Laurie Toby Edison

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it happens all the time

Cross posted at Fukshot

Marlene Says:

When I was fifteen, if you had told me that I would be who I am now, I would have stabbed you.

I’ve said these words to friends over the years. I’ve said them with a smirk. I’ve said them to claim some kind of rough trade credibility. I’ve said them so as to emphasize the humor in the irony that I could have come here from there. Here is out and unrepentant and indignant at what the world expects of and forces on queers. There was aggressive, insular, ignorant, hateful street punk like only Philly and possibly Baltimore can breed. There is what too much of the world looks like.

I would have stabbed you.

I like to imagine that I am wrong. I like to imagine that I would have fallen immobile in a swell of collapsing shame and anxiety and denial and while my entire world came apart in that moment, I might have also felt lighter. That’s just my imagination. That’s what I now think I should have been like then. I wasn’t. I was one of the people I try not to despise and fear now because they are (and I was) dangerous in their deep convoluted hate. I was not a very good person.

I called the out gay boy in my high school a faggot while harboring a heartbreaking crush on one of the boys I thugged around with. I’m sorry, David.

Some friends have commented that I can be very patient and nonjudgmental when it comes to ignorant hateful folks. I can see that they think they are doing the right thing in their fearmongering. I allow that they simply don’t know or understand the world in the same way I do. I know that they act out of fear, whether it is fear of people like me, or fear of themselves, or fear of rejection by people like themselves. I have this patience with these people because I have been like them. I have been afraid. I am still afraid, but not of myself. I am less afraid than I have ever been and I keep working on it, but I have not been afraid of myself for a little while now. Sometimes, when I have been worn down, I do hate them. I hate them with the same belligerent anger that I carried when I was fifteen. I’m trying not to be that way anymore, even to the people who would see me and mine dead in the street.

It was just the end of June, the high holidays. Over the past few weeks, people I love and respect have been, in a variety of ways, being unafraid. They have been saying out loud who they are and they have been speaking not just of their joy, but also prying open the corners of their shame. They have said these things aloud to me and to each other, so that we can all heal and grow a little. They have been trying to move themselves and their world towards their ideals. I sometimes feel like I don’t do enough of this sort of work myself.

Right now, this is what I can do. I can say that any one of the people in the world who would stab you for telling them they would become me really could be me some day. It happens all the time.

Is it any consolation?

2 Responses to “it happens all the time”

  1. Lynne Murray Says:

    I think I feel a kindred pain, Marlene–and a kindred, hard-won self-esteem. The valuing of ourselves for what we are even when wading through floods of ignorance and toxic prejudice.

    A medical professional who was supposed to be helping tried to manipulate me last week by pressing my “fat shame” button and I cheerfully could have stabbed her (shooting was my initial reaction, which is why I don’t own a gun)! The good news is my shame button has been self-disconnected, so my reaction did not include bowing my head and swallowing the shame, wanting to kill myself for being so far from “the norm,” or allowing her to jerk me around based on the shaming.

    When I consider how my 15-year-old self would have felt looking at my 61-year-old self from a fat shame point of view, or a disability point of view I have to say that she would have been horrified. I would not have stabbed anyone who told me I would get to this place, but I might have turned my fear and hatred on myself. It would have been high on my list of worst nightmares.

    I could not have conceived that here at this point in life, I could feel so much better about myself than my despairing 15-year-old self did about her superficially, socially-more-acceptable self. And yet it’s true, and it’s worth those long, painful years of work and speaking difficult truths that you describe.

  2. Wordweaverlynn Says:

    Warning: untested theory ahead.

    I suspect the reason Philly and Baltimore (and parts of Jersey, and south Boston) breed such angry street punks is the shame of living there at all. Philadelphia has the aggressive attitude (addytood, I should say) of the also-ran, permanent-loser city perpetually in the shadow of New York’s bright lights. So does Boston. And Baltimore is in the shadow of DC.

    All those cities also have the rust-belt air of grievance, born of both entitlement and abandonment. They were important, they were the first. And now the money and jobs have moved away, and we’re left with ancient history, inadequate disintegrating roadways, and shabby blocks of row houses filed by ethnicity.

    I love Philadelphia — lived there at various times totalling 20 of my 50 years — and it’s my city in a way that no other ever will be.

    (So what was your neighborhood?)

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