Saturday, May 26, 2012

Privilege

If anyone needs more proof of just how small the gay poetry world is, they need to look no further than the various blog postings over the last few days in what has been named "beautygate" (which I love). I'm not going to specifically respond to this discussion/debate/fight, because I'm not sure I know enough to say anything particularly useful or different. I'll provide some links at the bottom of this piece to those who have written full responses.

I don't personally know any of the people involved. I have, of course, read their work and have heard things about them (again, the gay poetry world is small), but my opinion is still being formed. I don't know much about the Wilde Boys. I don't live in NYC, though I am planning to move there by late summer. I've never been included or excluded by them.  I can, however, offer this opinion: the article published on Lambda Literary's website, that started all of this, was a poorly put together piece that shouldn't have been published. It contained very little support for its ideas and made very broad statements and connections. We need to hold each other to better standards of writing even on opinion pages.

This post, however, is not about all of that really. "Beautygate" got me thinking about privilege. My own privilege. I am an openly gay man and I have experienced my own share of discrimination. I've been called fag countless times. I had it written on my dorm door in college. I've been turned down for jobs because I'm gay, which is legal in most states. I'm discriminated against every day in this country by not having equal rights. In this way, I'm not privileged because I'm not part of the privileged sexual orientation. I am, however, privileged in many other ways.

I am white. Very white. This is a huge privilege in this world. I can't change that, but I can openly recognize it. It doesn't make you a bad person to realize that you are privileged because you were born with a certain color of skin. Acknowledging that privilege is useful, but also uncomfortable, which is why so many avoid it. It is a fact that I'm viewed very differently than if I was black, latino, or Asian. No one has ever been afraid of me because I was simply there. Simply walking down the street. I will not be shot because I'm mistaken for a criminal. Every day I am treated like a white person. I know this has made my life easier. Does that make me sad? Yes, but pretending otherwise is harmful. I don't know what it is like to be a person of color in this country. I can't imagine what it is like to be a gay person of color in this country.

I am male. Because I was born a certain gender, I'm also privileged. I will most likely make more money because of it. I might be promoted more quickly because of it. I will not have to fight as hard to prove myself.

I am attractive and thin. Much of this current debate has revolved around "beauty" and outward appearance. I don't know if I'm cute enough to get invited to selective poetry salons, but I know that my looks have helped me in life. I'm privileged in that way. I know for a fact that some people have bought my book because they thought I was cute. This is a privilege. Like it or not.

The point is that we each have different privileges and some more than others. These are things created by the world we live in and to pretend they don't exist or to not be able to understand where another is coming from, is dangerous and naive. My skin color, sex, and looks are privileges I carry with me. Sometimes it's nice. Sometimes it's easier. Sometimes it makes me very uncomfortable to know that.

I'm not saying one has to apologize for these privileges, but acknowledging them and listening and learning from others will maybe eventually breakdown some of these privileges. What would that world be like?

Others Responses:

Collin Kelley 
Steve Fellner
Alex Dimitrov
Saeed Jones
C. Dale Young

-Stephen (Me)



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Bans Play On

Yesterday, people in North Carolina voted to add a ban on gay marriage to their state constitution. This isn't surprising news and North Carolina is just one of many states that has passed such a ban in recent years. I've always found these bans to be a bit silly. Voters are banning something that isn't even legal. It is like it is doubly banned, which seems unnecessary.

What happened in North Carolina is sad. It is yet another reminder of the struggles that are ahead for the gay community and the battle for equal rights. The votes for this ban were rooted in misunderstanding, misinformation, and hatred. As many have stated, these voters, just like voters in all the other states, are on the wrong side of history. Gay marriage is coming. You can delay it, but you can't stop it.

I'm not, however, so concerned with those voters. What has concerned me is the reaction I've witnessed today on various social networking sites. The passing of this ban in North Carolina is worthy of a comment on Facebook or Twitter. In fact, I'd rather people spread the word about such things than telling me what they had for lunch, but I've been a bit shocked by many of the comments I've seen. Too many people seem to be quick to make their own hate-filled comments about people in North Carolina or very general statements about southerners. These comments are rooted in some of the same things that caused people to vote for this ban: misinformation and hatred.

Guess what? Not everyone in North Carolina voted for this ban. Also, not everyone in North Carolina or in the South is a stupid bigot. It's easy to make these statements and easy to feel that way sometimes. I've felt it and probably said similar things, but how are these comments useful or helpful. I didn't see this reaction when Prop 8 passed in California. People were angry, but the comments were not how stupid everyone in California is. This isn't strictly a southern problem. In fact many of the states that have passed bans are in the North.

I'm from the North, but have lived in the South for the last 7 years. I'm currently in Orlando, which actually is south of the South, but I spent three years in Tallahassee, which is very southern and very conservative. Florida as a whole is very conservative. We've passed our own ban on gay marriage. I've seen hatred and bigotry in every place I've lived. Yes, the South has a history that includes some strong discrimination of various groups of people, but I always remind people that Indiana actually has one of the worst histories of the KKK in our country. There are differences between the North and the South, but making generalizations is often missing the point.

Bans, like the one in North Carolina, make me angry. We have the right to be angry, but we have to be better than those voters who voted based on hatred and fear. Our responses have to be better and stronger. Hate the haters, but realize that making generalized statements about any group of people is wrong. Stand up and support those people who voted against this ban.

As I was finishing up this post, I got word that President Obama just officially and publicly supported gay marriage on ABC News (President Obama Endorses Gay Marriage in ABC News Interview). This is a big moment and shows that times are changing. These bans are here for the moment, but I believe their moment will be brief.

-Stephen (Vote)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Visualizing Me: My Visual Resume

A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop taught by my friend and coworker Chiara Ojeda. The workshop was on visual resumes and how best to use them. As many of my readers know, I'm currently looking for jobs in New York City. My partner and are planning to move there in the next few months, so my job search is kicking into high gear. The job market right now can be intimidating and this workshop provided me with some interesting ideas on how to stand out in the sea of job seekers.

You might be asking, what is a visual resume? That's a good question. A visual resume is a more well-rounded, accurate, and visual representation of who you are as a person and a job seeker. Resumes can be very limiting and very bland. It can be difficult to truly highlight who you are and what you've done in a properly formatted resume or CV or on a job application.

The visual resume opens the door. There are no set rules or even set applications to use. Some create them in Keynote or Powerpoint or Photoshop. The key is to use something that works for you and that you know how to use. The visual resume should give a good sense of who you are as a person through the information, photos, and design you choose. Visual resumes are becoming more popular, so there are a few sites out there that offer templates, but, to me, this defeats the purpose. Your visual resume shouldn't look like someone else's.

This, of course, can't replace your actual resume, but it works as a great supplement to a paper resume and a way to stand out. It allows you to be yourself.

Thanks to my friend's workshop, I got motivated and made my own, which I have already sent out to a few places. The other great thing is that you can easily post your visual resume for others to find you.

Check out my visual resume here:


Know of any jobs? Let me know. For more info on slide design, visual resumes, and presenting, check out my friend Chiara Ojeda's blog Tweak Your Slides.

-Stephen (Sliding)