The REAL Diversity Panel
When Words Collide 2018
Saturday, August 11, 2 pm (Waterfront)
featuring Tet Millare, Tiffany Sostar, Adora Nwofor, Alyssa Linn Palmer
moderated by M. Jane Colette
PANEL DESCRIPTION, pre-delivery: Writing diversely starts with living diversely and reading diversely. Join our panel of writers, activists and readers to discuss the role of readers and writers in shaping the world we want to live in through what we read and write and create in our art.
PANEL DESCRIPTION, post-delivery: We did not cover a quarter of what we had intended, and we certainly did not drill into shaping the world we want to live in through what we read, write and create. Instead, we set the groundwork for continued reflection and discussion. We hope that at least once or twice you thought, “I did not think about it like that.”We invite you to consider this panel and these resources as the beginning of more “I did not think about it like that” moments.
Thank you very much for spending a thoughtful and provocative hour with us at When Words Collide. Here are some resources to continue the discussion, get you thinking, and get you writing (yes, we do get to writing specific resources here. Eventually.)
WHO WAS WHO
TET MILLARE is a proud queer Filipino-Canadian LGBTQIA+ advocate, community volunteer, and adventurer. One of the founders of VOICES, Calgary’s Coalition of Two-Spirit and Racialized LGBTQIA+ and a board member of Fairy Tales Queer Film Fest, she strives to live life in the present and channels her hopeless sentimental side through any expression of art. Tet has written and performed (sung, even!) at the Coming Out Monologues, danced with the M:ST8 (Mountain Standard Time Performative Art), and performed as a technical non-dancer at Fluidfest. A published author—she has pieces in the YYC Queer Writers anthologies Queer Christmas in Cowtown and Screw Chocolate 2, she also works as a professional photographer — check out her work on Facebook at Tet M’s Photography. Tet uses she/her and they/them pronouns.
TIFFANY SOSTAR is a community organizer, narrative practitioner, and workshop facilitator. Their work focuses on trauma and transformation – helping people tell their stories, build their resilience, and honour the skills and strategies they use to resist injustice. They love working with queer, trans, polyamorous, kinky folks, and are particularly passionate about working with folks who are marginalized. You can find them online at www.tiffanysostar.com, on facebook and instagram @sostarselfcare, and by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. They/them.
ALYSSA LINN PALMER writes romantic noir, lesbian romance, and a variety of short stories. Her novel Betting on Love was a finalist for a Rainbow Award in 2015, and in 2016, her novel Midnight at the Orpheus won a Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Fiction. She’s also the author of the Chat Rouge noir romance series. Alyssa currently serves as the Diversity Liaison for the Calgary Association of the Romance Writers of America. Find her works at alyssalinnpalmer.com, and all the usual online retailers. Want to chat? She’s on Instagram and Twitter as @alyslinn, and on Facebook as herself. She/her.
Alyssa was filling in at the last minute for EMILY VARGA, CaRWA’s current VP Events, writer of historical romance and YA fantasy, who peoples her worlds with the same complex characters of colour that people her life. Research geek, data collector, and passionate advocate professionally and personally (she’s a lawyer by day), Emily worked in publishing before going to law school. Emily’s input informed the shaping of the panel, and she’s popping in and out of our notes and resources. So, she really WAS there.
ADORA NWOFOR is a woman of many talents and many passions— comedian, stylist, and makeup artist, a passionate volunteer with, among others, Femwave, the Calgary feminist festival, and the mother of twin daughters and a non-twin son. She’s a Calgarian who’s the child of Nigerian and Jamaican parents and she’s been called “a beguiling blend of Africa, the Caribbean, and the prairies.” Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram. She/her.
M. JANE COLETTE (moderator) was born in Poland and raised all other the place, spending the most formative chunk of her childhood in Libya, then Italy, before finally becoming Canadian. She’s parlayed her two degrees in anthropology into two writing careers—first, as a legal affairs and business journalist, and now as a literary pornographer. You can find her on most social media platforms as mjanecolette–Instagram is her fave but she’s also on Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads as well. You can also write her at TellMe@mjanecolette.com / email@example.com. She/her.
WORDS, WORDS, WORDS
What do all these damn words mean?
DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
Diversity is about the individual. It is about the variety of unique dimensions, qualities and characteristics we all possess. (As Adora put: Diversity is juice, coffee, pop, water, beer…)
Inclusion is about the collective. It is about creating a culture that strives for equity and embraces, respects, accepts and values difference. (Or, in Adora’s words: Inclusion is including ALL the things on the menu)
“Diversity and inclusion is about capturing the uniqueness of the individual; creating an environment that values and respects individuals for their talents, skills and abilities to the benefit of the collective.”
Emily adds: “When we talk about ‘writing diversely,; I prefer the term ‘writing inclusively.’ Because to me writing diversely implies that I am adding something to the existing landscape that normally wouldn’t be there. I am not, I am just including characters and persons that already exist.”
In brief: “the overlap of social identities contributes to the specific type of oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual.”
