To all you wonderful, beautiful, diverse SFF people:
In a recent conversation with other authors who are practicing a religious faith, it became apparent that many of us feel social pressure to hide our beliefs. I’m not talking about common politeness and self-censoring during conversations at conventions and on the internet. That’s a no-brainer. I hope anyone who’s met me in person can testify that I’m not the kind of jerk who goes around rubbing other people’s noses in her opinions. I’m talking about something else. I’m talking about feelings of rejection because of who we are and what we believe — independent of any specific actions we have taken. Feelings of invalidation and dehumanization. Fear of being ridiculed or publicly dogpiled if we allow our religious affiliations to be known.
In a follow-up to that conversation, someone asked me to describe any specific actions which were leading to these feelings. I floundered. I’d been feeling subtle pressures for years, but did not have words to describe them.
Well, I’ve spent a few days thinking about it, and I now have words. No one is obligated to fix my problem, but I would appreciate it if people chose to try. I want a SFF community where we can ALL feel welcome. Where we can ALL accept one another’s differences despite the fact that those differences sometimes put us on opposite sides of political conflicts. If you would like to help the writers of faith within the SFF community feel accepted as individuals, just as I hope you would like every other sub-group to feel accepted, here are some things you can do:
- 1. Please do not ridicule faith in God or equate it with blind obedience. Unless you have spent time interacting with a wide variety of organized religions, you probably have no idea what the word actually means.
- 2. Please do not express support for me with one breath and emphatically distance yourself from my beliefs with the other. I know you mean no harm, but it makes me feel shunned and villainized. Within SFF, my views on religion are in a stark minority. No one is going to assume you share them. There is no reason to make a big deal about the fact that you don’t.
- 3. When I make a post like this, please do not tell me to stop whining because other people have it worse. Yes. There are people who have it much, much worse than I do, but my problem is still here. My pain is very real. Please do not invalidate it by claiming I have no reason to be upset.
- 4. My religious beliefs are part of who I am. No matter what you think, I cannot simply yank out the pieces you find objectionable and toss them aside. Please do not expect that I do so.
- 5. When, within an appropriate context, I mention a controversial church doctrine, please ask for more information before you start explaining* why that doctrine is wrong. Doctrine is a complex beast. The fact that I accept tenet A does automatically mean that I hold views B, C, D, E, or F. And it certainly does not mean that I approve of actions G, H, or I. I am happy to engage in polite discussion, but I don’t like being talked down to based on imagined opinions that have been invented for me.
- 6. I realize that many people within SFF have had horrible experiences with members of organized religions. I am not those people who mistreated you. Please do not treat me as if I were. Once we have gotten to know each other, you may conclude that I am a despicable person, or you may decide that I am actually quite reasonable. I can deal with either option, but please do not reduce me to a stereotype.
- 7. There is a tendency within the SFF community to demonize those who hold controversial opinions even when those opinions are expressed politely. This is divisive. Please stop. The fact that someone disagrees with you you does not make it ok to lob insults.
I love science fiction. I love fantasy. I love all the myriad styles of storytelling in between and I love the people who gather to discuss the craft and business of writing, both in person and on the internet. You are all AMAZING people, and I am honored to walk among you.
Thank you for listening.
*Several readers pointed out that the word I originally used here, ‘mansplaining’, is both derogatory and inaccurate to the situation. I agree. I shouldn’t have used it. Hence the change.
Comments at Livejournal
cross-posted from nancyfulda.com