I abhor conflict. As a school teacher I had to mediate on 7yr old name calling. I sometimes look at our m/m community and wonder if life is any different? Our whole world seems mired in conflict which is at least tiresome and at worst quite scary. Politics should be about public service and management but instead it comes across as one of the most divisive elements of our modern world. Bring that right down to the level of our little community and political divisiveness plays just as big a role in fuelling the melodramas which demean us on a regular basis.
I for one have had enough and I sincerely hope that I’m not alone in detesting the regular dramas which beset the m/m community. This last weekend we had yet another example of it and I, one of the least aggressive people you could meet, found myself moved to anger. It was not anger at the event, but at the drama stirred up by people who were not actually there. I like to think of myself always as the voice of reason in any given conflict and so I am unable to sit on my hands any longer.
We are all principled and opinionated people in our own way. We’re entitled to our opinions but when they conflict with the guiding principles which we espouse to, we need to self edit.
Equality is equality. Equality is about rights and responsibilities, it is about fairness and equity, it is about empathy and respect. Equality is not a buffet from which we can choose the bits we like. The only exception to equality for all is when laws are broken and others are harmed. Apart from that, equality must be applied equally to all people and that includes porn stars.
Ooops. Did I hit a nerve? Let me make my position crystal clear. I worry a lot about the fetishising of gay men within the community. I have not however seen that happen at any convention yet. The presence of porn stars will undoubtedly be a draw for many people. In the case of this year’s Shimmer event I almost withdrew because of the way a certain porn star attendee was being promoted. I am glad I didn’t because the young man in question was a writer himself, utterly charming, interacted with other writers on their level and also delivered a memorable panel and reading from his work. Feedback from this weekend’s event seems to be very similar with nothing but praise for the gentlemen porn stars in attendance. My point is that if we believe in equality, we cannot deny them, nor should we.
Some state that they are uncomfortable at the idea of porn stars, clothed or otherwise. I am uncomfortable about the principle but I accept it as a part of this life. I am dismayed when the men distract people from the books. Some of the ladies fawn over them while others run away. Has anyone considered anything as basic as the gay men in the community feeling threatened when hot, sexy guys are put on display and make us feel like 2nd class men in a world which already finds ways to tell us that every day?
Our discomfort however must come second to their equal rights. How you trot through life will be measured by how you handle yourself and in particular how you choose to respond to the difficult choices. If you choose to challenge the equal rights of others to share the same air as you, then you have destroyed your own equal rights credibility. I have personally been fighting for equal rights since before some of you were potty trained. Not gay rights, but equal rights. I am profoundly dismayed when I see other minority groups fighting for their own rights while retaining the right to be homophobic, misogynistic or racist. There is only one race on this planet and that is the human race. Human rights outrank all others and if we could get that right, then equality would cascade down through all levels to the smallest minorities. Fighting for the little things makes us appear self-centred. As for those things which make us uncomfortable then we must learn to live and let live. Develop an inner resilience and save ourselves from the stress of protest.
When it comes to the community dramas, we need to keep our own houses in order. True debate must be based on fact and evidence. For that reason, if you were not there, then anything you say is gossip and speculation which helps no righteous cause.
Of course this brings me to the matter of the alleged sexual assault. My view, to be clear, is that rape is rape and attempted rape is no different! This is where legal proceedings separate the matter from the equality debate and nobody has any right to discuss the matter unless they are prepared to sign a first hand witness statement. The disgraceful victim blame and ‘slut shaming’ which we witnessed from people who were not there was utterly disgusting!
But do we then ignore it? Absolutely not! All convention attendees have a right to gather in a safe place and that must be the responsibility of the organisers. This incident was shocking to us because it was close to home but the behaviour is not a new phenomenon. The statistics regarding sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape, from large scale conventions is staggering. I am a convention organiser so I am in no way passing the buck when I say that safety must be a part of any planning considerations.
I believe that the type of safety we are looking at if fundamentally a matter of scale. The UK Meet and Eurocon are restricted in size for various reasons but one of the benefits is that the ratio of organizers to attendees is really good. This ensures that nobody is isolated and everyone is looking out for everyone else. The possibility of any non consensual behaviour is therefore drastically reduced. Larger conventions are far less personal because of this ratio of staff to delegates and this must be addressed. If this means bringing in professional security staff then so be it. Yes there will be a cost consideration but reality cannot be ignored and unfortunately safety costs.
By now I am sure that some of you are nodding sagely in agreement, while others are reaching for the blood pressure tablets! So what was my point in all this?
Equality is equality for all without exception.
You’re uncomfortable? Thats your problem so deal with it. Live and let live.
Gossip is demeaning and says more about the gossiper than those gossipped about.
If you wish to plant your flag on the moral high ground, then make sure that it is grounded in the highest and most selfless moral values.
Live and let live. Help but never harm. Love and be loved.