April has always been a favorite month of mine. As a kid, April was time for Easter candy, my mom’s birthday, and violets – my favorite flower. It brought the first signs of Spring as winds blew away Midwest winter overcasts revealing bright blue skies shining on green clover fields. April means brightness, color, sunshine, and rebirth. Sometimes I wish SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) had gone to a different month. Maybe its supposed to coincide with life and rebirth… but for me rebirth has nothing to do with the topic. I do a lot of planning and programming around sexual assault, finding ways to promote healthy relationships, education and awareness. But the day of… the work stops being for the good of the community and becomes nothing but a reminder. Not of the failings of society, the aggressions, the suffering… I think only of myself, where I’ve been, and what I have tried to forget.
I wandered the empty lecture hall waiting for no one to show up. I hit the lights and started the film, listening to the survivors stories echoing over the empty rows of chairs. Like cracking ice, I started to feel it. Push. Pull. When the movie ended there was a silence. It was my job to promote discussion, but I didn’t. I didn’t know if anyone else was a survivor, and I didn’t want to out myself in front of my co-workers. So I left the silence alone, watching the three attendees gather their things. I felt like a shell, smiling, faking, wishing people a good night. On my way home I turned the music up. At home, I fed my cats, cleaned my kitchen, and dissociated.
Queers search for each other through our ‘queer-dar’ using haircuts, gestures, and politics to find each other. It isn’t the same for survivors. I look at people, continually thinking its gonna written somewhere for my radar to read. But it isn’t written on me, and I’ve never seen it on anyone else. So we are continually silent, waiting for someone to speak up so we can find each other, passing as people who aren’t survivors, for better or worse, never being recognized and never finding each other.
My second ‘Take Back the Night’ I got the guts to speak out. I held my friends hand, said almost nothing, and hid from everyone the rest of the night. I was horrified and exposed, but it did make a change in me. You always hear about speaking out changing lives, and it actually does. I had tried to claim ‘survivor’ before, but I still felt like a victim. Speaking out changed that. It stopped being just a weight on me, it became a part of my identity for better or worse. I was no longer a prisoner to it. After that, like a flood, other survivors found me. They didn’t know where I had been exactly, but we could understand each other. Now, almost three years later, I’ve back-slid into forgetting and ignoring. Its funny, the last thing I want to do is remember but forgetting is just as bad. Its lose lose. Sometimes I can manage a reasonable balance of neither acknowledging or ignoring, but that is hard to keep it up in April.
April. Sometimes I wonder who we are helping here? Communities of the oppressed are put upon to educate the rest even when we should be focusing ourselves. Whatever the cause queers, survivors, it is all the same tune. But who else cares about this shit but people who it has effected, either directly or indirectly through a loved one. I know, I don’t want to take credit from a great many allies, but if you look at the majority of people doing this work we’ve all been through something, or multiple somethings. That’s how we know what to say, and what isn’t being said. But… When I think about it, when I do this work really all that I have in my mind is those I love, more than myself. The people I know, the stories I’ve heard. That is what makes me want to do the work. I don’t think that much about my experiences because I don’t want to… So I guess I understand the allies working for this. They feel as I do, wanting to help those they love, wanting no one to ever have to live through that pain. And for me, it is because I know that pain first hand that I want to protect those I love from it.
This post has no real point, or profound message (like my other posts do??) More than anything, I think this was a speak out post for me, to refresh my power of self, to fight against back-sliding into denial and darkness. I don’t even want to publish this, but I am going to. I am going to push myself to not be afraid. And this post is a signal to other survivors. Since we have no radar, no flag, no rainbow to find one another… if you can’t find anyone else, you can find me. Here I am, I am like you. You are not alone.