I am part of the queer movement because I am queer. I am part of the racial justice and immigrant rights movements because I am a Latina of Mexican descent. And I am part of the reproductive justice movement because I am a woman, I am queer, I am a Latina, and the daughter of an immigrant. These are my external identities that come with experiences. As a worker in social and reproductive justice movements I am held by benchmarks of the number of people who come to an event, how policy changes, of dollars raised and other quantifiable records.
“What do you do for the movement?” This was the question I asked the kind elder man sitting next to me at the closing brunch of the 2011 Creating Change conference.
“Well,” he responded with a pondering tone. “I had never realized that when I was going through ex-gay therapy years ago, that I was actually invaded. I need to let myself accept that and heal that part of me.” He explained further that his healing would include re-connecting with his core desires.
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“And how are you going to do that?” I asked. He told me about an exhilarating experience he had when another man told him the day before that he was cute. They kissed later. This was significant because he was allowing himself to be in touch with his desire.
At first I had the arrogant and oppressive thought that maybe this gentleman didn’t understand my question. The truth is, I didn’t understand what I was asking. I was expecting to hear an abridged version of his resume, his bio. I was ready to share career and volunteer experience. Yet, he gave a response that was personal, about internal healing and reflections from his life experiences.
I sat and thought about the question. I did not have an answer. He looked at me with the same grin and told me “You have the same beauty as the woman who sat next to me this morning at the spiritual observance session. She had tears running down her cheeks. She had a head dress on… you remind me of her” He went on to share with me that she was overcome with emotion because she had never experienced a space where she could practice and honor her spirituality and be out, and safe at the same time. He continued, “this is the period of the bear. They are in hibernation right now. Being in the den of the bear while in hibernation is a period of not knowing and that is a powerful place to be.” He then got up and left. What’s his name you ask? Unfortunately I couldn’t tell you.
We all have stories, experiences and parts of ourselves that need the soft healing touch of our attention. Like my friend, he embraced the areas of himself that needed his attention. He saw the movement and his work in the movement in an entirely different perspective than I. We join, lead, and shake movements because of our experiences and our identities. But he knew that the basis of movement work is to begin to move yourself. When we stand proud in support of reproductive justice, queer equality, immigrant rights, etc., we get attacked; sometimes from those who should be our allies. Just as my friend was invaded, when we are told that we should not believe what we believe, be who we are, that we are too radical, that we are not able to make our own decisions, or that we are queer baby killers, we too are being invaded. We reject those sentiments and those abuses because we know that it comes from ignorance, but non the less, we walk away with bruises, broken bones and some times broken hearts. We need to give these pieces of us our energy. We get so consumed with these numbers, titles and external effects that we ignore, or for the benefit of the doubt, we forget that the intimate repairing and nurturing of ourselves in movement work is where we gain our strength, our energy and our courage to press on.
So, What do I do for the movement? I feed my soul with my work, with my friends, with my reflections and with inspiration. What do you do?