Ethical community.

“We do not want to be hated for who we are, where we come from, and what we do.” — A prominent queer femme activist.

Wait. You don’t want to be hated for what you do? There seems to be an underlying assumption here that “we” only includes the honorable ones, the ones who are out there fighting the good queer fight, challenging outdated and oppressive assumptions, defending the most vulnerable and disenfranchised among us — and, moreover, spreading kindness and charity along the way.

But the queer community, like any other, is made up of good, bad, and — mostly, if we’re honest — complicated characters. I don’t think we should hate each other for instances of bad behavior, but I certainly think we should be discerning and explicit about what we expect from one another. No matter how talented and devoted an activist, no matter how brilliant a social commentator, no matter how attractive or intelligent a person, people — femmes and feminists included — fail.

And when “what we do” just isn’t right — when a person spouts racist invective or unexamined class assumptions, or is emotionally or physically abusive, or crosses sexual boundaries, or acts in ways that fly in the face of common sense and shared values — then I would argue that it is the right and the obligation of the community to hold our own accountable.

I don’t think of community as a group of people behaving as they please with mutual agreement not to judge or even react to unethical or destructive acts. I envision community as a dynamic, diverse network of people who are deeply committed to interrelated goals and who rely on one another to encourage and — if necessary — enforce behavior that leads us towards those goals.

We have to build trust if we want to build solidarity.

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2 Responses to “Ethical community.”

  1. knowledge Says:

    Very well said. And to add, no one wants to be hated or looked down upon because of the feelings and attitudes of a subset of society, regardless of whether that subsection is a minority or a majority. Judgment from within does little to build trust, and we instead see bridges burned and deep seated separation begins to form. It does not promote growth, change or the change to really come together as one. I enjoyed reading your perspective on this.

  2. Sebastian Says:

    I’m also surprised by the lack of accountability in my activist circles. My personal philosophy is that constructive criticism is an act of love, but many people I know are so afraid of conflict that they let terrible things happen around them without ever speaking up.

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