How Scapegoating Can Stunt Creativity: A Rant

One of my major, ongoing goals with this project is to help folks navigate the intersection of creative practice and queerness.

“Queerness” to me means the experience of living outside of sexual and gender identity norms. When we live outside of a norm, our mere existence is often approached with question marks. People who are smiled upon in society as “normal” have particular ways of inhabiting space, and the way we express ourselves as queer people means we take up space in an entirely different and confusing way. Since the world we know in many western, colonized cultures has been moulded over time by a continued prioritization of heteronormativity and the silencing of trans* and Two-Spirit people, us queer folk often stick out like a sore thumb.

Unfortunately, queer people being at odds with normative expectations can be a benefit for the more favoured, as well as those just slightly beneath them in the hierarchy. Those closest to the better liked and understood want to get on their good side, especially if they themselves are not totally liked and understood. If they are close to the favoured and can easily pass as a favoured one, then they will try their darnedest to fit in.

And those on the top rung know that being idolized in this way is an advantage. People love to unite over a shared distrust of those beneath us.

Scapegoating someone involves projecting your internal ills and insecurities onto them, then casting them out of your circles and forcing them into the box of “outcast”. “Look at how this person is so odd. They must be to blame for these issues. I am entirely normal, so I can’t be part of the problem!”

In my experience, queer people are an easy target for this behaviour. “Well they are a minority and they don’t quite fit in, which is too bad, but because of that they are more likely to stir trouble.” I, for one, have been treated this way, whether the people involved recognize they’re employing this strategy or not. They are not willing to get curious and unpack where they have personally been going wrong along the way, and since they’re confused by how I live my life in comparison to their own, it’s easy to place all of the blame on me.

When scapegoating happens in a creative environment it causes severe disruption. Problems naturally arise when we’re collaborating with other people. Things can often go wrong when we’re straddling the line of complete vulnerability and professionalism. But when conflict does come up, those with more power are able to wipe their hands of any ickiness and continue moving through the process. Those deemed abnormal and therefore likely to be the root of the problems remain stuck, unable to catch up.

The psychological unrest caused by such blaming or exclusion, whether it’s intentional or not, can have lasting effects and severely dampen the process for everyone.

All that to say, I hear you. If you feel that people not understanding the expression of your identity is preventing you from being yourself and contributing to a work or creative environment, you’re not alone. Things can get messy, but it’s often not entirely to do with you.

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