I love the title of this! Writing Resistance. My world lately has been full of both – writing and resistance. Writing – a novel, tarot posts, curriculum, long rants on Twitter. And resistance – resisting patriarchy, resisting old patterns, resisting the temptation for comparison, resisting responsibility.
These two have collided into resisting the idea that I’m actually a writer. I’ve held off believing it for so long that I grew to devalue my voice as a matter of rote routine. It became a habit to hide, to deny that my voice carries value.
My first love.
This year, as I’ve tried to move on with my life after so much grief and loss, I have been coming to terms with my constant busy-ness. The projects that stack up, the responsibilities swirling around my head, the ideas and intentions that float just beyond my grasp. As I’ve healed wounds from the past, I’ve rediscovered a fact I kept hidden from even myself: my first love was always writing.
Growing up, I was empathetic to an almost scary degree. It existed long before trauma pricked my heart or haunted my memory. Even as an infant, I was told that I picked up on people’s lives and emotions quickly. I genuinely wanted to understand them, to connect to the best in them, to explore the light that made me notice them in the first place. I experienced the world so acutely, in a variety of colors and sensations, but I lacked the artistic talent to fully express what I saw except in writing. As soon as I learned how to write, I was consumed with telling the stories, illuminating the dynamics of what I saw. Poetry, prose, fiction, even screenwriting (I once wrote two scripts for Star Trek: The Next Generation at 11 years old but scrapped them when I realized how competitive it was) – all of these became a way for me to express the immense beauty and pain that I experienced on a daily basis.
And because I see the world in a fascinating array of kaleidoscopic awe and compassionate shades of darkness, I have spent most of my life trying to help others see through the same lens. Sort of like how Geordi can see in every human being I meet. If I could use words to connect to the more universal and archetypal experiences of humanity, I could evoke the same empathy to make the world safer for people like me. Before politics, before trauma, before all the other skills and passions I would acquire, telling stories was my first love.
Resistance to truth.
One week and fifteen years ago I was outed by a Republican blog presumably run by interns desperate for relevance. What could have become a turning point for me to demonstrate my commitment to authenticity, to advocate for a world free from the sexual harassment and intentional cancellation of a Chicana, bisexual, sex positive feminine voice became one of my biggest traumas and sources of shame.bI faced “cancel culture” before it was even a thing. I was shamed out of a job deliberately by men so threatened by the mere existence of my truth, a nobody’s sexually expressive truth, that they had to destroy my job and reputation to eliminate my voice.
And it worked.
For fifteen years I have felt such overwhelming shame and betrayal that I let it steal my voice from me. I was exposed because I was careless enough to write my truth, to connect with a small audience of 400 followers, naïve enough to allow myself to be exposed. Patriarchy’s puppets didn’t just expose me, but shamed me into cutting the cords of my own voice, poisoning my pen with a sorrowful fear I still cannot fully express.
Writing was a natural and organic way for me to express myself, to connect with others, to demonstrate the big ideas I had. But patriarchy took that from me when I was outed, exposing the cracks in my narrative, encouraging shame as a means of controlling the audacity of my self-expression. I wish I had been stronger back then, but when they threatened my kids, I felt defeated. My kids were turning 4 and 10 at the time. I didn’t want my shame to likewise shame them.
Now that my youngest is about to turn 18 the time is right to finally heal this. year has brought so much healing, much of it shown in my recent <Spider Queen> series. Since my dad’s death, I have been slowly making my way back to myself. Back to my voice, back to the passionate first love of my life.
Living a cautionary tale.
Sometimes I think I’ve lived my life as if it were meant to be a cautionary tale. I’ve lived through some miraculous experiences, as well as some difficult betrayals and terrifying encounters. I’m not special because of this. We all have experienced these things albeit in different ways and to different degrees. What does make me special is my willingness to share it so much with the people who stop by this blog or who meet me in person. I have fashioned my life to serve as proof of resilience, of the divine love that flows within us even when faced with adversity. And by sharing my stories, I feel can do my small part of healing humanity by saving them the misery I’ve felt.
That openness makes a lot of people uncomfortable, including and especially me. I constantly question whether I’m oversharing, betraying confidences. Did I remember that whole event perfectly? Was I accurate with my words and actions? Was I emotionally honest about what I experience? Did I take responsibility for my part of the problem? Authenticity matters so much to me that I constantly interrogate it in myself.
