Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Don't Shut Up, Or Down

Someone asked for meaningful essays by women. I blanked--what's new--and then remembered Audre Lorde writing about--against--silence.

Short of rudeness, the context is roundly universal and keeps us alert to hate and its trickle downs and insults of any style and a variety of psychic or physical threats.

In my early twenties, my brother-in-law ran through my sister's purse for my address and showed up unannounced at my apartment.  "I've had my eyes on  you since you were twelve."  It's true. He had. And was here to act on it.  I played dumb and then dumber.  Knew that rush of waterfall meets coal stove in my brain. And with much luck and, truly, wild determination, I got him out of my apartment, so, as such things go, I got off easy.

But I couldn't tell my sister. In fact, I couldn't tell anyone for ten years.  I had massive problems talking.  I couldn't raise my hand in high school or college classes.  Blah blah blah.  This is just a blog. I suspect most of the hits here are for the images and I assure you, reader, that no one in my family reads it.

In part my silence ("silence") was a smart and decent decision. This was the seventies. My brother in law was black. I was worried there would be stereotyping on top of racial assumptions about men of color.  You may make assumptions about that gender, go ahead, no problem. But please no easy racial profiling.

Whether or not my refusal to tell anyone was understandable or not, thrown onto an emotional compost heap from my uneasy childhood (and other stuff), the unsightly and confusing mixed metaphor of verbal docility did damage.  To my self, sense of self, psyche, womanhood. But by the time Clinton allowed Lewinsky to pleasure him, but I do remember feeling so relieved that such male idiocy was being made so public by a white man.

What I keep thinking about, however, isn't what happened then, but that a young relative reacts to my belated coming out. Granted she is young as I was, and the young are fools, but I fit into this person's nasty stereotypes about dykes. I feel a bit angry.  And hurt.  I did all that higher level thinking for my family and somehow I expect more.  Hell, I'd be satisfied if someone would just once say they'd read and liked one (ONE) of my poems or stories.

I need to break my silence and speak to her. I will, in September, when we're in the same state again. Sorry for abusing this posting, but I feel better now.  As Ms. Lorde wrote in "The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action" . . .    
What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? 
 And . . .
In the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear — fear of contempt, of censure, of some judgment, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live.

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