Another rambly post with a word for the journey

This is a rather rambly and somewhat personal post, but I’ve been thinking a lot about things and I’m remembering a day conference I attended where one of the women leaders reminded us that if we’re going to be engaged in social change, we need to bear a number of things in mind. One of these things is a word that I think we all need to carry in our backpacks.

Watchfulness.

We already know that in life, there will always be someone waiting to bring you down. When we’re starting out on the journey, we’re all eager and full of faith. It’s real easy to be made to believe that everyone who claims to be on our side really stands on our side, when the truth of the matter is that each and every person has an own agenda and that agenda may not be the same as the one you carry. I’ve learned the hard way that just because a person uses the right words and claims to stand on the same side, it doesn’t mean that person is someone you can open your heart and your soul to. It doesn’t mean that person is someone who wishes you well.

The thing is, when you’re engaged in struggle, you’re vulnerable too. It’s easy to get sucked into the kind of talk that will derail you from your original purpose. Because we long for companions in the struggle. Because it’s lonely out in the field and it’s hard. It’s even harder if you feel like you’re struggling all alone–like you’re a voice shouting into the void

Watchfulness.

Some people can’t conceive of success that makes room for others to enjoy greater success alongside of you. Some folks can’t understand the joy that comes from seeing people you love receiving praise and accolades. Some folks don’t see how the success of someone else does not diminish your own success. But we who are working for change must keep our eyes focused on the goal. Don’t be distracted by folks to the back or to the front or the side of you. You might share a goal with some folks, but in the work of change, in the work of creation, it’s not a competition as to who gets to reach the goal first.

When you have your eyes fixed on that goal, accolades and praise diminish in importance. What becomes important is that the mission gets accomplished, that we reach change, that we achieve that hoped for state. And maybe you won’t get awards for the work you do, but in the work towards change, awards aren’t a proper measure for the work that is done.

The true measure, the true reward comes when you see change taking place for real.

I keep my eyes fixed on the goal.

Sometimes, when the darkness crowds around me and I’m tempted to lay me down and not rise up again,  I think of all the hands that have lifted me up and of the folks who’ve gathered around me and chanted a mantra of love telling me to keep on writing and I know, I cannot give up. Not ever. I won’t give up until I see each and every one of those I love blossom and reach their full potential.

I don’t know when, I don’t know how the dream of proving Filipinos can write well enough in English morphed into a dream to witness how those who travel alongside me come into their own.

I don’t know when I started dreaming of a future that’s different from the present we occupy. Perhaps it was always there, lurking at the back of my mind, perhaps that dream just blossomed into maturity as I experienced what it’s like to be held up and given wings to find my dream.

My dream is to see more voices rising. To see a field occupied by a multiplicity of voices to see a field where there are no minorities.

Watchfulness.

We move through different stages in life. From not knowing, to slightly knowing, to full knowing. From apathy, to fear, to outrage, to anger, to compassion and understanding what it takes to truly work for change.  Not caring about others that is the most deadly state of all. It means, you lose your ability to feel with, to empathize, to feel deep down to your bones–you lose your soul.

Be watchful of your soul. Be watchful of your heart. No matter how hard or tough or how angry-making the struggle becomes, remain watchful.

When you’re doing the work, you need to accept that not everyone will love you. You need to accept that more folks will hate you than love you. Because who wants the world shaken up and changed? Who wants the world order to be turned upside down on its head?

Working towards change is terrifying work because it can at times feel so gigantic and overwhelming and if you’re invested in it, there will be moments when you’ll go: Oh shit, what was I thinking when I said I would do this? When you work towards change, you need to put your hands to the ground and do the dirty work. You need to invest your time and energy in creating and bringing into being a new world order. That’s not easy work. It’s an investment of time and energy and other resources and you won’t even get headlined or praised for that kind of work.

We’ve been taught to be modest, to erase ourselves, to downplay our ambitions, to keep our heads down. Don’t rock the boat.

