Friday, 16 December 2016

Excuse Me. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.

I never noticed it before, how often women apologise, but I suspect it’s always been like that. 

Look at me, for example.  Here I am with a real live diagnosis, for which there’s an actual NHS clinic they let me attend only because I was probed and prodded & bled to prove I’m medically in need.  Nevertheless, a diagnosis I never name here because I secretly believe I’m malingering. 

I’m sorry.  I have a tall, long-eared imaginary illness named Harvey. 

Graffiti in Canterbury
Maybe this general propensity to apologise is more obvious to me because since the election, more women have stopped sitting with ankles demurely crossed, waiting for Rhett to give us equal pay.  They’ve begun to unapologetically ACT,  & when they do, they tell their stories – the dramatic plot arcs that rise & fall on the commute home.  The times they themselves were Boudica, or the times they froze in the face of unfairness.  The small day-to-day heroes & villains that are only known because women tell other women about them.  Wonderful stories that Harvey & I never getting tired of reading, ever scrolling for more. 

Yet when some women talk about themselves, whether they’ve physically protected another person, or bought some bigot his lunch, some women preface what they say with an apology.  They’re sorry for speaking out, sorry they aren’t deprived enough.  Aren’t non-white enough.  Aren’t glass-ceiling-ed enough.  Aren’t verbally abused enough.  Terrified enough.  Isolated enough.  Sexually assaulted enough. 

They often say they didn’t do enough.  Like we’re not ever supposed to be tired.  Never supposed to get ground down.  Never supposed to be too afraid or too inexperienced or too out of our depth to know what to do. 

Women are supposed to fix everything.  A helluva price to pay for not having a penis.

When my son El Punko first transitioned a dozen or so years ago, he said that he didn't want trans-advocacy eating up his life.  He felt guilty about that, especially because as an FtM, he’s a minority inside a minority.  But he simply wanted to transition & get on with being.

I remember we were walking down a side street in Galway when he said this.  I remember the smell of wet pavement.  I remember how anguished he seemed. 

El Punko
I told him a story about my mother who raised 7 kids while working outside the home, running a 200 acre farm, being active in her church & community.  One Sunday after the animals were fed & the kids dressed, she threw on some clothes herself & took us to church where she directed the choir.  After the service, women thanked her for being the first one to wear a pantsuit to church.

My mother hadn’t thought about what she wore that day.  She’d been too busy trying to get through her morning.  And that’s what I told my son to do.  Be the best advocate he could by living the best life he could.

All these long years later, El Punko lives his life.  He’s never been a professional advocate, but he’s supported his share of transfolk along the way.  Several months ago, a straight white man spoke up in defence of transgender people, & claims he did so because he knew my son.

You might be tempted to think I practice what I preached.  But it’s Harvey who's taught me what El Punko knew way back then.  Every moment you spend doing something, is a moment you can’t spend doing something else.  But it’s not weighted equally, moment by moment.  Something you do now may take so much from you, that you don’t have anything left to give to later.  You have to choose.

So if ‘all’ you can do is raise your chillen to be decent human beings or sweep the floor without killing the bigot ranting hate in your work place, if all you can do is talk to a woman being harassed on a train or smile at someone who calls you a bad name or stop a LGBTQ+ kid from killing themselves or invite a refugee family to dinner, if the only thing you can do is sign a petition or give another person hope, then that’s your part of the story. 

Motto of St Francis of Assisi

Each little part done by each separate person, eventually gets the whole job finished.  Someday, someone’s going to do something good because you did what you were able to do.  

No one should apologise for that.  Not even you.

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