The Hurt & the Hurting

cw: mention of physical violence

A lot of numbers and dates are overlapping these days, and today I wrote that it was October 2015. It’s not. Thank god it’s not.

I was also here around the time last year. Probably sleeping on my aunt’s old bed at my grandmother’s house, with the lock bolted shut at night and a wooden chair leaned up against the door for good measure, even when the heat kept building up in that tiny room  — because my grandmother was afraid of him bursting through the door and choking her at night. She didn’t feel safe without hearing that sharp click of the door each night. When we got up, I spent my mornings trekking out to the local library, mostly to get out of that stifling house. Sometimes, I would browse on Facebook, and Always, I would find bits of a person from my past jutting into my life, even though I had finally made it thousands of miles away from her. A new photo with a mutual friend, people replying with heart emojis at her latest angry activist post, a message from a friend asking me if I knew how she’s doing. It seemed like I could never really get away from her — her updates, her thoughts, her profound realizations, her trademark glaring look that would come shake me awake in the middle of the night. There was never a physical barrier I could put up to prevent her from intruding in my life. But I suppose that it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. I would’ve always known what lay on the other side of that door and that wouldn’t have given me any peace of mind. It never did for my grandma, anyways.

I suppose things have changed a bit since then. My grandmother sleeps with her door open now, and the chair that used to guard her door has found its way back to its original place at the dining table. I know all the privacy settings possible on every social media app, and I don’t see a lot of her news anymore. Things still find their way to me, and she still acts as if nothing is wrong, but I don’t feel her presence hovering over me anymore. I guess this is somewhere close to the end?

But a part of me feels like it’s a little weird to call it that, because nothing about why it happened has been resolved. I don’t know if she actually ever worked on things around queerness, if she ever worked through her trauma and triggers so she doesn’t lash out at people like she did with me, or if the Movement culture shifted at all to hold people accountable — even those that hurt others from a place of hurt /and/ people with cool queer aesthetics and other forms of social capital. I wonder if her friends ever talk about things like this with her. Or if everyone with social capital in the Movement is exempt from hard conversations like that. I wish I could break down that binary between people who hurt others /and/ people who are hurt. Why we always think that we are one but never the other.

I know the places inside of me that have been hurt, and I know that I must simultaneously work to get to know the parts of me that have cut / lashed out / hurt others. And I feel responsible for holding those parts of myself, too. I have laughed at people who have shown me sincerity. I have ignored people when they told me that they were hurting because of me. I have acted from a place of insecurity and pushed others down. I don’t think I should ever brush those things aside or ignore them to move forward. It would be such a dishonor to the people whose pains led me to so much growth and change. I want to bring all of my experiences into each conversation / the good, the bad, and the hurting / and that’s really all I want from her, I suppose, as accountability. But it seems like the world that she exists in (and the world that the Movement envisions) asks us to leave the abuser in us behind — as if it didn’t happen, as if it didn’t exist, as if it could never happen in the future by people like us. And I think that’s a dangerous place to strive towards. A state of denial and silence.

P.S. A friend of mine posted about their experience of hurting others — and asked some thought-provoking questions. I have some responses rolling around beneath my tongue, and perhaps I will share them some time, but for now here are the questions. I had never seen anyone pose questions like this before. I hope it gets people thinking as much as it did for me.

From my friend C (posted with their permission):

I can analyze all I want or offer whatever amends exist, at the end of the day, I lost people because of the painful impact I had on them. It’s only fair, and their decision for themselves is not a signifier for lack of love on their parts. In fact I think it’s a testament to their care for themselves and that I will always applaud.

Shoutout to all the people who have caused harm: where do you summon the energy to exist when you are spiraling? Are there any practices that have been helpful for you, so that you can build different dynamics in the future? (Other than just “don’t do what you did again,” maybe?) How have you communicated your experience of enacting abuse with the people already in your life and those who are new to it? Do you feel shame? Do you want to hug? How do you trust yourself when you are forming new connections? Let’s talk…

What’s your relationship like with the idea/act of “forgiving yourself”? Is it possible? Is it meaningful? Do you let yourself ask for compassion? What does hope feel like for you? What are the things you’ve learned from enacting harm that you’ve never told anyone else/that no one asks about? How has your relationship with music and art changed since it all started? What do you fill your time with when you are desperate for growth?



“From the Other Side” is a series of posts dealing with burn-out, healing, trauma, and a critique of current movement practices. It stems from my past year trying to heal/cope from my experiences in organizing (nonprofit and volunteer-based) and an emotionally abusive relationship with a close friend.