So we don’t talk about the vision we hold in us because talking about that vision is terrifying. It’s baring your soul and making yourself vulnerable to arrows and spears. I say: We must not be quiet about the future that we want. We must not be afraid to rock the boat or to put ourselves at risk. Because without vision–without taking that risk, we don’t have a future.  And if we don’t share the vision inside us, we can’t blame folks if the world goes on as it’s always gone. Rock the boat, I say. Do it to the rhythm that beats inside you–to the tune of that song that says: we have big dreams and our dreams have a place in this world. We’re not waiting for permission, we’re taking hold of it. We’re shaping the future we want to see, marching to the tune of a song that belongs to us.

When we speak about diversity and inclusivity, it’s much more than paying bucks for merchandise. When we speak about diversity and inclusivity, it means we invest time, effort, resources in cultivating, nurturing and making sure there are no minorities in the field.

James Baldwin talked about the need to create a country where there are no minorities. We need to do that in this field. We need to show that we stand on the same level–equals in every discourse and we won’t let ourselves be treated as less than equal.

When we talk of change, we’re talking about a vision we share. A vision we want and we need to see become reality. How hungry are we for change? Are will willing to put our money where our mouths are? Are we willing to invest ourselves? Are we willing to put ourselves at risk?

It’s a fearsome thing to propose an end to hierarchies and pyramid structures. It’s a fearsome thing to say, let us all realize the power we hold inside us. It is a fearsome thing, but it is not impossible.

Instead of traditional hierarchies let us bring in horizontal fractals where a multiplicity of voices and a multiplicity of stories abound. Set up institutions with built-in nurturing and supportive systems, install programs that will encourage instead of discourage, invest in the development of multiple voices, reinstate the chains that bind older generations to younger ones. It’s a giant endeavour. It requires investment of time, energy, economic resources; it requires willingness to take the risk and it also requires a hell of a lot of love.

**Tade Thompson made a series of tweets on diversity which I’ve storified. Do take the time to check it out.

Thoughts on the Journey: Self-care: Play and the child self

My mom has this story she likes to tell–how when I was a child learning the piano, I would always at the end of each piano piece add my own notes or my own embellishments–putting in things that weren’t there.

I wasn’t very good at playing the piano the right way because the right way somehow didn’t match how I felt it should be like. ( I got much better at following the rules when I grew older, but my piano teacher always complained that I was too passionate about whatever I was playing. Which is actually pretty cool, now that I think of it.)

Growing up in the mountains, I discovered the perfect hideaway. The mountain behind our home had a small incline with no path leading up to it–no one could see from below because of the tall grasses and the view from behind was blocked by large rocks. From this perfect place, I could look down at our home, I could see the hospital compound and I could even see the road that wound up the mountain towards our home.

I can’t think about any place more ideal for a child to be because of all the endless opportunities for adventure. Everyplace could easily be transformed into elsewhere–into another place, another world, another planet and I could be anything from a secret warrior to an otherworldly alien.

One of the things I liked to do was test out what people would do if they couldn’t find me. During hide and seek, I would hide behind those rocks and no one ever thought to look there. Eventually, they would tire of the game and the sky would change its color and the other children would head home and I would still be sitting there, hiding. I sometimes wondered if they ever missed me.

At times, I tested my mother’s patience by staying hidden even after the supper call. I would watch from my perfect vantage place as the lights in our house went on and my mother called and called. When night descended, I realized that it wasn’t quite as cozy up in my hideaway in the dark. So, I would race down the mountainside and run towards the warmth of light and the warmth of my mother’s scolding voice.

My mother’s father, when she came to live with us, would pinch me in exasperation.

What a child. What a child.

I was not very obedient. Not at all. Also, I dreamed too big for my size. I wanted too many things I couldn’t have, things I shouldn’t want, things beyond my reach.

So there I was a rather mischievous chubby child who was also rather rebellious and who couldn’t fit into a pattern, no matter how hard I tried. One time, when the evening prayers were being said and everyone was all solemn, I burst into a fit of laughter–I don’t know why. But I couldn’t stop laughing. I laughed so hard that I had to leave the room and had to be scolded again afterwards.

I guess, I’m still pretty irreverent. I tend not to take myself too seriously, because honestly, if one can’t laugh at oneself one turns out to be a complete and utter bore. My kids have also given up on having a mom who fits into the mold of being what other mothers are.

