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16 August 2011 @ 05:31 pm
Transparency, Intersection and Privilege  
Full transparency time.

Although I've undertaken a fairly ambitious project deconstructing narratives of psi in SF, I am one person, with one set of life experiences. I cannot possibly speak for those with other life experiences.

I'm starting from scratch with this whole project -- to my knowledge, nothing like it has been done before. There has been no attempt, to my knowledge, to respond to the problematic narratives about psi in SF with attention paid to the intersection with other problematic narratives about race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, etc.

I am just one person. While I know psi people (and people with these or similar experiences who use a different word to describe themselves) from a variety of racial, ethnic, national backgrounds, none of those people are willing/able/inclined to publicly post about this subject. Everyone has his or her own reasons, and I'm not judging anyone for that choice.

Ideally, as I see it, this whole project would be a multicultural collaborative, one that is very transparent about the intersection issues with gender (assigned and lived), race, class, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity, religion (oh, religion) and disability. Actual psi people have all those identities, too, and more, unlike the two-dimensional presentations of us in SF. Over the years, I have had some of the most powerful and meaningful and enriching conversations of my life with other psi folks about intersection issues. There really is So Much To Learn.

With respect to this project, which I have been pitching for over a year, I get folks telling me, "I'm so glad you're doing this, I'm so happy someone is out there advocating for our voices, thank you for being willing to talk about this, YOU'RE SO BRAVE -- maybe some day I'll be able to join this publicly." And then they hang back and watch. On one hand they don't want me "speaking for" them, but on the other, they're not going to publicly join in this conversation until they see me posting about this subject for a while, that the sky hasn't fallen, and that some people care, and then over time some may come to realize, "Hey, I have something to contribute. I can take a risk and say something; my voice has value here."

This takes time to develop. Everyone moves at their own pace. My own journey to this point started over six years ago. I didn't just wake up and say hey, I'll start this website and post some stuff!

For years, I have been trying to encourage folks I know to add their voices to the conversation in one way or another. Again, I'm not judging anyone. Everyone has their reasons for wanting or not wanting to discuss a subject publicly -- some people are very private, some would rather hang back and see where it goes, some don't yet know what they would contribute to the conversation, some simply do not have the "spoons." Most of these people have gotten A Lot Of Sh*t for even talking about it privately. (And well, I have too.) There's a lot to unlearn, and to re-learn.

But while it remains the case that I'm still the only one taking this public, the issues of representation in the Critical Psi Theory conversation remain striking. I am one person with one background. I have privileges, too. This puts me in a very difficult place; I cannot speak for all psi people, either in terms of psi itself (which is a very diverse "umbrella" category for many very different and possibly unrelated experiences), as well as in terms of everything else that makes a person. I am one very privileged person (I'm an attorney!) speaking for/on behalf of a lot of people who do not have the privileges I have. (Which is a hard enough issue to work through in the practice of law, when one practices in the Public Interest like I do, and mostly works directly or indirectly on behalf of the indigent. I think about this issue very frequently.)

And in this project, these issues make me very uncomfortable, as they should. Even when others have given me permission to talk about what they've told me (keeping their names private), it's still coming through me, through my voice. (And how does some skeptic reader know I didn't just make it all up?)

I can share with the Internet my own thoughts about the intersection of psi with other identities, and I can share with you my own intersecting experiences, but there are stories I cannot share because they are not mine, or they are not mine to tell.

I also cannot avoid talking about the intersection issues, because they are very deeply relevant to the narratives I am deconstructing. I cannot avoid talking about issues of disability, even though I am not disabled, because disability is so deeply a part of so many problematic narratives about psi. I cannot avoid discussions of race and gender, because psi is used explicitly as a metaphor for race in many stories, and presentations of psi are often extremely and explicitly gendered. I can't avoid talking about sexual orientation, because psi is sometimes used explicitly as a metaphor for that, too. I can't avoid talking about history, when in works of SF, psi people are subjected to oppression which is explicitly modeled on real world oppression faced by people of color and other minorities.

In order to tell the full story of why psi narratives are busted, I have to talk about segregation, and Indian boarding schools, and the Holocaust, and being "disappeared" by the government, and even rape -- and other things I did not personally live through -- because these are part of the problematic narratives of psi in SF.

What is needed is a broad-based response from people of different backgrounds. I can't do that on my own. So as long as I am doing it on my own, there will be very important pieces missing.

I'll do my best to highlight where those pieces are, but I cannot write them. I can only write about them.
 
 
Current Mood: accomplished
 
 
 
Ada Hoffmannada_hoffmann on August 27th, 2011 01:31 am (UTC)
I'm sorry I didn't comment on this earlier, Dash. I've been on vacation and I'm only just catching up with LJ now.

I think it's an excellent post. This is one of the big reasons why posting this stuff publicly can make a difference.
Dashspacehawk on August 27th, 2011 03:59 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I hope posting about this can make a difference, that's the plan!