And because I have rarely ever been a passive participant in my life, I have also internalized the bulk of responsibility for those situations, including and especially being outed. My partners would say it’s a disproportionate amount of responsibility. If there is someone to be blamed for my problems, you can bet that I’m staring at that mirror and finding nothing but flaws. So what happens when I’m experiencing success? Do I even recognize it as success? Do I see the parts of myself that were exalted and illuminated by the glow of accomplishment? The short answer is “of course not”.
On some level I think people expect me to feel accomplished for going through the things I have. But I don’t see that. I don;t see the strength it took because I didn’t feel strong. I don’t see the humor that I had because I feel like I take eveyrthing too seriously. I don’t see the inspiration others feel because only I know my true story – and if others don’t it’s because I didn’t share it with them, I didn’t allow it be shared, and I let depression and humiliation dictate the trust I had in my own voice.
If I’m a “writer” why did I give up control over my own narrative? Why did I abandon my gift choosing not to set the record straight? Why did I sacrifice my voice to appease cruel, faceless foot soldiers of the toxic masculine, instead of fighting for what I believed in, what had already happened to too many others? I buried myself in written projects I couldn’t possibly complete because it was easier to leave books, articles, class curriculum, ambitious advocacy papers unfinished than it was to face having my name out there publicly, the possibility of my story being twisted yet again to thwart my vision.
These judgments turned into insecurities. They have have weighed heavily on me for too long.
Allowing the process to heal me.
After many messages, many signs, and much hand-wringing, it wasn’t until a week ago that I really started to reclaim my love of writing, to think of it as my “day job”. For too long I’ve had unfinished projects, big sparkling ideas that I could launch, but wouldn’t out of fear of the humiliation that a co-opted narrative might bring. Yeah, it’s trauma, but it’s also the empathy – I know what it is to feel disappointed, betrayed and hurt by someone’s use of words. The worry is that no matter how hard I try I will either harm my family again or I will mistakenly erase the very people I want to feel included and welcomed by my words. I avoid facing and embracing the insecurity of my imperfection. So long as it is a “work in progress”, mistakes and problems are easily explained and tolerated.
But avoiding judgment isn’t the reason why I write, so why is it such a big part of my writing life? I’m constantly looking for what I could do better, judging myself against people who don’t even know I exist, appeasing people who have never even heard of me. They want the perfection of performance according to their expectations, rather than my authenticity. And yet, next to my empathy, one of the most delicately pure strengths I have is my writing.
As I wrote that scene, I could feel the same devesation I felt four months after I was outed, as I sat crumpled on my bedroom floor sobbing at 2 a.m., rejected from yet another job, reminding myself that this was all my fault. The characters gave me a chance to rewrite my own narrative about being outed. I was able to give my main character better support than what I had, because I gave her a lifeline I couldn’t give myself. I was able to address her insecurity better than I had addressed my own.
It wasn’t until Wednesday that I recognized the healing power that is right at my fingertips. I spent the day writing a chapter where my main character has experienced a big loss, a bigger version of what I’ve been through. It was there that the character guided me toward a better end than what I had even envisioned for myself. As I wrote about her crumpled in a ball on the landing of her staircase, crying about the impossible walls she was creating around her heart, I could feel my own coming down. She had a choice – she could continue her self-pity parade (like I did) or ask for the help she needed (which I didn’t do). She chose the latter and healed a broken connection in the process.
And the most extraordinary thing happened later that night: I could feel a whole section of the wall around my heart collapse into dust. I could -feel- like I haven’t allowed myself to in fifteen years. I found forgiveness for the partners who made shitty choices with their words and actions at that time. I found forgiveness for myself and rediscovered the joy for what we used to have together (“the Brotherhood”). I could love and hope in the way I once did. I could feel my heart loosen up, reaching out to return to its wildly free origins, celebrating to the idealistic hopes of a the person inside who still sees the twinkling possiblity of each person she meets.
Fiction has given me a way to heal my past self by giving my characters the experience I needed most: healing. Even thought the events, people and conversations are fictional, I am still telling my truth on my own terms. By sharing the truth of my emotion, the integrity of my revelations, I have created a crack in the walls I’ve put up to protect my purity from judgment, a liberation that my readers deserve to experience for themselves.
My resistance to calling myself a writer has been shaped by those who intervened to shame me for my writing, creating new, unnecessary insecurities that have dimmed my light. So what better way to reclaim that role for myself than by writing a novel about resisting patriarchy’s attempt to twist our life narratives into stories of shame, guilt and self-loathing?
Writing Resistance is a collection of personal essays about emotionally surrendering to the the writing process while simultaneously using writing to resist the old patterns of patriarchal control that have keep femme, BIPOC, queer, disabled, and sex positive voices silent for too long.