A Webzine Created and Edited by
Table of Contents
"Where dreams are the stuff reality is made of"
by , Editor
"Identity Vs. Censorship"
CENSORSHIP. There's a word guaranteed to stir a reaction. If you're not for it, you're against it. It's like abortion: there's little middle ground. One camp says we must protect society from itself in order to promote social growth. The other camp says we have to fling the gates open to prevent social polarization. A fun argument to debate over coffee: plenty of enjoyment, I thought, until the issue came to rest at my own doorstep.
I've never been an editor before. So, I have no experience and learn as I go. But I always felt I had an open mind and a good heart and expected that would prevent the "C" word from ever becoming an issue. WRONG!!! Who defines an "open" mind? Who defines a "good" heart? Well, I do, of course. In fact, we all do. Which is just great if you are Jane Individual with responsibilities to your own opinions and none others. But the moment you hang out a shingle saying, "Editor", you are really saying "Express your opinions through me." And at that very moment, you become a censor.
Nonetheless, through almost a year of publication of The Subversive, I had never considered (nor had the need to consider) rejecting a submission or censoring a work. I figured my "good" heart would set the mood of the magazine and my "open" mind would keep me flexible enough to accept things that didn't quite match it.
I've been a film editor for years, and though I sometimes had to lose an actor's best "take" for the sake of the scene, there was not much of a thought to it. It was obvious to me that the good of the whole outweighed the good of the individual. Apply that to life, however, and you can't believe your own mouth!
So here I am, professing an Open Forum for all points of view as long as THEY do not profess limiting someone else's point of view. Here I am, patting myself on the back for being so "fashion forward" and wondering how the other poor dolts ever ran into trouble. Here I am, minding my own business and >PLOP<, the "C" word lands right in my lap.
I was never so shocked in all my life!
Apparently, a story written by one of our contributors that I had been serializing from issue to issue had gotten a bit too "hot" and the readers were getting restless. I got one "reference" to it (not strong enough to call a complaint), then another, and another. Of course my first reaction was to cry "Censorship!" and jab that word right back at those who had grumbled. "Where is your morality?", I demanded. "What about Free Speech?!?" So self-righteous was I, so posturing, so binary.
Then, America Online refused to accept The Subversive in the downloadable archives if the story was included, and a deal to distribute The Subversive through a major gender organization was suspended. And the worst part of it was, the story did not reflect MY sensibilities as well! Oh, it was VERY well-written, and VERY original. It just wasn't MY personal cup of tea. But, Dammit (or should I say Darn it), this was America, after all. And people had a right to know (whether the wanted to or not!) It was my moral obligation to make sure EVERYONE got heard - not society's obligation, not AOL, ME, just ME!!! (Darn it!.)
So, like a true supporter of the ACLU, like a true social minority, tilting at City Hall, I clenched my fist in tenacious indignation and stuck by my guns: I published another installment. Expecting the worst, I prepared for an onslot of hate mail. I battened the hatches, hunkered down and... nothing. NOT A DURN THING!!! Apparently, everybody who had something to say had already said it.
"Well", thought I, "the storm has blown over... and little damage to boot!" Little damage, that is, except to my "open mind". I smiled with satisfaction at the outcome for days, applauding myself for my willingness to go down in flames, rather than recant my dearly held philosophies. But the whole time, something deep inside keep smirking up at me: "Grin while you can you pompous, shallow, egocentric non-entity."
"Non-entity!?!", I gasped in outrage, "How DARE you, Suh! (And by the way, what exactly did you MEAN by that comment anyway?)" "I meant", said self, "that your morality has no limits... your publication has no limits... YOU have no limits!!!" "Moi?" "Yes, Moi!"
Limits? What do limits have to do with Censorship? Well... I thought about it - the arbitrary line: what did it really mean? Who draws it? Does it have to be drawn at all? And after a while I came to realize, yes it does.
But why? I had successfully weathered the slings and arrows of limiting perspectives! Yes, all but my own. You see, by not drawing the line, by not setting limits, I had failed to define either the publication or myself.
Something can have an identity, a personality, as it were, only by knowing where it begins and where it ends: what its edges are - the extent of its domain. If something is unlimited, why then the something is EVERYthing, for it has no limits to define it. Limits are the membrane of any functional system. What's inside the membrane is part of it, what's outside is not. It is a subset of a greater whole, but not homogeneous with its parent set.
Sure, definitions are arbitrary: they segregate a portion from the whole and look toward its unique qualities that differentiate it from the whole. But without arbitrary definitions, there is nothing but the whole, the mean equilibrium as if there were no currents and eddies, no concentrations and rarifications in an even and balanced amalgam.
