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The Midweek Mingle: Shared Hardship

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So, when I first started doing the Midweek Mingle, I gave a fair bit of general information, along with discussing the Big Scary Barrier (TL;DR: Just because somebody doesn’t act like they want to be somewhere, it doesn’t mean they don’t. They may just feel uncomfortable.). One of the things I talked about in very brief passing was the fact that both the SF/F community and the QUILTBAG+ community were sort of shunned.

When it comes to getting along and feeling comfortable and connecting with each other, shared hardship is one of the best tools we have. I wouldn’t wish anyone any kind of negativity or hardship like that, but at the same time, it’s a big part of both of these subcultures. QUILTBAG+ kids and geeky kids were all bullied and picked on. We were all shunned and pushed away. We were all different, and other kids were very quick to remind us of that fact.

It’s a big potential for bonding. Like, huge, because those troubles in our youth stick with us a long time, and they color who we are. It’s true that not everyone discovers fandom when they’re young, and not everyone comes to terms with their sexuality and/or gender when they’re young, but it’s a pretty fair majority who do, and it’s something to talk about, something to bridge that gap.

But you know what? Even if you don’t talk about it directly, you can still benefit from it. You might meet someone who is genderqueer, just in passing, at a convention or in an online group. Then later, you might see someone giving them a rough time. Physically, verbally, emotionally, what have you. You see them being hurt for something about them. That’s when you put yourself back to when this happened to you, because chances are good it happened to most SF/F geeks at some point or another. We were shunned or harassed for our interest in Star Trek and Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons. Don’t you wish someone would have stepped in and stopped that, even just one time?

The same goes in reverse. If you’re QUILTBAG+, you know what it’s like to be made fun of, even (unfortunately so) by the members of your own community. It’s a problem that runs rampant in the QUILTBAG+ community (It’s not really rampant in the SF/F community, but geeks can certainly turn on each other. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been mocked for liking or not liking a certain thing.), and it obviously comes from outside as well. If you see someone being bullied (And yes, an adult can still be bullied. Absolutely.), remember what it’s like. Remember the horrible things that were said about you or the times you were hurt. Remember what it feels like, and remind yourself how much it would flat out suck (or how much it actually did suck, if you experienced it) to have someone right there who refused to do anything about it.

We’re talking about two outcast groups. There is automatically common ground that can be used to connect with each other. None of us would give up fandom, and you plain-old can’t give up your gender and/or sexuality. Not quite parallels, but so many similarities, too many to ignore, if you ask me.

So turn to each other and talk about what you’ve been through. You’ll be amazed at the number of experiences that ring the same. And once that happens, you’ll be much more open to mingle.

1 thought on “The Midweek Mingle: Shared Hardship”

  1. When I came into fandom, it was pretty tolerant, and it’s more scattered and divisive now. We have more participation and diversity, but it works less well, because the community is no longer as tight-knit and instead tends to self-sort into small fragments of like kind. There is a lot more harassment of the kind that makes it unfun and makes people not come back. I have no idea just when it became the norm to harangue people about the costume they’re wearing, but I wish that habit would go die in a fire. You say “great costume” or “May I take your picture?” or keep your mouth shut. I don’t go back to WisCon because it was fun for a while and then turned really hostile to men, anyone else not conventionally feminine enough, conservatives, and so forth.

    And where this ties into ostracism and queer experience is the need for tolerance. It means balancing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It means accommodating other people’s quirks so they will accommodate yours. You don’t have to agree on everything. You just have to be civil. Don’t pick on people or shut them out of experiences just because you dislike some aspect about them. The only time you have grounds to complain is if their actions are hurting someone. So teach the skills of tolerance, cooperation, and community. It makes the experience better for everyone whether it’s on the QUILTBAG side or the fannish one.

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