I’m so sorry, I say. I know you wanted me to give you the scientific explanation, but the fantastic one sounds much more interesting, don’t you agree?

So, I may not be the most solemn or perfect mother, but at least, my kids know how to laugh and we do laugh a lot together these days.

I know I had a point in writing this, so I probably should get to it. I think that even when we are engaged in the most serious of matters, it’s absolutely necessary to keep in touch with the child self. That we don’t forget about play, about not taking ourselves too seriously. Sometimes, we may lose our way or the way is just so densely overgrown that we don’t know where it leads to anymore–but that’s really okay. Life has no tried and true map of what works and what doesn’t work, but it’s an adventure and there is always something to discover, something to learn, something precious to be found.

Today, my kids are teaching me to stay in touch with my child self. I poke fun at myself and laugh at myself. I dance together with my kids and growl like a dinosaur. I play dead or do the zombie walk–I give myself over to my child self and that gives me the strength to head back into the arena and embrace the work because everyone deserves the room to play and the space to play and this is what this genre is all about. It’s about giving yourself room to reconnect with that child self and giving yourself permission to have fun and play and create.

Spread your wings. Fly. Dream. It’s a struggle, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun along the way. Laughter and joy, indulging in play–these too are acts of resistance.

**

(1) I admit I learn things best when they are fun.

(2) I still struggle with the big black dog, but I am thankful for the moments when my child self kicks in and decides it’s time to play.

(3) This post was partly inspired by Laura Mixon-Gould’s post on Our Nerdish Legacies. It’s a seriously good post. Do take time to read and absorb the meat of it.

(4) Adding big love to Nalo Hopkinson who reminded me to think of the joyful and happy things in life. Thank you.

Happy things

First of all, Lightspeed’s May issue is out and Breaking the Spell is appearing in it as a reprint. I’m delighted to share this story with more readers as it’s one of my personal favorites.

IMG_2158

I also wanted to share this bit of joy that came to me at the end of a difficult week.

Yesterday, I went walking in The Hague with a friend and we found ourselves in an artist’s atelier. The artist, Ibrahim Lodia Diallo, was there and took time to talk to us about his art and the work he does.

Today, I went back to the artist’s atelier to pick up the carving that captured my eye. I also brought home an exuberant painting that made me want to jump with joy.

In conversation with the artist, he said: when you make art, you make it from your spirit. There is no need to worry about who will buy it or who you are making this art for, because the art you are making is meant for someone. Sometimes, it takes a long time before a piece of art finds its proper owner. He told me about a painting that had been hanging in his atelier for three years before its owner found it.

This is art, he said. You don’t have to stress about it or make it fit with people’s expectations. You make art from your connection with where art comes from.

I think of how the work that digs deep comes from that place and I find myself thinking of a panel at Loncon where I sheepishly admitted to not adjusting the work or even thinking about the reader when I write. But I think that there is always someone out there who the work is meant for. I don’t need to compromise my vision in order to fit into what the world sees as proper narrative. I am able to do this now after spending years in training, after honing craft and use of language and understanding what it is that really matters to me.

I continue to learn. I continue to explore. I also am keeping hold of the truth that there is no room for fear when we embrace the work.

Praise and accolades are not important. It’s the work that matters. The reader the work was meant for will read it and will rejoice. Just as I rejoice in being able to have some art. (I don’t have lots of money, but it’s a sorry day when I turn down the opportunity to own a bit of happiness.)

I’ve hung up the painting over our table and will hang up the carving over my desk. Tangible reminders to embrace the work without fear and to keep walking forward with hope, with expectation and with joy.

I dream of a future. It may not be everybody’s dream, but that dream future is mine. It’s a future I may not live to see, but it’s a future that I long to be.

IMG_2157

Looking towards Dysprosium: an open confession

Here’s where I admit to suffering from a serious bout of pre-convention anxiety. I’ve been to Imagicon and that went well, but it was a convention based in the Netherlands and I went there knowing that most of the folks I’d meet have no connection to anything that went on last year. For a while I considered backing out of going to Dysprosium–and as the convention drew near I’ve vascillated between extreme moments of anxiety and trying to hide in my bed while trying to maintain the household. It’s just that I’m taking my eldest son to Eastercon for the first time and I know the con experience has given him the confidence boost that he’s sorely needed–it’s like he’s found a space where he’s free to be the person that he is.

