Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bravery and Breaking Silence

I haven't been that great with updating because I'm caught up in the precarious balancing act of school work, organization commitments, feeding myself, and socializing, but I wanted to share a few things as October comes to a close.

It's Purple Week here at school, sponsored by the Women's Resource Center and the Advocates club.  Although it was initially for women against domestic, relationship, and sexual violence, it really encompasses awareness against all forms of violence.  On Tuesday, they had their annual event of Take Back the Night, which was established in 1999 as a vigil and protest against sexual violence.  It's for people to reclaim the space they may have lost-- both physical and metaphorical-- and be unafraid in the world.  I deeply regretted not making time to attend last year's TBN, so as soon as my good friend Kat asked me if I was interested in speaking, I committed.  I didn't quite know what I was going to be reading until the end of Tuesday morning, but I resurrected many thoughts that have stirred through my heart, mind, and being.  It's not necessarily a story, but an open letter; to myself, to you, to them, and to everyone.  And please bear in mind that it draws from twenty (nearly twenty-one!) years of observation, but is not entirely applicable to my life as I have known it (i.e., I've incorporated the experiences of others).

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For Take Back the Night, 2013

            You are beautiful. 
You are strong. 
You are intelligent. 
And the things that you do matter.

This is what I tell myself when I feel like the world doesn’t want me.  The first time I said this phrase aloud, facing a mirror, I nearly choked.  I couldn’t admit to myself that I was worth appreciation.  That I was worth loving.

I’ve never had a significant other.  My psychological and emotional and physical closeness has never been shared at once with another.  So for many years, and sometimes even now, I hate myself for not understanding love.

And yet, it goes beyond my lack of personal experience, the seemingly pointless wallowing.  Because desire, lust, passion, greed, obsession, possession—these are realities I have witnessed, at times, under the guise of love.  Of acceptability.

It’s not only about when the sun goes down.  The violence is subtle, and it’s insistent; language, media, behavior, songs, expectations, and movement.  If we recognize it, we should do what we can to end it.
But the violence can also be in your memoires, and it’s not always easy to interpret.  When you witness someone hurting another, as a child, what do you do with that pain? 

I saw her hit her.  She hit him.          He consumed him, he didn’t understand, he touched me, she touched her, he hurt her, he asked and she still hurt, they hurt her, they didn’t listen, and still, and still—
she internalized all of it.

[There are days that I feel like I’m carrying the weight of one thousand and one women.  We are each threads in Shehrezad’s story, woven delicately and intersecting, fragile but surviving through this connection.  It is a narrative of illusion, whether the assurance that we’re safe, or the relief of finality.  It’s never truly over.] 

But I don’t think it’s about being against one another, pitting men against women; but for a common space, together.  Without fear.

I stand here, on my stage.  My literal stage, my metaphorical stage.  I watch, but I don’t always know how to act, how to respond.  I’m doing this for me; for them; for all of you.  I am a watcher, a listener, and now—I am a speaker.

We all carry our pain differently.  I carry my pain, and I will carry yours too, if you want me to.  Maybe I won’t absolutely understand, but I will do this for you.  You are not defined by your pain.

You are beautiful, you are strong, you are intelligent, YOU ARE WORTH SOMETHING,
And the things that you do, matter.

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So that was emancipating, in every sense.  Mind you, I was the third of four speakers, and although I wasn't directly sharing a story of assault, I was shaking.  My head was buzzing with the words of those before me and the eyes of everyone in the room.  It was the largest attendance of TBN, perhaps at least fifty people, with many faces I wasn't expecting and the familiar ones that would have been comforted if I wasn't already blinded by my own nervous.  The passage in the brackets?  Yeah, that was my favorite section that I wrote, but I accidentally skipped over it--that's what I get for not rehearsing..

At any rate, I read these scribbles off a red sheet of construction paper, wearing red lipstick.  I think I had the support of everyone and there were people that approached me afterwards in thanks.  I meant every word, I told them.

On another note, one of my classmates, intelligent, and deeply compassionate friends, Tommy, was published on a few weeks ago for a piece that he wrote on sexuality and trans-gender attraction.  He first wrote it for The Weave, the brainchild of my brilliant professor Dr. John Collins, where students blog on under reported news issues, but then picked it up and it's circulated to thousands ever since! Take a look at it here:  // And here:

Here's to bravery, breaking the silence, and looking like an outrageous fool for Halloween (the final year it will be excusable to conceptualize three outfits).


Allison said...

You are so amazing - what a beautiful message for people to hear and reflect on, no matter what circumstances. Everyone deals with issues that cause pain, loss of self confidence, etc., so just remembering that you're not alone is empowering on its own. Seriously, you are an incredible woman, and I'm so proud of you and your beautiful words!

Donna said...

All I can say is I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!,,,