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Confessions of a Recovering Activist: Being That Activist

January 26, 2015 By: jaysays Category: Confessions

Trans-Anonymous for Confessions of a Recovering ActivistAs it turns out, I’m not a courageous person.  Perhaps I successfully managed to create an illusion of courage in my attempts to inspire change.  But courage that is merely illusion or which is necessary for self-preservation isn’t the type of courage needed to be an activist.  That courage exists in only the most resilient hearts. My heart wasn’t so resilient.

Are you the new person drawn toward me?
To begin with, take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose;
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?
Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover?
Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy’d satisfaction?
Do you think I am trusty and faithful?
Do you see no further than this façade, this smooth and tolerant manner of me?
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real heroic man?
Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion?

– Walt Whitman

Recently, Mason Hsieh published an op-ed on Huffington Post titled, “Is the Gay Community Scaring Away our Straight Allies.”  In that piece Mason discusses going to an LGBT meeting with a straight friend who asks, “In gay dating, who’s the girl?”  He explains that his friend was immediately and “vehemently” told to “check his straight-cis-male privilege” and told he “should be ashamed.”  Clearly, a safe space was not created for Mason’s friend and it’s unlikely such a space would be safe for a newly out LGBT person or one deprived of “urban privilege.”

In the piece, Mason goes on to suggest ways to improve our relationships with our allies.  A few years ago, I may have disagreed with Mason.  I may have been one of the 280+ commenters on his posting taking a hard-nosed stance and refusing to make room for anyone at the table who would not immediately and quickly call-out a microagression.  Instead, now I feel that Mason didn’t go far enough.  That’s not to say any remark that is oppressive should stand unchecked.  But there are undoubtedly ways in which we can address such microagressions, without being threatening and without ad hominem attacks.

And now for the confession: Mason’s article could have been more accurately titled, “Are Activists Scaring Away the Community they Claim they Represent?”

I have undoubtedly been that activist, and I started to scare myself.  It was impossible to comply with the demands of my fellow activists – don’t eat here, don’t shop there, don’t say this, don’t mention that, don’t ask … don’t tell… don’t… don’t… don’t.  And I was one of the people making even more rules, whether intentionally or not.   I began to dislike myself.  I began to dislike others.  I was at an impasse in activism and had tough choices to make.

I flailed about for a while, continuing to pretend I was somehow making a difference, even though I no longer knew the answers to give to those seeking to inspire change.  I became the person I was most horrified of becoming.  I became “that activist.”

It wasn’t until late in my work as an activist that I began to fully appreciate King’s Six Principles of Non-Violence.  I naively believed that living (or attempting to live) those principles could help me focus my work more directly and limit the “rules” to six. I began reflecting on them and discussing them in more depth with fellow activists, many of whom claimed to have adopted the principles for themselves.  One of those principles stuck out more than others as it applied to our internal and external relationships:

Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.  The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

It was then that I went from being “that activist” to feeling more like Mason’s friend must have felt.  I did not feel safe asking questions or discussing my thoughts, opinions, ideas, life experiences or even what I had for breakfast among my activist circles.  Everything, no matter how innocuous it may have seemed, somehow contributed to the oppression of some group or other, but I was so “first world” starved for a damn Starbucks Coffee.  Was my egg free range?  Did Monsato have a hand in genetically modifying my corn muffin?  Often, a quip intended to bring levity to a serious situation, a technique I used for self-preservation, was met with righteous indignation. Any opinion was almost always met with passionate monologues that rarely seemed relevant to the subject matter. I no longer cared to win the friendship and understanding of even those in my own community, so I certainly didn’t care to win the friendship and understanding of the opposition.  Simply put, I was not strong enough to abide by the principles of non-violence and without them, I felt I no longer had a guide.

So there are many things we can learn from Mason’s story and many things to which folks have already taken offense.  Why should we accommodate those who make such assumptions as gender roles in our gatherings?  The answer, I’d argue, is that we should be working to create a beloved community, not prove ourselves “right.”  Otherwise, we become the evil doer.

