Monday, September 5, 2011

on returning to blogging...

Since I am now re-entering the so-called "blogosphere" with my new blog, I figured that it would be worthwhile to briefly mention why I took a hiatus from blogging in the first place, and what my hopes are for this new blog.

So from 2007 through 2009, I was a semi-regular blogger, mostly on my old LJ site, sometimes on the Trans Group Blog, and as an occasional guest poster on Feministing. Blogging is a wonderful medium for getting thoughts, ideas and essays out there quickly, which I definitely appreciated. Also, during that span, I was introduced to the work of countless amazing writers and activists blogging on other sites. So in many ways, my relatively brief foray into blogging was a rewarding experience.

However, there were also negative aspects to that experience as well.

First, it quickly became clear to me that I am more of a writer than a blogger. To be clear, I am not insinuating that these are two mutually exclusive things - obviously, all bloggers are writers, and many writers have their own blogs. What I mean is that I mostly write for the page, and sometimes I go long stretches without keeping up with other blogs. As a result, sometimes when I would come out of my hermit-phase and post something, I would unwittingly step into the crossfire of a raging blogosphere controversy of some sort. On more than one occasion, I had others assume that I was somehow "taking sides" in some controversy, despite that I was oblivious to the fact that such a controversy even existed in the first place.

On one occasion, a blogger who I have huge respect for was upset that I posted about an issue that she had recently written extensively about, but I had not cited her. I didn't cite her simply because I was not keeping up with other people's blogs during the time-frame that she had posted on that topic, so I had never seen what she had written. We patched things up, and I added a link to her post. But it left me worried that my failure to keep up with other blogs might lead to future incidents where my actions (or inactions) might be misinterpreted as "dissing" another blogger.

Over time, I realized that the more regular bloggers in the feminist, queer, trans, and other social justice-related blogosphere(s) seem to be fairly rigorous about keeping up with everyone else's blog posts. I know that this helps to create a sense of community, where everybody is cross-posting each other’s posts and commenting on them. But it also creates the expectation that anyone who blogs on the aforementioned topics *should* be aware of all previous posts and controversies. This can lead to an "in group" phenomenon that leaves newbies and occasional bloggers such as myself fearful that we may inadvertently say something or do something that results in a flame war. I am all for keeping people accountable for what they have said/written. But it is also important to extend the benefit of doubt to those who may not be privy to previous discussions and debates.

But perhaps the main reason why I became burnt out on blogging is all the hate speech and ad hominem attacks that inevitably seem to break out during internet-based discussions (whether they be on blogs or old-school email lists). Like many of us who write about feminist, queer, trans and social justice politics, I have a lot of anger and emotion and hurt inside me that sometimes comes raging out when I hear someone make a problematic claim about gender, sexuality, or some other subject that is important to me. When I am writing for the page, generally all of that emotion (and sometimes outright venom) gets edited away over the course of several drafts. But the immediacy of the internet often results in back-and-forth name calling and flaming rather than serious, thoughtful discussion.

Anyway, I officially stopped blogging (with the exception of occasional personal posts and updates) in mid 2009, after one several week period when I had to deal with multiple ad homenim/name calling incidents. Now I've been called countless names in my life - many far worse than those accusations. But at the same time, why would I want to participate in a venue where others are going to stoop to such name calling? Why would I want to voice my thoughts about an issue if there is a decent chance that I will be flamed as a result?

Anyway, after a two year-long hiatus, I decided to come back. I came back because I have stuff that I want to say, and because some people out there might want to hear it. I am slowly but surely working on my next book, which won’t be out for some time. But in the interim, I might occasionally want to get some related (or unrelated) thoughts out into the universe. Plus, in addition to my typical writing about gender- and sexuality-related themes, I have had a few health-related issues arise in my life in recent years, and I feel the need to share my thoughts about those experiences. So I hope that this blog will be a venue for that writing as well.

I also came back to the "blogosphere" because there are a lot of other bloggers out there saying smart and interesting things, and I want to read what they have to say. So I have returned in the spirit of mutual communication and mutual understanding - to both speak and to listen. I came back for the thoughtful discussions and debate, not flame wars.

