justice, self-acceptance, Uncategorized

Ladies, Do what you love and find you (a post on identity)

tableturning1

This past year I organized a rally/protest called Table Turning.  We held it on Holy Monday at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Seattle.  You can read more about Table Turning.  I want to write more about that event specifically sometime soon, but for this post I want to talk about identity.  I learned something about my identity through the organizing of the protest.  This post is for women who have struggled with their identity for one reason or another.

For most of my life, I have been not-so-lovingly referred to by family members as rebellious.  The tone of such comments are fraught with mild irritation and sometimes ascend to frustration.  And these labels and comments have had a shaming impact that I have to actively dismantle.

A year ago I started attending a spiritual community and a door opened to organize a protest for justice in the mistreatment of immigrants.  There were no second guesses– I enthusiastically took on the role.  A few months into the role as we started talking about titles one of our leaders said how about, “Lead Disruptor”.  And again, it just fit for the role as lead organizer and we incorporated it.  All the while, not completely sure what it would mean or how it would lead me.  People were down with the idea of “Lead Disruptor” so I tried it out.

Where I come from being a disruptor of anything was not nice.  It was not the nice, Christian, good-girl thang to do.  And the “Nice Christian girl” image was reinforced all throughout my childhood.  Being “nice” was more important than being truthful or having boundaries or pursuing what you want.

Women receive unsolicited feedback regularly about how they look, how they speak and what they do. It is like society conspires to give consistent and on-going feedback to fashion and frame women into a likeness that serves itself.

It-is-like-this-because-it-is-this.

Women are supposed to strike the perfect balance of easy-going, ready-to-help, palatable and compliant while also having a readily available opinion on the things that are okay for women to have opinions on like cross stitching, shopping or hair. When women show curiosity around science or technology or politics they are told to shut that shit down as it is certainly not their role or position or capability to know such things. If women use their voice they are told to not take up too much space.  When women show up they are told to shrink back– to fold into the shadows and be as low impact as possible.

And I know this all seems like this is in the past— I mean we have feminism now, but it is just as relevant today as it’s ever been.  And we need to talk about it, because it is still an unnecessary burden that we bear.

I just listened to a woman who said that after her parents observed her enthusiastic, persistent hand raising and questions in a science class she was told that she didn’t want to be “one of those types of people who are loud and bossy”. This feedback set her on a path of unnecessary self assessment and criticism that questioned her excitement or curiosity to speak up on a subject she was passionate about.

Another woman told me that relaxing and having a low-key day spins her on a path of anxious thoughts about what she is neglecting or not getting done.  The idea that staying busy and productive meant that she was always doing what she was supposed to be doing.

Another woman told me that when she is driven to get a project completed at work she is told that she is too abrasive and difficult to work with.  She is a direct communicator, states her expectations and sets deadlines and the feedback is that this is intimidating– she is intimidating.  She’s learned that this is code for “scary”.  And so she is being labeled negatively for being direct in order to complete the task successfully.

Well intentioned and uninvited feedback gets plunked in the same place as the negative psychological voice that says, “we are never quite doing the right thing or being the right way”. We are accustomed to turning that criticism on ourselves.

So last week when I did something I’ve never done before and led a protest to call out the heinous acts of harassment and mistreatment of immigrants by this administration and I.C.E. I felt not only empowered in my voice as a resistor in the cause— I felt empowered in my personal narrative. I felt an ease in myself as a lead disruptor— as though a part of my identity just clicked into place and finally made sense.

I asked myself, “how could that be”? And I concluded that it must have something to do with following my heart and doing what I love.  When I do what is in my heart and what compels me– I find my most authentic self.

Truth is, I’m a resistor and a disruptor. Looking back at my childhood I was the kid that did not take things at face value.  I wanted to know why and how. When people were mistreated and abused in the family I was the one to say something. I wasn’t a status quo kind of person. If the system or structure was hurting someone I spoke up.

When I’m speaking up whether that be as a therapist or a mother or a friend or an organizer (now I know ;)) I am most in my power. I am most me and it is a glorious feeling to be connected and know myself so clearly.

This is a lesson for all of us.  We have been managing the external expectations while holding our own hopes and desires for far too long.  How can we free ourselves to be who we are?    

Three things needs to happen:

  1. We need to be aware of the inner conflict.  What are the messages you’ve been told that are holding you back from yourself?  
  2. We need to prioritize our desires above all the societal ‘shoulds’. When you do what you love you experience yourself more completely.  And you can do this unapologetically.  
  3. We need to accept ourselves. Acceptance is an ongoing process.  You get glimpses of yourself and you learn to accept the things you see over time and this sets us on a path to be your liberated self.  

This video explains more of that process.

 

 

 

 

 

justice, Uncategorized

To: white, straight women who did not vote for Trump and yet remain silent post-election

I know the outcome of this election is not what you expected.  During the campaign you expressed disbelief over the vile, hateful and misogynist comments made by Trump.  These among other reasons were guiding your conviction to vote for another candidate and now that the president-elect is Trump, I—we have yet, to hear from you.

Surely you’ve heard of the terror and fear that so many have been feeling since the election results.  Men and women from marginalized groups all over the United States know what a Trump presidency will mean for themselves and their families.  Immigrant children have been scared that they will have to move out of the country.  LGBTQ people have been beaten, bloodied and verbally harassed.  Black churches have been burned down and defiled.  Muslim Americans have been told by Trump supporters that now that the United States has a ‘real’ president they need to go back to where they belong.  All the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, hate-filled rhetoric by Trump has encouraged acts of hate and discrimination against brown people, black people, Muslim people, immigrants and LGBTQ people.

