Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 10 January 2011

When Art is Activism, Does the LGBT Community Care?

I was going to write a blog about how I got called a liar and a spammer by someone because they presumed that my blogs contribute nothing to the LGBT community simply because they are written by me instead of by someone more well-known.

It’s hard not to sound sarcastic and bitter when I write about this. Basically, I posted some links on Reddit.com to some of my press releases and blogs. With the exception of one or two items, the blogs were all relevant to the LGBT community. I have several blogs up about why North Carolina’s refusal to allow Hadassah to change her name interferes with her right to her gender identity. Somebody commented under one of my links saying, “Why are most of your links to your own blogs?

The short answer to this question was that I wasn’t really familiar with reddit, and didn’t realize that it actually works kind of like Facebook. People post links and you can comment on them. I explored reddit more in detail after I received this comment and discovered this, as well as coming up with new ideas to promote LGBT suicide prevention.

Anyway, it didn’t really matter what my reason was or what I said, because the person in question reported me for “spam” as soon as they had posted the question. When I did respond, the person continually expressed doubt that I was telling the truth and reiterated that I was a spammer who “contributes nothing to the LGBT community. It’s all about YOU.”

I’m repeating this story not so much because I care about what this person thinks, but because I’m wondering if others really get my main purpose in writing Shades of Gay. Despite the fact that I’ve said all along that the point of the novel is to encourage LGBT youth, have promised 10 percent of profits to the Trevor Project and meant it, have written extensively about Hadassah’s struggle with suicide and how that inspired the novel and my desire to help other suicidal LGBT people… despite the suicide prevention videos I have made to date… despite my repeated posts on my Facebook fan page and on my Twitter account encouraging people to call the Trevor Project or someone they can trust rather than giving up…

Do the people who don’t already know me personally, including the media that I have sent press releases to, think I’m just an author trying to sell a book for the sole purpose of making money?

It saddens me deeply if that’s the case. I really don’t get why people would think that. My latest press release was entitled New LGBT Novel Offers Readers Hope. The two-line summary of the press release reads, “Narrow Path Publishing released a new LGBT-oriented novel today in the hopes that teens will feel less isolated and ask for help if they are considering suicide.” The press release itself talks about the novel’s origins and how Hadassah and I are trying to provide encouragement for the LGBT community.

I may be reading too much into this incident altogether, but it just seems to me that there’s a general attitude in our society that art doesn’t matter, that you’re not doing anything of value if you write fiction about social issues instead of organizing protests or chaining yourself to things or doing something tangible. As it is, Hadassah and I both get treated as if we don’t have jobs because we don’t have 9 to 5 jobs.

Anyway, I didn’t really mean to go off on a rant about that. I dislike writing these kinds of blogs because they sound negative and whiny, and I’m sure someone out there will interpret this as demanding people buy the book or expecting to get rich overnight or something else that I am not trying to say. I’m just frustrated.

It’s not just that I hope and intend to affect LGBT people’s lives with this book and my other writing. It’s not just that I hate being accused of lying when I’m not, and I find the suggestion that I contribute nothing to the LGBT community quite offensive.  Tonight I’m also deeply saddened by the way the economy and other factors seem to be affecting the few outlets for support LGBT people have here in Raleigh.

Most of you probably know that the White Rabbit, one of two LGBT-oriented stores that I know of, went out of business a couple months ago. Tonight I got an email from a friend who owns another store, the Green Monkey. He is unable to purchase Shades of Gay for the store because books are not selling and so he is not selling them anymore. I also have seen recently that my friends who run an LGBT-oriented newspaper, The Triangle, may not be able to sustain the paper much longer because advertisers are not buying ads.

I know the economy sucks right now and has for a long time, but it just seems like everything LGBT around here is drying up. That really saddens me, and I just wonder if it is just the economy. I don’t think so, though, because LGBT-oriented bars and restaurants always seem to be packed. So why is it that the LGBT community here is not spending money on LGBT-oriented merchandise?

Having said all that, don’t worry… I’m not giving up, either on the book or on the LGBT community. I’m just quite saddened tonight.

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