To try to facilitate a more sustainable atmosphere in my little corner of the internet, I want to put forward the following guidelines and disclaimers that I am hoping readers and commenters here will respect:

1) I occasionally read other people’s blogs, but not on a regular basis. Please do not assume that I am familiar with a previous blog discussion unless I directly cite it. And please don’t assume that I am taking a side in some blogosphere controversy unless, of course, I explicitly state such a position.

2) When I am aware of a previous blogosphere discussion on the same topic that I am posting about, I will certainly cite it. If I fail to cite such previous posts/threads/discussions, it is most likely because I am unaware of their existence. If this happens, I highly encourage you to include links to such previous posts/threads/discussions in the comments section.

3) My blog is currently set so that comments are unmoderated for the first 30 days. After that, they are moderated (meaning that they will not appear on the blog until I approve them). Because new posts are unmoderated, I ask that people be respectful of others, and not engage in flaming or name calling.

4) I will not tolerate any hate speech or ad hominem attacks on my blog, regardless of whether they are directed at me or others. So if you engage in such nonsense, I reserve the right to delete such posts.

5) I am a reasonable person and I very much welcome thoughtful disagreement. Sometimes I will disagree with dissenting views. Other times dissenting views will change my thoughts/opinions about a subject. So I encourage you to leave such views in the comments section provided that you follow guidelines #3 and #4.

6) While I am open to dissenting views more generally, I draw the line at comments that attempt to undermine my identity or lived experiences. So, in other words, if you want to “debate” whether I am a “real woman” or “real transsexual,” I will likely view such comments as beyond the pale and delete them.

7) I will try to read every comment that is left on my blog. However, due to limited time, and me sometimes taking “internet breaks” for personal or health-related reasons, I will not be able to reply to every comment. I apologize in advance.

8) I have come to recognize that there are some people out there who really don’t like me. At all. They are opposed to my entire worldview regarding gender, sexuality, feminism, trans and queer issues. They may even kinda sorta despise me as a person even though they have never met me personally. That’s fine, I guess that comes with the territory of being a “public figure.” If people want to express their dislike of me on internet forums, they have every right to do so (provided that they are not engaging in libel, of course). But for those of you who really don’t like me, here is a helpful hint that will make both our lives far more easy: Don’t post comments here. Seriously. I don’t post comments on religious-right blogs or anti-trans lesbian-separatist blogs, because I realize nothing good could come of it - for them or for me. I respectfully ask that you do the same.

Thanks for listening, -julia

9 comments:

  1. I'm very happy to see you back at this. You are an excellent writer and thinker and have influenced how I have thought about being trans.

    xoxo

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  2. Julia I did not read your prior blogs but I have read your book and I think this community needs to hear your thoughts as you are one of a very few educated to make such comments about the direction we are heading. I don't have any answers but I will be looking for your thoughts with great interest.

    Thanks for taking the time to blog again :)

    Laura

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  3. I suspect that I won't be commenting much- I rarely leave comments when I have no new thoughts to add- but want to let you know that I'll be reading whatever you write. I enjoyed reading Whipping Girl.

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  4. Hi,
    Let me say I'm so glad you're back. I read your last writings and just like whipping girl, I thought finally somebody was talking about experiences that I shared and was able to shed some light on them. I am very interested in reading what you are thinking about these days and hearing how your health issues are being dealt with as well.
    I am recovering from FFS and I really connected with some of the issues you raised about looks and healing.
    Hope your feeling better, all the best.

    Michelle

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  5. I'm looking forward to hearing more from you. The internet is a very strange place to be in, and I think you articulated some of the issues that many who aren't 'hardcore' bloggers have.

    Looking forward to new posts.

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  6. thanks all for the kind words. Joel's comment about "issues that many who aren't 'hardcore' bloggers have" is appreciated. that is a main reason why I wanted to put that out there - because other people I know have had similar experiences...

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  7. I relate a lot to not keeping up with everyone. I can do it for short bursts but it's exhausting to sustain it.

    Oh, and I've found that point 6) filters out the vast majority of trolls and haters. That's the cardinal rule on QT, and it seems like everyone trying to cause trouble breaks it.

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  8. Well, I suppose I should say "welcome back." I own a signed copy of your book, but I've never read it. Not considering myself a feminist (quite the opposite), I look forward to seeing what a tranz feminist has to say.

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  9. So happy to see you writing online again! (And thanks for the wise words on blogging.)

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