Am I an activist?

I’ve finished my first annual progress review and sent it off into the abyss! So now I have time to have feelings again… Obviously the primary feeling is terror about the prospect of having an annual review meeting, but there is a little space for some other feelings too…

In the end (after a false start) I decided to submit a sub-section of my methods and methodologies section. As part of this section I have written reflexively a little bit, trying to let my readers know where I am positioned in the context of my proposed data construction. So I wrote about being a queer woman, being disabled, being white all really important elements of my identity if we want to try and understand how I occupy a research context. I also write about being a youth worker, taking leadership positions (past and present) in queer groups, and being a queer ‘community member’.

I am a community member

Now I don’t need told twice how simultaneously problematic and useful it is to talk about ‘queer community’. But that isn’t what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about my reticence to use the word ‘activist’.

For many, many years, I would definitely have counted myself as an activist because I was, well, very active. I ran campaigns. I participated in campaigns. I did campaigning. I was an activist. But as time has passed, I’ve spent less and less time campaigning, and I feel like ownership of that term has slipped away from me.

I suppose part of this is about my vision of an activist, or rather my vision of me as an activist. For me it’s waving a placard, starting an online campaign that results in a real life material consequence, writing the kinds of articles that will both change people’s minds but also risk a massive backlash. That isn’t to say that’s the only form of activism, everyone is doing it differently right?! But that is me at my most activist, and that is definitely not me right now.

I volunteer, I am passionate about ensuring queer voices are at the forefront of my research, I attend marches, I take part in a university LGBT network and through it challenge everyday cisheteronormativity in ‘the Academy’. But I am much less of a driving force. It’s all much less noisy and much less risky, and to me, if I’m honest, it feels much more like I am doing what is right by a community that I have some sense, however problematic, of connection to. I am being an active community member, but I am no longer the activist I once was. Maybe my relationship to that word will change but it hasn’t yet, so I guess I just wanted to document for a moment where I am up to with it.

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