I started Silence, Cupcake a couple of months ago. It began as a dream (the best things do) of giving more space to the unheard voices, the marginalised voices, the voices nobody wants to hear, or hear about. I wanted a diversity of narratives, a place where lots of different people could come together and hear stories which were new, or come and meet people who were like them, or both. Mostly both. People who were like them, telling stories they hadn’t heard before.
Something I really didn’t want to do was to recruit people just to make them talk about that thing which mainstream society has decided makes them different. I didn’t want to ask fat people to write for me, about being fat. I didn’t want to ask Indian people to write for me, about being Indian. I didn’t want to ask queer people to write for me, about being queer. I didn’t want to ask disabled people to write for me, about being disabled. I didn’t want to ask trans* people to write for me, about being trans. Continue adding adjectives as you think of them.
I want all of these narratives. I want all of these lived experiences of people which don’t get play in mainstream narratives about their/our lives to have a space to be, and be read.
I want to bring lots of different people together to write about their lived experiences. I want narratives which are different from what we are allowed to live, but I don’t want to force certain narratives from certain people.
For instance: Medicinal Marzipan is recruiting writers for Teen Week at the moment (a project which is well worth checking out) and someone tweeted her saying “It would be great to get some LGBT and PoC views for this!” which is, y’know, admirable and stuff. Except, I’m B and T, but I’m going to write about mine and my friends eating disorders. I’m not going to write about being a bisexual teen, or being a genderqueer teen, because those things didn’t give me half as much grief as my eating disorder. Which whad very little to do with my being bisexual or genderqueer. It had more to do with my depression. Statistically, out of L, G and B, bisexuals have higher rates of depression, but anyway. My teen years were overshadowed by my parents’ divorce, which happened when I was twelve, (although the aftermath was worse than the event), my depression, which kicked off when I was 15/16, and my eating disorder, which kicked off when I was 16/17.
What I am saying is: People who may be ‘different’ from the mainstream (whatever that is)? We still have the same old problems as everybody else too. We still have really similar lives to everybody else too.
Queer relationships have make-ups and break-ups and dinner dates and zoo adventures and the getting-ready thrill and the ‘do we have sex enough?’ slump. People in romantic relationships are people in romantic relationships, whatever their genders.
I really hate giving examples like that, especially because it seems like ‘well, duh, of course!’ but honestly, it seems like the rest of the world often expects people who are not-straight, not-cis, not-able-bodied, not-white to have completely different narratives to the ‘rest of the world’ – straight, cis, white.
The teenage experiences, relationship experiences, fashion experiences, job experiences, travel experiences of queer peoples, non-white peoples, disabled peoples, trans* peoples – they can’t possibly be something that white, cis, straight, able people could also relate to! No, they must be treated as ‘learning experiences’ for the “rest of the world” because our lives are so completely different.
What I’m saying is: You can’t just run around the internet saying “I need a queer perspective on this, NOW!” (and I’d like to clarify that I’m not saying Medicial Marzipan has done this – that was just a jumping off point for the thoughts) because queer people are all different from each other, the way that, say, straight people are different from each other! And you know that a queer, not-white, semi-abled person is going to have a different experience of being teenaged than a straight, white, disabled kid ~ but maybe they both had eating disorders. And maybe they both had eating disorders for the same reason, and that reason didn’t have all that much to do with their disabilities, race or sexual identity. YOU NEVER KNOW.
I’d like to prioritise people and narratives which don’t get a lot of air play because ‘the rest of the world’ has decide that they can’t stomach these narratives. African journalists who can comment on their own political issues? WHUT. Genderqueer faab people who don’t bind? WHUT. Bisexual people who ‘look straight’? WHUT. Hairy ladies? WHUT. Talking of an India which is more than an Orientalist wet-dream? WHUT.
I’d like to do this. But to do that, I need more people to write for me, with all different narratives.
Of course, when it comes to something like Kony 2012, I think it’s perfectly legitimate to run around saying ‘What do people who are from Uganda think about this?’ because then you are asking ‘What do people who were actually affected by this thing think about this?’ When you are talking about queer rights, and young black youth being shot, then yes, it is legitimate and important to seek and prioritise queer voices, and black voices and so on. When you are talking about the nebulousness of High School and you ask for a ‘queer perspective’ you are saying: I want someone who is queer to talk about their queerness, even if that is not what stands out about their high school experience for them.
See the difference?