What happens when we deny the humanity of a group of people? Some are placed in danger, and we lose the humanity of all. We show we do not love ourselves, and rob everyone of peace, joy, and wellness.
Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape culture, rape, and abuse
On the night of Wednesday October 12, I wept.
Laying in bed, looking up at the blank ceiling, I recognized a wave of frustration, fear, and disappointment washing over me.
“How can they do this? Nowhere is safe! People I thought were safe are not safe!”
This is not an unfamiliar feeling. I have felt this way before, but it was limited. It was limited to times when I did not recognize my power – when I did not recognize my worthiness, strength, knowledge, and skills.
I have done much in the face of insecurity – in the face of danger. Despite a little boy sexually assaulting me as a toddler. Despite a boy adding pretend rape to outdoor play. Despite being bullied by boys and girls for my body. Despite being hit. Despite my hair getting pulled so hard my head hit the desk behind me, and a teacher watched, doing nothing. Despite being followed home by a stranger. Despite a classmate grabbing my ass on the stairs – and genuinely being confused when I told him he had no right to touch me. Despite someone I thought was a friend raping me in a studyroom at school…
Despite these things and more, I’ve done a lot.
My animal – my symbol is the Phoenix. I am the definition of that mythic bird. Immortal. Resilient. A force of will. When my spirit takes shape, it’s a phoenix – fire and glory, power and beauty, strength and compassion. There is no such thing as death – only transition. I can never die. My parts may be broken down, but I am reconstructed, reborn into something more magnificent than before.
I deserve a seat at the table.
I get a seat at the table, not because of my body or my face, but because I am smart. I know things when other people can’t connect the dots just yet. I make people laugh – referencing earlier conversations, pop culture, and my own folly. I’m not afraid to call people on their bullshit, and I acknowledge my own limitations. I am brave – speaking my truth and revealing my vulnerabilities – doing the right thing no matter what. I am fierce – driven by a passion burning hotter than the sun. I get a seat at the table because when I decide something, I do it and make it happen. I get a seat at the table because I am.
I am powerful and you will be damned if you don’t take the time to listen to what I have to say.
I have a seat.
I deserve that seat, and no one is taking it but me.
When you treat women like things…
I’m aware of the times when I could fall into bodily harm because other people have not pushed for my equality. I’m aware that other parents haven’t sat down with their sons to say, “All people deserve respect, love, and understanding and here are the actions that demonstrate respect, love, and understanding. That includes calling out other boys for their disrespectful actions.”
I’m aware that other parents have not sat down with their daughters and said, “You are in charge of you. It’s your body – your heart – your mind – and if someone doesn’t respect you from the very beginning, it’s good to call them out. It’s good to tell an authority. It’s good to tell us – and we will believe you.”
I’m aware of the magazines, advertisements, movies, stories, and shows all leading to the terrible conclusion that women are objects to be possessed, used, manipulated, and discarded.
I’m aware of the way men look at me. I’m not going to shy away from my beauty – I know I fit classic definitions of beauty and to pretend I don’t is disingenuous. Yes. I’m beautiful, and it comes with a lot of attention. It comes with people making lewd comments. It comes with men walking down the street with their wives and children staring at me like I’m a piece of meat, even when I’m dressed conservatively.
I can’t hide my hips – I tried. I can’t hide my breasts – short of cutting them off out of shame or fear, there’s no avoiding the curves of my body. And with my history, I could hate my body. I could feel ashamed of it – feel like it was a traitor to my cause. But that does me no favors.
I thought about this – about all these things as the comments of a public figure raced around the internet. I thought about this as people quickly denounced him, as if this was a revelation after a series of entirely reasonable actions that in no way pointed to this natural conclusion. I thought about this as others came to his defense, deflecting and claiming it was normal. I thought about all this as some of his supporters suggested that women give up their right to vote.
And I wept.
Lessons and Gratitude
There are lessons to be learned here – and gratitude to be given.
I am grateful for the enhanced understanding I have for the plight of my friends of color. I now understand, more than before, what it feels like to suddenly find that nowhere is entirely safe – that some people claiming “friendship” may not be safe.
I am, fundamentally, a person bent on spreading love and understanding. By this stance, I have done what many cannot. I have maintained connections with those of opposing views. That said, I can say this: support of a certain public figure, and excusing his regular dismissal of people of color, women, and minorities is a mark. It is a mark that I cannot trust such a person to protect me. It is a giant blaring sign that says, “DANGER: I do not believe in your humanity! I will not help you or acknowledge your experience!”
In short, if someone supports Trump, we cannot be friends.
It is not that I will deny my friendship – or that I would be uncivil. That’s not it at all. Rather, someone who supports such a person despite his pattern of behavior tells me they do not respect me. They do not value my safety. They do not value my humanity. They do not honor my experience. They do not love me.
Such a person has put a barrier between us, denying my humanity and experience. Denying the reality that is. Until a person acknowledges my humanity and experience, acknowledges the importance of my safety as a fellow human, how can we truly be friends? If we do not see one another as equal, we cannot consider ourselves friends.
I am also grateful for this experience bringing these things to light. I am grateful those who would hide their hatred and their dehumanization have come out and shown themselves, because we cannot address these things until we acknowledge their existence. We cannot transmute these tendencies until we know how deep they go.
And I am grateful to know who my friends are. I am grateful to know who my allies are – those people with whom I can be myself.
I am grateful and saddened, to know that my story – the story of THRIVE: HOW I BECAME A SUPERHERO – is not an isolated narrative. It is not an outlier, but rather, one of millions.
I know this has been a triggering week. I know it. And I want to offer you a few solutions.
If you want solidarity, or to see a path out, read my memoir. It isn’t an easy read (there are triggers), but it is powerful and you will know there are ways through this, beyond survival. Get your copy here.
Finally, I want to remind you of these things, no matter what you believe, your politics, or what you’ve done:
I still love you.
You are worthy.
I want your highest good.
- Between Chaos and Order: The Need For A Middle Way - June 18, 2018
- Spiritual Mamas: Intuition, Spirituality, and Motherhood - June 4, 2018
- Neither Selfish or Selfless – Only Loving! - April 30, 2018