But anxiety…it haunts me. Regardless of the fact that I know I will be surrounded by friends who care for me, I have heart palpitations and am filled with the same kind of terror that I had when I was preparing for Nine Worlds last year.

There’s this thing about having experienced hostility in places that you once felt at home in. During my sessions with my therapists, I talked about the struggle I’ve faced as I try to prove wrong all the stereotypes leveled against third world women in a relationship with a white person. It’s a damned hard struggle because I’ve already been confronted with it–because some folks have judged me as being that third world woman who latches onto a white person for economic gain. And that isn’t even counting the in-your-face racism where people tell you exactly what they think of people coming from your part of the world–but “oh, I don’t mean you.”

The greatest source of my pre-Dysprosium anxiety comes from this being a London convention. It comes the possibility of being in the same area as people who have judged my right to my choice of friendships and my right to form my own opinion and my right to support what I wish to support–for not being angry enough or outraged enough–for being robbed of the choice when to speak and how to speak. This outright act of racism, coupled by the experience of knowing that I am “a piece of shit” to certain people–it’s what makes me feel anxious and unsafe.

Why now? People may ask. Why write about this now?

In writing this, I want to bring home the truth of what it feels like to be a person of color who has been treated like “the shit” certain people think I am simply because I did not fall in line with some unwritten party policy.

At the height of last year’s incident, someone questioned my right to write what I have been writing–after all, I am not a person with academic credentials, no MA’s no doctorates–only passion. Today, I grab hold of courage and remind myself that I am not here because I have the right degree. I am here because I have something I want to say and regardless that I’m not considered a “proper scholar”, I am committed to change in my lived life, in the society I occupy, and in the field I work in.

There are those who’ve questioned too, the depth of my relationship with Tricia Sullivan. Holding up this relationship and using it as an excuse to say I identify as white. What people don’t see and what people have never seen is how during my second year at Eastercon, when I still knew nobody and when I was barely anybody, Tricia Sullivan opened herself to me and treated me as an equal–not because I had attained something but simply because she saw me. It’s hurt me deeply to see Tricia vilified and made to appear as someone who is a villain–but in all these things, I have always seen Tricia’s heart and that she’s been made to feel unwelcome and unsafe where she only sought to create a wider space–that the beloved friend of my heart should be treated as if she were nothing more than trash–I cannot put into words how it’s made me feel.

I find myself wondering how people cannot see the double standards that are applied in this case. How is it that people do not understand that it is possible for a woman of color to stand up and choose to stand by a white person? How hard is it to comprehend that I would rather be hurt, because I know my own heart and I would rather take that hurt than to see my loved ones harmed? My choice. My decision. My stand. To me these are the things that have been on the line–my right to be a self-governing person who makes the decisions I make and to be treated as an equal when I choose to speak and to say what is on my mind.

I think it’s hard for most people to understand this pain and I am writing now from a place of pain and deep grief and I have to put this out there because to paper over this pain, to pretend it isn’t there–that’s something I can no longer do.

For some, deep friendships between white folks and people of color seem an impossibility. I will tell you, it’s not. It’s not impossible to love a white person so much that you see their flaws and their faults–to see their heart–to understand and embrace that person flaws and all because love sees and embraces all things and understands.

I think too of how narrow our vision is if we cannot see that.

I certainly can not and could not have come this far without my beloved friends, without my companions, without kadkadua and dear ones who have embraced me as I am, flaws and all.

So yes, I am anxious–terribly and incredibly anxious. But I am going to Dysprosium. I will be there. I will be doing barcon and will be sitting and catching up with beloved friends and companions on the journey. I will be there because I am doing what every woman of color has done before me–I’m facing down the dragon of anxiety that comes after you come to realize that not all those who call themselves ally truly see you as a person in your own right.

I refuse to become invisible. I refuse to be erased. I refuse to go away. No matter how anxious I may be, I will be there. I will not be silent.

