Raisins on the grapevine

Beward the internet rumour mill

Electronic communication has not only made it quicker and easier to invite our queer friends to potlucks-it has also expanded the borders of the leather and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities.

Me, myself, and I ain’t so much to stand up against powerful entities like government, police, or big business-but me, myself, and the massed voiced opinion or presence of every queer pervert I can reach with the touch of a button is something much greater.

When Aaron Webster died, we showed up by the thousands the day after his murder, to mourn, support each other, and protest. No phone tree or postering campaign could have accomplished that alone-it took the speed of email (and pamphleting the bars). That’s a good thing.

Almost every queer in Vancouver has a computer, or has access to one, whether in the library, the internet cafe, or a friend’s home. Our alternative queer, trans or kink communities have developed an online grapevine, and in tough times, this new speed and reach of communication makes a difference. We can command a posse of concerned community members, from organizers to mover-shakers, from picket-sign holders to armchair activists.

Anyone with computer access can begin the chain of events or chain letter, as it were. Any single one of us with a Cause, a Trouble or a Bone to Pick can craft a missive to the queer, leather or trans community, send it off to their 10 friends (who each have 10 friends) and ask for help, share a point of view or call for a boycott of a business that has treated them unfairly. That’s a good thing.

As time goes on, the original missive may reach thousands, and extend far outside the original community. But if there’s another side to the story, or a resolution, it’s unlikely that the correction will make it very far throughout the community.

We have no internal system of online gossip regulation. We rarely stop to check facts, consider the sources, or wonder at the motive of the sender. We’re pressured to support our brother or sister and blindly forward missives to each and every person we know. Our good intentions are at the mercy of anyone with an axe to grind. And that’s not a good thing.

The next time you get a call to community activism in your inbox, think before you send it out into the world. Was it written by someone you trust? Does it report facts or simply indulge in polemic slander? What are you being asked to do, and what real-world results might be gained if you follow the instructions? Is there a real human (not an anonymous nickname) who you can contact for more information? If it doesn’t check out, leave it where gossip belongs-in the trash.


Elaine Miller has become wary of carpal tunnel vision.

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Power, Vancouver

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