Drawing the Line

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What I’m doing:

I’m working on a project for the Queer Arts Festival this summer that is exploring the concept of (former and current) role models and heroes, and what happens when they “cross the line”.

What makes us stop considering them a role model? It’ll differ for everyone – my line is different from your line, your line is different from the next person. Not everyone will agree on what’s problematic. Someone who’s no longer a role model for you might still be for someone else. Some people might be okay with having a role model who is inspiring in some ways but shameful in other ways. Some people might write the role model off after the slightest infraction.

Sometimes a role model stands for something that many people respect – like the fight for marriage equality – but that many others don’t have respect for – because they might feel that there are bigger issues for the queer community to focus on, or that the gay marriage movement has a tendency towards assimilation.

And sometimes a role model isn’t even chosen by us, but is assigned to us by society, like when cisgender people assume that all trans people look up to famous drag queens, regardless of how transphobic they might be, or when straight people think that all queers should be fans of gay writers, regardless of how biphobic or misogynist they might be.

How do our heros/role models change as we grow, as our politics grow? What happens when we’re intersectional, but our role model isn’t? How does the constant access to our role models via the internet, in ways that are entirely unprecedented, change our opinions of them? When we can read blog comments that they leave for others, when their speeches are live-tweeted? What happens when we grow up and realize that the heroes we had as teenagers represent the opposite of what we stand for as adults? Those are all the questions I want to ask with this project.

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What I want from you:

I have my own opinions, but I can’t speak for anyone but myself.

I’d love to know who your current or former role models are. And I’d love to know why – why they were your role model but aren’t anymore; why they’re still your hero, regardless of things they might have said or done. A role model can be any public figure that you once looked up to – a musician, an artist, a politician, an actor, an activist, a celebrity, etc. It can even be someone who wasn’t actually your hero, but was a role model to other people. Maybe you’ve had a problem with them all along?

I’d like the positive and the negative – a line or two about why the person is a role model, and a line or two about why they might not be or maybe shouldn’t be a role model anymore.

The project will include some words from people who suggested role models (as well as allowing viewers to participate during the festival), so full sentences are appreciated, but not required. It’s anonymous, unless you chose to give me your name, in which case it’s entirely confidential. I understand that criticizing someone who is popular, even when it’s valid criticism, can feel unsafe or nerve wracking, and I want to make this as comfortable as possible.

Are you in? Here’s the survey!

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What else?

If you’re not into filling out the survey, for whatever reason, that’s cool too – but would you mind forwarding this on? Sharing it on your facebook or twitter? I’d like to cast as wide a net as possible – I don’t want to only hear from people who agree with me on everything!

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