Queer Identity and Blogging as an Art Form

In response to yesterday’s post, Jenna left a very thoughtful comment.

Just because someone doesn’t blog solely about LGBTQ issues doesn’t mean you’re the only LGBTQ blogger in Western PA (or Eastern Ohio, where I now live). Lots of us use our social media streams as great forms of sharing and connecting. Many of us write for LGBTQ sites or in other places. Sometimes blogs are blogs, an art form of life without a specific niche.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit and I wanted to flesh out my larger goal in the context of her excellent points.

First let me state that I love how people use social media to educate, share and promote LGBTQ issues. I think that is absolutely essential and the engagement that’s inherent to social media is something a blog cannot replicate. As an avid user of social media, I agree it can be a form of microblogging and chronicling the experiences of queer people. It is also often first person narrative that is absent from most discussions.

But while it is certainly not a “lesser than” tool, it is a different tool than blogging. Bloggers often mistake social media as simple tools of self-promotion by pushing out their posts (and contests and giveaways, etc.) That’s a fatal flaw on our part.

I personally view my use of social media differently than my use of blogging. They are complementary, but not the same. Sometimes I have to really sit and think about which media is the best for my goal – live tweeting versus live blogging? Photos on Instagram? Often times live tweeting coupled with a follow up summary blog post works best. Sometimes live blogging with an occasional tweet is more effective. The most common element is that I am using all of these tools to create a narrative.

All of this suggests that I am using tools to create and spin my narrative – a craft rather than an art form.  This is where I might be overthinking things. But I suspect there’s something to this question that’s important.

pittsburgh pride
Do we hide under our identity? Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As to her statement that blogging solely about LGBTQ issues is a condition to be a LGBTQ blogger – fair enough. I actually agree with her – I most definitely do not blog solely about those topics (and she admits she’s a new reader so I wouldn’t expect her to know that – yet.) In fact, I often say that it is blogging AS a lesbian rather than ABOUT lesbian topics that is the radical political action. Everything about my blog is political because it is shared from the vantage of someone who lives openly as a LGBTQ person. That’s doesn’t make it inherently interesting (ha!) but it is something unique.

I also agree that LGBTQ people blog about all sorts of things. That is still a queer act and also incredibly important.

Where I don’t agree is that idea that a blog written by a LGBTQ person is not a LGBTQ blog. I think this starts to veer into the element of identity and the concept of being “quietly LGBTQ.” In the words of Apple CEO Tim Cook who recently came out ” While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now.”

That’s a pretty fine line, one buffered by the privilege of being a wealthy, white man with considerable talent & skill highly valued by the marketplace. Strip away that privilege and the risk of publicly acknowledging one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is considerable heightened.

I see this play out in social media and blogging in two ways. First, there are those who use pseudonyms and the cloak of anonymity to share information & engage. I think Twitter lends itself more easily to this approach than blogging which leaves a more permanent cyber footprint, especially if someone is digging for that information.

The second way are folks who like Tim Cook live their lives without publicly acknowledging their identity. They might blog about cooking, books, or sports. It is impossible to say their work is not queer because it is filtered through their actual identity, quietly closeted or not, as a queer person.

What does any of this have to do with blogging as an art form?

It is only Day Two – so I’m unsure.

I can say that there’s no hierarchy of authenticity as a blogger. I’m not more authentic because I use my real name and openly claim my queer identity. My story or vantage isn’t more important or more relevant or accurate. In fact, I am more likely to be pigeonholed as “the lesbian blogger” even if I’m writing a restaurant review. On the other hand, I think how a lesbian couple is treated in a restaurant is an important factor for a review.

Art forms are often defined by convention, not personal preference. So in order for queer blogging to be considered an art form, it will require more people to openly contribute.

Art forms are also defined as creativity and self-expression, something that doesn’t require full-disclosure. Lots of people have created amazing works of art without using their legal name or discussing their personal lives. The distinction is that MOST of those people have been white cis heterosexual men or at least presented themselves that way.

I’m not sure that social media and blogging as a queer person can avoid the niche of the queer prism. The voices of millions of quietly queer people ARE important and if we encounter them in book blogs and cooking chats on twitter, they matter – they change the landscape. I think the practice of separating one’s queer identity from one’s publicly lived life is artificial. It is always colored by the social and political realities around them as well as their degree of privilege.

I did ask Jenna for some links to the people she was referencing because I’d love to support their efforts by reading their work. That’s where the engagement comes into play.

So perhaps an ancillary question is whether identity is part of the essence of the art of blogging. Something to consider as the month unfolds. Thanks to Jenna for sharing her thoughts. It has been a helpful point to consider.

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