I have noted that one of the reasons people are slow to interact with but quick to trust me is because I am obstinately public. When it comes to my views, I do not often have “private” conversations. This makes me an easy person to vet and, unless you are similarly publicly transparent, a difficult person to engage.
Put another way, I’m not loyal to people, I’m loyal to principles. I’m starting to really understand how strange this makes me, especially in the context of marginalized communities such as sexual minorities. In these communities, people who an individual can call friends are a (sometimes literal) lifeline. Without the intra-communiy cohesion unquestioned loyalty can provide to oppressed groups, individuals can be picked off (“silenced”) by a predatory mainstream culture as though they were the stragglers in a herd of prey. There is safety, so the saying goes, in numbers.
However, such safety does have costs. Chief among them is the same sort of sociological blindness any given oppressed group blames the privileged class for. Subcultures are no more immune to the toxins in society than the mainstream; we are not necessarily less racist, for example, because we attend sex parties than if we had not. Those in the community of sexual freedom advocates, excuse the pun, are no saints. They, and sometimes even I, get bit by this blind spot just like any other marginalized group. Only proactively principled stances, often in the face of opposition including from within your own group, move us as a community and ultimately as a society towards a more just and healthy culture.
Or, as I said in my critique of Kink, Inc. last month, “Those of you with a sense of loyalty stronger than a sense of principle are complicit in the failure of your own movement.” There is therefore an inherent tension an unprivileged individual faces that a privileged one does not: do I prioritize loyalty to the group at the knowing or unknowing expense of principles I presumably stand for by being part of the group (a short-term investment) or vice versa, prioritizing principle at the expense of loyalty to the group (a long-term investment)?
From here, we return to my premise: if one chooses the latter, one’s affinity (sense of belonging, friendship, etc.) with the group may be threatened, while if one chooses the former, one’s rather insensitive blind spots could stick out like a sore thumb. In this conception, neither the rock or the hard place is comfortable. And things get more complex when we examine such challenges across more than one axis simultaneously, that is, when we acknowledge the intersectionality in our lives.
I don’t have a solution for the dilemma. I’m not saying choosing to do one thing over another is somehow more noble. And maybe this is actually a journey most comfortably weathered somewhere along the middle line rather than the poles.
All I’m saying is that it’s valuable to understand that we, as a subculture, are not actually as removed from the mainstream as we like to say that we are. And, if that’s too hard for you to believe, then at least be willing to recognize that there are, in fact, minorities within our own minority. Let’s try to do better by them than have been done by us.