I Call It Visibility

by Hollaback on September 30, 2010 · 10 comments

Remember AJ? Of course you do! Her first guest post Don’t Feel Guilty If You Aren’t Straight last week got an awesome response, and now she’s back with her second installment. Enjoy! Love, the Hollaback Girls

As I have been thinking about this post, the Le Tigre song “Viz” has been running through my head.

They call it climbing and I call it visibility,

They call it coolness and I call it visibility,

They call it way too rowdy I call it finally free.

In my previous post, I discussed some of the difficulties of being a queer identified health blogger.

Something I hear in the running community is “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

There is something to be said there — that something that is important can also be difficult. And the role minority bloggers play in adding their voice to the health blogging community is a valuable one, even when it isn’t easy for us.

We are simply being visible (also referred to as “shoving our lifestyle in your face” by the haters). And visibility is incredibly important.

Social psychology research shows that the less contact a person has with a group different from her own, the more intolerant or less accepting she will be. Said differently, the white girl who grows up in Harlem (me!), is likely to feel comfortable around African-Americans, hold fewer prejudices and stereotypes, and discriminate less. Someone might not know any queer people, but I hope if they stumble across my blog and begin reading, they will get to know someone who is queer (and AWESOME).

I am a face that can be matched to this label. Readers can see that sometimes I wear heels and skirts and sometimes I wear beaters and chucks. Sometime I wear make-up, sometimes I don’t. Whatever you might think a lesbian looks like…

I hope that if someone is not sure about whether she supports, for instance, same-sex marriage, hearing about my relationship with R and our hopes and dreams for getting married and our future together will help her recognize that same-sex marriage is not something that is scary, or strange, or anything that will make her marriage any less important.

Reading the experiences of a queer-identified blogger can not only personalize the lives of queer individuals and therefore reduce discrimination and stereotypes, but it can also raise awareness about the negative effects of such discrimination. For instance, say R or I should get injured while running. It’s happened. And it happened last year to R and she tried to rehab herself because she had craptastic insurance. Good for blogging (I will sing the praises of foam rolling until the kale comes home), but really crappy for R. See, I have awesome insurance that I get free of charge and I could have added R to my benefits for not much money because my company offers Domestic Partner benefits. However, we had to make the painful decision for R to not take my insurance and to keep her more expensive, less extensive coverage. This is not because I enjoy taking care of R when she’s sick (although she does get a cute sad puppy face that’s just irresistible)…it’s because even if we were married in the state of California (which we’re not – we moved here after Prop 8) the federal government would not recognize our marriage. Good old Defense of Marriage Act. As a result, the amount my company would pay for R to receive my benefits (upwards of $500/month) would be considered part of my income for federal income tax purposes. Not to disclose how much I make, but an additional $500/month puts me in another income tax bracket. We simply could not afford it.

Which leads us to another stereotype, that of the DINK. No, that’s not the latest term for a boy bimbo. It stands for Double Income No Kids. It’s why Pride Parades are mostly a parade of commercial sponsors. They view us as having tons of expendable income to spend on these now-known-to-us gay friendly companies. Nothing like seeing those Coors Light mountains in rainbow hues, or hearing an emphasis on friendly when we’re told to “Fly the Friendly Skies.” Wish it were true, really I do. I truly wish R and I had nothing but gobs of money to go supporting all these LGBT family-friendly companies…and to turn Lululemon from runner’s porn into runner’s reality. But we don’t. Because the DINK stereotype just doesn’t hold up under closer research (Herek, Chopp, & Strohl, 2007). Research demonstrates that marital status is correlated with income. Married men have higher average incomes than unmarried men and married couples generally have more household income than singles or cohabitating adults.

And guess who can’t get married in most states? Yep.

Also, although gay men and lesbians do tend to achieve higher levels of education and reside in urban areas where median income is higher, we are also more likely to sacrifice financial rewards for careers in lower-paying occupations where tolerance of sexual minorities is higher. These all apply to R and I – we are unmarried (not by choice) and, although we have high levels of education (3 masters degrees, 1 PhD and 1 almost-PhD between us) and live in an urban center, we are both working in lower-paying jobs in which we can be completely open about who we are.

Queer blogging can also reduce isolation within the queer community. I am fortunate to live in the gayborhood, but LGBT individuals live all over – including small towns in which he/she may be the only LGBT person for miles. The internet is a powerful community building tool and in the LGBT community it serves an important purpose. Most minority identities are identities we’re born into. As such, within our families, we have people to serve as role models on not only how to cope with discrimination, but also how to be a successful (fill in the minority identity) in this world. African Americans learn what it means to be African American from their parents and community. However, LGBT individuals are not usually raised in families comprised of LGBT individuals. This is a minority identity that we usually identify with later in life (whether that’s childhood, adolescence or, in the case of yours truly, year two of a PhD program). Finding a queer community is vital to learn how to cope with homonegativity and heterosexism from queer individuals who have successfully handled such challenges (e.g., Bowleg, Huang, Brooks, Black, & Burkholder, 2003; D’Augelli, Collins, & Hart, 1987; Ueno, 2005). A queer community can also provide increased social support (go Team Rainbow!), it can provide a chance to meet a potential romantic partner, and it provides a sense of empowerment (Balsam & Mohr).

Queer blogging that is integrated with other topics – such as health blogging – serves an important purpose. It shows that queer identified individuals are out there. It shows the effects of being denied equal rights. And it also shows that queer individuals are healthy individuals with great recipes, helpful training tips, and hilarious stories of mishaps, just like any other health blogger out there. Being queer is an important part of our identity, but it’s one part of a multi-faceted identity. Queer bloggers have the opportunity to show this both to their straight readers and to other queer readers out there who might be struggling.

My queer identity does sometimes take front seat in my blog. Some readers may not like that. They might call it “shoving their face in it.” But I call it visibility.

AJ is the sassy voice behind QueerVeganRunner. She cannot believe she used her research dissertation for this series…it finally came in handy.

Sources Cited:

Balsam, K., & Mohr, J. (2007, July). Adaptation to sexual orientation stigma:  A comparison of bisexual and lesbian/gay adults. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54, 306-319.

Bowleg, L., Huang, J., Brooks, K., Black, A., & Burkholder, G. (2003). Triple jeopardy and beyond: Multiple minority stress and resilience among black lesbians. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 7, 87-108.

D’Augelli, A. R., Collins, C., & Hart, M. M. (1987). Social support patterns of  lesbian women in a rural helping network. Journal of Rural Community Psychology, 8, 12-22.

Herek, G. M., Chopp, R., & Strohl, D. (2007). Sexual stigma: Putting sexual minority health issues in context. In I. Meyer & M. Northridge (Eds.), The Health of Sexual Minorities: Public Perspectives on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Populations (pp. 171-208). New York: Springer.

Ueno, K. (2005). Sexual orientation and psychological distress in  adolescence: Examining inter-personal stressors and social support processes. Social Psychology Quarterly, 68, 258-277.

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