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08 September 2011 @ 10:12 pm
An Open Letter to Bill Schafer  
Please note that this contains discussion of some of the emotional aspects of childhood sexual abuse and anti-queer hate violence, and so may be triggering for some readers.

Dear Bill Schafer,

Thank you for asking for comments on your decision to publish Orson Scott Card’s Hamlet’s Father.  I appreciate you publicly declaring that you value the thoughts and feelings of your readers, and that you and your fellow editors will take our concerns seriously.

I want to admit that I have not read Hamlet’s Father.  I am assuming that the information contained in William Alexander‘s review is accurate, and that if it were not accurate, your public response to the controversy would have included relevant corrections.

This is an issue that hits very close to home for me.  I am a queer survivor of childhood sexual abuse; my father molested me for twelve years.  There is far too much involved in my personal experience to get into in this letter.  But I do want to discuss some of my own life because it’s relevant.  One of the most painful aspects of being a queer survivor has been the doubts: what if all those hateful voices were right?  What if I am attracted to men because my father abused me?  What if I really am sick, what if my soul really is twisted and broken like all those conservative Christians say?  

Through years of therapy and lots of struggle I have learned that my queerness is not at all sick or twisted, that it is part of my vibrant and beautiful creativity, that it is part of the life flourishing inside of me, the life that wants to embrace the world and explore the many possibilities of love and to write and sing and dance.

I am lucky; I escaped from my father’s house.  I am out of that violence, and I have had the support of many people who have helped me on my ongoing healing journey.  But everyone is not so lucky.  I myself am far from unscathed, far from free of the taint of those hateful voices, of my father’s voice whispering in my ear that the abuse was my fault, that he was hurting me because of some flaw, some sin within me.  Of the church’s voice proclaiming that queer people are “intrinsically disordered”.  Of the voices of boys at school, calling me a faggot.    

No one who is queer can be free of the echo of those voices, the fear that someone will scream at them on the street for holding the hand of their lover, or for wearing the “wrong” clothes, stepping into the “wrong” bathroom, or for simply having the courage to walk through their lives openly and with pride.

By publishing this poisonous work, by stamping this story with the Subterranean Press logo and distributing it through the world, you have added strength to those hateful voices.  Those hateful voices (of which, admittedly, Card is but one of many) help create a social climate in which queer people are routinely mocked, tormented and threatened with violence.  In which queer teenagers take their own lives in terrible numbers.  (Especially, I suspect, queer teenagers who have experienced or are experiencing sexual violence.)  In which queer people are brutalized and murdered.   

This is a harsh thing to say, an angry thing to say.  It is a scary thing to say as a young speculative fiction writer who doesn’t want to burn bridges.  But it is true, and I have learned that my own survival and well-being as a survivor depends on me telling the truth; for me, the cost of remaining silent is worse than any potential repercussions of speaking out.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I know that it cannot be easy to read so many angry and critical e-mails.  I hope that you are able to find clear sight and compassion, both for those who are angry and hurt and for yourself.

I hope that my letter inspires you to make a further public statement, one which publicly proclaims your support for queer people.  One which acknowledges that you know that the ideas that queer men are pedophiles and/or that queer people are queer because they were abused are hateful lies, disproven again and again*.  One which a scared teenage boy, as terrified of his own sexuality as he is of his abusive father, could read and be comforted by.  

I hope that everyone reading this letter is moved to make such statements, and that we can collectively drown out the poisonous bile spewed by Orson Scott Card with a wildly diverse chorus of love and acceptance, anger and hope and beautiful fantastic visions of queer liberation.

River Willow Fagan

*See, for example, this link: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html

Sarah E Olsonsaraheolson on September 9th, 2011 05:59 pm (UTC)
Thank You
I imagine it took a lot of courage to post that. I'm so glad you did.
MG Ellingtonxjenavivex on September 9th, 2011 06:41 pm (UTC)
thank you
Dr. Kvetch: snail boyrose_lemberg on September 9th, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for this.
technoshaman on September 9th, 2011 09:18 pm (UTC)
What if I am attracted to men because my father abused me? What if I really am sick, what if my soul really is twisted and broken like all those conservative Christians say?

Tell you a story. When I was a lad of 21, I was a proverbial goody-two-shoes. Perfect attendance for years at Sunday School, didn't cuss, didn't f&(*, didn't drink much...

And my best friend in all the world came out of the closet.

Threw me in a tailspin. I wandered in a fog for two weeks.

What I finally figured out was that, if you gave a damn about your fellow sentient being, you were probably all right. I didn't *know* that for sure, but I couldn't imagine that someone my heart and my gut told me was a wonderful friend and creative individual was someone the Universe would reject just because he had a boyfriend.

That started me on a Long Strange Trip that led me 3624 miles from home, through a marriage and a divorce, studying a number of different religions, and learning that love has a bazillion different forms, all of them valid. I'm still a straight guy, and I still believe in concern for one's fellow sentient being, but I'm *very* different than that naive 21-year-old. And *most* of my closest friends are gay, bi, trans, or *something* other than W.A.S.P. male.

And I am happier than I have ever been, thanks in large part to the support, encouragement, and, yes, love, of my "different" friends (who really aren't all that different - something I sort of knew but didn't *grok* until I was shown by example). How could I *not* stand up and be there for you?

I can't.

I don't know what note you got back from Bill, but I got one back right quick, and it was very positive. I think we'll see a new and different SubT release as soon as he can get his ducks in a row, and whatever it turns out to be, it should be very cool.

Here via OA, which I got to via annathepiper. You rock, my lady.
Katherine Sparrowktsparrow on September 10th, 2011 01:44 am (UTC)
Thanks for putting this out in the world!