dispatch: sxsw

How Can We Shift the Focus of Queer Media From Homophobes and Lady Gaga To Actual LGBTs?

Looking around the SXSW Interactive’s first-ever LGBT panel, “Engaging the Queer Community”, I saw a shrunken pink-haired woman wearing steel-toed platform boots and green stockings walking past a large-nosed horn rimmed kid with horse teeth and acne scars, and I realized that even though we’re all adults now, we very much remain the theater fags and lunch geeks we were in high school—conflicted and sightly scared people looking for a voice. But why then are our personal stories so often trumped by the like of homophobic senators and, bless her, Lady Gaga?

The panelists all talked about their most popular posts from the last week, Fausto Fernos from the Feast Of Fun posted a picture of Ben Stiller dressed as a Navii from the film Avatar, Bil Browning from The Bilerico Project posted an open letter to his “celebrity boyfriend” Neil Patrick Harris, and After Ellen’s editor, Trish Bendix, posted a lot of articles about The Runaways lesbian kiss. Three out of four of the panel’s bloggers agreed that celebrities are really the best way to generate interest in your blog. And I had my usual run of depressing thoughts: Why is it we, supposedly the most media savvy people in the world, regurgitate stories about straight celebrities and national politics while ignoring the artists and politicians working in own neighborhoods? (Admittedly, Queerty is often guilty of this, though we’ve increased coverage of “regular” queers.)

Is this why we can’t seem to organize any civil disobedience of any significance on a national scale?

The only one whose most popular story from last week wasn’t a celebrity piece, was Sinclair Sexsmith from Sugarbutch, who posted intimate details of her scorching lesbian sex life under a nom de plume. I took pride in the fact that butch lesbian put her personal experience and voice above the pop-culture bubble gum; though still I wondered, how can we get more LGBT folks to do the same? To get answers, I spoke with each of the panelists after the session and posted videos our discussion. They all agree that if you want to see your stories and community on the web, it starts with you.

Sinclair Sexsmith of Sugarbutch says that she tries to approach her work from the feminist aim of “Consciousness Raising”. Her most successful posts (in terms of comments) say, “Hey this is my experience and it’s only mine, but what is your experience?” Sinclair says, “Everyone has something to teach each other.”

Bilerico editor Bil Browning dismissed one of the site’s contributors, Ron Gold, when he wrote an inflammatory article called, “No to the notion of transgender.” Browning says, “It was the worst moment in Bilerico history. We got several hundred death threats… traffic went through the roof, though not the way we wanted it.” He adds, “Bilerico is not a safe space because it deals with trans and personal issues where people can share their experiences, but we’re not a safe space. We are a blog. And if you’re not being challenged, we’re not doing our job.”

Most LGBT folk I know have a YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter account, but don’t use them for anything other than fun and friend sharing. Feast Of Fun‘s Fausto Fernos explains how LGBT folks can use their social media accounts to help the cause.

A few times on Queerty, we’ve tried to present “Lovely Ladies,” one of our skin pic photo galleries of beautiful women for our lesbian and bi gal readers. But often we’ll get lesbians complaining that we should stop posting lipstick boner-lesbians and start showing women with an authentically queer aesthetic. AfterEllen‘s editor Trish Bendix has the same problem, but she thinks that independent lesbian web series will slowly open us up to less mainstream representations of the queer woman.

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