.

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  13. I really like your last sentence: empathy is the enemy of prejudice.

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  14. What a great post Ana!! You know, your first reaction was the same reaction I had and I almost just wrote that and left it at that! Because! That's why! Just Because! Why shouldn't they have the same rights as us? Isn't it ridiculous really that we even have to ask ourselves this question. Aren't we all just humans wanting love? Who is one person to berate another for that? Thanks for this beautiful post :)

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  15. A great and powerful post, Nymeth!

    Because books promote empathy, and empathy is the enemy of prejudice. So true!!

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  16. Your last sentence says it all!!!

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  17. They try to use an intimate part of people's lives to degrade them. They reduce them to nothing but their sexual lives.

    So true, so true. Such a powerful post. And such a beautiful way to end it.

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  18. What a wonderful post. I think it's awful same-sex marriage isn't legal in countries and for Portugal...get married but you can't adopt? It really is one step at a time but it's all so awful. you wrote this beautifully though and I'm the same. It's all "because, it's not right!!" It just isn't. I love this challenge.

    -Lauren

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  19. Thank you so much for your thoughts, everyone.

    Jill - I hope we're making a difference! I do think books have that power and I can't thank Amanda enough for hosting this challenge.

    Lauren: I'll be happy if the law is passed because the right to get married is better than no rights, but it really upsets me that gay couples will still be treated as second class citizens :\

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  20. For me, this issue is too close to home. I agree with what you said, Ana. Gay people are people too and they deserve all the respect.

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  21. awesome post, thank you, thank you. I'm not sure what I am but it's sure as heck not "straight as an arrow" and I'm proud of my queerness. I'm also happy to live my life just like anyone else, without making a big deal about it... but sometimes, a 'big deal' must be made. I can't believe I live in freaking CALIFORNIA in the Bay Area, and gay marriage is still up for discussion. Unbelievable.

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  22. You can't hear me, but I'm applauding right now. I'm proud to say that I live in a country that has already legalized same-gender marriage, and I hope you can soon say the same. Even though you're not holding your breath on it, I'm glad to hear that the issue has at least come up for some serious discussion in Portugal.

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  23. Excellent post! I agree that while I don't think homophobia will disappear altogether, I look for the day when it will be as unacceptable as racism. And I believe that *will* happen -- it's just a matter of time.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.