September 28th, 2016

Some difficulties are more problematic than others

This week isn't that easy. It was never going to be, to be honest. Being public on Jewish New Year in this Year of Bigotry requires a certain courage. And my Jewish feminist Australian fantasy novel is out, which adds a certain twist. It's my second week of fulltime work . Fulltime for me means about 60 hours a week, and it takes some getting used to, especially when there's medical stuff still to weave into the pattern (2-3 hours a day) and there's Conflux and there's Canberra.

Some of it could have been difficult. Friends have made those bits wonderfully straightforward. Most of my extended Canberra family is making my new year happen for me on Friday week, so even if Sunday is less than it should be (thinking of my birthday at Conflux here, which was one of the two worst birthdays ever) my new year is going to be lovely. And Elizabeth is coming this Sunday, for she's also caught up in Conflux. Two friends are definitely coming on Sunday, in fact, so I won't be alone on Erev Rosh Hashanah.

Why do I approach the actual subject of this post in such a roundabout way? I'll get to that in a minute. First, let me focus on the excellent - Conflux is going to be possible because my health is improving and because a friend is giving me transport for Saturday and Sunday. I don't have to catch non-existent buses on the long weekend and I only have to carry heavy things in by bus on Friday. This is important, for my Conflux program is quite heavy. Between six and eight panels (and I'll try to post my schedule again later), the Conflux release of my novel, my stint at community stuff (GUFF, Worldcon, CSFG) and a workshop. All this between 10 am Friday and 4 pm Sunday.

I've been planning carefully and making sure that as much is done beforehand as I can. That adds to the fulltime work, but will mean I get through my festival and through Conflux without major problems. Also, it reminds me that I'm capable of complex planning again as well as of 10 hour work days.

Last night, however, I had a bit of a Moment. And again this morning. This was nothing to do with my fiction: all my editing is done and with the editor. Two novels for next year and they're ready for his tender administration ahead of schedule. I've drafted my History Girls post and it will go in the queue today for release at Conflux. I will make all my other deadlines, although I had to move my research to next week, since the articles it's for aren't due until the week after next.

All this, when I write it down, is rather wonderful. Me, back to doing things. So why do I have Moments?

It's echoes of that birthday at Conflux combined with a deal of frustration combined with something that I need to say aloud. It's socially undesirable to say this thing aloud, and not tactful at all and... I will probably regret this. If I'm going to spend an hour on the phone explaining to a pollie's offsider (as I did yesterday) what it means to be a political ally of minorities, I need to be clear on what it means to be a social ally and a friend.

The echoes of my birthday come from the people who say "Yes, I'm interested in coming to you for your NY dinner, but I can't tell you yet, so I'll get back to you." Three weeks ago, this was fine. We all do it. This week, it reminded me of the friends who said "We'll collect you after the dinnertime panel you're giving on your birthday and we'll have birthday drinks and a bite to eat." They forgot. I was stranded, foodless and drinkless and had missed lunch due to the timing of my workshop and spent the afternoon in hospital due to my idiot eye.

I tried to avoid another experience like this: Conflux on Jewish New Year could easily cause such things again and I wanted to make things easier for everyone, including me.

This time, I said clearly "It's dinner at my place. It's timed so that you can come after main programming is finished, or you can get the programming and have a later dinner and not miss anything. It's my New Year, which is equivalent in style and magnitude to your Christmas." Eight people have put off replying. At this stage, I must assume they're not coming but must cater for them anyway. Eight people is a lot of cooking... and there are other friends I would've liked to invite and planned on inviting just as soon as I had space to seat them. If you're a friend who would've liked to have come and didn't get invited, ask me, for I'll lay odds that none of the eight turn up and there's no reason why you should miss out.

One of the things I promised myself this year, when things started to get difficult for members of various minorities, was that I *would* start judging people by their willingness to come halfway to meet me. Not answering my invitation is one of those cases, I'm afraid. It's my equivalent of Christmas, after all.

If any of you are pondering on what makes an ally to invisible minorities, this is one of the things. Not making their lives more difficult or treating their important occasions lightly.

The current racism means I'm taking time out to talk to those who need to understand. We're in election mode again, so that means I get regular conversations on the issue. (My past isn't entirely past.) I have to put myself on the line, in public. We all do. This is not a year for sitting back and hoping life will improve. Given this, it would've been nice to have had a Rosh Hashanah without issues.

I used to think that it was minor that most friends in fandom were hopelessly vague about my important days. And one or two people not replying to an invitation is not an issue, since it's pretty standard for Canberra. But eight? That's part of a wider issue.

"I am not a bigot," people say. They probably aren't, but they reinforce bigotry if they make minority lives uncomfortable. If we're made to feel as if we don't belong or that our important things are really pretty trivial. Right now, all of us need to reach out and demonstrate to others that we value them. We don't have to agree with them. Showing them that they're important to us is enough. I had assumed that the lack of responses was because I was a boring sod who couldn't cook and didn't deserve any support, you see. That was my Moment.

It's hard to make a commitment for something that's just a bit foreign. It's hard to tell a friend "I can't make it." It's easier to put the decision on hold. How many people will be in the bar on Sunday and remember "I should've replied to Gillian." It doesn't feel too bad when it's a passing thought one has over drinks. One person forgetting an invitation is nothing.

It wouldn't be nothing to them if they had to have their Christmas dinner in the middle of an SF convention. We're not talking about religion here (for my dinner won't even be properly kosher! and there are precisely 3 minutes of anything ceremonial) we're talking about the time of the year when people come together and make others feel wanted and listen to stories and make resolutions and start things afresh when they're going the wrong way.

To be honest, I get my new year whether friends support me or not. I don't dump friends because of issues like this. But I do notice. And it makes me rethink what being an ally means and what we need in this current society of ours.

My resolution to myself for this new year is to learn more about how other people see their needs when they're victims of prejudice or in a minority. How I see them is an outsider's view. It's asserting my privilege over them. It's telling them that I'll be there if I feel like it, not if they need it.

Just as well I'm teaching the workshop on Sunday. It covers these issues. Just as well I ranted here, for the workshop isn't about me. And now I go to make my great-grandmothers' nahit recipe, for cooking grounds me. Besides, it's yummy.



PS The nahit is almost done and I've edited (very slightly) for clarity and typos.