I had an argument on the internet the other day that ended with someone saying I had a lot of “internalized anti-semitism” because I believed that it was wrong to cut out parts of Anne Frank’s diary and wrong to disable conversation about parts of her diary having been removed.
It was about Anne Frank and whether it is okay or not okay to discuss whether she could have maybe been bisexual. It was not about whether Anne Frank was bisexual. It was about whether people in general should even be allowed to discuss that she could have been, that bits about thinking girls were beautiful were left out of her journal.
But first, a bit about me, as for some people, it’s a necessary part of my argument.
I’m Jewish and am very educated about Judaism – I have vastly more knowledge about Judaism than most Jews. I am less educated about Judaism than many other Jews. But nevertheless, I am Jewish and my family, for as many generations as we know about on both sides, were Jewish.
I am also a secular person. I write stories, go to movies and theater productions, and sometimes even buy specialty coffees at Starbucks. I blend in with the non-Jewish population – I wear the same clothes, listen to the same music, look the same as anyone else.*
I am also bisexual. In high school I would have considered myself straight. In college I considered myself heteroflexible. Only in the past couple years have I thought that I might be bisexual instead of all of those things, and still, I realize that my sexual identity might change in the future.
Ten years ago I was still in high school. I considered myself a writer and wanted to be a novelist when I grew up. I loved working with pottery and taking dance lessons. I had daydreams about girls as well as guys, but more often it was guys, so I considered myself straight. I would not label myself as bi, because I didn’t consider myself to be bi. At most I would have labeled myself as not really or not quite straight.
And that affects my argument now. Because the original question was not “should Anne Frank be listed among historical figures we didn’t know were bisexual;” the question was “should we even talk about the fact that she was maybe bi, and that the possibility of her being bi was erased from her diaries, while still focusing on her as a Holocaust victim due to being Jewish.”
To answer the first question I would say no. We do not know that Anne Frank was bisexual – we do not know how she would have labeled herself. Co-opting her as a bisexual figurehead is wrong since she was not one. It’s possibly even creepy since she was a child, barely even a teenager, when she was writing her diary and when she died.
But should we discuss that bits of her diary were removed in order to be more “appropriate” for the masses to read? And that those bits were things that might have implied her sexuality? Hell yes.
We’re reading her diary. We’re reading something that was never meant to be shared. And we’re reading it as required reading in high schools across the country and possibly even around the world. Think of that. Her most personal thoughts and feelings are being read in an English/Literature class near you.
And if we’re going to do that, we better damn well read her story. Not the story that someone else wanted told, but the story that she told. The story that includes things that may imply that she wasn’t quite straight. If we’re going to invade her privacy – for whatever reason – then we better not lie when we do it.
Because once we start cutting things out, where are we going to stop? The best way we can remember the Holocaust is to remember the human stories that happened during the Holocaust. And changing those stories from the original version is wrong.
Why do we read her diary? Why do we read such a personal story? I believe that we read it to remember that she was a person who was murdered because she was Jewish. That she was murdered because she was seen as a stereotype and not a person. And hopefully when people read her story they remember that Jews are people, not stereotypes. Don’t eliminate the bits that make her story personal, that make her a real, complicated, teenage girl.
*I utterly reject the notion that Jews have a stereotypical look that makes them stand out from other people.