Pomba Gira’s Dance — Soul Truth
Soul truth > idyllic truth. Harsh, but real.
Whoo, chile. The new year isn’t playing, is it? It’s straight out the gate claws and teeth, ready to rip the skin right off a fool. And I’m not even talking politics (although, damn, if that isn’t a whole lot of mess no matter where you are). The year’s already got me gritting my teeth and trying to decide where I stand right now — again, not just politically, but on the very ground I stand on.
A lot of this is because, no matter where I am, I appear to be in someone’s way.
I’m mixed race, I’ve a chronic illness, I’m an omnivore, I’m only marginally employed. White people either want to beat the crap out of me or spend all my energy supporting their psuedo-intersectional causes. Black folk want me to use my imagined privilege to stand in the line of fire but I’m never invited to the cookout, even though they’re my cousins. Vegans want me to swear an oath to Veganuary and tell me every attempt at veganism which landed me in hospital was because I didn’t try hard enough, not because soy intolerance and chronic anaemia can kill you — and I’m a shitty eco-warrior because of it. Wanna-be ‘body positive’ Instagram accounts adminish me to lose weight and walk more when I’ve been unable to walk without mobility aids for years. Disabled and chronic illness advocates want my time, energy, and financial support, then write hot takes about how they are the ‘last truly oppressed minority’; canna-bros in the chronic illness community defend Brexit’s anti-immigration rhetoric whilst blatantly smoking their medicinal cannabis spliff on social media — a substance I would immediately be prosecuted if I was ever caught doing the same because racial profiling in the UK works pretty much the same as everywhere in the world.
I’m tired, y’all. I’m tired of…well, people, it seems. I’m tired of communities that always want me to have their backs, but will not lift a finger to have mine. If I heard one more story about someone someone righteously walking out on their racist family gathering on Christmas because some skeevy uncle said something homophobic — yet never walked out once when same family members said something racist — I was going to lose my shit. I keep hearing calls for positivity and change, of reaching a higher vibration, of seeking the light. And I get it, I do. I wish I could do that too. But I show up to these love and light spaces and I am the oldest, fattest, poorest, and darkest person there. That’s only if they hold their events on ground floor; if it’s in a forest or up several flights of stairs, my powerchair only got me so far, so I went home. If I do stay, it becomes more and more obvious that I am not the intended audience of any talks, any action, any movement. Microaggressions are said with the easy assurance of someone who says and thinks such things on the regular, and are greeted with an uncomfortable pause, and then a subject change. Never an apology. Never a rebuttal.
“So what do you thing about insert-atrocity-happening-to-people-like-you?” I’m asked, as everyone grins slightly and leans in, eager for a bit of verbal fencing. To them, the atrocity is merely an exercise in debate, an intellectual icebreaker. To me, it’s decades of trauma and ancestral wounds they want me to air publicly, just so they can pick it apart. I become the voice of Everyperson, having to answer for an entire culture, race, or background, unbidden.
“Oh, well, let’s agree to disagree,” in the inevitable response no matter the subject, as they breeze on to the next subject and sip at their cacao concoctions. I am left bleeding, and nothing changes.
I have seethed, y’all. Seethed, simmered, and stewed. I knew I was reaching my last fuck to give, but I didn’t want to give it up yet. Surely, I just needed to dig deep and find a bit of light, a bit of hope, find the inner truth of my self which would give me the energy and courage to keep quiet and try and enjoy the scraps I’m thrown on the edges of the subcultures of the modern age. I mean, fifty percent of allyship is better than none at all, right? People are trying to do good things, dammit!
I tried to turn my burning resentment into something more positive. I tried to turn it into a teaching moment. I tried to elevate myself. I chanted grounding seed mantrams. I Went Deep. I scrubbed my skin with salt until it stung, and poured bottles of rum on the ground. I walked carefully in woodlands, exercising atrophied muscles both in my soul and in my legs. I made sure to eat, I shared love with my family.
The bitterness remained, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get rid of it.
Actually, no. That isn’t true. Let’s be real.
Your kinsfolk are the only people who need matter to you. And these? They are not your kinsfolk.
I mean, it’s obvious, right? These aren’t my kinfolk, because they don’t see me as kin. Not the vegan-pushers who dare to tell indigenous people how unspiritual they are for eating meat while wafting imported sage around; not the white centrists who treat inequality as opportunity for a fun bit of “debate”; not the Afro-Carib communities that blank me when I walk into the hair salon; not the racist disabled Brexit backers; not the chronic illness canna-bros; not the white woman sister-tribe-family-tent with their SUVs and expensive yoni eggs; not the queer folk whose intersection tends to stop at skintone and terminology I grew up with and literally bled for; not the Druidic pagans rocking dreadlocks and an inability to respect any deity from outside European mythology. I fit in with none of them, and they have let me know in a thousand ways, little and large, that I am Not One Of Them.
And I fought against this truth like hell.
