Standing Up and Speaking Truth

I believe that no one has any right to dictate to me when I should speak, where I should speak or how I should speak on any given subject. I also believe that questioning a person on the choices they make is breach of personhood. In matters pertaining to decisions about one’s profession, that questioning is a clear breach of professionalism. I also want to reiterate that if the work under discussion is a work that I have not read in its completed form, it is not right for me to criticize the work or condemn it.

I write the above because this was at the heart of the conflict that took place between Alex Dally MacFarlane and myself on the 19th of July and it was also this conflict that led to Requires Hate breaking all ties with me.

Alex has spoken in public of a conflict that took place between her and myself over Tricia Sullivan’s book, Shadowboxer. I had clearly stated my position on the work. In separate emails I clearly told both Alex and RH that I had no intention of passing judgment on Shadowboxer. I did not feel it was my place to criticize Shadowboxer on the basis of its Thailand setting as I was not familiar with Thai culture and if any public criticism of this aspect of the work should arise, it should come first from Thai readers.

Because of my position and because I had publicly supported Tricia Sullivan, I was accused of being complicit in racism and transphobia.

Regardless of this accusation, I continue to stand by what I have said. I cannot condemn a work based on a manuscript that has since been rewritten.

I am aware that things have been said about me. I am not sure what has been said and I do not know with how many this conflict has been shared. I had, at first, made a decision not to talk about this conflict as I valued Alex Dally MacFarlane’s work.

Tori Truslow who is one of the Nine Worlds organizers is Alex’s partner and it was clear that she was aware of what had taken place between Alex and me. I did hope that she would keep an objective position on this matter. It will seem illogical to many, but the position Alex and Tori occupied in UK fandom made me anxious and fearful when I went to Nine Worlds.

At that time I was afraid of Alex. I did not know what to expect of her and I did not know what to expect of her partner, Tori. I hoped that the issue could be resolved in a professional manner. At Nine Worlds, Alex gave me the cut and I realized that this issue was not going to be resolved. I later heard that a number of people had been made aware of this conflict. Again, I do not know what was said or how it was framed, but I am now in no doubt as to Alex’s and Tori’s hostility towards me.

How does this all connect to RH?

After the conflict between Alex and myself, I sent RH an email telling her of this and saying that she should feel free to cut ties with me as I had burned bridges with Alex. In response, RH clearly questioned my decisions on my friendships and my refusal to condemn those who had supported me and those who I counted as friends. She then cut off ties with me.

In all our communications, I had always supported RH in her desire to build a career as a writer. I respected her descision to maintain secrecy and her choice to take on a writing pseudonym. I do not know what RH’s real name is. I also do not know Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s real identity. I do know that Benjanun was a persona that RH donned in order to achieve her desire of being a published writer.

After Worldcon, I was aware that something was going on, but not exactly what. There was talk of whisper campaigns, but I paid no attention to that as I did not have the energy to deal with controversies. I do remember Rachel Swirsky asking me about Benjanun’s identity and I told her that if this had already been confirmed by others I did not see why she felt the need to ask me for confirmation.

After that, I was even more sporadic online as we were switching servers and access to the internet was quite spotty.

On the 14th of October, I was surprised to find a message from Nick Mamatas on my blog. He wrote that if I wanted to know what the latest controversy was about, I should get in touch with him. I wasn’t too keen on controversy, so I told him that I didn’t have regular net access but I would get in touch as soon as I could. I was also surprised to find a number of hostile messages from people who told me they were disappointed or disgusted with me.

When I got back online on the 16th of October, I got in touch with Nick Mamatas and asked him what he knew. I told him I had received a number of angry messages and I was confused as I was completely out of the loop. Did he know anything?

I had heard that Benjanun had been outed in public by Nick Mamatas, but Nick told me that Benjanun was spreading the rumor that I was the one who had outed her. I told Nick that this was an untrue accusation. I thanked him for taking the time to ask me about this and tried to think of what I could do.

I will admit that I was quite disheartened. Among the messages I received was one that accused me of sabotaging and destroying Southeast Asian writers. It is an accusation that has no ground in truth. My work has always been directed towards creating more visibility for writers coming from the margins. That these kinds of lies were being fed to the vulnerable is a deed that I consider unconscionable.

It was then that I decided that I couldn’t just wait for things to die down. There was much more at stake than myself. I reached out to people I trusted and decided to write this post.

I’ve heard that Requires Hate a.k.a. Benjanun Sriduangkaew has tendered two apologies and that she has apologized to those who she has harmed. More than two weeks have passed since then, but I have yet to receive an apology for the untruths she spread about me and her attempt to destroy my reputation.

There are those who say that we must forgive and forget and move on, but this is one case where we cannot simply forget. In the time since I learned of the accusations that were being leveled against me, I found out that this was not the first time RH had tried to destroy someone’s reputation. I also found out about her long history of abusive behaviour carried out under a variety of names.

Finding out about the stories of other victims has made me realize that to keep silent would be to do them a great disservice. The incident that took place between Alex, RH and myself was not pleasant, but there are those who have been silenced far longer by fear, there are those who have been ostracized and left out of conversations, there are those who have been shoved aside, dismissed and devalued.

I consider myself very lucky. It is with great thanks to friends and fellow travelers that I am still in the field. It is with thanks, first of all to Elizabeth Bear, that I found the courage to tell my story. It is with thanks to the work of Laura Mixon-Gould that I was able to see that I was not alone and that what happened to me was not a random individual incident. It is with thanks to Nalo Hopkinson’s words that I was able to start healing. It is with thanks to many in this field that I was able to keep hold of hope and belief.

To say that all RH did was to utter words is a complete denial of what we are as writers. Words have power, and words wielded in hatred and violence are just has harmful as violence dealt out with fists.

It is clear to me that RH has made use of her words to create schisms and divisions. She created an atmosphere of distrust and fear. By her actions, she has harmed many who chose to put their trust in her.

I still have no wish to harm RH. However, I do believe that it is only right that people be warned. I don’t doubt that RH has herself been a victim of stalking, but this does not excuse her harmful behavior. That she has tendered her apologies does not mean that she can be so quickly absolved, neither does it mean that we do not need to warn others about her.

I also believe that our duty is first of all to her victims. We need to respect the rights of these victims to a safe space where they can speak out and finally find healing.

**Again to be clear, I am not interested in a blacklisting of RH. The facts speak for themselves. RH has apologized. If writing gives her joy and fulfilment, I think she should continue to do so.

**I do call out Alex Dally MacFarlane for her actions. Social justice is not carried out by tearing down people or passing judgment on others. Social Justice is carried out in public spaces where open and free debate may take place.

**It’s also been pointed out to me that it’s racist for a white person to call out a brown person on how they deal with racism.

 **Comments on this blog are closed. Those who do wish to speak in support of those who have been at the receiving end of RH’s actions may do so at Laura Mixon-Gould’s blog.

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