My subject for this post (hopefully more a discussion than a rant) is competition between people who claim, or aim, to represent whole communities. I’m talking specifically about competition amongst bloggers or social groups to be the definitive ‘voice’ of their demographic. Like if I claimed to represent all femmes and set myself up in competition with every other blogger writing about femme life or issues. I’m not doing this, because: a) I really wouldn’t want that responsibility or pressure b) I’d have to significantly up my game to try and represent a group that is in itself so diverse, and due to this c) it would seem downright ridiculous, not to mention arrogant, of me to try.
The reason I take issue with this kind of competition where I’ve seen it exist within LGB social events and media is because working against each other and polarising is not practising what we preach, or embracing what we perpetually fight for: equality and diversity. The paradox of unity and ‘standing as one’ is that we risk losing the diversity within. Which is why we call ourselves a community – a collective of many individuals, which should celebrate many voices. It’s many voices that have power – it takes many voices to stand up for injustice, for example. Working together, yes, but as individuals rather than a homogeny, which is what we’ve fought against being seen as.
When LGB competition rears it’s head, it’s like staking claim to part of the rainbow in a political or ideological coup. In the name of equality we wrestle this part as ‘our’ own, but then replicate stereotypical patterns in trying to have one, or few voices. It all seems a bit Animal Farm.
No one has put journalists, bloggers, or event organisers in a position of power or glory. We’ve just chosen to find a public outlet for our musings, interests or motivations. I’m not denying that a bit of ego comes into play. We all have one and all want to be heard in some way, whether publicly or privately; by word, action or indirectly. But this isn’t just about art, it’s about life, and I believe our own voices are heard and responded to better in discussion than monologue. Of course competition can be good when it increases choice and quality, but even with LGB businesses (events, venues, dating sites, services etc), partnership, cross promotion or just mutual support is mutually beneficial, as the target market is relatively small and interlinked. So I think we can afford to be a bit more generous with our words and our promotion. To be fair, there are a lot of bloggers and organisers who are, and in my own experience, I’ve gained so much for being entertained or made to think by them than I would’ve done just spouting out my own thoughts. In being mutually supportive, I do feel like I’m in an online community with diverse voices.
Icons obviously hold great power and influence but it’s the people we can relate to that can have the most impact. We can’t all be a Harvey Milk or an Ellen Degeneres, changing the landscape, or a Claire Balding or Gareth Thomas, influencing public opinion and culture through who we are. But the power that all of us have is to engage with others. Through being open about who we are and coming together as diverse voices, we can normalise being gay (any way) and (hopefully) make it that bit easier for the one or many people looking to find their own voice.