on parasocial relationships
& their impact
If you find value in what I write and read this newsletter regularly, please consider financially supporting its creation by becoming a paid subscriber.
A few months ago, my friends Raveena, James, and Gabi came over, and, amongst many different things, we talked about making work on the internet. Or at least, having work that partially exists on the internet… and the backlash that can be met when people assume things about who you are because they read or listen or are familiar with your work.
Don’t get me wrong, when the connection is right, it can be a wondrous thing. That sense of kindred kinship that breaks barriers of the heart—that’s the feeling I get with anyone who I can feel has an honest connection to my work. Teaching is a sacred act in that sense, as it feels more wholesome for me versus being a writer that people read. It’s a more holistic relationship and less hierarchical—I get the chance to be both student and teacher, and I like that. Part of the reason it can be uncomfortable to be seen is that when people put you on a pedestal, by assuming they have a familiarity with you, you’re usually just a projection to them. What’s dangerous about that is that it’s not real, and therefore you can’t be a person who is layered, dimensional, or complex. You can only be what they need or think you to be (either hero or villain) and that relationship they have to you is so tenuous because it’s not an accountable or consensual relationship between two people, and therefore there are no rules of conduct or care.
I always always always think of an interview I did with Janet Mock about eight years ago when she told me it was usually other Black or Indigenous trans women that gave her the most consideration. Especially when everyone else wanted so much of her time, she explained it was these women that were usually the ones that asked the least of her, maybe intuitively understanding the burden of being public, the brutal and lonely side of “being seen.” Because there’s always a flip, always a moment where the music stops and you turn and realize that your work being known is not what it was sold out to be. In so many ways, it becomes a bind you have with people, and the scariest thing can be when that bind is used against you.