Originally, I was going to say nothing, preferring to keep my thoughts quiet, or to a select few who actually asked for my opinion.
But I was recently asked kindly if I wanted to sign my name to a statement; a very nice, loving and heart-felt statement, and a statement, given the circumstances, needed to be said.
But one that didn't speak for me entirely.
I originally said in private that if leaving my name off meant that they statement could still speak for the majority, and not make a fuss on my part, then go ahead without my name. But in this sense, I then felt because a number of people had seen me about to put my name on something, and then my name not appear on the final statement, that my thoughts on the matter could be misconstrued. In sharing my thoughts with a good friend of mine arranging it, I was told that my voice does matter in this instance, and though at first dismissing this, I realised it's not the first time I've been told this from peers I admire, so I thought as a middle ground, I would go on the record here: Not intentionally soapbox-ing, not calling for mass-bannings, boycotts or any other nonsense, but to clear the air. In the past, I have simply not engaged in public spats and nonsense. I tend not to care what others think. As one of my heroes, Ali would say: " I know where I'm going, and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I am free to be what I want." But by staying quiet in the past on some personal matters, this has allowed haters, liars and idiots to fill the void with lies and mistruths. Though I tend not to care what others do with their lives, as it doesn't affect mine, in some cases I felt it did, and I'm only human.
A few weeks ago I made a couple of tweets that spoke my thoughts regarding the comments made by the head of an organisation whom which I have a history; mainly attending of their events to sell books.
I do well at these shows, and have a good reader base. Further to this, I have met good friends of the organisation, who work hard and tirelessly to put on a great event. However, I find that in light of the recent sharing of, what I see to be a backwards and harmful opinion, I am reluctant to ever attend said events organised by the person in question again. I don't wish to name the event, or the person involved; those who know, know what I'm talking about. Those who don't, it doesn't matter. And in doing so, I wish to protect and cause no ill-will that the hardworking good friends who are staff at this show from any further backlash that I'm sure they received during recent social media melees. If anything, I'll miss catching up with you guys the most, and wish you the best. And too, I hope the readers will understand and perhaps utilise other avenues of seeking out my material, or catching up in general, at other events.
This choice has come from a number of days reading the material and comments (there was a lot), and despite a public apology, I felt the apology and attempted olive branch by the organisation doesn't change the opinion and views at the core. Yes, people are entitled to their own opinions. Different if that opinion fuels the future possibility of hate and ignorance. I don't wish to be associated, or seem supportive of said opinions. This isn't a one off; I have seen and heard more of the like in the past (one of which I saw recently, steps on the heart of what my creator-owned work is framed on, which annoyed me), and a few personal indiscretions/embarrassments aside that I have endured, the cons in this instant are far outweighing the pros in regards to continuing to visit the events.
A few creators were surprised when reading my previous, seemingly innocuous tweets; let me be clear: I am not calling for a boycott. What others do is fine; my close friends are guests and are making a worthy compromise by donating part of their proceeds to a charity within this issue. This is very good, and I wish them well.
In my mind personally, anything I think of regarding reasons why it would still be OK for me to attend future shows, seem like a justification, or scrambling to rationalise, and a level of support to the organiser that I am not comfortable with. It's a bit too "Have your cake and eat it too". Weather it, and it will blow over, more so on the part of the organiser. Really, I'm an Australian comic book illustrator and writer. Let's be honest; I'm not drawing 'Batman', so I'm not a huge drawcard at these things. It's no skin of their nose if I decide not to go. This aside though, it's the principle, and my choice is my choice. If I can't justify it over a couple of bucks and a few weekends in a year, then I'm not standing up for what I believe.
Family members and friends who are LGBTIQ+ notwithstanding, I teach in university classrooms that have people from all walks of life; races, genders, orientations. I was bullied for years growing up just for being fat, telling jokes, red hair, buck teeth, freckles etc. I wish I could say I came out unscathed, but I'm sure I have a few quirks and complexes because of it. I can't begin to imagine what it's like for kids growing up these days, and I would hope that if education from grassroots such as what 'Safe Schools' represents, could help in this situation, then why oppose it? And considering the hate and violence that still goes on in this planet, education and acceptance needs to be implemented before the next generation grow up to be the people we hope the current generation could be: compassionate, understanding and accepting. We don't all have to sing campfire songs, but we have to stop the violence, that's for sure.
When Muhammad Ali refused induction into the armed forces in 1967, he was told why not compromise? Joe Louis had served out WW2 by doing USO tours for the troops, never pulling a trigger, or running around on the battle field. To Ali though, any acceptance of induction could still be deemed support, compromising his beliefs, regardless of what spin on the situation they could put on it. He put the best years of his career, livelihood, money, and his freedom on the line, for his beliefs.
In a situation which is a fraction of the magnitude that Ali endured, at the very least, I can give up selling a couple of comics at a show if it means I can look a family member, friend, reader, supporter and student in the eye, and mean what I say and believe.