I’m nine months into my artistic residency and four full months into the #AMPLIFY project, at least the publication phase. Seems like a good time to do some reflecting. If I were going to put up a sculpture to describe my life this year, it would be #AMPLIFY. It would be a beautiful reclaimed wood sculpture. With the hashtag.
My best summary? ‘Wow’
Wow to the fact that more than 65 people have completed the Q&A to share their stories and that over 60% of them are people whom I did not actually know.
Wow to the fact that I’ve paid closer attention to Western PA geography than ever before in my life (I’ve lived here 34 out of my 44 years.) Our project includes 26 counties and we have heard from 14 so far.
Wow to the fact that people who think the Q&A is too time consuming are the people who have other venues to tell their stories, such as being quoted in mainstream media or on their own blogs. I get it, I do. But to a person, the people who make jokes, point out or actually complain about the length of the Q&A have that privilege to be amplified elsewhere. I know because I’m the one who hears the jokes and complaints 🙂 That’s a facet of privilege that people don’t think about.
Wow to the fact that there is so much data and information shared that I have to consult with some social scientists, historians and storytellers about the next steps to curate this information. We are postponing the publication of the zines until we have a better handle on this critical step.
Wow to the fact of how much effort it takes to persuade someone who their voice matters. And the tsunami of wisdom that comes rolling forth when they start sharing.
Other interesting facts from my preliminary assessment.
- Ellen DeGeneres is far and away the most oft cited response to this question “Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature” – more than 25% of the respondents mentioned her.
- A significant number of participants are talking about poverty, racial justice and homelessness in their responses.
- Almost every participants states that they stay abreast of LGBTQ news & information via social media and the internet, with a significant explicitly mentioning Facebook. This is something that I will be exploring in more detail because it is very relevant to the next issue.
- At least 30% of the respondents did not identify a single regional LGBTQ resource. They didn’t skip the question; they wrote “none” or “I don’t know” or some variant. Do you see a potential connection with the use of Facebook by community groups and organizations?
To wrap up my post, I want to share a slide I developed when we had 50 published responses (we now are nearer to 60.)
The question about identity is open-ended so it has been really interesting to read the responses. Some people simply use a term related to sexual orientation and/or gender identity, but others provide very robust descriptors including everything from their religious beliefs to their ethnic identity and beyond. And you can see from the data in the chart that some people identify across more than one identity. For example, someone wrote that they identify as bi, but sometimes use queer. Another person described themselves as bi-gendered while another used bi-queer.
We’ll need to explore this in more detail, but I think it is fair to say that allowing people to describe their identity in their own terms is a powerful tool to engage our community. And engaging people is a necessary component to understanding who we are collectively. There’s a type of unity that comes from listening to one another that is very different from the unity of a label or term.
My life has changed? Well, yes. I have the pleasure of reading the responses and having all sorts of lovely side conversations with the participants. And the readers. That level of engagement has enriched my understanding of my own community and myself. It is an honor that people trust this blog with their stories.