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The Politics of Inclusion & Exclusion in Online Communities

As I’ve mentioned, that’s the title of the BlogHer panel I’m going to be on this Saturday.

It also ties quite closely to an essay I’m not done writing for a book on Mothering & Blogging, and with my thoughts about the fact that LesbianFamily.org is approaching it’s first birthday.

I could get all academic about things, but that’s not why they put me on the panel, plus all of your eyes would glaze over. So I won’t. 🙂

The main thrust of my thoughts on this subject, from my personal experience, are really the answer to the questions “Why did I decide to create this? What were my hopes and concerns? And how well has it worked?”

I created LesbianFamily.org because I wanted to make it easy for lesbian moms and lesbians thinking about becoming moms (or babas) to find other people who are in similar situations.

When I first got pregnant, I scoured Technorati and Google for pregnant lesbian blogs. You can imagine what kind of results turned up — not what I was looking for, I promise you. Eventually I found a few through infertility blogs — ironically enough. And through their blogrolls, a few more.

I also found Babes in Blogland, a work of love that made it easy for to find other bloggers with due dates near my own.

The founder and I struck up a friendship, and eventually we had a long discussion about the value and ethics of sorting mommybloggers by sexual orientation. More than one person giggled while imagining a conservative Christian mommyblogger recoiling in horror that she shared a due date with a lesbian. We even discussed whether making it easier to find lesbian family blogs might be dangerous or lead to an increase in harassment of those bloggers.

Ultimately, we both reached the conclusion that the value to the community was greater than the risk or the discomfort we felt with this kind of segregation. So I launched this site, and she added — among others — a category list of LGBT families.

It was important to me for this site to be as inclusive as possible, without losing focus as a resource for the lesbian community.

I created dozens of categories, and scoured the Internet looking for blogs to put in them, some unsuccessfully. I never found a parenting blog by someone who was out as Trans, either M2F or F2M.

Even more surprising to me, I found fewer than a tiny handful of parenting blogs by people of color who were NOT part of an interracial relationship. I don’t think I ever found more than 1 of a particular ethnic or cultural group. And I didn’t feel like it was especially useful to create a category of fewer than 3 blogs.

I had the intent of regularly updating that research, but I haven’t done it.

I did two other things to try to address inclusivity from the beginning at LesbianFamily.org. The first was to include a category of “Friends of the Family.” Anyone can be listed there, and we have beautiful buttons you can add to your blog.

I also created a Resources category, and made sure to include sites like Sayoni, a lesbian blog portal & forum for queer Asian women from all over the world, and the 2 Spirit Press Room, a GLBT Native media & cultural literacy project.

LesbianFamily.org may not always have the blogs someone is looking for, but I hope that people don’t click away feeling ignored or excluded. And we are ALWAYS happy to add more links!

The last thing that I did was well past the launch. In December 2006, I expanded LesbianFamily.org into a team effort. I recruited a few of my favorite bloggers, who I thought might do it, and asked them to join me.

By luck, that worked out to be a diverse crew, but not sufficiently representative of the bloggers using the site. I totally got called out on it, which was tough but so valuable as the criticism was spot on. So I added more, and for awhile, we had a very lively crew updating the site.

Sadly, it’s languishing again. I’m not sure what to do about that, exactly. The posts that appear are usually fabulous, and I don’t want to lose that. I’m hoping inspiration will strike while I’m at BlogHer, and the seed will be planted to take LesbianFamily.org to a whole new level.

Incidentally, your ideas and suggestions are more than welcome!

No Comments

  1. I think this site is a great resource – it certainly has been to me. I’m not sure if it’s “languishing” as such – I suspect all these things go in cycles.

    A couple of possibilities I can think of to revitalise the postings could be:-

    1. Invite people to guest post about a particular issue.
    2. Reproduce particularly thought provoking posts from blogs that are out there, simultaneously getting the issue to a wider audience and putting more traffic back in the direction of the original post.
    3. Kind of a comnbination of 1. 2. above, ask people to submit posts for possible inclusion, perhaps on a given theme.

    As I say, these are just my thoughts. Please feel free to ignore if they are of no use! I have no idea how any of that would work technically, or if it would involve a huge amount of work for you guys. I do think that anything that gets the users of the site more involved in its content would have a positive effect though.

  2. Other ideas would be to brain storm helpful top ten lists and then put up a topic (and your version of that top ten) and then encourage others to add theirs in the comments. Top ten just because they are simple and quick– you could also do interactive questions.

  3. Thank you for the link!

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