“Let’s make an agreement. Lets all of us agree that none of us are to be used as cannon fodder for our anger and our pain.” – Katrina Messenger
“Trans women –especially Black and brown trans women– are at high risk for violence, abuse, and death. Why? Because of misogyny.
To not support trans women is to not support women.” – The Author, on Facebook November 9, 2015
“Ain’t I a woman?” – Sojourner Truth
Forgive me for speaking to these topics. I’m no expert, and, as we all do, have a biased point of view.
Though I am genderqueer and always have been, I am not trans. Though I am queer, and have been lovers with women, I am not a lesbian. Though I fight for racial justice, I am not Black.
You could describe me as a raised working class/poor, grew into intellectual class/poor, now middle class white, slippery gendered, queer woman who answers to any pronoun under the sun, but who feels hideously misgendered if anyone other than my 89 year old Catholic mother calls me by my birth name.
And now, the topic at hand:
There is a tangle in our communities, as there so often is. A tangle in which trans women are being erased and called men, and many people have signed on. A tangle in which older women are being called hags, and many people have signed on. A tangle in which a Black elder rightfully complained about the constant dismissal of Black women as women, but who did so in a way that was hurtful to and dismissive of trans women, and many people have signed on. A tangle in which a white elder pushed forth a hateful petition, using harmful words, and many people, some gleefully, signed on. A tangle in which white cis men have talked down trans and cis women of color, and many people have signed on.
What do I do when I feel the threads of energy, or emotion, or communication are tangling? I pause, re-center, and take a breath. Then I ask myself to start looking for layers. I call up compassion for myself and the other parties, to the best of my ability in the moment. I listen more deeply. Then I try to speak. I try my best to own my part in the tangling. Sometimes, what I then need to do is to grow more firm and strengthen my position. Other times, I need to look at an angle I haven’t seen before, and broaden my view. Other times, I need to apologize.
There are so many layers happening here. Some of the communication snarls stem from outright bigotry. Some stem from pain. Some stem from histories that many of us haven’t experienced or even heard about. Some are generational. Some are about a paradigm shift. Those are never easy to be in the midst of.
In order to learn, we need to slow down.
My friend Crystal Blanton has been teaching me about Restorative Justice circles. In the process of restorative justice, everyone gets to speak their truth, one by one. Layer by layer. Round, after round, after round. Slowly, a broader picture of what might be true emerges. Sometimes there are tears. Sometimes people say things in the moment and their behavior later gives lie to their words. No process is without flaw, because no circle is completely whole.
But we can continue trying. We can slowly untangle ourselves and weave a stronger web.
If it feels useful, I offer my process here today: I pray. I breathe. I listen. I speak to people privately with my concerns or criticisms whenever I can. The only times I go public is when private conversations have failed and public speech feels necessary for the good of the whole, or when an acute public moment is about to happen. At least, that is what I genuinely try, in the last decade or so.
I know what it feels like to be called out in public. It’s happened to me many times. It doesn’t feel good. But I’ve tried to learn from it. Sometimes I’ve shifted slightly. Other times I have apologized. Still other times, I’ve stood taller in my position. But every single time, something in me has been changed and has deepened.
That is what I hope we all attempt to do here. Pause. Listen. Deepen. Learn. Apologize if necessary. Then make another attempt.
I recently wrote that we can’t escape community, no matter how hard we try. Many of you reading this want to build a world that feels more loving, beautiful, equitable and just for as many beings as possible. How do our words and actions best help build this?
I’m interested in your answers.
In a country where white, middle or upper class women have defined womanhood, I encourage you all to read the whole of Sojourner Truth’s speech.
I’m blogging again because people are funding my writing, so I want to thank all contributors for helping build community in that way. Blessings to you, including new patrons Rain and Alley. If you are interested in financially supporting this blog, please visit my Patreon page. Blessings on everyone who shares my writing. That helps, too.