Just Satisfying My Curiosity Here…

EDIT: I have come to the conclusion that I just can’t do anything right anymore. I’m actually a disrespectful, pampered little git, and I just haven’t noticed it before. I’ll just start working on my flaws. In the meanwhile, feel free to read my whiny post below.

-K. Trian

Color me confused. So there we were, asking around for some tips and ideas on writing characters who are not Caucasian heterosexuals from a Scandinavian welfare country known for equality and individual freedom. The conversations were interesting, people exchanged ideas, opinions, and experiences. Smileys and thankyous galore. Plenty of food for thought.

Then bang! Out of nowhere a person equivalent to an internet deity turns up and shuts T. K. Trian up.

Stop satisfying your curiosity you manipulative assholes!

I’m staring blankly at the jumble of words that I’ve paraphrased above,  wondering whether the ghost of Stalin is haunting the interwebz.

Is this a good or a bad thing, to satisfy my curiosity? In that part of the web, I suppose so, but what about elsewhere? I find it’s a good thing. I find I’m not a manipulative asshole, or even a particularly bad person, if I take a uni class on New Literature/Diaspora literature, if I read the memoirs of an African-American female prisoner, the experiences of a British man in modern war, or that of a Finnish man in the Foreign Legion, or pick a novel by Yvonne Vera. Here I thought I was trying to understand where other people than me are coming from. Here I thought I had the right to learn and understand, and portray other stories too than those of a white, young, heterosexual female (provided I remain respectful).

Apparently not. Apparently I’m a peeping tom. I’m satisfying my curiosity, my sick, sick curiosity, drawing some freakish, disgusting pleasure from the experiences of non-white, non-female, non-hetero people. Oh, I have no business there! “Stick to your own business,” say the other white people from democratic societies with good jobs and social standing, “You are bothering the Others!”

Funny, so far every person who is not me has been quite happy to tell me about their life experiences, their culture, their thoughts, their lives even when they know they’re talking to an aspiring writer. When the proverbial white police steps in and tells me to take my curiosity elsewhere, I can’t help but wonder does it smell like the white man’s burden here?

Or maybe I just can’t do anything right anymore. I’m actually a disrespectful, pampered little git, and I just haven’t noticed it before.

Maybe all I deserve is to live in my comfortable, homogenous, pale-as-pancake bubble, keep my trap shut, and turn my back to diversity. Maybe I should write stories where all the characters are me. Young, skinny, white, well-to-do females?

I just thought I owed it to those who are not me, that I strive to understand them if I’m planning to write something else than a bunch of me’s. I would appreciate that myself. I would love it if someone wrote a Finnish girl like me, and asked me what it’s like, showed a desire to understand. And even if they got it a little wrong, even if the Finnish girl made a few grammar mistakes, drank a lot of vodka, and rode reindeer around a village of igloos, I’d still be happy that someone told my story from another point-of-view than my own. But maybe… is it just me?

-K. Trian

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5 thoughts on “Just Satisfying My Curiosity Here…

  1. if conspiracy nuts were to believed, the ghost of Stalin doesn’t truly exist… For it is Stalin himself!

    To be honest, after reading this, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were him. This sounds like a strange occurrence, indeed. I’m glad it never happened to me. I actually ask my friends a lot of questions – such as how it’s like being white, how it’s like to have colored eyes, etc.

    Just kidding. I don’t ask them what it’s like to have colored guys. xD

    In my opinion, it’s better to ask someone a question first before assuming something. It’s like if I assumed (broad example, not really realistic) that every African American were amazing at dancing and could sing beautifully. While not the worst of stereotypes, it’s still a stereotype. So. Before someone kidnaps an African American based on this and forces them to dance and sing for their entertainment, it’d be best to disprove this (if you were slightly ignorant of other races) by simply asking some other tolerant African American people if they can really do it.

    Like I said, not really a realistic example, but I have to wonder what was going through this person’s head when he/she went nuts about you satisfying your curiosity about the mystery.

  2. Hi, I’m pretty sure I was active on both the forum threads you’re talking about (I’m not stalking you, I swear! I popped over to check out your blog when you gave me rep points and saw this).