Writer’s Journey: doing the work

I have been silent for quite a while as I moved through the necessary steps towards full recovery. Sometimes, we have our hands so full with the business of trying to make it from one day to the next that we don’t have much energy to think of much else. I deeply appreciate the kadkadua, the friends and comrades who have sent me encouraging notes even when I had no strength to answer.

What follows are things that bubbled up as I worked on the columns that I want to see published next. Fellow traveler on the journey, this is for you too.

. . . who  know what it is to be afraid to speak because to speak is a matter of life or death.

… who know what it is to hunger or to be anxious about where the next day’s meal will come from.

…who know what it is like to turn over every coin as each coin spent means a balance between what is needful and what is less needful.

…who have not been cushioned by the luxury of wealth, not owning anything more than what your two hands can hold.

…who do not own the privilege of position or class.

…who have not been shielded by the color of your skin or gender or sexuality…

…who know what it is like to go to sleep praying that you will not wake to the sound of guns in the distance.

…who know to lock the doors at night because there is no safe place…there is no safe place…there is no safe place…

…who stubbornly remain vulnerable in the face of fear because there is no safe place…no safe place…no safe place…

…who know the cost of dissent, the price of resistance, the punishment for rendering criticism.

…who know what it’s like to always be judged based on the color of your skin, the flag to which you pledge allegiance, the country of your origin…(fill in the blank)

…who know what it is like to be reviled, rejected, judged, ridiculed, belittled, cast out, ignored…(choose your own synonym)…

…who know what it’s like to hunger for words…to fight over words…to want to own words…to chase after glimpses of story in whatever form because there are never enough words to speak the stories that have grown and grown and grown…

…who understand what it’s like to dream of one day being that adventurer, that star traveller, that explorer, the one who discovers, who charts, who lays claim, who takes hold of–planets, countries, kingdoms…becomes ambassador…becomes forger of peace…savior instead of saved…redeemer instead of redeemed…

…who reach out in anxiety…who having found voice speak tentatively…because you have never had that freedom…to speak…to speak without anxiety…to speak without fear…to render criticism and not be cut down or imprisoned or taxed or punished or sent into exile…

…Oh who have fought not to be silenced….and having won…struggle not to fall into silence…do not fall into silence…do not allow yourself to fall into silence…do not…do not…do not surrender…do not give way.

Speak on.

Standing Up and Speaking Truth

I believe that no one has any right to dictate to me when I should speak, where I should speak or how I should speak on any given subject. I also believe that questioning a person on the choices they make is breach of personhood. In matters pertaining to decisions about one’s profession, that questioning is a clear breach of professionalism. I also want to reiterate that if the work under discussion is a work that I have not read in its completed form, it is not right for me to criticize the work or condemn it.

I write the above because this was at the heart of the conflict that took place between Alex Dally MacFarlane and myself on the 19th of July and it was also this conflict that led to Requires Hate breaking all ties with me.

Alex has spoken in public of a conflict that took place between her and myself over Tricia Sullivan’s book, Shadowboxer. I had clearly stated my position on the work. In separate emails I clearly told both Alex and RH that I had no intention of passing judgment on Shadowboxer. I did not feel it was my place to criticize Shadowboxer on the basis of its Thailand setting as I was not familiar with Thai culture and if any public criticism of this aspect of the work should arise, it should come first from Thai readers.

Because of my position and because I had publicly supported Tricia Sullivan, I was accused of being complicit in racism and transphobia.

Regardless of this accusation, I continue to stand by what I have said. I cannot condemn a work based on a manuscript that has since been rewritten.

I am aware that things have been said about me. I am not sure what has been said and I do not know with how many this conflict has been shared. I had, at first, made a decision not to talk about this conflict as I valued Alex Dally MacFarlane’s work.

Tori Truslow who is one of the Nine Worlds organizers is Alex’s partner and it was clear that she was aware of what had taken place between Alex and me. I did hope that she would keep an objective position on this matter. It will seem illogical to many, but the position Alex and Tori occupied in UK fandom made me anxious and fearful when I went to Nine Worlds.

