On love and change, while grieving for Orlando


160615-victims-composite-49up-horiz-jsw_0f05005d9f84f0d06750adf7362ea598.nbcnews-fp-1000-400.jpgYesterday I grieved for my white friends, my mixed friends, my friends of color – any or all of us who have internalized the culture of violence and oppression we were raised with.

Because all of us – including those who have benefited from it – have been harmed by white supremacy, patriarchy and the capitalist values which have limited our vision, our humanity, our interconnectedness. All of us have reason to be angry and hurt, and every single one of us has the opportunity to direct those feelings towards our love and collective liberation.

Even if you’re not directly affected by daily acts of aggression and hate – wise up and pay attention – this is happening on your watch. Those of us who have been living with blinders on – it’s time to take those blinders off, and get real with ourselves about the kinds of people we want to be in this world moving forward.

Because the truth is we’ve ALL been fucked up our entire lives, for many generations by this point, by the crap we were taught to believe, made up by some pretty hypocritical people who had radically different values than the ones I consider humane. It has impacted each of us differently and some bodies (black and trans ones in particular) have received the worst of it, but the results are fairly devastating in aggregate. And it is a really treacherous process to purge all this garbage from our brains and our behaviors. It’s no wonder we are always arguing amongst ourselves about it.  I like to see that as a sign of change and progress.

Some gentle guidelines, written with love, to anyone who is working through it right now:

a) Pause.

b) #SayTheirNames

c) Listen to the voices of queer and trans Puerto Ricans.

d) Listen to the voices of Muslim queers and allies.

e) Listen to the voices of queer and trans black and brown people. especially women.

f) Listen to the voices of people who are differently abled.

g) Recognize that none of this is new. None of this is new. It may be new to you but this has been going on for hundreds of years in America, and these voices have rarely had access to the tools for self-determination or space to be heard. To be brown or black or Muslim or differently abled or queer or Latinx or Asian or indigenous or nonbinary or trans or poor or undocumented or homeless in America is to live defensively in your body, to experience a different sense of safety and rest, to filter reactions, to choose when and how to get angry or let things go. But don’t listen to me try to describe it – listen to them.

h) Remember that not all experiences are monolithic – there is variety within people who share cultures or traits. Remember that asking someone to share their experience with you can be a form of emotional labor that requires consent. Be gentle if they don’t want to process with you. You’ve got lots of other folks to process with.

i) Understand that you may have been complicit in perpetuating oppression outside of your consent. We have all been broken by white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalist values – homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, hatred in all of its forms. Once you become aware of it, and all the ways it plays out for people of various colors, genders and abilities – you cannot go back. It is up to you to call out the bullshit when you see it, because all of our lives are interconnected and if you’re not actively helping then you are indeed part of the problem. It is work to purge our minds and behaviors of these ideas. It is work to change. This work is urgent, immediate, and our future. Accept it and move forward with your work. Remember that every day is a new opportunity to practice radical love, and this work will bring you joy and life.

j) Listen to your heart. Check in with yourself. Rage, numbness, sadness, fear, bewilderment, nothing at all, empathy. Who do you love. What kind of a world do you want to live in. Where do you, yourself, in your own personal heart, stand. What do you still need to learn. Whose voices will you listen to for leadership.

k) Now, compare. What is your community saying? Where are your friends and your family and your co-workers and your people at? Hint: if they are not talking about this stuff they are actively complicit in its perpetuation. As perhaps you were once. As I was once, too.  (still am. It’s a lifelong learning process.)

l) Consider your sphere of influence. How can you help dismantle hate and other fucked up values? How can you speak to these people you love in a way that will help them understand and change? What larger groups are you connected to? What resources do you have (human, financial, spatial, emotional) that you can direct towards change? If all movements are an ecosystem and each of us has our part – what is yours?

m) Be gentle with yourself in your process. Be gentle with others in theirs. Listen with kindness and openness to the stories you are hearing from people of different experiences. Don’t jump to conclusions – let yourself be changed. Have patience with anger, even when it is directed towards people like you. Understand the continuum of emotions that come with working through generations of trauma. Model the person you would like to become.

Ultimately it is not the color of our skin that marks us – it is our empathy and our ability to change. I believe that each one of us has the ability to evolve, to practice radical love, to restitch our connections to each other and the earth. By doing so you and I can shift our culture to a place that reflects our values, our humanness, our love.

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