    I thought long and hard about responding, but I truly think your heart is in the right place on this so I wanted to let you know where I thought it went wrong. Because I have to admit, although I thought our discussion was good at first, I did agree with the person who shut you down. But I think you really didn’t mean to be offensive, so it’s probably useful to you to know *why* I agree with that person, and what went wrong.

    There’s a certain level of understanding assumed in QUILTBAG-friendly spaces (understanding about the context of oppression and what tropes are HUGELY problematic). I write a lot about marginalities and am active in many of these spaces, and a lot of time it’s assumed that all posters have “home training” (won’t be offensive to the people who live in this context daily) and an understanding of “101” (a U.S. term for a beginning college class, in this case used to mean an understanding of that basic marginalization context — e.g., “Racism 101” would mean understanding the basic existence and impacts of institutional racism). If people display a lack of “home training” by being offensive or are ignorant of 101 issues, most safe spaces will shut them down and ban them.

    The reason for this is simple. People who deal with marginalities deal with them *every minute.* It’s *exhausting.* Safe spaces such as a QUILTBAG board exist in large part to give people who deal with those marginalities a place to talk where they won’t keep running into the same. Offensive. Lines. Over. And Over. Again. Because it doesn’t matter — I repeat, it *doesn’t matter* — whether the offensive people MEAN to be offensive; the words are just as wearing if they are well-meaning as if they set out to be trolls. Most of us also don’t consider it our job to educate people — sometimes we explicitly choose to, as I’m doing here — but it’s considered very rude to expect a POC, QUILTBAG person, etc. to walk you through the basic context of a marginalizing society, i.e., to teach you all the 101 issues. Because, again, it gets *exhausting* to keep explaining it, and for people to keep not getting it, and then expecting you to explain it better, instead of going out and learning on their own.

    And you *can* learn on your own. If you find yourself in need of some “101” training, then *lurk.* Lurk and read and keep lurking and keep reading. Seek out public places online where people you want to understand hang out, and read what they say, and if you disagree, *don’t* jump in and tell them why, because you will get punted out of the space so fast you’ll get whiplash. Instead, keep reading and watching until you truly do start to see all the things in media that get us so mad all the time.

    I really don’t think you meant to be offensive. But your final posts on those threads did start to smack of “DO NOT WANT” types things that queer people have to face over and over again from people who don’t know any better. And T. Trian’s posts were HORRIBLY offensive. I don’t think you guys realize just how bad his posts were — I read them and boggled and got totally furious. From what you say, it doesn’t sound like he meant to be offensive — it was a matter of ignorance — but I beg you to do a lot of reading, and learn, and read, and learn, a LOT more before jumping into such discussions, in order to offset any ignorance.

    Again, you seem like nice people and I think you mean well. I TOTALLY applaud your efforts to write diversity; I think it’s incredibly important and I’m SO glad you want to. But I do urge you to read a lot more by QUILTBAG people before you do. Blogs are a great way to do that — lots of people blog about personal experiences (whenever I start writing a character with a different background from me, I go and read LOTS of blogs by lots of different people from that demographic, and sometimes I cringe when I realize I’ve unintentionally started to include something HORRIBLY OFFENSIVE! But that’s how you get better, and less offensive — you educate yourself).

    I apologize for going on so long in your comment thread. Since this comment gets a little personal, if you delete it after reading it that’s okay by me. But please consider what I’ve said. Maybe if you lurk in QUILTBAG spaces for a year and read what people are saying, you’ll be able to go back to your old posts and see why everyone spazzed out on you. I promise you, you stepped on some landmines there, and it doesn’t sound like you knew they were there. But you CAN educate yourself so that you see them next time. I wish you the best of luck!

    • Thank you. Especially for taking the time and interest to educate two ignorant nincompoops. I’m sorry for what T. Trian wrote, but we are not a hydra-like creature who has control over both heads. Glad you seem to see it too. On another note: Frustration leads to defensiveness, defensiveness to disaster. Sometimes you got to face that what you knew was nothing at all. I still maintain I’m not an asshole, but an ignorant girl from the northern backwoods, yes, but that’s no justification for stupid behavior. Got lot to learn. Besides, I have a nagging feeling there might be differences between international and Finnish discourses, but that’s no excuse for being an arse. T.K. Trian will keep a pause from participating in public discourse and merely lurk! I’ll treasure your patient comments. – K. Trian

    • Howdy, I’m the evil half of T. K. Trian. Just thought I’d share my take on the situation since my post was the catalyst in this case.

