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Sorry, But 'Reading' Is Not Fundamental — It's Terrible

Sorry, But 'Reading' Is Not Fundamental — It's Terrible

Sorry, But 'Reading' Is Not Fundamental — It's Terrible

The library doesn't need to be open 24/7.

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"Reading is fundamental," or so they say.

Since the queer revolution began decades ago, non-hetero people have found all sorts of ways to reclaim the power and control that the world stole from them. This has come in many forms. From the beauteous explosion that is voguing, to the unique, inexplicable fashions that tore away from the binary mainstream, and to the aforementioned "reading," within which we assert our quick-wittedness, and emotional, mental, and intellectual dominance without having to do much more than bat an eyelash. Some of these things are, and remain, positive, while one (you've probably guessed which one) has taken a turn down a dark road.

Reading, which is commonly associated with "throwing shade," has become a major staple of gay culture. We expect it, laugh at it, and participate in it, willingly or unwillingly. But much like children rough-housing, it's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt. Unlike children, however, we should know better than to be so careless.

Don't get me wrong, reading can be fun on either end. It teaches you to think creatively and to be quick on your toes, but even these benefits are not worth what this culture has turned it into. We've become a culture obsessed with "dragging" people and "reading for filth." It's how we feel dominant in a world that often tries to dominate us. It makes sense, it really does, but we need to find a way to leverage reading in positive ways.

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A celebrity posts something offensive or homophobic, and the next thing you know gay Twitter is coming for them with receipts from years ago, insults that definitely took a few minutes to come up with, and the most unflattering pictures the world has ever seen. What a force for good this would be if it was used more frequently against dirty corporations and politicians.

This problem is much bigger than the gay and queer community. We've become stuck in a society that rewards apathy and meanness. Regina George is an icon. Mean queens on Drag Race are the ones that make us laugh the most. We wait for, and relish in, opportunities to go "OOOOOOOOH" when someone says something fierce. It's become a legitimate way to connect, which is kind of sad considering how many different mediums we have where we can actually make genuine connections.

The reality behind all this culture we perpetuate and live in is that it hurts people. This isn't a joke, or some sort of over-dramatic plea for kindness. It's a call for mindfulness. Don't just accept reading as a some part of humor, which somehow excuses it from having to respect other people. It's only fun if those involve are consenting. No one should be attacked and made fun of if they don't want to be.

This is also not about growing thick skin or learning to take a joke. It's much harder to make someone grow thick skin than to simply leave people alone if they don't want to play. And to be honest, it's basically just a way of saying "You do all the work in this situation/confrontation because I don't want to." Gay and queer people should feel safe in environments with one other. We should be welcoming, especially seeing as we're still thought of as sick, disturbed creatures in many parts of the world.

Reading has its place. This is not a condemnation of reading as a whole. This condemns reading being some fundamental part of queer identity. It's as shallow and pointless as a person whose main identifier on dating sites is that they're "masculine." Aren't there better, more complex ways in which we can define ourselves as individuals and as communities? Reading is fundamental for some people, but those people are ultimately just standing outside of closed libraries waiting for something to do.

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