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18 Comments to “Confessions of a Recovering Activist: Being That Activist”


  1. Welcome back!! Damn that was a long fucking wait but you and your commentary is worth waiting for. I agree with so much of what you wrote and I think we are scaring away some of our straight allies when we attack without knowing the full context and intent of what the person really meant to say.

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    • So that’s the case? Quite a retvealion that is.

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    • Magnificent moments in this array of fleeting moment photo’s, Island Traveler. Children are a but a fleeting moment all the times. They are ever changing before our eyes in an instant. You have managed to capture all of the innocence in all of the playful child-like photo’s.Nice entries …!!!!Blesssings,Isadora

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    • "consistently for a month is in those cases where the government brings forth legislation we can support or approve or amend, we’ll do so", does that not mean that the Liberals are really against reno credit?It is tough playing it both ways isn't it?

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      • Your post is a timely couroibntitn to the debate

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      • This sneak peek left me wanting more! Can’t wait to see the other pictures. Liz and Jared are a very special couple and I know they will have a long and happy marriage. Can’t wait for the wedding. Cuddo’s to the photographer – your pictures on your website are awesome.

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      • Bueno, hablando en términos de demanda, ambas están muy cercanas en ventas(Nintendo DS: 55.995 (2.073.607)2. PSP: 47.604 (2.622.573) semanales), en cuanto a cual es mejor depende de los gustos, para mi es mejor con diferencia la PSP, no quiero para nada juegos pobres en gráficos cuyo único aliciente es una pantalla táctil y un palito, no es mi idea de consola portátil.

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      • BJahi: The threshold for amendments is too damned high.That’s the current constitution’s worst feature. If we want change, we have to generate a movement akin to those of Eastern Europe in the late ’80′s.I’m not, however, holding my breath. My fellow citizens are too distracted by junk like American Idol and video-games…

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      • November 2, 2012hahaaa, tul tul banget. Kalo blog itu tanaman udah mati kali yak, ga pernah disiram, ga pernah dipupuk, ga pernah dirawat pula.Lika recently posted..

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      • Perhaps I should look into GIMP once again if it does have some layer function. Maybe what I had read about it was outdated.I remember hearing something about Xara a long time ago, Maybe it was for Xara 3D since that’s ringing a bell for some reason. Anyway, I’m looking at it’s features now and it seems to be a really nice package. I will definitely take a closer look at it as I very rarely do anything print related. Thanks for the suggestion!

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    • Păi văd că s-a postat comentariul tău… Ai mai postat ÅŸi altceva? ÃŽÅ£i mulÅ£umesc pentru că citeÅŸti Blogul AncuÅ£ei ÅŸi te mai aÅŸtept cu comentarii!

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    • I’ve followed you for 2+ year and have loved everything you make—especially all these little details for your nursury. Wishing you all every good wish!

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    • Hey Bill,Good thoughts. I think it’s not just electricity cost but also potential cost if there is a hard drive failure should also be put into consideration. The risk runs higher with local backups, to be honest. But then no one backup method is ultimately reliable, which is why we need to use a combination of local and offsite backups.Thanks for visiting our site. Would love to hear more of your thoughts on other articles as well .– Sam

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    • I love this mini ihome I just got mine at a Best Buy vending machine I had other speakers before but they broke but I’m so happy with my mini Ihome . Thank you so much for this video.

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    • If I were a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, now I’d say “Kowabunga, dude!”

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    • je suis très surpris de l’article, on me vante souvent la rigueur du monde mais là c’est la catastopheMartine aubry ne remet pas en cause la réforme des retraites, elle indique simplement que la durée de cotisation sera bien de 42 ans et que ceux qui auront ces 42 ans de cotisations à 60 ans pourront partir à cet âge là quoi de plus normale j’aurais 60 ans au mois de juin et j’aurais cotisé 176 trimestre faites le calcul

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