      There’s irony to all this because the bastard in question belongs to the QUILTBAG-community (IRL I mean, not the AW QUILTBAG-room). The situation wasn’t unlike a PoC being thrown out of a racial diversity party because he started discussing racism and asking questions about the racial identities of people like him.

      I understand the 101-thing and to a degree agree that when in Rome etc. Thing is, now that I think about it (and reread the guidelines to posting in the QUILTBAG-room and compared them to what I wrote there), I have to say I find the rules and regulations of AW’s QUILTBAG room (and consequently all of AW in this regard), well, let’s just say I now know the guidelines should’ve been a red flag and a clear sign AW is so not the place for me. But seeing as how what happened happened, here’s the why:
      My educated (yeah) guess is that the whole shebang is rooted in cultural variety. Where I live, taboos are considered a bad thing, something that need to be torn wide open in order to tear off the negative connotations from whatever the subject is.

      An example: here a guy can tell his friends that he’s a transgender homosexual and the reaction is “cool, wanna go for a beer?” No big deal. We did all go to a pub and talked about things we usually talk about because the notion of one of us being a transgender homosexual changed the group’s perception of him about as much as if he had dyed his hair a different color (which, too, has been known to happen and people were cool with that too, surprise surprise).

      I don’t really get why the hell would (should?) I go out of my way to make a spectacle out of the very thing that chains me to the “other”-tag? Pussyfooting around a thing like a person’s gender or sexuality only drives a wedge between the one person and the rest of the society he’s supposed to live in (preferably comfortably as himself, as he truly is which, I would imagine, would turn out quite difficult if everyone constantly treats him as something weird and abnormal).

      Or that’s how I and most people around me see it: a thing as natural as being a blonde or a brunette. Then again, the first question one of us asked a newbie (a girl had brought her new boyfriend to meet the rest of us for the first time) was if he had ever inserted an inanimate object into his ass. The funny thing is, the guy was as ordinary as they come, an upper middle-class heterosexual Caucasian male but he was game from the start and it was a great night because nobody started bitching about how so and so should be treated differently than the rest of the group (whether because they are new or have, say, a sexual orientation other than heterosexual). I would imagine it would have been quite a bit more awkward had I insisted on shining the spotlight on gender and sexuality issues when everyone just wanted to have a good time with good friends (see, there’s no “and that one transgender homosexual” after “good friends.” Is that weird? Not to me).

      Seemingly the fact that I act online pretty much like I do IRL means I’m… an undesirable person at AW. Again, I should have realized that from the get-go and left so in that sense all this is my bad. Then again, I really have no interest in circumlocuting every little thing (which I see as normal anyway) just so some other QUILTBAGger doesn’t take offense so as far as I’m concerned, they can go to hell and enjoy their politically correct circle jerk.

      The thread about writing a character struggling with his “transgenderism” started verging on the absurd (and I mean Monty Python-absurd) when one transgender individual started telling another how he should experience (and portray) his transgender identity, that there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to “be” a transgender individual. And here I thought we were all just that, individuals, and free to experience our “transgenderism” the way that feels good to us. I expect next an African American man will start telling another African American man how to portray an African American man in literature, that there are right and wrong ways to do it. Imagine a world (or a discussion board) where other people tell you how you should experience your own race, gender, or sexuality. Reeks an awful lot like totalitarianism albeit with a twist. Well, to me anyway since I suppose it’s still in the sphere of possibilities that some may find strict guidelines on how you should feel about your race/gender/sexuality, uh, liberating? Right.

      You know what’s funny? The fact that after writing down this post, the air in my living room suddenly smells fresher. Or should I say clearer? Thus I bid you good morning and a frolicsome end of 2012!

      -T. Trian

      PS. On that note: I don’t have a problem with having these posts here for all to see. If someone takes offense at something said or just has an opinion to offer, bring it.

      • I agree the Hell out of this one. I don’t think it’s polite to go, “Oh, you’re a black Jew? Want to go have a drink, or are you allowed to do that with a white person?”

        Very broad example, but you get the point. I think it’s more offensive if you constantly attempt to treat someone that’s already different even more differently by always asking, “Is that okay? Or…”

        So I agree with this comment very much.

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