Friday, January 20, 2012

Why I'm not anonymous

Sue George is my real name, and it never occurred to use a pseudonym on this blog. But maybe it should have.

I have a certain (small) profile as a writer on bisexuality, and wanted to continue that here. I am also a professional journalist, not (sadly) on bisexuality, but there is some overlap between the two. For instance, this blog is mentioned on my LinkedIn profile, and also on Twitter, which I use partly for work.

I thought when I started – correctly, I’m sure – that people would be more likely to read ideas and theories about bisexuality, and take them seriously, if a named individual was writing them.

But the fact that I write this as me – and people often find this blog by looking for “Sue George” – has certain ramifications. In particular, it curtails what I write about and how I write it.

You’ll search for a long time on this site before you find out much about me that shouldn’t be completely in the public domain. There’s very little information about my own relationships, and nothing about my own sexual or romantic life after about 1980. I said early on that I wasn’t going to include anything I didn’t want my family or my employer to read. Now I have no employer as such – being freelance/self-employed – that is even more important.

The downsides of being me
But recently I have been thinking about all the things I can’t write about on here, and wish I could.

I can’t write about sex. Not just my sexual life, but anyone’s. Someone who might give me work might look at it and shudder. Human rights, identity, history etc – I would have absolutely no problem arguing my right to do that, and no one has ever asked me to. It also means that I have to turn down those several people who have emailed me asking to guest post on the subject.

I can’t write much about my own life. The people involved wouldn’t like it, and have told me so on many occasions. “Don’t you dare write about me” has been several lovers’ parting shots (and not in recent years, either).

I can’t include some of my opinions which I have formed as a result of the above.

When it comes down to it, I am quite a private person and it never fails to astonish me what some people are happy to share with THE ENTIRE WORLD.

The positive side of anonymous blogging
I know that a lot of people who read this blog, and blog themselves, post under pseudonyms. They want to tell the word about their lives honestly, which they just couldn’t do otherwise for obvious reasons.

In addition, many of the blogs that I have learned from have been written under pseudonyms. The writers are free to cover all kinds of controversial subjects that they just could not have done under their own names. It frees them.

Say, for instance, you are a social worker who used to be a drug addict, or a single mother who is a sex worker, or you are in a long-term clandestine relationship, you might well have valuable insights that you wouldn’t feel happy sharing with the world under your real name. I’d certainly want to read those insights, and I’m sure others would too.

And the negatives
Of course, anonymous blogging – and particularly commenting - can and often does free a writer to be vicious, nasty and generally unpleasant. As a result, many people have called for “no more anonymity on the internet”.

Now that, of course, would make the internet a much nicer and politer place. But it would also mean that readers would be unable to learn about the otherwise hidden sides of life, something that can be really valuable for both readers and writers.

And that’s particularly so for bi people, many of whom have insights they don’t want their family and employers to know they have!


Elly said...

Hi Sue
This is a thought-provoking post. As you know it led to the beginnings of a discussion on twitter.

I as a 'pseudonymous' blogger agree with many of your points, but am not sure if being anonymous or using a pen name enables people to be nasty quite so straightforwardly as you suggest.

I will probably blog something about this myself so thanks for bringing up some issues that I think about often!

(I am called Elly btw so I am not completely nameless/faceless!)

Sue George said...

Thanks Elly. It's true that all these issues are very complicated. There wouldn't be any point in writing about things that are simple - not for me anyway. I look forward to seeing what you write!
And, yes, Twitter. It is interesting that so many discussions take place on there now as distinct from on blogs. This one, anyway.

Elly said...

yes I think twitter and tumblr, both 'microblogging' platforms are taking over from traditional blogs.

And both have many, many users who are anonymous or pseudonymous.

It is journalists and middle aged facebook users who seem to be the most uppity about anonymity I find.

Elly said...

This is interesting: 'data suggests people using pseudonyms leave better comments':

pseudonymously yours,


Sue George said...

So only a tiny number of "real name" people post comments. Interesting.

trymarriedbi said...

I think this was a very interesting topic to post because I never considered blogging with my real name. When I made the decision to blog about my bi poly relationship, I knew, since I wasn't out to everyone, I didn't want my blog to come up on a search engine associated with my name. Having potential employers, family members, etc find my blog and recognize me, could be devastating for me and the people I'm not out to. Most people don't understand the dynamics of my situation and bash it in ignorance, misunderstanding, or opinionated religious justice. In my small town, it would most certainly create scandal and put pressure on my husband that sways him away from the current position he has on our situation.

Maybe it's different because I'm a non-professional blogger/writer.

It's sad the only bloggers who can truly exercise their freedom of speech and expression without fear of repercussion are anonymous bloggers. Nevertheless, I respect, commend, and support you for being open :) <3


Sue George said...

Thanks. I think/know that I am in a different position from many people - both because I have chosen that, and because of luck/privilege in terms of community, geography, class, education, way I can earn a living etc. Which doesn't mean that there is no price to be paid....