and no, I'm not talking about the show (though I really love that show...a lot..check it out on NBC Thursdays).
I'm talking about what "community" means. I think it is a term (like many others) that gets thrown around a lot. At school, we call ourselves the Brown Community. We have communities of faith, communities of color, and the one that is sitting on my heart in particular tonight, is the LGBT community.
Community suggests some sort of commonality - commonality in language, heritage, geography, or some other shared experience. However, I wonder what happens when communities form around hardship. What happens when that commonality is simply common marginalization? I mean, obviously we've seen where marginalization leads to revolution leads to (a sort of) unity. But what are the dysfunctions when people outside of the community begin identifying a community (know what I mean?) What happens when a bunch of straight folks identify those who (for whatever reason) aren't accepted in the straight "community" (and doesn't that sound strange to place an agent identity in a community) and label them as another community despite their differences - specifically the radically different situations presented to gay men vs. lesbian women vs. gay women vs. bi-affectional folks vs. bisexual folks vs. transgender folks vs. transsexual folks vs. every other possible label you can attach to an individual. Is it different if those folks identify themselves as a community - ignoring those vast differences themselves? HOW DOES THAT WORK?
And the to further complicate things - what about people who fall into shades of even murkier gray (as if they haven't already been discussed)? But now, I'm thinking about myself personally. This blog was started to discuss some issues that I think about in my head. I've been pretty bad at actually working those things out here because (un)fortunately I have tons of people who are great at mediating some of that work for me or it simply becomes irrelevant.
In some circles I identify as heteroqueer.
"Kaytlin, what the hell does that mean?"
I have no f*cking clue (sometimes). But actually I've been evolving the definition more and more to reflect what it means for me. which is honestly both the beauty and the bane of labels.
Here's what I used to say:
Heteroqueer means that I'm in a long-term relationship that is heterosexual (hence the hetero) however, I don't want to negate that I may/may not find other genders attractive.
that seemed like a pretty good definition for the year I was first trying on that label. but now. it doesn't fit. Because, while I think all of that is true...my relationship (that heterosexual one) is pretty solid. actually, like, rock/diamond solid. So expressing other attractions that I may/may not have seems petty because it's likely that they won't mean much. That being said...identifying as just straight doesn't feel right either. and I still (for some reason) feel like heteroqueer defines me.
I present as sorta genderqueer meaning I have some stereotypically masculine features. I'm not petite, I'm (certainly) not effeminate, I have short "butch-like" hair, and other typical (and admittedly problematic) "features" - if you will - i.e. I can be extremely crass and un-ladylike (whatever that means).
Further, while I am in a long term straight relationship and Ben identifies as straight (though when I presented the idea of heteroqueer as a label, he didn't disagree), not identifying with the queer "commmunity" -- what does that mean -- seems odd. Especially because so many of my best friends and those that have inspired me to do well have identified with that space/label.
So here's the dilemma:
If I, someone who COULD, in fact, place myself in the AGENT "straight community", choose not to and instead identify with the "LGBTQIA/Queer/Non-straight" community - does that cheapen a sense of community. What if people are already doing that? What if people are being placed in that community that don't want to be there? What if people are being placed in a community that don't belong there? What does community mean? What does it mean, as a social worker or as ANYONE, to be a community builder? What are you building? Is is a superficial space in which identifying individuals is simply made easier for outsiders? Will people naturally form their own small niches which could be construed as communities? Is that the same sort of community?
And what about co-opting an identity (which is sometime what I feel like with my own made up identity)? If that is something that I truly do identify with and yet I'm rejected by the culture/community that I feel that best fits in because I am choosing that label...whose fault* is that? Should I have known that I didn't belong there? Is being heteroqueer still too straight? Is there a line?
Basically what I'm saying is that I question (clearly, because of the amount of ? in this blahg) the notion of community. I question whether there are things that outside people (read: social workers) can do to improve quality of a community that is in distress/need - because while clearly we can help individuals and those individuals will go back to their self-designated niches - truly helping a "community" (other than simply a geographic location) seems unattainable to me. and perhaps futile.
I should state that I am a macro person - so the sense of community building is along the line I want to go down, however, I think these are important questions to ponder. Also, there may be a simple solution to this - or you may say, "duh Kaytlin, of course we help...we do X, Y, & Z and it's great" - and perhaps it is that simple...but I just needed to think about it.
*I'm not stating implicit "fault" - I'm just saying that in terms of who needs to deal with it...which side accepts the burden?
ponderous moments by kaytlin