This is the only way I know how to be revolutionary.
To speak, to write, to tell my stories. And there have been times when this has not felt like enough. But we have learnt, through feminism, through queer theory, through all of our ongoing fights for liberations of our peoples, that the personal is political. Because we cannot be what we cannot see. The place where you wonder if you are ok, if there are any others like you; this is a quiet place. And the silence is a numbed limb.
One of my monikers has been Scheherezade. She’s the woman from The Arabian Nights, who kept herself alive by telling stories, always finishing right before dawn, so that her murderous potential husband was compelled to keep her alive for one more night, to hear the end of the story. It’s a story with a lot of control, manipulation, like most of our fairy tales. But for me, it’s important, because it is stories which have kept me alive. Jeannette Winterson writes in The Passion, “Trust me, I’m telling you stories”. We get given the wrong stories sometimes, too narrow, too small. Sometimes the stories don’t have anyone we recognise in them. Sometimes they’re just not brave enough.
I want to make the world bigger, not smaller. I want to make more things possible, to open and open.
The world we live in is all narratives, and it’s the dominant ones which keep us quiet, tell us our stories are odd, marginal, unimportant. But they are all we have. And they belong to us. And they are all true. And how do we take care of our stories? Stories love to be told, and they love to be listened to. And sometimes, when they’re finding their feet, their language, they need to be listened to by people who just want to hear them, however ragged they are. And sometimes, often, our stories take time, because they need entirely new languages to be able to speak. Because the dominant language didn’t invent words yet for our sexuality, our genders, our dreams. This means that sometimes they are hard to understand, because they don’t walk in a straight line. How could a queer story walk in a straight line?
And sometimes they take time, because they are hard to tell. I’m learning Te reo Maori right now, and it’s hard. He said to me “Keep going, there are many in us, and they don’t all want us to learn, they are not all with us. Keep going, it’s yours if you love it”
And often, our stories take enormous courage. Because we are ashamed, afraid, unused to hearing our own voices. I am already ashamed of everything I have not said, of the struggles I have had to ‘just be myself’, of the time it has taken me to know who I am and speak that out. I berate myself – how can it have taken me 36 years? How did I not know better, faster? And sometimes, I remember; because I had to invent a whole new language. Because I had to try out story after story. Because I had to find a tribe, an identity, a whakapapa. Because I had to learn to make myself visible.
This is the only way I know how to be revolutionary. To tell my stories, in all their ragged, open, glittery, difficult glory. To place them on shaky legs and say darling, I believe in you, you can walk. To write them in secret and begin to tell them in public, and trust that you will want to listen. That there is someone there who is just hoping that these words might open the world a little wider, so they get to breathe themselves, walk themselves home.
And when you tell me with shining eyes, when I see through you your little child who got told today yes there is nothing wrong with you, when you give me glass stoppers and say these are for you, to remind you to never hold in your words, I know, this is the right story. This is the revolution.