Clexacon was this weekend. Students insisted I present. Presenting gave me the opportunity to attend and engage. Exposure to lesbian and or queer women on tv/film is limited to what other queer women have shared with me over the years. This weekend exposed me to such gems as Tello Films, Sapphire Books, Tagg Magazine. And, my favorite, meeting Black Girl Nerds in real life!

The majority of diversity panels I attended, when diversity addressed ‘race,’ had at least one BGN rep on there. The sea of white (passing) individuals was not a surprise to me. Of the few lesbian, bisexual characters on tv, fewer are actually bisexual or lesbians in real life. Given the struggle to get a job and the struggle to have our lives be ours, participating in the events gave insight into the difficulty of sustaining middle class visibility, entrepreneurship within our community.

It is imperative to note this was a middle class space. I was not the only ‘academic’ and, those I heard speak, the majority of panelists talked about ‘higher education.’

During the panels before my presentation at 6 pm, concurrently taking place during the Lost Girl reunion of sorts, I was live tweeting. Having brought my laptop, and successful connected to the internet, I wanted to see what that experience would be like. Like the day before, I was one of a few darker-skinned femmes in the room. I engaged with tables in between. Save for the publisher, with whom I engaged a great deal, and whose panel I attended, engagement with white queer folks was limited save the ones to whom I addressed questions about the line or those whom did not ask if I was  in line. I am not counting the non-US Europeans who wanted to know more about the academic community’s engagement.

 

Clexacon_Abad_Espinosa_Smith

Attendee picture taken while Ashley Smith speaks on concerns as a librarian for youth.

 

My presentation focused on the economic and political struggles of lesbian, bisexual writers have with publishing, distributing, sustaining their outlets. Encouraging my students to present, they spoke on their reading and writing experiences. I reflected on how, over time, being recognized as valid writers to a broader audience remained a struggle for earlier writers who happen to self-identify as lesbians. Most of the work I cited was thanks to Julie Enszer whose academic work introduced me to more detailed 20th century history of struggles in publishing lesbians. Beyond her work, I moved into others’ analyses Our ‘Happily Ever Afters,’ are not all monogamous fairy tales nor relationship-centered, which I touched on a little bit.

A long-time participant of Dirty Queer, faithful because the organizer held the space, the invisibility of color is something I learned how to navigate. There to first, support my students’ amazing work and second, to consume a weekend where ‘it was safe’ for queer couples to hold hands, meditating on the experience stems from what microaggressions were present and, more specifically thinking about how not engaging wouldn’t necessarily solve the problem:

  1. This is the first one. As one of a few queer folx who had reservations, it is important IMG_3500[1]to sustain the conversation beyond what those in media are going to tackle.
  2. Being able to make observations invites the organizers who were behind the scenes to  consider that these critiques are not just from those who dedicate their social media careers to visibility.
  3. Because the lack of ethnic or racial diversity within the already limited and byg representations often informs the foreignness younger lgbtiq individuals feel within the community.
    1. It is incredibly disturbing to use the full acronym because lesbians and bisexual characters were the majority of those who were in attendance – either because of visibility and or willingness/comfort to engage.
  4.  For those of us considering ‘separate’ organizing venues, it is important to learn from the limitations of others. Collaborative meditation is a good place to start

Being allowed to participate had been a privilege as it allowed me to work out critical ideas regarding lesbian and queer femme visibility/support from the writing to publishing/canonizing ‘pipeline.’ The privilege does not save me from the privilege of holding others accountable. What I have learned from those ‘on the front lines’ of media visibility consistently reminds me that the refuge I have within the ivory tower similarly requires me to engage those I can because of where I exist. Just because I do, however, it is not in the service of those at the table with me, rather at the service of those who are not yet allowed there.

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