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Positions make perspective

Positions make perspective

A wise theatre artist friend of mine once said of the creative process, “It takes multiple positions to achieve perspective.” A reference to Renaissance-era forced perspective drawing (ask your art school friends), in this case it was a model for collaboration, the idea that multiple people’s ideas must be considered in the artistic process to achieve a solid product. I’ve been thinking a lot about this in the last year in reference to the way our community engages in dialogue.
 
Two incidents in particular spring to mind: Elisha’s Lim’s issue with Xtra’s refusal to use the gender-neutral pronoun “they” in an article, and Lexi Tronic’s confrontation with editor Danny Glenwright over his publishing her birth first name on Facebook. Both situations ignited verbal warfare, pitting Xtra against the trans community and its allies. Despite the valuable dialogue that resulted, both situations point to a profound problem. Not so much for what was said, but for what wasn’t.
 
I was the writer in Lim’s case and I found it fascinating (and unfortunately telling) that during the whole saga, not one single member of the queer community ever thought to ask me about my perspective or my experience in the situation. I would hazard no one even considered that I had an experience or that my version of the facts might differ from Lim’s. I’ve never spoken publicly about this, partly because I respect Lim and wanted to focus on promoting their work and partly because I didn’t want to appear petty. But in the wake of the Glenwright/Tronic conflict I realize I had another reason for holding back. I was afraid.
 
I followed Tronic’s case closely, talking with my trans friends about it, a number of whom disagreed with her stance (one went so far as to call her actions a cheap publicity stunt). I thought an alternate take on the subject might be interesting, but none of them were willing to speak on the record. One literally laughed out loud at my obvious ignorance. Contradicting the dominant ethos of the community would not only damage their reputation, they said, but also open them to attack and endanger their career.
 
Whether or not their speaking up would have these results, this points to something deeply troubling. We’ve had extensive dialogue around censorship in the last two years (in the wake of the Pride Toronto debacle) and ongoing conversations about diversity. But if people don’t feel safe to disagree with the dominant cultural discourse, we’ve failed on both counts. Censorship can be explicit (as in the government throwing you in jail). But it can also be implicit (when people feel afraid to express their opinions for fear of being ostracized). Diversity means welcoming not just different kinds of people, but considering different ideas, ideologies and politics. One of our fundamental strengths is our diversity. If diversity of opinion is silenced, the greatest weapon in our arsenal is left to rust in the shed.
 
So here’s my challenge to the queer community: the next time a story appears in the media that confirms your existing beliefs about the world or a particular institution, don’t immediately accept it as truth. Talk to someone who disagrees with you and try to legitimately consider the other side. More often than not you’ll find your first instincts were right all along. But perhaps, every once in a while, you’ll see things in a new and unexpected way. Building and sustaining our community is like a huge collaborative art project in certain ways. Only if all our different positions are considered can we achieve true perspective.
 
 
  
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Comments

LGBT is a LIE
The only answer to these endless fights is to admit a mistake and correct it. LGBT is a LIE. Gay men and lesbians are two groups with homosexuality in common. Trans and bis and pans and post-labels are Queer and their issues are to make life horrible for everyone who is not them in revenge for victimhood self-status. Jettison the plods and let queer wallow in its own juvenilia. btw to the person above, Queer IS Dogma! Unorthodoxy becomes orthodox when it is codified as a cult.
Here we go again
Chris, you are right on and I give you credit for even trying to have a dialogue with the activist trans/queer professional victims.

It's impossible to get them down off the cross to even get a word in edge wise.

They seems to delight in contorting in every direction to create these phoney controversies for attention.

Now I can sit back and watch the "privileged cis male" nonsense posts begin.
Something's Fishy...
There's something weird going on here. You say "my version of the facts might differ from Lim's". That kind of implies the other person is lying. Is that what you are saying? If so out with it.
But what about MEEEEEEEEEE???!!!!
This entire article is ridiculous. It doesn't matter what YOUR experiences are. If someone is offended, apologize, and learn the lesson. The end.

Why is that so hard?
re: Your perspective or experience
So, did you explain your reasons for refusing to use "they"? When you said that no one had asked for your perspective, I sort of expected that you were leading into such an explanation. Maybe you wrote about it previously? If so, I'd like to read it.
Take responsibility
As much as I'd like to agree with the points made in this article for this to be in response to the recent debacle is so far from what is needed. You make a good point that the people need to be open to seeing both sides of an issue, that people should not be afraid to share their opinions, that this helps with understanding and coming to a conclusion (hopefully positive). However, Xtra has still not released an apology for what happened with Elisha Lim and Lexi Tronic. If you make a mistake, which you did, what you should do is apologize and do what you can to rectify the situation - not argue about your perspective. In this situation, you had the privilege. You could have changed the pronoun and didn't. It's time to just take responsibility for what happened, apologize and learn from it. It's great that you want everyone to get along to build a stronger, sustainable community but we can't do that when people who are in powerful positions, like journalists and editors for newspapers, cannot accept their faults and use their position to promote acceptance of the people in their queer community.
Enough already
Wah wah, Xtra! How many times am I going to hear Xtra's defensive and woe-is-us BS (seriously, "I have friends that are trans!", come on). You didn't know what you were doing in the first place and regardless of the people you're interviewing (who, I grant you, are probably in the wrong about some things) you didn't use the basic kind of respect you could have - and you probably wouldn't have if it had been other transgender artists. You didn't do the respectful thing, you aren't doing it now. I am so done with how juvenile and mishandled this whole thing has been. Grow up, apologize, learn from it (if you can, the panel has suggested otherwise) and try to become better people instead of whiny fucking babies.
Public opinion has consequences
Indeed more than one perspective will give you more complete knowledge on something, but in the case of trans issues, the rest of the world is giving us the other side of the equation. It would be nice if just one source would step up and respect trans folks pronoun preferences and their right to privacy.

Also free speech is important, but if you start talking about denying peoples rights within their community, there is going to be outcry. That is part of free speech. What we say in public, especially in print, will always have consequences, whether they are good or bad.
Re: Positions Make Perspective
Very thoughtful and well written article. I agree that we should not
fear open dialogue around varying perspectives in the queer community, preferably taking time to consider both sides of any argument, and we should not be shaming people for having a viewpoint that isn't completely in line with our own. Doing so reeks of the very dogma the queer community seemingly tries to avoid.
Minority Opinion
I was silenced for criticizing the Canadians for Equal Marriage campaign about their transphopic practices. Given that Xtra banners itself as "Gay and Lesbian News" and doesn't have a Trans policy I have a feeling of why bother raising the issue. Glad for you Chris that you are on the inside. I'll always be on the "out"-side.

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