Right now what is really bothering me is that a relative is trying to censor what I say on facebook, and most likely this blog as well. He says it is too explicit and vulgar. I never said I was a child friendly writer. I don’t have children on my facebook, just a teenager or two who tend to say more crude things than I do. I swear, I write about sexuality (I am a lesbian activist filmmaker after all), that’s about it. Once in a while I drop words like boobs or breasts. I’ve never said the c word on facebook (okay, yeah I did in my quotes, now it’s a blank word). But I said the C word on Bravo and APTN. Hell, I say it in my videos.
It’s really frustrating because I hate when people try to censor me, which has been happening since I was sixteen and making lesbian video art. There wasn’t any sex in it (I’ve had long standing dry spells for most of my life, so I actually don’t make very much work about specifically sex) but there was a lesbian teenager talking, which back in 1995 was very taboo and forbidden, especially in Alberta which is where it screened. I was actually outed in my hometown newspaper while I was still attending high school and being somewhat closeted for my own personal safety.
Anyway, people have been trying to tell me what I can and can’t say for half of my lifetime. And it feels like a special betrayal when it comes from your own family. Like, you think they might get it! But lamentably no. My Uncle has never been comfortable with me being queer as a three dollar bill and is even more uncomfortable that I am open about it and discuss sexuality on my online profiles/blogs/what have you. He told me I was “too explicit” and to “tone it down” for “your own good.” It was kind of threatening.
So I got pissed off and while I was seeing red I wrote fuck off and defriended and blocked him. And then I got in trouble for saying fuck off.
Sure it was rude, but man oh man was I pissed. It wasn’t the first time he has tried to censor me, and it probably won’t be the last either. Truth is ANYBODY who tries to censor me is going to get the exact same two word answer I gave him. I would have told those Alberta politicians to fuck off if I could, but I didn’t know how to handle heterosexually imposed repression of homosexuals back then.
So it is really making me rethink if I should be friends with ANY of my family on facebook. If I shame them so much by being who I am, what does that mean for me and them? I also have a documentary about me on rotation on two Canadian television channels where I say cunt, are they going to next demand that I stop allowing those tv channels to air that program? Are they going to ask me to pull the tape where I said cunt from the collection at UCLA? When I die are they going to have a big bonfire for my art and say good riddance?
But then that paints my whole family in a negative light, where it is really only this one Uncle who has an issue with how I live my life.
I think respect is a two way street. I know there is that whole Indian thing about respecting your elders, but not everyone who is my elder is worthy of my respect. And if they don’t respect me, why the fuck should I respect them? I had other issues with this Uncle when he stayed with us at Christmas. He was getting into my personal space in the basement and making comments on the state of my room and all kinds of highly inappropriate invasive behaviours. He wanted to “help” me clean up my room (I had clothes on the floor, a five minute job at the most) and also said ON CHRISTMAS DAY that there was no way I could be an entrepreneur/run a business because I was messy and had bipolar disorder.
This Uncle also has bipolar disorder, but he is totally bizarre about it! He thinks that it means you can’t work in management, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. His thinking on it is really dark ages, and in truth I almost suspect he is using his disorder as a really good excuse for his own bad behaviour.
I make highly personal videos using highly loaded words about highly loaded subject matter. I have been doing this for half my life. I have a following. I have fans. I am a public figure of sorts. I have a professional life that some people would not think is very professional. I am not afraid of language, of crafting it in crafty ways peppered with slang and, sure, explicit language. I’ve got a video circulating with a wide open beaver shot with a lock dangling from my hood and labia piercings that has been going around since 1998. That’s 13 years! I am not ashamed of my early work. I feel like I am not as edgy as I used to be. But that doesn’t mean I will avoid edginess or controversy.
My work is controversial. That is a fact. I’ve had the vice squad called because a museum employee thought I had made child porn (apparently myself as a nude nineteen year old is child porn????). In fact, the vice squad didn’t have an issue with the nineteen year old beaver shot with the lock on it, BUT they were troubled by a photograph of my mother changing my diaper when I was a baby. Talk about sick fucks. There you go right there.
There is presence in anger. I forget if Toni Morrison or bell hooks said that, but it is true. It fuels me to make my next work. It makes me realize there is something worth fighting for.
But I am ashamed that the forces at work in silencing me is coming from my own family. The rest of my family, while possibly embarrassed by my choice of words on occasion, has never told me to shape up or behave myself in my online personas.
In closing, well behaved women rarely make history. As long as the envelope can be pushed, I will be pushing it. My mere existence as a genderqueer lesbian of colour pushes the envelope already. I will not be diluted to placate a conservative relative. I’m a full strength kind of a woman.