Dear Fellow Student,
Thanks for reading (seriously, thank you), and I appreciate your thoughtful response. Did my article critique LGBTQ* students who shared their experiences? I guess it did – one student in particular, though I meant to critique the student’s opinion, not the student. However, my main goal in writing the article was not to issue a critique of X’s position on advice-giving, but to use that position as a springboard for critiquing – not a “system,” per se, but a collectively- (and, it seems, widely-) held point of view. I agree with you that spaces for sharing experiences will be really beneficial – more so than single-point-of-view articles. I disagree with you on two points (keeping in mind that these disagreements do not necessarily amount to more than lifestyle/worldview preferences). First, I think that using a collective “we” – consciously, purposefully, with the knowledge that individuals of any demographic label are both unique and similar – can be helpful for community building. And when we’re talking about shared patterns of culture and experience among LGBTQ* youth attending university in the U.S. (patterns which undoubtedly exist, and which I believe we should value highly as factors that connect us as a community rather than disdain as individual-effacing), the word “we” seems justified and even beneficial. What I believe we will find (and what we have found) in documenting the stories and oral histories of LGBTQ* people in the U.S. is…we have a lot in common – often more than we might think – even as our lives and minds are very unique. Secondly, I actually do believe that LGBTQ* people, if they are privileged enough to be able to devote time and energy to something other than subsistence, are obligated to activism. In my opinion, “we” have a duty to leverage our time and resources in trying to help others and ourselves, and in trying to make this world generally a better place for people like us. That doesn’t mean we can’t be tired, or do other things, or do lots and lots of other things, but that we should, somehow, contribute to the progress (civically, emotionally, physically, etc.) of “our” community. I can’t really defend that opinion, but I just feel it’s right. The point of view I meant to critique in this article is the mindset that progress is inevitable, and will simply happen without us (“us” being LGBTQ* people) continuing to work for it, together. If we want a better life, I think we should participate in the effort to make that better life possible for ourselves and others, instead of allowing those we call “activists” to do so for us because we just want to live like “normal” people (whatever that means). Maybe it’s time to reframe our understanding of “activism.” It doesn’t have to be a formal protest, or a lobby – even coming out of the closet is a feat of activism.