(I originally wrote this in late May, early June of 2020. That form of this piece still sits as a post on my FB, and in opting to revisit it, I saw that I needed to update it to reflect things in the two years since. I make no bones here: this is a sermon, and I am a Priest, and this is what happens when that is called up.)
I was branded a domestic terrorist. I have been called a threat as great as a nuclear weapon. I am being assailed for existing as an abomination and for working as a groomer, a low risk way of accusing me a pedophile in the same way that I was once thought a risk to a woman just walking down the street and an imminent threat that needs be checked more carefully at any security post.
I am the monster of nightmares. I have been for as long I can remember.
In the darkness of ignorance, the twisted thoughts of the anxious, the aversive, the hateful, and even the apathetic, I become not the truth of me, but the fantasy of it, the dream of it, the terror of the shadows because they dare not peek into them to see my smile, hear my laughter, or scent my tears.
The truth does not matter in these moments, cast aside like a cloak; only the feel of the unreal, the stench of the bright red line of blood, the creeping ichor of cold sweat laced with hunger for the pain of others.
Ever wonder why there is a stereotype of a magical negro, the wise black friend?
If you think it is because of the movies, you got the part about how it became embedded. If you thought about books, you got the inspiration for the movies, the use for a certain kind of filler spot. But the origin, the Original, comes from a time when everyday racism was confronted by a black person who was nice, and kind, and helpful, and perceptive in a way that had never been seen before, a way that changed an expected outcome, and left a memory that became a story that became a role that came to define what a good one looked like, what the proper sort would be, what was acceptable and right in someone of that sort, that kind, that race of otherwise undesirables.
It came from a way to seek control over one situation, and birthed a way to control Another.
I am not the magical black lady.
I am her granddaughter.
With my light skin, high yella looks, and acceptable background and pretty little letters after her name that if they were on a white person would make people say
“Geez, she is super smart for a girl”,
I am the generational result of racism that isn’t really looked at. I don’t meet the acceptable criteria for anyone’s breakdowns of what is right and what is wrong in a person.
I have fought my entire life, so much so that it becomes the only thing I know how to do, a reflex, fierce and absolute; an instinctual reaction that I am only barely grateful for not having passed it on and into my children.
I don’t have to try to be the nightmare. It is not my doing that makes it so.
But I don’t shy away from it, either. I do not cast it away.
I will take it up as a mantle and use that against you. Yes, the thing you make me out to be, the terrorist, the nuclear threat, the wicked temptation, the devil you do not know but think you understand.
I am trans, so those who hate trans people will make me into a hulking man, a dangerous predator, seeking only to rend flesh and pillage and steal the very womanliness from your womenfolk.
I am bisexual, so I become an exotic risk, an erotic coathook for you to drape all your insecurities about yourself or or your spouse or your relationship upon.
I am native, so I am now all the sneak attacks and ambushes and savage, feral barbarism you were taught to fear from your westerns and you will never look for a tear in my eye as you throw trash on the ground, and you will feel the smile drop from your face when you say tatanka around me.
I am trained in counter-insurgency tactics and mid-range strategic operations emplacements, and I am knowledgeable about things a girl like me would never have learned had it not been for needing a brown and black body to throw after other brown and black bodies.
I was made.
I have been socially constructed to be the stuff of nightmares, the perfect target for radicalizing, the ideal scapegoat, the all and nothing, the liminal ghost that haunts the edges of your safe and secure little world of order and peace and the calming reassurance that things will be normal, will be everyday, that all of this is from outside agitators…
And when your fear turns out the light switch and urges your world into darkness, I am no longer your potential, I become your incarnation of monsters.
And who am I to disappoint?
Who am I to tell you that you are wrong? You would not listen anyway. You would deny and dissemble and dissuade. But you would still know, and it is that secret knowledge you will always refuse to confess that is where I reside, my amorphousness like some demon in the dark a cloak you assign me.
I will be given the blame, so who am I not to accept the action?
I am the consequence of racism, of transphobia, of misogyny, of mocking cruelty and unsparing misery. Yet, I am still here.
Beaten, shot, stabbed, raped, cursed, spat on, and worse. Still here.
Small wonder for someone who has been homeless a half dozen times that I find small joys in buying a home. Small wonder that so much of what I Have is a stand in for some nostalgic memory of a past that I drape in happiness and a love for what I have lost.
Small wonder that even though I have so much, I will give it away with a shrug and a curse and a rage. Throw it away if I must to do what is right. What is righteous.
If it is my blood you seek, come for it. I will give you yours.
If it is my hopes you seek, I have had them ripped away in a pain you will never know, and I will shred yours to ribbons with a precision that will bite to your bones.
You want my life, it is a little thing, easily taken.
But make sure, because a lot has not killed me, and some things already have, and I am still here, and you know what they say about that that which does not kill you…
This is the real truth, right here.
It is what lies beneath survival. Endurance.
The stubborn refusal, the snarling lip and bright eyes, the defiance.
The gravel against cheek and chin, the hand between shoulder blades or on my head, the arm wrapped around my neck to pull down — I endure.
The knife missed as it went in, slick and weirdly shiny as it moves back, ready to come again, the awareness of pain and the way more than a trickle that begins to fill the line along my back of my trousers.
The bruising that will take a month to fade, muscles and bones making sounds you never knew they could make as you stagger up and find yourself saying something instigating because now you know how they fight, the stench of blood filling your nostrils as cracked teeth you will miss in years to come grind against each other and your breath rises, hot and sweaty.
The cold of a winter night as you huddle beneath twigs and leaves that do nothing to cut the bite of it, your teeth chattering, your hands and feet numb, the dirt ground into your elbows turning your skin shades you didn’t know were possible, the forced stillness as you hear the security patrol go by again, praying that when sleep does finally come you do not snore.
I endure. I take it all.
I bitch and moan and complain and whine. And still I take it.
Still, I endure.
And then, there comes a time when I don’t need to, and I can set it aside. For a while.
I am a domestic terrorist.
I will endure that.
There will be violence and destruction, and people will be upset about the destruction far more than the violence, for there is no violence against things, only people.
That is the meaning of violence.
To harm other people. It is merely metaphor to use it for things.
All else is destruction.
And that I will endure.
And finally, at last, when that passes…
Once more, as I have done each time, every time, and just like that nightmare you have made me into…
… I will rise.