by Mimi Khúc
I recently found out someone who doesn’t like me has been reading my writing here on Black Girl Dangerous. Not just reading, but Googling me, searching for my writing, and reading it for the purpose of finding ways to hurt me. Threatening me, threatening my family.
“Doesn’t like me” may be an understatement.
How to write from here? Writing for me has always been an act of honesty, of not only writing my own truths but also attempting to capture, gesture towards Truths about our social world. And writing has always been an act of extreme vulnerability. Bare my truths, hold them up to scrutiny, and offer them to (hopefully) like-hearted people, so that we can learn something, make one step closer to those bigger Truths, together. I don’t consider myself brave, but this is what my friends, my readers, have called bravery. Honest vulnerability.
After learning that this person had been reading my work, I went back through and read past pieces, trying to see them thru this person’s eyes. An uncomfortable experience, to say the least. Dissonant and painful—and unsafe. Feeling unsafe while reading my own writing. Feeling alienated from it. Reading it not generously, with full heart, but with an eye to find weaknesses, vulnerabilities to exploit. Reading it for the worst possible version of me the piece might portray. I’ve had to write in the past in genres I didn’t enjoy, and I used to call those experiences alienating—no, this is alienating.
And now I feel those eyes following me. As I write, I feel those eyes over my shoulder. Every word I choose, laden with this new kind of vulnerability.
How to continue being honest and vulnerable in the face of threat and violence?
But aren’t we as qtpoc always trying to live honestly in the face of destruction? I am feeling particularly vulnerable right now, as I write, as I think about a future in which this person might find creative ways to hurt me. A future that stretches out endlessly in front of me. But such is life as qpoc.
We were not meant to survive.
To be qtpoc is to be looked at, scrutinized by eyes wielding that great violent power of normalcy, the power to grant—and thus deny—humanity. To be qtpoc is to be read as different, as danger, as non-human—as the worst version of ourselves. To be qtpoc is to be read for vulnerabilities to exploit. What does it mean then when we are forced to look at ourselves this way, forced to know ourselves through eyes that erase our humanity, that do not know us but are still able to make us into (non)being?
To be qtpoc is to always engage others’ makings of us, to hold in tension what we might know of ourselves and what others “know” of us. A tension, a conversation, a constant negotiation, in a dizzying, deathly hall of mirrors. We may find ourselves living smaller, contracting, compromising, as we navigate, dodge, hurdle, endure, suffer, this violence that striates our lives. Yes, living less fully can be momentary survival—and don’t get me wrong, we must survive, in any way we can—but it is also a slow suffocating death. One that many of us have maybe gotten used to? The normalization of life, really the normalization of death. The tensions that bury themselves deep into our muscles, our hearts, our minds. The stresses that chip away at our health, our relationships, our abilities to love. Perhaps we get so used to living under siege that we don’t remember, don’t even really know, that this is not full living. Normal life, normal death.
Lorde knows, our silence will not protect us. Living less fully will not protect us.
There are those who tell us we don’t belong, that we don’t deserve, those who inhumanely deny us our humanity. Simply asserting our humanity, our goodness, our right to life and love and being, is an act of refusal. A dangerous defiance in the name of honesty and dignity. It is dangerous to be different and demand this difference be recognized as fully and gloriously human. It is dangerous to assert one’s humanity in a world bent on dehumanizing.
For those of us on the margins, living honestly, living vulnerably, means living dangerously. Risking, in the face of great threat. Risking precisely because of threat. Because these threats promise total annihilation in the name of a tightly, intricately constructed normal, and simply refusing that annihilation, that normal, is a monumental risk. Staring down that tempest, as it screams and whips around you, at you, through you.
There is no other way to live.
Living fully, living honestly, is living dangerously. And bravely.
There is no other way to live.
There is no other way to write.
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