At that time I was afraid of Alex. I did not know what to expect of her and I did not know what to expect of her partner, Tori. I hoped that the issue could be resolved in a professional manner. At Nine Worlds, Alex gave me the cut and I realized that this issue was not going to be resolved. I later heard that a number of people had been made aware of this conflict. Again, I do not know what was said or how it was framed, but I am now in no doubt as to Alex’s and Tori’s hostility towards me.

How does this all connect to RH?

After the conflict between Alex and myself, I sent RH an email telling her of this and saying that she should feel free to cut ties with me as I had burned bridges with Alex. In response, RH clearly questioned my decisions on my friendships and my refusal to condemn those who had supported me and those who I counted as friends. She then cut off ties with me.

In all our communications, I had always supported RH in her desire to build a career as a writer. I respected her descision to maintain secrecy and her choice to take on a writing pseudonym. I do not know what RH’s real name is. I also do not know Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s real identity. I do know that Benjanun was a persona that RH donned in order to achieve her desire of being a published writer.

After Worldcon, I was aware that something was going on, but not exactly what. There was talk of whisper campaigns, but I paid no attention to that as I did not have the energy to deal with controversies. I do remember Rachel Swirsky asking me about Benjanun’s identity and I told her that if this had already been confirmed by others I did not see why she felt the need to ask me for confirmation.

After that, I was even more sporadic online as we were switching servers and access to the internet was quite spotty.

On the 14th of October, I was surprised to find a message from Nick Mamatas on my blog. He wrote that if I wanted to know what the latest controversy was about, I should get in touch with him. I wasn’t too keen on controversy, so I told him that I didn’t have regular net access but I would get in touch as soon as I could. I was also surprised to find a number of hostile messages from people who told me they were disappointed or disgusted with me.

When I got back online on the 16th of October, I got in touch with Nick Mamatas and asked him what he knew. I told him I had received a number of angry messages and I was confused as I was completely out of the loop. Did he know anything?

I had heard that Benjanun had been outed in public by Nick Mamatas, but Nick told me that Benjanun was spreading the rumor that I was the one who had outed her. I told Nick that this was an untrue accusation. I thanked him for taking the time to ask me about this and tried to think of what I could do.

I will admit that I was quite disheartened. Among the messages I received was one that accused me of sabotaging and destroying Southeast Asian writers. It is an accusation that has no ground in truth. My work has always been directed towards creating more visibility for writers coming from the margins. That these kinds of lies were being fed to the vulnerable is a deed that I consider unconscionable.

It was then that I decided that I couldn’t just wait for things to die down. There was much more at stake than myself. I reached out to people I trusted and decided to write this post.

I’ve heard that Requires Hate a.k.a. Benjanun Sriduangkaew has tendered two apologies and that she has apologized to those who she has harmed. More than two weeks have passed since then, but I have yet to receive an apology for the untruths she spread about me and her attempt to destroy my reputation.

There are those who say that we must forgive and forget and move on, but this is one case where we cannot simply forget. In the time since I learned of the accusations that were being leveled against me, I found out that this was not the first time RH had tried to destroy someone’s reputation. I also found out about her long history of abusive behaviour carried out under a variety of names.

Finding out about the stories of other victims has made me realize that to keep silent would be to do them a great disservice. The incident that took place between Alex, RH and myself was not pleasant, but there are those who have been silenced far longer by fear, there are those who have been ostracized and left out of conversations, there are those who have been shoved aside, dismissed and devalued.

I consider myself very lucky. It is with great thanks to friends and fellow travelers that I am still in the field. It is with thanks, first of all to Elizabeth Bear, that I found the courage to tell my story. It is with thanks to the work of Laura Mixon-Gould that I was able to see that I was not alone and that what happened to me was not a random individual incident. It is with thanks to Nalo Hopkinson’s words that I was able to start healing. It is with thanks to many in this field that I was able to keep hold of hope and belief.

To say that all RH did was to utter words is a complete denial of what we are as writers. Words have power, and words wielded in hatred and violence are just has harmful as violence dealt out with fists.

