Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Missing Voices and Trigger Warnings

I'm pleased to see someone else pointing out the general trend of shutting out trauma survivors from discussions about how to handle trauma triggers and trigger warnings.  When you don't respect the right of trauma survivors to make their own decisions, then you compound the damage done.  And when you don't talk to the people who actually have the experience you're pontificating about, then you tend to dream up a bunch of wrongheaded ideas that may have nothing to do with the facts in play, which can also hurt people.  Always involve the people most concerned with the topic in discussions about the topic.

In discussions of trauma triggers, people who do not have to cope with triggers generally seem to think of those who do as weak and pathetic.  Perhaps they are also the kind of folks who laugh at the kid using crutches.  But here's the thing about crutches: they let you go places you couldn't get to without them.  The same is true of trigger warnings.  These are discussions that really need the presence of people who have survived trauma, who have triggers, and who cope with them in various ways including trigger warnings.

Fortunately I'm not an idiot and I have fans who talk with me about how and why they use trigger warnings.  These include:

* Finding intense topics that they enjoy but other people find squicky.
* Avoiding topics they aren't interested in or that are too triggery for them.
* Sorting material by intensity so they can ramp up with a new author or touchy topic.
* Searching for a particular type of story to switch from their current mood to a different one.
* Managing topics based on mood and resources, so they can read challenging things at a safe time.
* Learning what kinds of things may be triggery for other people, to modulate how they discuss those topics.
* Looking for what to warn about in their own writing.
* Using warnings to mark their writing/blog/etc. as trauma-informed space.
* Talking about warnings as a means of managing space online or in person.

Although there are many ways to use trigger warnings, the two most common uses seem to be expanding what the person can read by choosing to read touchy things in a safe mood, and avoiding stuff that would be downright dangerous to mental health and safety.  Which is basically what any adaptive or safety device is supposed to do: let you do more, and protect you from possible injury.

My readers have consistently said that trigger warnings allow them to explore more things, because not only do they have more ability to make informed choices about reading, but also they come to trust me as a writer.  They know that I'm doing my best to warn for things, and that I handle harsh topics with respect.  And by "trust" I mean I've had people not only read things in the general topic that is triggery for them, but actually prompt for  me to write things in their trigger zone, as a way of coping with it.  Which has led to some very detailed, intimate, and intense literature for other folks to enjoy.  Literature is a terrific tool for confronting difficult issues, if handled with care.

So that reminds me of negotiations for other intimate and intense activities that people may do, where communication is utterly essential to make sure that a good time is had by all and nobody gets injured.  A responsible partner will see that everyone is on the same page and wants to be there.

Now consider that the same people who are condemning trigger warnings, a form of communication which is desired by enough folks to have started this conversation, are also often the ones yammering about the need for communication and consent in sex.  Which is to say, they  want to have all the control about what gets talked about and who gets to talk.

*edges away from the skeevy people*

As always, if you use trigger warnings as a reader and/or a writer, whether because of your own challenges or out of respect for other people's issues, you're welcome to share your thoughts on this topic here.
Tags: gender studies, reading, safety, writing
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