Someone with a reasonably loud internet-voice had recently said a good bit about social activism, most notably that it is a hobby which doesn’t really have any impact (except in certain rare cases) on the world at large. That within this hobby we have our own little subculture, which has its own little hierarchies and privileges and again, doesn’t really change anything in the world at large, and while it’s a fine hobby, we really need to be honest with ourselves about it just being a hobby.
There is almost nothing in there I can disagree with. This is certainly not a ‘job’ or ‘career’ for me, my career is my writing. And social justice advocacy certainly does have a significant echo chamber effect which is hard to overcome. And as cathartic and fulfilling as #killallmen, #solidarityisforwhitepeople or #fuckcispeople may be, I haven’t seen anything actually come of them in the wider world.
Ilna couldchange the world; she was doing so to the best of her considerable ability. But she couldn’t change it all, and she couldn’t change it all at once.
-Queen of Demons, by David Drake
When I come out of the social justice advocacy echo chamber, I talk about stuff with my partner and our friends. My partner isn’t involved in social advocacy. He’s a gamer. He streams video games on Twitch as Abbadonsin. He’s not going to be challenging Yogscast or Machinima any time soon, but he’s got a loyal, if small, following. Mostly made up of 13-24 year old gamer boys. Gamer boys who listen when we talk about trans rights or rape culture. Who now understand why they shouldn’t use ‘it’ when talking about trans people and who understand why consent matters and the importance of “yes means yes.”
I’ve helped Michael answer questions when these guys have asked things like “Is it ever okay to have sex when you or your partner is drunk?” (My answer: If you discussed and agreed to having sex before you started drinking, I don’t see a problem with it, but not if either of you show signs of alcohol poisoning.)
These are boys and young men, who because they have heard Michael and I talk about social advocacy, got interested starting asking questions, and are now that much less likely to turn into abusers and rapists. That much less likely to intentionally or unintentionally bully, shame or denigrate the trans people they meet. Because someone they respect understands enough about social advocacy, rape culture to know better, and trans 101, and passed that knowledge on to them.
I am a writer. I don’t expect to ever reach the level of Mercedes Lackey, much less J.K Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien (yes, I’m a geek, and I write fantasy. Deal with it.) But my stories do tackle issues related to social advocacy. And when I tell my children a fairy tale of a trans man who knew from the time he was a child that he was born in the wrong body – well my kids will now have empathy for children in their classes who are trans and know that if they ever feel like they are in the wrong body, they can come to me and I will accept and understand. I am currently working on a collection of similar fairytales addressing as many issues as I can include, which will be released as an ebook under creative commons attribution.i
And if it hadn’t been for the trans advocates who through their writing and their willingness to interact and answer my questions and critique my stories and my writings, I wouldn’t have bee able to share that story with my children.
I am a daughter of the Appalachians. I am truly at home only within these mountains. But I know the truth. The mountains are shaped by the seas and the winds. By the steady, day-to-day erosion, one bit of dirt or piece of gravel at a time, caused by the ceaseless, tireless assault of wave and wind on cliff and height.
My advocacy will never change the world. I will never stand in front of the Washington Monument and give a speech before a million man march, I will not end world hunger, and the part I can play in stopping the judicial murder of women, and LGBT folk in other parts of the world is miniscule. But that does not absolve me of my responsibility. The responsibility to be that wave, pounding against the cliffs. That wind, slowly shaping mountains. The change that happens, each day, in such tiny, miniscule ways no one else will ever know about them. Often I will never know about them.
But they still happen. Everyday. As long as I remember to take my advocacy outside of the echo chamber, and spread what I learn there through the people I meet. And those changes – the changes I make, the changes you make, he changes all of us make, can reshape the world.
And for those interested in a faster approach to changing the world, try organizing. It’s worked before.
i If anyone would be interested in contributing to this collection, please let me know There are some issues I want to include but am not comfortable writing about, and I’d like to see other voices and other perspectives included regardless.