Grace In The Face

I resent that I have always been flagged as obnoxious or fucked up for speaking against norms that aren’t kind or logical or fitting. I am marked as damaged for bumping up against harmful gender, sexuality, disability, Christian, Midwestern codes of conduct in relatively common ways that happen to many of us who find ourselves inside of social movements asking for recognition, justice, and equality. These internal, integral social transgressions place us on the marginalized fringes of society for being things like loudly queer, feminist, brown, poor, and/or survivors of various traumas get us quickly pigeonholed. And then we dare to make it worse by being outspoken and asking for respect from society and the individuals in our lives. We have the audacity to be our kind, thoughtful, unique selves and not get pooped on for it. We say, “Wait a minute, I want to have sex and make art and analyze science and politics and recover from trauma that wasn’t my fault and talk about it a not be quiet and pristine my entire life, and I don’t think you get to judge me for that.”


When we begin to say these things, eventually we find community, empathy, theory, and character recognition in settings and individuals who have also been judged for not going along with the societal codes that sucked and denied our basic humanity. We can’t believe that there are these kind, thoughtful, logical groups of humans who exist with human flaws but minus the judgement of the ways of living, loving, and adamantly articulating to which we remain subject. And we do. We celebrate Pride in all it’s various forms, to better announce that we, in fact, are not the worst. We become advocates for our entire subcultures and innermost selves.


This constant railing for self worth, full humanhood, and status as a nice, thoughtful people tends to emphasize to more normative acquaintances that we are not the same as they consider themselves to be. Speaking up is painfully familiar to those who have already been judged for being marginalized, but this process seems to convolute and justify the opinions that normative individuals hold about us. Worst is that, as we often try to extend and communicate the same level of empathy and explanation to them, they turn around and deny hearing our perspectives as they reject the marginalization they are perpetrating. I can talk until I am blue in the face about how it has felt to repeatedly stand up for myself as a queer, female, an abuse survivor, or broke mom, etc. and even those closest to me sometimes miss when I am being panned as a human failure for having experienced these things, talking about these issues, or defending myself against giant trends of oppression. Anyone who hasn’t survived these marginalizations find it dramatic, unseemly, and disgusting that we continuously defend ourselves against normative views of our races, genders, sexualities, ethnicity, abilities, etc.


We’re so willing to include others in the affectionate, supportive, articulate, theory-packed, circles that we’ve found and created that we are shocked when they don’t want to be included, and they wash their hands of us and our communication. They hear us defending ourselves against the standard tropes of our society and they think, “Gosh that’s dramatic. It’s not really that bad. *I* managed to stay virginal/white/unmedicated/unabused/straight/etc. Stop talking about how my privileges affect everything about your life in our society. It’s not that bad. You sound crazy for talking about your trauma and how it operates.”


They look down their noses, minimize how the systems operate, pat us on the head, excuse themselves from fortifying oppression, and assume that we are radical loudmouths who should really just go sit down and shut up for once. They patronize us by telling us, how cute, funny, different, talkative, serious, intense, etc. we are, without ever asking themselves, “Gosh, why does this whole, thoughtful, kind human being feel so compelled to keep saying some of these things?” They ask liberal questions like “Why do women stay with abusers?” without more importantly pondering how they are contributing to this and endlessly similar problems by not listening and examining which judgements they make about the marginalized characters telling these narratives.


They can read fiction or listen to pop music or be familiar with classic movies, and still question the real people in their lives about details and vectors that they should understand from how thoroughly the details of beloved characters’ fully fleshed-out lives. Listen to what this song is telling you! Listen to what this book is telling you! Listen to what this film is telling you! Listen to what I am telling you! Notice what complicates the complex, marginalized character, and see how you’re holding those factors against me!


I’m not trying to “be so different.” I’m not just the fluffy, quirky, silly character from a terrible sitcom, who doesn’t show you our underlying struggle. I’m not some token of radical behavior and thought, pushing your buttons just for fun. I am a whole human being trying to tell you what life is like over here, and how we operate better over here, having spent a lot of time trying to remedy these of society’s flaws.


People actually just ARE different, and many cultural codes are far too narrow to include the wide swathes of those of us who act thoughtfully and defensively in much broader circumstances. I’m not some wild card just here to amuse or annoy you. I’ve just been away from home and pushed away from the center long enough to find out that these codes in which I was raised to be fluent, really sucks for a lot of us.


“Look what my lived experience can tell you about our social system!”


Look how it is not just for the real people in our lives, but how it is for these nuanced characters in the arts, how it is for all of us speaking up, so you don’t even have to take my flawed words for it, how it has seeped into every aspect of our social system of communicating and treating people. There are alternatives. We are just as sweet and caring as you are, even as we speak up to tell you that we’re angry and hurt about being trampled upon for so long. Your adherence to wholesome boundaries doesn’t give you a right to doubt my heart, which I am showing to you every chance I get.


“Look at the space I hold for you, that you do not hold for me and mine. Exactly how long would I have to accept bullshit before speaking up before I would pass as not brash in your eyes?”


Because there seem to be so few ways to appease unaccustomed listeners who have not lived and defended themselves on the margins, I now just articulate myself early and often, and that’s valid and justified for you, too. I will be kind, I will be thoughtful, I will be rigorous, I will be warm and affectionate and generous, I will be silly and self-deprecating — I am also allowed to have feelings and defend myself against systems of nonsense that uplift your sense of meaningless propriety. How grateful are we required to be each next time that we get stomped on? Must we gracefully accept that we are frequently seen as whiners, snowflakes, over-the-top, vociferous, outraged, annoying, repetitive, etc? No.


No, we are allowed to be whole, complete, caring, loving human beings who often, often, often speak up and try to explain how it feels to be trapped by so many ridiculous, unrealistic, unkind perceptions of society as a whole. We have cultural differences with those who have never been marginalized, and it’s ok to perform outreach about how we feel, live, work, and communicate together.

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