I'm currently in Korea, and this past week I took a trip to Japan. While I was there, I had some time to think about stuff that wasn't politics, and I've come to the conclusion that I need to step down as managing editor of the Bilerico Project.
When I started working with Bil over four years ago, getting published and having an audience for my writing was reward enough. For most bloggers, that's going to have to be reward enough since there isn't that much money in this business.
But my situation has changed and I can't continue to put in eight to ten hour workdays in a job that pays... well, I won't be so gauche as to discuss numbers, but let's just say it's well below the federal poverty line.
This work never supported me even though I put more time into Bilerico than any of my other work - I've had part-time jobs, teaching gigs, and freelance work to actually pay the bills. But if I want to invest myself in this business of writing, I really can't justify the time I'm spending on this site anymore no matter how proud I am of what Bil, Jerame, the other contributors and editors, and I have built here.
That's not to say there never was a benefit to me being here. Having an audience that sharpened my argumentation skills and having a commitment that forced me to produce two to five blog posts a day has changed me as a writer; if you don't believe me, go back in the archives to my 2007 stuff and see how much it's developed. I've grown and learned about the craft and about how the world works, but I can see now that I've probably grown as much as I can in this forum.
I still believe in this project and think that it's a positive for the community - we need a platform that promotes the voices of people who aren't professional writers, from people who might not otherwise be heard, from people whose experiences the rest of us can learn from.
I'll be staying on here as a contributor and I'll post from time to time, but as I'm inspired instead of on the site's demanding schedule. I currently have another project in the works and writing engagements elsewhere, and I'll keep you all informed. Follow me on Twitter and friend me on Facebook; I promise to be better with social media.
Working with Bil and Jerame has been a positive experience. Their commitment to this site is commendable, because, frankly, they're not doing it for the money. If Bil and I headed to McDonald's and put in as many hours there as we did on the site, we'd be a whole lot richer than we are now.
We weren't able to make this site profitable for anyone to live on in the time I've been here. The weird impression I've gotten in the last few months with all the discussion of donations and design is that people think we're rolling in money here, when if it weren't for my work elsewhere I would have starved. Independent media is hard enough, queer media has a fraction the income of straight media, but independent queer media? It sounds like a bad joke.
It was still worth it, though. There's a need for regular people in the community to speak up, people who have more loyalty to LGBT people than they have loyalty to a nonprofit or a specific player in the movement. It's painful - financially, spiritually, socially - to disagree with people who are powerful in the context of queer nonprofits, activism, and other institutions, which is why people who are heavily invested in that industry won't do it. There's a need for independent writers, just as there's a need for diverse writers, and I believe Bilerico partly met that need.
So some parting advice: if you come across a queer writer who isn't willing to disagree with the paid gays, who says to fight the homophobes and not each other, who bemoans the circular firing squad, who always picks on easy targets from the unhinged Religious Right while ignoring the beam in their own side's eye, who says we need to get along so that we can achieve "equality" (because we all got together and unanimously agreed on The Homosexual Agenda)... a writer who thinks that avoiding hard truths is better for everyone because it's better for her or himself, then you shouldn't waste your time reading that person's writing. There's enough reading material out there that writers who don't put truth and clarity first can be ignored.
It may be satisfying to think that the other side is filled with terrible people while we're pure and virtuous; it's comfortable to think that we don't need to be challenged while everyone else, wallowing in their own ignorance, needs to be lifted up by we the enlightened; and it's nice to think that political or moral questions come down to clear lines dividing right from wrong. We're human too and we want to live in that world.
But good writing is supposed to jolt people from too-familiar thoughts and give life to new ideas. It's meant to complicate what we know and simplify what we don't. Writing is meant to be transformative, and any half-way decent writing will add something, anything, to a person's understanding of how they're supposed to spend their time on this planet. I'm not just referring to blogging or journalism or nonfiction, but really every sort of writing. If writing isn't providing something new, then why read it?
Or: If you're nodding your head to everything you read, then you're doing it wrong.
It's a funny occupation, where we get paid based on how much we please people while our fundamental purpose is to shake our readers, and usually the former wins out. That doesn't mean that there aren't ways to work within that system for the greater good - it just means that it's harder to be a good writer and be successful than to be a bad, successful writer. Harder, but not impossible, and there are plenty of amazing writers out there who fully commit themselves to being modern-day Paul Reveres, informing people of what they need to know even if it's not in their own best personal interests.
I'm willing to give both of them - being good and being successful - a shot, but that's going to have to happen elsewhere.
My email address - alex(at)bilerico.com - will still be active for a little while, and feel free to get in contact.