I want to begin this with a quote from Audre Lorde, who says “and when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.” And when I say speak, I mean that in any way that we communicate, whether to our prayers, our movement, our intentions.
And specifically for those of us whose voices, stories, experiences are so often eclipsed even in the Queer community, I invite you speak loudly, often, freely. We welcome you to be honest, to ask questions, find kin. We welcome you to know that you are not alone. We welcome you to speak for yourselves and to make space for others to do the same. I invite us all to remember that all of our liberation is wrapped up in each other and by creating the space for us all to collectively craft that vision piece by piece, we are saving ourselves.
The past year has been a long and difficult one, personally and politically.
When I first started doing this work, although I didn't know it at the time, I did it in part because I wanted to be accepted - by White people, by Straight people, by Queer people, by Male People - I wanted people to acknowledge me as smart and valuable. I wanted to be invaluable and I thought that would grant me asylum, it would protect me and allow me to protect others like me.
I am not sorry for the person I was or the lessons I learned in order to find myself here. I am grateful for the ability to confront internalized oppression and learn that I have nothing to prove to anyone and neither do you. And part of learning that has been understanding my connection to the divine, that I am both huge and small. Recognizing I too am divine and seeing myself in each other without erasing the nuances of our profound multiplicity.
What I have learned and what has profoundly changed in my approach is that I am now most interested in self-acceptance, self-love and healing in the grandest sense. I am interested in illuminating to all the members of my community who are tired, dedicated, crying because they have been strong for so long that we are not valuable because of what we produce, we are valuable because we are here and you don’t have to do nothing to be loved. In the diversity of our opinions, our bodies, our brilliance, we are courageous and resilient and we are all that we need. We are not disposable. And we are miraculous.
Our experiences of oppression are things that we name, and can evaluate, but the feelings that we have, the exchange of energy when we know something feels wrong - I want to invite us all in the knowledge of our divinity to trust our struggles. We are so often told to distrust our selves, or that it is the naming of oppression that is the problem. Rather it is a gift an opportunity of transformation, a moment where our spirits are able to recognize that we are not affirming each other’s.
Religion, spirituality and karma have often been concepts that have been used against us. We are asked to suffer in silence with the promise that our good deeds will be rewarded in another plain of existence.
If we can explore mindfulness as a process of decolonization of spirit and recognize as my sister Imani says, that for every experience of pain we are entitled to an equal amount of love and joy because the universe is balance, then we access our healing now, our joy now, our liberation now.
Our silence will not save us, but this recognition of universal connectivity will.
As the creation of whiteness erases white people; trading ethno-cultural diversity for neutral objectivity (white folks have ethnicity too).
And when we acknowledge that homophobia hurts straight people too; for all the little girls who want to be carpenters and get called a dyke.
The search of power, the desire for ego, these experiences that happen at the expense if each other – we have to make conscious and deliberate choices to learn more and to ask each other, ‘How can I love you and me well?’
And so I want to take a moment to see each other, to affirm our beauty and resilience and to remind ourselves of our divinity.
I want to acknowledge our genderqueer siblings who still find it in them to go to them bathroom in the face of fear and accusations and femme sisters who walk into the world brokenbeautifulgorgeous and contend with being rejected by their own communities telling them that their gender is less radical, less political or less important. I want to acknowledge the trans womyn and men who dare to be entitled to their bodies in a world that tells us we have no choice. I want to recognize our bisexual family who continue to love despite being met with suspicion. I want to acknowledge 2 spirited folks, hijra – all of the folks who’s genders transcend English’s limited way of describing the boundlessness of human beings.
I want to acknowledge the Queer & Trans refugees who had the courage to flee violence only to encounter the systemic violence of the Canadian immigration system and still take it upon yourself to educate the rest of us about the trauma that you experience.
I want to honour all of us in the room code switching, living one life at home, one life with your friends and one life in yourself.
I want to recognize the variety of strategies for coping, for loving, for living and resisting every single day. It’s okay that you don’t feel strong every day. Most of the time balance looks like this.
For the survivors, for those who come to school hungry, tired, scared. I see you. You make magic out of dust everyday.
For the chronically ill, for the differently able who are magnificent in their presence.
For the freaks and the misfits, for those of us on the fringes. I promise you, it is better on the outside, in our honesty and our integrity. Our most radical work is to love ourselves, to learn ourselves and to forgive ourselves.
We keep going in the face of a system that criminalizes us, erases our histories, and denies us access to basic civil liberties. And we still create culture wildly, irreverently. We make new families, and raise each other. We turn grants into lifetimes of experiences and we turn curriculums into tools of liberation (Thank you to all the educators in the room) we still learn and share our stories. We scare the folks at the ‘top’ because innovation and survival is in our DNA.
We also need to recognize that across this spectrum, all things are not equal. Depending on our social location, we have different work to do. While some of us are figuring out how to heal, how to live away from the edge of subsistence, how to learn to love ourselves and each other – for some of us, the need is to have the courage to step aside so there is finally room for all of us. I urge us all to take responsibility for the work that we need to do. This is not a plea for sympathy, but rather solidarity.
For me solidarity and spirituality are inextricably link, and this revolution of spirit is necessary to transform this power dynamic and a desire to be connected to something that supports each other’s spirits and affirms each others life force. I have often struggled with the word ally, because it suggests that you are somehow outside of the experience, but I hope that as ‘allies’, people are able to realize that fighting for others freedom is the key to your own freedom. In the midst of all of this change, let us ask more questions, learn more of each other and create even more space to hold together. We are given opportunities each day to make it different than the last and today is no exception. Do what you can, do it with love, speak only for yourself.
And so I sit here at the beginning, middle and the end of this transition and as always I am embarking on a journey to heal, to ask questions, to be patient, forgiving and to continue to make change. To love and learn how to be loved. To protect myself, to learn new tools, to change and to grow.
And to everyone all at different places in their journeys, I wish us all the best, the honest and the divine.