Huffington Post contributor and LGBTQ rights activist Joe Wneke brought up questions to students on what it means to be an activist for the final event of the Rainbow Center’s Out to Lunch Lecture series.
“Being an activist writer means not only to be out there for your opinion,” Wneke said. “It’s to transcribe your experiences, perceptions as a human being no matter whom you are.”
Wneke, who received a English Ph.D. from UConn, acknowledged that as a radical satirist, he is often putting himself out there for criticism. As an atheist, Wneke has not been contacted by members of his Catholic family for publishing his viewpoints, which over time he joked “became perverted and crazy.”
“You take a risk by standing up and being yourself,” Wneke said, mentioning that a lot of times the consequences. “But you also need to do that to be true to yourself.”
Part of being an activist also involves telling other people’s stories and making the effort to understand different perspectives. Wneke highlighted his satirical novels like “You Got To Be Kidding” and “Papal Bull,” which highlighted hypocrisies andand homophobia within the church.
In today’s world, it’s especially important that writers and activists understand their importance. Wneke mentioned how being transgender is still really dangerous, such how transgender women are often assaulted or even killed. He brought up a case where one transgender woman was murdered by a group of men who were never convicted for their crime, as well as mentioning a statistic from GLAAD, which stated that 45 percent of hate-based murders are against transgender women.
“People are dying and there is an urgency to do something.” Wneke said. “Being a writer allows you to create another world and have control over depicting your message and realities over your characters.”
Yet he remained hopeful for the future of LGBTQ rights. Wneke said the national progress on how the public views gay marriage were much better than they were before. Because so many people have came out, written about LGBTQ issues and stood up for themselves, Wneke said that the overall culture in America was now far more tolerant than it has been in the past.
However, Wneke also said that tolerance was far different from acceptance. Though people can support others’ ability to marry whomever they want, underlying problems like perpetuating gender standards, discriminating against transgender people and showing instantaneous hostility towards other LGBTQ people.
“As a writer, I try to sum up what it’s like to live right now,” Wneke said. “I wanted to make it entertaining and indicative for what these issues are like for people to deal with,” Wneke said in reference to his novels and his development of characters try to and illustrate aspects of LGBTQ issues.
“Understand that there are direct and indirect ways in which we interact with each other and can affect each other,” Wneke said, encouraging others to actively understand issues, challenge them and share their own, as well as others’ experiences.
Wneke concluded his talk with strong words on what he believed true activism to be.
“Being yourself is the most radical form of activism,” Wneke said, quoting an article he wrote earlier in the year on Bruce Jenner, who recently came out as transgender. “Your authenticity and your true humanity will protect and sustain you wherever you go on your journey.”