Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Not ... Enough

Have you ever noticed that if you don't do something the "right" way, the socially accepted way, that then it's all your fault?

Yesterday I discovered Black Girl Dangerous, a fantastic blog that describes itself as " a literary and activist forum that amplifies the voices of queer and trans* people of color."  Yes, it's angry, it can be extreme, especially the current post, but, it also makes some excellent points, and can be beautiful to the point of bringing me to tears.  I got carried away and linked a lot (3?) of the posts on my facebook page. 

I was saddened to see the comments that a couple of friends made on my links to her posts.  Mostly along the lines of "I can't read her" -  she's too angry, full of loathing, negative, not productive....
It could be summed up in this remark: " Really, it doesn't take any more effort to look around and see the positive. But then one can't continue to call oneself a victim."

It's being a victim to express your feelings?  To name the injustice you've seen and experienced?  When you've been abused and mistreated, when you've seen others in the same situation, you shouldn't be angry and speak out, you should just "look around and see the positive"?

I felt personally invalidated by their opinion on BGD posts.  It's taken me a while to understand why I was so hurt by this, why I was well and truly triggered.  Here it is- what I heard these people say was "She's not doing it right."  I heard them say that there is a proper way to be a marginalized minority, there is a proper way to express the feelings you have about how you have been treated, and this isn't it.

It's something I've heard and experienced again and again in my life.

When I spoke out as a young adult about being molested and abused as a child I was invalidated - told it didn't happen, told it wasn't so bad, told I was rude to talk about it, besides "You lived, right?".  Because surviving was evidence enough that it couldn't be that bad?

Now as an adult I'm not recovering from cancer treatment right either, I'm constantly asked "How are you?  When are you coming back to ...?"  No one wants to hear anything but "Fine." and "Soon."  No one (including me!) wants to hear the litany of ailments cancer treatment has left me with, or that my life will not be returning to what it was any time soon, maybe not anytime at all.  I just need to "look around and see the positive."  To do otherwise indicates that I'm ungrateful for my life and all my blessings.  I lived, right?  Shouldn't I just shut up and be grateful to be alive?

I was taught to be a good little girl.  Keep quiet.  Keep the family secrets.  Be polite.  Suck it up.  Put on a good face.  Time and again, when I have bucked those lessons, I've been reprimanded and shamed, and that's what I heard in the facebook responses to my links to BGD's posts.  You are not ____ enough.  Not polite enough, not good enough, not white enough, not brown enough,not sick enough, not healthy enough, not grateful enough... 
You Are Not Enough.

I don't think they meant it that way.  They certainly didn't mean it towards me.  Knowing these people IRL, I suspect that it really is just that they have enough on their plate without having the pain of another thrown in their face.  I know it's hard to face the harsh reality that so many other people have to live with, especially when our own feels like more than we can take.  I can only take so much too. I turn off NPR and turn on my MP3 player to avoid having to listen to one more report of another bombing, another war, another rape victim.

Just because I can't take it, it doesn't go away.  It's my right to not listen when I can't take anymore.  But even more so, it's the victims right to speak their truth, in any way they need to.

Yes, it's good to survive.  Some times it makes us stronger, but the unfortunate fact is to be a survivor, first we had to be a victim.  It's not a crime to be a victim, it's not a crime to wish it never happened and to rail against the powers that be that allowed it to happen.  It's right and just that we speak out when we can, however we can.  The world needs our truth. 

The world needs everyone's truth - even if the truth is ugly.

How else can we know we need to work to make things better?


Shawn Walter said...

Sorry if it felt I was invalidating you. That was definitely NOT my intent. Being one who was a victim and also has too much empathy, raw stories are not something I can enjoy. Even if I understand them. Maybe especially if I do. It's like I'm trapped - here's this horrible thing and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

I think you get where I was coming from, and I did not, in any way, mean to invalidate your pain, your feelings. There was no criticism intended for her or for you.

April said...

((Shawn)) I didn't think you were. More it was about how *I* felt, and responded, and me pondering - why did I do that?

I very much get where you were coming from, because I'm right there with you.