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Safety in Unlikely Places

I was talking to a friend about how he felt like he couldn’t make a mistake in the Movement. He was always in a constant state of fear, wondering if he was doing the “right” thing. I had carried that anxiety once. Being frozen by the fear of not doing the “most radical” thing, of making mistakes, of hurting other people. How did you get out of it? he asked. I had nothing to tell him. It was (and still is) an all too convoluted of a process for me to come up with a clear answer.

1.
My first Spanish class assignment was to submit a short paragraph introducing myself. I didn’t know what to do with the gendered a/o endings, so I just stuck in ‘x’s for all the endings like I had seen my genderqueer Latinx friends use, and then sat there wondering what I should tell my professor. The formality of the situation and my status as her student almost made things easier. I wrote a short note in the comments, telling her that I chose to use ‘x’ endings for personal reasons around my gender and then cringed while I pressed submit. The next day, she wrote me a nice note with a smiley face, saying that she understood and supported the decision. And that was that. The simplicity of it all blew me away.

She pulled me aside after class the day after and apologized to me, saying that she didn’t know that much about alternatives to o/a gendering in Spanish and that she would look into it in her other graduate classes and resources back home in Spain. Throughout the rest of the semester, she intentionally switched back and forth between ‘o’ & ‘a’ endings when referring to me. At the end of the semester, I received an email from her:

Last thing: I did not have the chance to tell you that I started a conversation with my department and other smaller departments about gender in the Spanish class, and about why it is important to develop an awareness that some students do not identify with either gender. I had never thought about this reality before (at least not very carefully), and I started doing research about it and got in touch with a couple of associations in Spain that work on this. I will visit them this summer when I am in Spain and I will go to a workshop in the Basque Country. Again, thank you for making me think about this.

I could not believe that it had been so simple.

2.
It was perhaps the ninth or tenth time attending her yoga class. We were all lying there on our backs,with our knees up and stably resting against each other, “like they could stay there forever,” she said. She walked through the aisles and stopped to ask me if I had been doing yoga outside of her class. No, not really. The only other thing I’ve been doing is physical therapy. She told me that she could still tell that my body was being honored. “It’s so great to see,” she added with a smile, and then turned to the class to give the next instructions. I laid there silently processing it all. It was just a passing-by moment, but also probably the first time that someone had recognized all the work that I was putting into my body. All those hours of acupuncture, physical therapy sessions, reading herbalist blogs, googling back pain strategies, and daily stretches. Looking back, this random White yoga instructor had been the only one to truly witness the change of my body and its movement in those last couple of months. And it was powerful to have that work be recognized by someone and to be so seen.

I wish I had told my friend to seek out generosity, forgiveness, and understanding in unlikely places. To find people who made him feel safe. To find spaces that loved him as hard as he loved the Movement. That those were the things that brought me to where I am now.



“From the Other Side” is a series of posts dealing with burn-out, healing, trauma, and a critique of current movement practices. It stems from trying to heal/cope from my experiences in organizing and an emotionally abusive relationship with a close friend.

On Black Lives Matter

Note: Both English and Korean subtitles available

I made a video last week in Korean about my perspectives on Black Lives Matter work and how I think it connects to my parents’ Korean immigration stories. It’s based on conversations with my parents and other Korean elders about police violence. It’s not perfect, and it’s not a video of the most “radical” political speech. And I still believe that it’s the most important to tailor the message to each person and that no video can actually have the conversation for others.

But I still went ahead with it. The video stems from a place of trying to establish connections and gentler forms of understanding with Korean families/relatives/friends, rather trying to push a political agenda on others. Often times, the intimate sphere (where Korean may be spoken more frequently) can feel separate from the political sphere (where protests/vigils/political action takes place and English is the dominant language).

My intentions for the video are: 1) to provide another tool for organizers (esp. monolingual English-speaking) to bring their political work closer to their Korean-speaking intimate circles and 2) share my thoughts and experiences as an organizer, as to make political movement work less intimidating or distant to viewers. I hope that the video is something you can share with Korean-speaking folks in your life.

_____________________________

[Korean Transcript]

지난 주, 연달아 두 명의 흑인 남성들이 경찰에 의해 살해 당했습니다. 그들의 이름은 알톤 스털링 (Alton Sterling)과 필란도 카스틸 (Philando Castile)입니다. 뉴스나 인터넷을 통해서 사건을 이미 접하신 분들도 많겠지만 그 두 사건들에 대해 간단하게 설명드리겠습니다.Read More »