Last night I was one of four featured readers at Queer Apple: LGBTQ Life in Poetry & Prose. Seldom do I feel the need to respond to an event publically, but I am so deeply troubled and offended by what took place last night that as an activist writer I believe I would be remiss not to. For the first time in years I was part of an audience that literally booed a writer from the stage before the end of his set. I don’t think that I should like everything that someone reads, nor do I believe in censorship for censorships sake, but I do stand behind an audience standing up and saying no, not in my community will you be permitted to say these things as a representative of us.
It was powerful to see an audience rise up against the oppressiveness of everything this man was saying, but sad that it was something that had to happen. Within seconds of this writer (who I have decided not to name in order to not bring more attention to his ‘work’) taking the stage the energy of the room shifted, his set relied entirely on a string of “stories” that were little more than a parade of racist, sexist, fatphobic, classist, anti-dyke, transphobic, misogynist, anti-sexworker “jokes.” It was in the end the rape jokes that got him booed from the stage. As an aside, it’s interesting that was the turning point for the audience in mass.
It has been explained to me both last night at the event, and then when I initiated a private conversation with the event host this morning that I am simply missing the humor in his work, that as a comedian he is ironic, that comedy by it’s very nature needs to be “anti PC.” I didn’t miss anything about his work, nor is it simply that I don’t understand comedy. I understand completely what was taking place – a very privileged white man took the stage and filled a room with the kinds of hateful stereotypes and misrepresentations that most of us spend our lives fighting against.
In a way last night was a learning opportunity as well as a turning point for me as an author. I have in my career been less diligent than clearly I need to be around doing preliminary research into the events I agree to lend my name and work to, and especially the content of other writers who I’ve been booked to headline with. That was my mistake, but one that I will not make again.