It is clear to me that RH has made use of her words to create schisms and divisions. She created an atmosphere of distrust and fear. By her actions, she has harmed many who chose to put their trust in her.

I still have no wish to harm RH. However, I do believe that it is only right that people be warned. I don’t doubt that RH has herself been a victim of stalking, but this does not excuse her harmful behavior. That she has tendered her apologies does not mean that she can be so quickly absolved, neither does it mean that we do not need to warn others about her.

I also believe that our duty is first of all to her victims. We need to respect the rights of these victims to a safe space where they can speak out and finally find healing.

**Again to be clear, I am not interested in a blacklisting of RH. The facts speak for themselves. RH has apologized. If writing gives her joy and fulfilment, I think she should continue to do so.

**I do call out Alex Dally MacFarlane for her actions. Social justice is not carried out by tearing down people or passing judgment on others. Social Justice is carried out in public spaces where open and free debate may take place.

**It’s also been pointed out to me that it’s racist for a white person to call out a brown person on how they deal with racism.

 **Comments on this blog are closed. Those who do wish to speak in support of those who have been at the receiving end of RH’s actions may do so at Laura Mixon-Gould’s blog.

My heart: Your heart: Our words

The past few months have been very stressful and difficult months for me. Not only because I had to deal with health issues, but also because I could feel hostility from places that I had once considered safe. Friends who I had trusted chose to question me. People who I believed in turned their backs on me and left my side. It is only natural to feel pain when these things happen.

My first reaction is to defend myself in anger. To tell the world that I am not guilty and it is those who have chosen to throw my name out into the open who are to be blamed. I had, in fact, already written such a post.

But I am also deeply aware of what goes on in my heart, and I am thankful for the friends who lift me up and remove me from that place that demands vengeance and justification. People have questioned my friendship with certain white people and made this a reason to pass judgment on me.

I want to say: It is easy for us to pass judgment on others. If we hear a story on the wind that seems to contain the smallest kernel of truth, we are liable to think: Oh, it must be true.

But in the course of my journey, I have arrived at this point where I choose not to judge on hearsay. I choose not to judge on what has been reported to me or what the wind brings to my ears. Rather than passing judgment, I choose to know and to believe with my heart.

I think that brown women from third world nations understand what it is like to be judged. We know what it’s like to be judged by the color of our skin, by the country we come from, by the way we speak, by the way we act and even by what we carry on our persons.

It is because I know exactly what it’s like to be judged because I am a dark skinned Filipino that I choose not to judge people by the color of their skins. It is because I know what it’s like to be shut out of conversations that I choose to include others in my conversations.

If you are reading this post, I want to ask you to examine yourself and to examine your own heart. To examine ourselves and to own the truth about ourselves is not weakness.

When I was still a child, I became aware of the power that rests in words and how it was possible to use words to move people either to tears or to anger—to love or to hate. I also became aware how by using words in a certain way, it is possible to sway people and to make them see my side of things as being the only right side in any conflict.

Today, more than then, I am very much aware how words wielded with cruelty and powered by malice have the capacity to destroy the person on the receiving end of those words. So, when I see people excusing words wielded cruelly as being just words, I cannot help but wonder if they truly understand just how a word in the hands of the wielder can break a spirit or strengthen it—how words can bind us together or tear us apart.

I know exactly what it’s like to be at the receiving end of words meant to make you feel so small that you want nothing more than to crawl away and vanish from the face of the earth. For this reason, I do not wish to wield words in that way. I do not wish to use my words to destroy, to belittle, or to question the humanity and the heart of others.

I have been judged for many things. Among these things, I have been judged for my choice to remain friends with people others deem as not being the “right sort” of people.

But you see, in the time since I started my decolonization journey I have changed from the person I was. I see with different eyes and I look with different eyes at people. I have been called naive for my choice to continue to trust and believe in the goodness that rests in the hearts of white people. But this is my choice. Just as it is my choice to believe in the goodness that rests in all of our hearts. I choose not to see myself as being of more worth than a white person but rather, I choose to see myself as being of equal worth.

We are all prone to failure. If I distance myself because people fail, I would be left standing alone—bereft of family, without a single friend.

