How can I have a voice, I remember asking my introduction to literary theory teacher, Professor Silva, when I’m not unique?
This is an idea that I’ve wrestled with off and on as I’ve pursued a career in the humanities. When I first began as an English major for my undergraduate degree, I questioned the uniqueness of my voice. I didn’t feel that unique—I was male, I was Mormon, and I (regrettably) thought I was straight. Since I was at Brigham Young University, I was surrounded by so many people that I thought were just like me.
I asked this question as we talked about feminist theory and critical race theory, two theoretical methods that attempt to share the words of voices that have been marginalized throughout history. If these two theories were attempting to share unique voices, how could I get a unique voice when I fit in with so many other people who had already written things?
I’ve gone on to recognize that I do have a unique voice. I mean, coming from a Mormon background, being gay, and living and working within predominantly conservative areas leads to that uniqueness, along with so many other factors in life. I have discovered things I want to say, and I know I’m the one who can and must say them.
Those moments in my undergrad when I questioned whether or not I had something to say have taught me that sometimes it’s not about what you have to say; sometimes, it’s about what you have to share from others.
For the past week, I was in Utah producing the first season of my podcast, Queer Spirituality. This idea of something to share really hit home as I recorded the various queer and queer ally voices. I attempted to have every episode speak for itself, without me saying anything, because, despite having opinions on matters related to queerness and spirituality, I wanted to give the stage to other people to simply share what they experienced.
And shared they did.
The fundamental reason for my methodology of Queer Spirituality—to let the people I interview speak for themselves, with little to no input from me during the episode (I did walk them through how I wanted them to discuss queerness and spirituality in relation to each other)—hearkens to this idea that I discovered in the beginning of my undergrad. Despite having things to say, I can (and should most times) be quiet because sometimes it’s more important to share what other people have to say, rather than sharing simply what you have to say.
I know that I can’t say everything that others experience, either individually or collectively, which is why I’ll share what they say. I’ll share the space, so they can speak for themselves, and I’ll share their words, so they can voice their experience as their experience. When I was inducted into the Women’s Studies Honors Society, I made a simple pledge—to use my privilege to help others—and that’s the thing about saying and sharing: it’s using what I’ve been given to help everyone.