“Kimberlé Crenshaw introduced the theory of intersectionality to feminist theory in 1989 by becoming the first person to use this word in this context of feminism. The first use of the term was in a seminal 1989 paper written by Crenshaw for the University of Chicago Legal Forum, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” In her work, Crenshaw discussed Black feminism, which argues that the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood in terms of being black and of being a woman considered independently, but must include interactions between the two identities, which frequently reinforce each other.”
Here is Kimberlé Crenshaw giving you Intersectionality 101… and a bit more:
We’re not gonna define privilege for you here. We’re going to show you:
Are you uncomfortable? Do you want to deny that you’re privileged because your life hasn’t been easy?
Privilege is more insidious than you think! Check out this video:
- Light Skin Privilege Is Real (FB Video)
Listen to this podcast:
Remember the part when M. Jane said, “They’re not racist assholes, they’re…” and Adora said, “Excuse me, excuse me, yes they are,” and she talked about how impossible it is to NOT be racist in a racist society, and how essentially the best you can do is to be AWARE of your racism?
Educate yourself about your racism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia because, as a person who lives in a racist, patriarchal, and trans-and-homophobic culture, you’ve internalized them.
Here’s a video that takes you through this: AJ+ on the Brain Science between Racism
INTERLUDE FOR COMPASSION AND EMPATHY
If you listened to the Dear Sugars podcast above, you’ll have had a taste of Cheryl Strayed’s radical compassion. We’re inviting you here to engage in some radical compassion and practice empathy in situations in which you are not in your comfort zone.
This is THE book that should have made Cheryl Strayed famous, not Wild. (Says M. Jane).
AND, THIS IS WHY WE NEED ALL THE STORIES
Now, Emily’s pointed out that Chimanada Ngozi Adichie has taken a… non-inclusive position on trans women. You can read about that here:
This situation really illustrates, again, how privilege is a very complicated beast that isn’t always apparent to the people who experience it in one area of the their lives and not another.
QUEERNESS AND GENDER
LGBTQIA+… “OMG, I can’t deal with all those letters!”
Really? You’re smarter than that. We live in a beautifully complex and evolving world, in which we’re recognizing that gender and sexual orientation are … well, a diverse rainbow.
Here’s a pretty meaty glossary to introduce you to (almost) all the words: LGBTQIA+ Glossary
In our panel, we used the word Queer a lot, as three of us are–although each of us is a different kinda queer. Here’s some reads on that:
- What’s with that Q word: The Difference Between Queer and Gay
- Queer 101 from Feministing
- Sunny Drake’s Blog
Another Excellent Intersectional Video–from the the pov of a Femme Cis-Gendered Gay Man: You Think I’m Femme? I do too
Now’s seems like a good time to show you this:
(If you find a similar chart about writing race, please send it to M. Jane!)
Pronouns! We could talk a lot about pronouns, instead, we’re going to send you to Teen Vogue (really–Teen Vogue just kicks ass these days):
- All Your Questions About Gender-Netural Pronouns Answered–from grammar to what to do if you mess up (Teen Vogue)
And if you’re really struggling with this–remember when your friend Mary Smith married Tim Jones, and she became Mary Jones? Did that blow your mind and you just couldn’t deal with it? No? Good. Then you can deal with rethinking pronouns.
Think language doesn’t matter? That using the “right” word isn’t a big deal?
Then, excuse me, why the fuck are you a writer?
BUT WHY ARE YOU SO ANGRY?
We all had some lovely encounters after the panel with people sharing stories and experience and asking very thoughtful questions.
We also had a few of “Why are you so angry? Isn’t the solution to a better world for us all just to be nice to each other?”
And yes, all of those comments came from straight white men. So, this is why people who haven’t won the privilege jackpot by birth are angry–at least some of the time:
- Black Women Are Not Sassy–We’re Angry by Brittney Cooper (And after you read that, get her book Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower)
- I Am An Angry Young Black Man (this is from a South African pov… don’t go to a “this doesn’t happen here” place, k? It does)
- Why Do Queers Get So Fucking Angry? by Darren Stehle (Th-Ink Queerly)
- I’m angry. You’re angry. All women are angry. But will that be enough? The Guardian (#metoo trigger)
- Women are angry because of men. Again. Washington Post (#metoo trigger)
Also, watch Hannah Gadsy’s Nanette “comedy” routine on Netflix. (Read this if you don’t know who Gadsby is: “I broke the contract”: How Hannah Gadsby’s trauma transformed comedy, The Guardian)
Now that we got that out of the way…
OMFG, WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO START TALKING ABOUT WRITING?
Right. Because you’re here to write more inclusively.
But do you see how you can’t write more inclusively without really understanding why you haven’t been doing so up to this point?
Because we’re not talking here about tinting the skin of your hero or heroine or popping a quirky queer secondary character into your story. That’s a) lazy b) not enough and c) possibly damaging.
But. Without further ado–let’s focus on publishing and writing now.
IS THE PUBLISHING WORLD INCLUSIVE?
The short answer is No.
(And if you ask if the publishing world is racist, the short answer is Yes.)
Here are some depressing statistics.
- 2015 Diversity in Publishing Baseline Survey (Lee and Low Books)
- Diversity in Children’s Book Publishing
- Lack of Ethnic Diversity in Canadian Publishing (SFU Study)