Blogging from the borders – my blog and I

I feel compelled to blog/write even though it is sometimes a terrifying experience. The more compelled I am to say something the more anxiety I experience and the more determined I become to overcome that anxiety. It’s always been like that even when I was a child I was always speaking when I was supposed to be silent. Silence was/is never an option for me. When i started blogging I only had a broad idea that I wanted to primarily focus on anything to do with African Women – a very broad term for a whole continent – and the African Diaspora that is socially, politically, racially, culturally, ethnically and sexually diverse. I also wanted to look at human rights, to challenge stereotypes and discuss issues such as gender, sexuality and racism and how these are constructed and manipulated by culture. These are areas that can make people feel uncomfortable because they reach to our core. They often reveal the hidden truths deep within ourselves. Talking about racism and ethnicity and sexuality can be threatening because they require people to consider the possibility that they may have racist or homophobic feelings and attitudes. Examining our sexual identities is perhaps the most difficult as it requires us to accept that identity is not rigid and thereby collapses the gender identity we have lived with since childhood. All of these challenge the concept of culture as something fixed by time and constrained by limited sets of behaviour which ensure the subordination and oppression of groups of people such as women, children, gays and lesbians. I have also chosen to write about a range of issues that I have experienced directly or indirectly in my offline life such as gender violence, racism, sexuality, HIV/AIDS and cancer.

A starting point in reflecting on identity, blogging and me is to ask the question, “Where does my writing come from and where does it take me?” Where it comes from are my identities and where it takes me are to BL and all the other blogs I read regularly. Neither the blog nor my identities are mutually exclusive. For example in terms of race, gender and class, I can move between and within African, African European, mixed race growing up in privilege in Nigeria and mixed race living in Europe and Black 9-5 single parent in London. I also can find commonalities in an African American or a Chicana or Indian and white English experience. These are all very broad experiences and the aim is not to categorise them as this is not possible or meaningful but to show that there is a fluidity in my own identity that enables me to flow outside of a fixed set of identities. Likewise in terms of sexuality, I can move between lesbian, bi-sexual, gay , heterosexual experiences – all of these within a racial and class context.

Most recently I am beginning to learn and trying to understand transgender experience. A liberating experience which has led me to questions about myself, my identity and the experiences in my life that have led me to who I am today. I haven’t found any complete answers but just the fact of finding the questions is a beginning – a kind of new journey backwards in my life. What I mean by this is that I can find a point of communication or commonalities with each of these communities. It does not mean all of these are aspects of my identity but rather that the multiple and transitionary nature of my identities enable me to position myself in multiple spaces. This translates to my reading blogs such as JayWalks, Republic of T, Women of Color, Angry Black Woman, Soul on Ice, Mshairi, Sabbahs Blog, My Hearts in Accra, Ore’s Notes, Two, Marians Blog, White African, Wordsbody, 3rd World View, Cooking Diva, Sotho, Gukira, Nigeria Whats New, Blac(k) ademic, Planet Greneda, Nubian Soul and many more. Visits to all of these open up new and different stories and perspectives which can become valuable in my own process of development. A persons blog is one part of their identity and if you share some part of that then you can communicate with them at some level which can make blogging a positive experience.

As bloggers we present ourselves as individuals, sometimes anonymously. After a period of time readers begin to make assumptions about the blogger based on the content of their blog, their approach to that content and their response to readers. But because of the medium, this presentation can never be complete. So many signifyers of ourselves are missing, the visual, our body language, our personal lives, anxieties, pleasures, family, friends, hobbies, work and the reality of our daily lives. I do not know how I am perceived by readers but since they are not aware of my personal circumstances, education, background and life history their perceptions can never be complete. Nonetheless many aspects of my identity come through my writings and commentary as well as responses to readers on my own blog and on other peoples blogs.

So yes BL represents many but not all aspects of me. So who am I – “the where does my writing come from” part of the question. In considering that question I always draw on Gloria Anzaldua and think of myself on the “borderlands” of somewhere. Anzaldua describes herself as being a turtle and carrying her home on her back and of being an internal exile even as a child (interview in Melus, 25/2000). I feel like this myself – part of something but then also at odds with it – never quite fitting in here or there but a traveler flowing through lots of different places. She writes

You say my name is ambivalence? Think of me as Shiva, a many-armed and legged body with one foot on brown soil, one on white, one in straight society, one in the gay world, the man’s world, the women’s world, one limb in literary world, another in the working class world, the socialist and the occult worlds. A sort of spider woman hanging by one thin strand of web.

To the second part of the question “where does my blog take me?” I think BL is like me – not sitting anywhere specific, often contradictory and always on a journey to somewhere. Sometimes I think of my blog as a kind of temporary home because on one level it is safe, familiar and comfortable. Other times it is a fearful and unpredictable place where violations can occur. But as in the offline life you deal with it and move on. Blogs are works in progress and mirror offline lives – we make errors of judgment, we have successes. Why should online lives be so different to offline ones – so we learn from our experiences, the good and the bad – try different things at different times. Some relationships work, some work for a while and some are just not meant to be.

We can never close the door on our identities which are constantly transforming and as we go through changes so to will our blogs. Keep on Blogging ….