Ever been good at something you weren’t quite sure what to do with?
I think I need to make some choices this summer about where I want to put my energy, and I’m generously blessed in having a few too many options. Not that any of them are easy. They’re just… there. If I want them.
Over the last year you’ve seen me kindasorta turn into an expert on non-traditional gender and queerness. It was unintentional and a little awkward (which, hey, fits the topic nicely), but it happened. Genderfork, an online art project I started, grew to 5,000 regular readers and is being run by a volunteer staff of 11. Allegheny College flew me across the country to speak on the grey areas of gender and sexuality (which went extremely well). And I’m also running San Francisco’s Queer Open Mic, which is thriving.
I could do more of this. The path is even in front of me, staring me in the face: Genderfork would make a great book. It would also make an incredibly cool Etsy-esque online marketplace for artists and clothing designers. And it would make wonderful nonprofit organization, funneling its funds toward genderqueer and trans youth art projects, community spaces, and workshops (I have a bunch of ideas already). I’ve got the resources and support I’d need to make it all happen, even simultaneously, and I would position myself at the same time to become a more prominent public speaker on the topic.
I could do that. And I might. It seems like a lot of people would like me to, and it might be the right path for me. I’m at a point where I love public speaking, and genderqueerness is a very fun and rewarding world. (Do you know how many people get in touch with me just to tell me I’ve changed their lives? About 3-5 a week right now.) I just haven’t decided yet.
The truth? Gender’s a hard topic. It kinda wears me out.
And the thing is, I didn’t get here because I wanted to be a Gender Expert. I got here because I spent about six months actively exploring my own gender, accidentally created a community around the topic (I did the same thing with creative writing five years ago), and then had fun using the project as an opportunity to hone some of community management skills. It’s also worth mentioning that Genderfork isn’t my voice anymore; it’s intentionally not about me at all. I have a heavy hand in guiding its focus and values, but as Kate Bornstein puts it, the site is a “prism of genders” — it exists to show that there are many, many people in this space. We curate it quietly and we let the content speak for itself. Queer Open Mic has a comparable setup — my role is to create a thriving space for other people’s voices.
In other words, for a Gender Expert, I’m not saying much. (Or maybe I’m just confusing that role with “pundit.”)
At at the same time, this blog (Dopp Juice) has been a little short on content lately, and it’s bugging me. I want to speak. But I’m stuck because I’m not sure what I want to talk about. This doesn’t seem like the right place to hit you with my gender theories somehow. Doing so feels like it will seal the deal on me fully entering the Gender Expert arena before I’m ready for it. I’d kind of rather still talk about social media.
But social media marketing is for “douchebags” now.
::rolling eyes at own internal critic.::
I love community management and sincere social media marketing. That’s something I actually set out to do (or rather: realized it was perfect when i found myself accidentally standing in it). I spoke last week on a panel about Online Promotion for Artists and turned into a giddy 5-year-old, so excited to be able tell people how to make the Internet do more wonderful things for them. I can talk for hours about this stuff. (And a lot of people have figured out that I’m secretly a much cheaper consultant than I let on to be — all you have to do is buy me dinner and I’ll brainstorm on your project with you for two hours.)
But I don’t talk about it — at least not so much online. Unlike with genderqueerness, the blogosphere is saturated with pundits on this stuff. And honestly? I don’t like most of them. There’s a lot of superficial manipulation going on in social media right now, and I don’t like carrying that reputation by association. I’ve started adding wincing disclaimers to my self-description when I tell people I’m a social media consultant. (“Well, sort of. I’m the good kind. I mean…”) I’m no longer quite so proud of something I’m still completely in love with.
You see my dilemma.
More truth: I’m taking this situation very seriously this summer. I’ve given my primary gig notice that I plan on repositioning myself come September. That might mean doing the same job with a new perspective. Or it might mean a different job within the same organization (the creative freedom we have there is hard to match). Or it mean something completely different.
Three months seems like long enough to be able to figure it out.
Wanna help? Maybe we could get coffee soon?
Thanks and love,