Yes, over the past two years it has been painful to endure rhetoric that has been filled with hate.  It’s been re-traumatizing as it has reopened old wounds and memories of verbal and physical abuse within our shared history.

Now those words have been followed by hate crimes and violence against disenfranchised communities—leaving us to worry about our daily safety when navigating public spaces or even when we sit in our places of worship.

As if that is not enough, we realize that our basic human and constitutional rights are threatened with a Trump administration.  What protection or legal right will we have if our marriages and relationships are deemed invalid; if we are forced out of our country because of what we believe or what we look like; if we as immigrants find no safe haven here in the U.S.; if we lose our jobs or our housing because of who we are; if we are assaulted or harassed sexually or physically in the workplace?

We have no assurances of safety, dignity or protection in the present or the future.  The outcome of this election stripped all of that away.  We are filled with unspeakable terror and pain.

You know this because we’ve had conversations regarding these realities and still you choose silence in the wake of incredible devastation, terror, grief and uncertainty.

It’s hard to make sense of your silence and I draw from past conversations and inaction and I am dissatisfied with the conclusions I come to in the wake of your silence and withdrawal.

I try to see it from your perspective— as a white woman there are also risks to your safety, which is overwhelming and troubling.

I know this patriarchal & misogynist society views your life void of value and seeks to silence you, too.

Yet, when I ask you about this reality you say, “it sucks and you hate it, but it’s just part of life”.  When you’re pressed about that you say:

I’m not very political or

My life is too busy to fight it or

I can’t deal with conflict—it’s just too stressful or

I have kids that keep me busy or

I have a job and too many responsibilities to be bothered with politics

As a brown, queer woman and mother of a trans child, I tell you I have all those things too… a job, kids, responsibilities—a busy, full life, but I do not have the privilege to disengage the results of this election or oppression because it’s my very life, family and community who face a future that is uncertain and there is no time for inaction.

You say that you love me and that you want to be a safe place for my venting, but you refuse to show up for me/for us—to use your civil liberties and constitutionally protected freedoms to demand those same rights for all people in the United States.

I can’t help but feel unloved.

You are secure in your civil liberties and constitutional rights and are comfortable with this status quo—even if it is a false sense of safety.

I can’t help but feel envious of your privilege to prioritize yourself in such a way because you have little fear that your life or your family will be threatened or be forced to change significantly.

You are the norm.

I tell you how this is bound to affect my gender non-conforming son’s existence and you say:

That’s too bad, but I don’t believe in that.  I believe in my right as a woman to consent and to make decisions about my body, but I don’t believe that this applies to others’ rights to express or identify who he or she is outside of our social gender structure and traditions.

I ask you to reconsider because we need all people and all voices to stand up for our rights and you say you need to pray about it or go to church and get the green light from your pastor or your priest.

I can’t help but feel tired, frustrated and neglected because I know that when you came to me and told me that you were raped by an acquaintance:

I was the one who told you that I believed you when no one else would and we went together to the hospital.  I stayed with you through the rape kit and the criminal report. When you were questioned about your clothing and your choices I was the one who stood up for you to those who would shame and blame you.

When you told me that your family friend had molested you as a child and you were filled with shame:

I told you that what happened to you was wrong and horrific and that you were beautiful and beloved and wronged in the most ugly way.

When you told me that you’d been beaten by your partner:

I told you that in no way did you bear any fault and that I’d help you find safety.  I went to the court with you to file a no-contact order and stayed with you throughout the process.

I have used my voice, my resources, my passion and my energies to stand in the gap for your rights… to call for justice when you were violated and abused.  I have zero regret about this—I would do this time and time again, but what I want to know is will you show up for me?  Will you show up for us—those that do not look like you, act like you, relate to you?

When it comes to oppression, discrimination and violence showing up has been a one sided experience.  You seem to overlook the sense of urgency and fear that I feel—even though I show up for you, for your kids, for your troubles… your fears… your concerns without question or hesitation.

I’m learning that real, authentic relationships are reciprocal and are paved on paths that go both ways.  It is times like these we all have to put ourselves on the line.

I am not going to lie to you… I am angry that you choose to not hear me.  I am angry that you choose the convenience of silence.  I am hurt that you feel no urgency when you see this pain.

As a brown woman I appeal to you:

Please do not exploit our generosity and our burning conviction in human rights for all people.  Do not use our necessity to speak and to assemble to support yourself and your interests at your convenience and then when it doesn’t directly impact you disappear.  Please do not call yourself ally or friend in private, but when called upon in public circles and public policies look the other way.  Please do not try to comfort me by saying, “I don’t judge you”, because even if you were outwardly bigoted toward us your judgement holds no power and we don’t need your moral pardon.  Please recognize that being a ‘safe person’ and indicating so with your safety pins may require you to actually stand up to bullies on the bus or at the movie theater or at church or at the mall.  Thus far, being a safe person has not count the cost when hearing a friend or family member brag about their candidate winning and how they finally have their country back.  For years, you’ve claimed that you believe that racism and sexism are inexcusable, but remain silent when you’ve heard your family member or friend use a homophobic joke or racial slur.  But enough is enough—we can’t afford your silence—it is causing additional pain.  Your silence is creating barriers and broken bridges and we do not have the energy to mend them.  Please consider the radical nature of love… love is never inaction… love is not based on convenience… love is not negotiated… love is not just spoken in private—no, rather, radical, transformational love is lived out in public.  So if you say that you love me—love us—consider coming out from the shadows and stand with us—speak.