I fought it with salt-flagellation and chanting and sage because I wanted to change myself to better fit into the image of my idyllic clan. Even now, when I should damn well know better, a bitter grain of sand jammed itself in between the folds of my heart-muscle. When I killed the nonsense notion of someday starving myself thin, lithe, melanin rich and healthy, of somehow miraculously able to eat loads of vegetables and fruits without getting sick, of some time when I could march any day of the week for whatever cause without either getting shot or being in agony, surrounded by people who saw me and cared for me, I thought it would mean my authenticity would be recognised and I would be welcomed for my courage. I would finally be blessed with a large, reliable group of people I could rock with like a badge. I would have an identity others would recognise and share, an identity I’ve been denied for my entire existence by…well, the very people I’ve been trying to fit in with.
This was the pearl I hoped to harvest in myself, forgetting all the time a pearl is created to protect an oyster from a constant irritation. The only thing which was ever going to happen in this mess was precisely what kept occurring; someone would yank me up from the ocean bed, pull the pearl out of my heart, thank me for my beautiful lesson…and then put another grain of sand in my flesh and throw me back in the water.
I mean, ouch.
So, for about a week or two, I put away any and all notions I belonged to any group like the above — any pod of supposedly alternative folk who said “Of course we’re inclusive!” without giving any concrete examples of how. I shut down social media accounts. I unfollowed people. I muted and blocked others quietly, and I stopped consuming news feeds and stories of doom, gloom, and woe which usually ends up getting retweeted for people to get shocked over, but not to actually do anything about. I stopped responding to people who wanted me to relive trauma in order to give them a ‘teaching moment’. I stopped responding to people who said they were listening and learning — but not actively doing. I stopped responding for calls for my attention, and made a note of the same people who were silent when I put my own pleas out for support or succor.
So, I trimmed my pseudo-clan down, brutally, grimly. It hurt, because…well, that’s a lot of people who aren’t as Down With Me as they appeared. But merely being ‘tolerant’ isn’t being kinsfolk. Then, I carved away people who continuously call on the marginalised to meet in the middle and compromise — and that’s an even bigger amount of people. I said goodbye to people who were willing to die on the hill of a million causes, but racism wasn’t one of them. I pared away the vehemently vegan who wept when indigenous people killed whales for food, but remained oblivious that a roasting chicken costs $50 — hence the one whale, which would feed three villages and be used right down to the baleen and bone. I trimmed out the estatic white-woman sisterhoods and the black womyn sisterhoods based on the white woman model of cultural appropriation, disordered eating masked as health, and body-positivity as long as it was ‘toned’.
And I adamantly refused to give my reasons for any of it.
I refused to debate, refused to engage, refused to explain. I’m tired of explaining. I’ve explained my very being for my entire life. If it is not enough for me to say ‘This is not a thing I can be part of’ for members of a community to make accommodations, then I depart. It’s not on me to bend myself into a more acceptable, less uncomfortable shape. I revoked my membership to the Greens because their idyll has no space for someone like me. I stopped giving my energy to the merely ‘tolerant’. I stopped participating in debates for the privileged to get their kicks, or a paid troll to get their clicks. I stopped giving people’s blind spots a pass, and stopped correcting mistakes anyone who spends ten minutes online could learn about. I just cut them out of my life.
I could have stopped there, which would have left me in a very self-absorbed pessimistic space. Instead, I forced myself to look up and around and what was left. What I have left is a very small group of people — and I mean, small. But they are good people. Artists, musicians, writers, conjurers, witches and weirdos. Freaks and fast friends, one and all. Poor as church mice, but they’ll send you all the energy, magic and beauty they can muster whilst juggling two jobs and parenthood. We have each other through thick or thin. We support, we cheer on, and we respect each other. I don’t agree with them on everything, and I’m sure I make their eyes roll from time to time with my own personal beefs, but we make space for each other.
This handful of ageing motley mummers, fingers stained with charcoal and calloused from harp strings, hems on the backs of our skirts riding two inches higher than in the front, transfolk on so many different intersections the whole movement doesn’t even see them, writing prose from our sickbeds in the hope we can shape the world in a better image — these are my people. These are my kin. We’re scarce but mighty. These are people I need to hold onto in these trying times when there are so many people who…aren’t. These are the people I try and take care of when the world burns. These are the ones I can trust to rally round me. These are my clan.
What a beautiful, wonderful thing!
This is the soul-truth I came to, blinking myopically into the morning light after what felt like ages in a cave in my head. This was the work I’ve been doing, and I’m still doing, because…ouch. But every day, it gets a little easier to prune dead wood, to trim turn away from what does not serve, so I can focus my energy on what does.
The only thing I am sure of in my forty-mumble years of life is I am clearly still figuring things out. I may think I’ve slain an old demon, but you can never truly slay a demon. You can only banish it. So, I best have get me some more salt. I wasted a hell of a lot of it on my own skin over the last week. At least I’m burnished to a fine gloss now, I needed the exfoliation.