But the world is not a steady-state. It is not a bland sameness. Life, love and happiness could not exist without death, hate and sorrow. For every focus there is a blurriness, for every good a bad. All we can do is try to corral the positive things around people and leave the negative ones for the stones and the dirt. We can hope to group that which is good for humans with the humans, and take that which is bad for humans and shoot it into the sun.
THIS is what definitions are all about. To recognize that there are inequities, floating like little soft-edged islands in a sea of mediocrity. And we can daisy-chain these islands together to form a human continent in which to live.
Fine. What does all this have to do with The Subversive, Identities, OR Censorship? I came to realize that as much as I wanted The Subversive to be all things to all people, it could not be without neutralizing itself. And as EDITOR, it was MY responsibility, my FAULT, for choosing an arbitrary identity for the publication.
I began the Gender conference two years ago as a "safe haven from sexual harassment." It was intended to be the one place online that a body could go to discuss the gentle, peaceful, issues of self-discovery - not just another gathering place for self-gratification.
I caught a lot of flack in the beginning, from members of the fetish community that saw cross-dressing as primarily an erotic endeavor, existing only to satisfy animal instincts.
Well, I have nothing against that purpose. In fact, I engage in it myself from time to time. Truly, animal instinct can be a real day-trip! But there's all kinds of places to go for that. Any public room on AOL, any adult book store in any city, any chat-line BBS in the country - LOTS of places. But how many safe havens?
The Subversive was intended to be the same concept in print. And it started out that way. But, as it grew and attracted more readers (I estimate over 1000 per issue as of this date) the more erotically oriented folk found a ready forum as well (due to my lack of limits). And as new material was included, the personality of the publication began to change. All the old parts were there, but the new ones were in the same membrane. THAT was what people were upset by: not that a certain story existed or was available, but that it moved into "their" house - in a sense, into their sanctuary.
Suddenly their safe-haven was safe no more. They could no longer open The Subversive KNOWING what they would find, and that it would be kind and gentle and peaceful. Now they had to raise their guard again, pre-censor what they were about to read, just as they would in any other forum. What made The Subversive special was dying.
But what to do? WHAT should I do? Start refusing submissions from diligent, talented people just because their ideas conflicted with mine? How could I possibly draw THAT THICK A LINE?
Oh, yes, there are great justifications: I'm not a medium, just a publication - they can send it out Email themselves. I'm not trying to actively suppress their publication everywhere, just choosing not to put it in here. But they are just that, justifications.
All right, once again, what to do? What to do to define the identity of The Subversive as I wanted it to be - as a force for change in the overall society, but at the same time keep an Open Forum for all who wished to be heard? How could I blend MY desires for making a statement with conflicting desires of others? How could I satisfy both my "Open" mind and my "good" heart?
By keeping them separate.
What a concept. Two publications: one, The Subversive to be the safe-haven it was intended to be - a publication for the heart. The other, "Can of Worms", a bar room brawl of a magazine - no holds barred and anything goes - a publication for the mind.
This way, Can of Worms would simply reflect the turmoil of the world as seen through the eyes of talented and thinking writers. Their conflicting points of view would balance out, probably doing no good, but also doing no harm, yet engendering all to think, all to be aware, which keeps us all from being so naive that we are caught unawares. In contrast, The Subversive would offer a positive alternative to the brawl, a peaceful, loving and kind disposition that COULD do some real good and have little chance of doing much bad.
So, as of this issue, the racier material, the more intense fiction, will be published in Open Forum, the more romantic, personally fulfilling articles and stories will remain in The Subversive. The Subversive exists to bring insight, Can of Worms exists to incite.
I realize not all will want to get Open Forum, and so, it will be Emailed by request only. If you currently subscribe to The Subversive and would like also to receive Can of Worms, Email me and I will include you on the additional mailing list.
I hope this approach satisfies all of your hopes and needs as much as it satisfies mine. But remember... neither publication is anything without your contributions. These are YOUR publications - designed to reflect YOUR thoughts, YOUR feelings, YOUR desires. Without YOUR support, they cannot and will not continue to exist.
Thank you for your understanding as I learn and grow, and thank you for the trust you have given me to be your editor.
Back to Table of Contents
MELANIE'S WISE WORDS OF THE MONTH
"Shout in whispers."
- Wilma Snakestare (AKA map)
The Subversive #10
For a complete collection of all past issues of The Subversive visit:
In the belief that information should belong freely to the people,
The Subversive is made available on the World Wide Web at no charge.
DECLARATION OF PURPOSE
"This journal exists to promote the concept that each human is a unique individual, intrinsically entitled with an equal right to pursue her own destiny as far as it does not inhibit others in that same right. The Subversive shall serve as a ready forum for the free expression and exchange of ideas that do not violate this mandate, in the belief that tolerance grows from a familiarity with variety."
Copyright Transgender Support Site