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09/07/2015

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Saray Ayala

two comments on this (much welcome) piece:
1. In the feminist philosophers blog there is a thread discussing Esa's piece. One of the comments is about an apparent tension in Esa's op in relation to privacy/visibility. The idea is that while she seems to consider offensive that some people make intrusive comments about her personal life (e.g. offering unsolicited advice about finding partners), she seems to defend the view that professional philosophy should be more personal, meaning in this case that it would be good to have more philosophers recognized as LGB. Here is a thought in relation to that apparent tension:

if respecting privacy and keeping personal life separated from professional life meant just that, then I don't see any problem, and in particular I don't see a problem for LGB philosophers. But there is a problem when that separation carries with it the presumption of heterosexuality (and also of being actually engaged in a monogamous relationship). It is then that the question of whether philosophy should be more open to the personal life of philosophers, and the visibility of LGB philosophers, become relevant questions.
And perhaps the question of visibility has special subtleties in the case of sexual orientation. I'm not sure at all about this, but perhaps it is easier, at least in some cases, to be visible as a not-white, not-man philosopher, than it is to be visible as a not-heterosexual philosopher. Someone sympathetic, like Esa seems to be, to the idea that visibility is a good thing in general for minorities (e.g. to create a more welcoming space), seems to be "forced" to make public personal information that, had the presumption of heterosexuality not being in place, she would have kept private.
The problem, then, is not about valuing privacy, but about the problems that "heterosexuality by default" brings.

2. There are two questions that can easily get mixed when discussing LGBT visibility in general, the number of people identified as such, and the obstacles they might face. Esa's piece, if i understood it right, is not a plain complaint about the apparent low number of LGB philosophers, but it rather calls our attention to the fact that the assumptions that are made about philosophers (e.g. at dinner conversations) make it difficult for LGB philosophers to be visible and sometimes to feel confortable. Whether or not there are well-known not-heterosexual couples is not the focus of attention, and so the fact that many of us happen to know no such couple is just an illustration of the problem, not the problem itself. What I take from this piece is the claim that independently of the number of LGB philosophers, or whether or not we/they are a minority, there are some practices that make our profession less welcoming for those who are not-heterosexual and not in a romantic, monogamous relationship.

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