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A Little Rant for Slash Fen
by Justine

Most days I forget. It's not a factor in my life. I'm an inveterate slasher, happily bisexual, living in my little liberal enclave with people who feel like they should apologize when they're not queer.

I mean, I used to get shoved up against lockers in high school, but that was ten years ago, and as much because I was an arrogant elitist as because I was an obvious dyke. And yeah, I left the Catholic Church, but that was as much because I was a woman as because I was bisexual.

As slashers, we think of homophobia as a trope, an issue of characterization, something which is or is not statistically likely given a character's background.  As people who have, for the most part, overcome
our own societal conditioning regarding homosexuality, we regard the homophobia as something that can be overcome, given enough exposure and education.

I actually think that's true. But when you start to believe that everyone around you is exposed and educated in the same way, you're setting yourself up for some pretty brutal disappointment.

In my day job, I work for a national weekly; we receive thousands of letters every week. One of my jobs is to format a certain number of these letters for publication. One of our issues was on a same-sex marriage decision made by a church in a small California town. Here's just one of these considered, sober responses:

"... If homosexuals want to marry, let them get another homosexual to marry them in some kind of ceremony that they devise, then go ahead and live together.  Choosing this life style for themselves should not permit them any special legal or civil rights as it is NOT the same as being born Black or Asian or handicapped.

They CHOSE this life style and need to know that IT and THEY are NOT normal and the Bible says so in many places, although they believe the Bible states otherwise.  Thank God my parents weren't homosexual or I wouldn't even be here to say this.  I really feel that they should keep their sexual preferences to themselves and I certainly don't want them teaching my children in school and most certainly don't want them teaching anyone that their behavior is OK and that it's an alternate life style.  It's abnormal behavior and should be treated as such."

Well, heck. I usually know spam when I see it, and I called my supervisor's attention to it.

She ran the letter.

I felt like I'd rammed my head into a wall.  On the one hand, I'm not in favor of censorship. Not hardly. I'm a writer. I consider the free production of text to be a sacred right.

On the other hand, there's no way that letter would have run in our respectable community publication if it had been written against any other group. So why let homophobia pass by? Why teach people the rhetoric of hate?

And yet, on the other hand (to quote Tevye the Dairyman), shouldn't people know that this kind of hurtful language is out there?  So that we're prepared, and educated?  So that we can point hate out to our friends and children and say, "this thing is unwise; this thing you must not do"?

I don't know.

My point in directing this to a community of slashers, however, is twofold. First, there are still stories to be written with this conflict. In this day and age, even. We need to write those stories and tell our truths.

There's a reason slash is still a subtextual exercise, remember?  It's because the exhibition of homosexual desire is still a taboo. It's because Mathew Shepard's funeral was attended by a crowd of people who believed in divine retribution, holding signs saying "Jesus hates fags."

Don't get too comfortable. Don't forget.

As we sit here with our mailing lists and our IRC chats and our fanzines, there's still a world out there that thinks we're perverts.  That the characters we write about are perverts. These are not just corporate executives and quirky ministers; they're people in our grocery store, people in our dentist's office, people
who don't want us in their community.

The act of writing slash is itself a feminist act and an act in favor of queer rights. We celebrate our own sexuality; we admire that of others. It's beautiful, it builds community, and it's a heck of a lot of fun.

But it's not enough.

Even if you don't consider yourself 'political', even if your politics are conservative, think of something you can do today to celebrate the breadth and width of sexuality, to honor love, and to imagine friendship. Write a letter, make a phone call, be an example, free a mind.

I meant to get all martial about this.  But in truth it's not as simple as us versus them.  It's our own structures versus ourselves. We're in a classroom, not on a battlefield. Let's just not take our bubbles of tolerance for granted -- let's expand them, as well, one person at a time.

I'm done now. Thanks.  

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