It is because I see and acknowledge my own flaws that I can see clearly the flaws of those I love and love them still. I know what it’s like to be judged, so I choose not to judge. Instead, I choose to welcome those who welcome me. I choose to see the good in the hearts of those who see the good in me.

It doesn’t mean that I no longer see injustices or that I am not angry about them. I am still angry and I am still capable of great rage—but when it comes to people, I choose not to dwell in anger, I choose not to dwell in hate.

Ask yourself this question: how do you choose to wield your words and who do you destroy when you choose to tear down and destroy the other?

Adding this note as it has been pointed out to me that my post could be misread on certain things. So to make things clear:

(1) I do not condone any abusive behavior towards anyone.

(2) I am not aware of and I do not condone whisper attempts or any attempts to blacklist or blackball any writers.

Thinking things through: lessons learned on the journey

Yesterday, I joined the chairman of the board of the org I work for at an event hosted by Stichting ZAMI. I had been cloistered in the house for quite a while and have been finding it difficult to leave the safety of my four walls, so she had to practically force me to get a ticket and go with her. Well, she didn’t drag me out of the house, but an older Filipina woman who is like family can be forceful in ways that don’t require any physical exertion.

In the end, I was glad that I went along with her because not only did I get to meet twitter buddy and all around awesome woman, Nancy Jouwe, but I also got to meet a whole bunch of awesome women. The conversations were positive and uplifting and listening to the speeches, the panel discussion and just engaging in conversation with these women was so inspiring and heartwarming that I came home feeling energized and strengthened and also more able to face the ugly truths about my own self.

I was most moved by Fatima Elatik‘s closing speech where she told us about her own experiences in the political arena. She reminded us, that facing the truth about ourselves, acknowledging our own weaknesses and embracing those weaknesses make us stronger. I had been feeling very badly about my lack of insight and about the fact that I’d allowed myself to ignore and break my own principles in certain matters and I had been beating down on myself a lot, but Fatima said: What else can you do? You just have to acknowledge that you have weaknesses. You’re not perfect. You’re only human. You fail. The important thing is to realize that the fails you did were things from yesterday and then you have to move on. You have to understand that the work you’re doing and the work you’ve undertaken to do is more important than the fact that people are talking about you and not everyone likes you.

I’m still digesting and processing everything I’ve heard and a lot of it jives with the readings I’ve done on the babaylan and the babaylan spirit. One of the women shared the UBUNTU philosophy which I really want to look more into. I believe that the way forward is not by shutting out people. I believe that the way forward is in working together. If we are to reach that better place of being, we all need to work together and move forward together

Looking at the way the system works ( particularly in publishing ), I don’t believe that gatekeepers are there to keep out diverse works or that gatekeepers aren’t interested in diverse work. One speaker said that it was to us to figure out our position in relation to the system. Gatekeepers don’t know how to do diversity work, but we who know how to do the work need to keep doing our work. We need to keep raising our voices on the need for diversity, but (and in particularly this is for PoC and non-western folks) we need to strategize in order for the system to work for us.

So, how do we do that? We do that by creating work that cannot be ignored. What are the things that we carry with us that will show the industry that they are the ones who need us? Instead of begging for scraps, we need to stand firm and take control of ourselves and of our work. We show them what we can contribute and how we can contribute towards building a system that is truly diverse and inclusive.

This is our work. Publishing our work brings something to the publishing industry that it didn’t have before. Diversity brings color and life to the book industry. Diverse work enriches readers because through reading about places and cultures that they don’t have access to, readers learn to be more understanding. Books teach us many things. They tell us stories that help us empathize with people from places we’ve never been to. Hopefully they teach us to be more mindful of each other and more understanding of the fact that despite our best intentions, we are all still human and we need each other on this journey.

More than ever, I’m convinced that we don’t need to adjust or apologize for the stories we tell or for how we tell them. These are narratives that the world needs. We tell them our way because no one has heard them told the way we tell those stories. Publishing needs us more than we need them and the way I see it, it’s up to us to make ourselves visible and show publishing that they just can’t go on without the presence of a diverse list of writers coming from different cultures and different places around the world.

Keep sending those stories out and keep writing them. You can do it.