I Just Have a Lot of Reasons
Yesterday morning, I woke up to the delightful surprise of reaching over 500 likes on the Facebook page for I Just Have a Lot of Feelings. And in honor of this milestone, I wanted to talk a bit more about why it is important for me to write, and why I write about the things about which I write.
A couple of days ago, I was watching YouTube videos by Mitchell and Gregory of ASAP Science and, as usual, I fearfully scrolled down to the comment section. I say “fearfully” because reading the comments on articles or videos I like is usually a quick reminder of all the vile things humans think of one another. This isn’t to say all of the comments are horrible and mean, but the ones that are usually stand out the most. A lot of the crap content creators get is just illiterate nonsense spewed in the most aggressive prose but, sadly, some of it can be pretty articulate and seemingly reasonable, but none the less bigoted. I believe that freedom of speech is incredibly important, and it does mean that people should be allowed to speak freely about whatever topic they choose. But that does not necessarily imply that every single thought one has is a valid point worth voicing. What saddens me the most is that our culture of immediacy and succinctness entertains the idea that one’s knee-jerk reaction is an acceptable response to a researched and detailed argument.
So, back to ASAP Science. The channel features videos by two scientists who aim to give their viewers “a weekly dose of fun and interesting science.” I haven’t watched all of their videos but I definitely wouldn’t qualify their content as LGBT. [Side note: Even on their second channel, ASAP Thought —which touches more on social issues related to science— they address a vast range of topics that go far beyond gender and sexuality.] It just so happens, however, that Mitchell and Gregory have been in a relationship for over seven years and decided to make a video about being LGBT scientists and the amount of negativity they get for being “too feminine”, “too gay”, etc. What was particularly on point in their video was their interpretation of homophobia as yet another sign of misogyny in the scientific community. In the comment section, the following exchange took place:
Commenter #1: “Why does this need to be a thing, I don’t understand why people need to adress others about their sexuality, I’m not running around telling people I’m straight, nor has anyone ever asked me, so why shouldn’t the same rules apply to homosexuals. […]”
Commenter #2: “Couldn’t agree more. If lgbtiq people want to have equality in society, why do they make such a big deal about it? No-one ever “comes out” as straight, so why should lgbtiq people? It kinda annoys me that they tend to make a big fuss about it, like omg im gay wow ive been through so much etc…. Not trying to be mean, but no-one makes a fuss about being straight, so why should they make a fuss about being lgbtiq? Just saying.”
First of all, the reason no-one makes a fuss about being straight is because heterosexual people are considered by everyone as normal functioning elements of society. Second of all, the reason LGBTIQ people make such a fuss about being LGBTIQ is that they are still regarded by a large portion of society as deviants. So, sorry that people who are under-represented in a field feel the need to let members of their community know that you can be successful at what you like even when you’re not considered by the rest of society as fit. There are still 29 States where you can legally be fired from your job just for being LGBTI, and the suicide rate among LGBTIQ youth is still incredibly high in the US, so, yeah, I guess straight people don’t really need to “make a fuss” about their sexual orientation because their being openly heterosexual does not represent any danger to their livelihood.
When I was a kid, I didn’t think being attracted to other boys was wrong or dirty or anything like that, but most people talked about homosexuals in a way that made me think: “Wow, I don’t want anyone to talk about me that way.” For a while I considered not coming out, thinking that would make things easier —especially because I did feel attracted to girls in my school— but that was before I realized people were going to call me a faggot anyway. My being effeminate and liking “girl things” were always going to feed homophobic stereotypes. What I finally understood when I decided to come out was that existing as an openly queer person in a very heterosexual society forces straight people to deal with their prejudice, while giving in to the bullies just validates it. I understand and respect anyone’s decision not to come out, because it can be the only way for them to survive, but I’m glad more and more people have decided to inspire others to be who they are. Considering how difficult it is for women and LGBT individuals to be taken seriously in science, engineering and tech, I understand why the guys of ASAP Science made it a point to affirm their identity as gay scientists. Add to that the challenges faced by people of color, and you have enough reasons to find representation indispensable to success.
Since September, I’ve been teaching an elective on Literature, History and Culture of the Anglophone World to high-schoolers. One of my students recently told me she was very cautious about the words she used in class when addressing race issues because she was scared I would think less of her for saying something ignorant. I replied:
“I think it’s a good thing you’re trying to be cautious because we should all be. But that doesn’t mean I want any of you to feel you can’t speak freely. I will never sanction a student for making an ignorant remark —unless you’re deliberately insulting another student or myself, obviously— but you should all know that what we say has consequences. And my goal is to make sure you have the necessary linguistic tools to face them responsibly and intelligently.”
I don’t claim to do it particularly well, but I would feel like I’m failing as a teacher if I didn’t at least try. Part of that effort consists in practicing what I preach. Here, on I Just Have a Lot of Feelings, I strive to push myself and figure out a way to make something of my knee-jerk reactions other than another hateful comment on the Internet.
Here’s hoping I deliver to all 500 of you.