Who I Am and Who I’ve Been (I Won’t Apologize For Either)

Four years ago, I was a very different person.

If you’d seen me at my college orientation, you would have encountered a girl feeling the keen edge of homesickness, shielding herself with a smile and throwing herself into social life in an effort to find some friends—any friends—to fill the gap between her and those she’d left behind. You would have met a girl who had a lot to say to the right people but who found that there weren’t many of those individuals cloistered within the walls of her fancy new dorm. So she remained quiet, because that was what she could do with who she had.

That girl didn’t last long; though she made the occasional reappearance, the woman she became found it far easier present the world with honesty and attitude in the hope of inciting genuine responses. And to a degree, that’s worked pretty well. But now it’s time for the next adventure, and the woman I’ve become is rapidly losing patience with a world that refuses to listen productively. No longer am I content to hear “that’s really interesting” or “man, that sucks” when I’m recounting some experience or conversation that made me feel insignificant or incensed me beyond comparison. I’m not interested in platitudes about how the world should be better or how I should be working to change things.

You know why?

Because when I’m sharing stories about my sexual assault or the misogyny of the jazz and classical communities or how alienating it can be to go to a jam session when you’re new to an area, I’m already trying to change the world. I’m saying, “hey! This isn’t how things should be!” in the hope that someone will add their voice to my battle cry. And when all you can come up with is an emotionless platitude designed to get me to stop talking, all you’re saying is, “that’s the way it is, so stop whining.”

So don’t tell me that the world should be better. Tell me you’re going to help me. Tell me you’re going to point to what I and others are doing and shout until people pay attention. Tell me you won’t expect me to praise every man who doesn’t rape or grope or physically intimidate or slander women. Tell me you won’t make me reassure you that your friend/brother/coworker is a good person because “not all men” perpetuate and benefit from patriarchal culture. Tell me you’ll stand beside me—and all the women in front of me—when we need a shoulder to lean on. Tell me you’ll help my sisters of color before you help me. Tell me I do not have to sacrifice my imperfection and my humanity in exchange for using the voice I was born with.

Tell me those things, and then show me. Because the girl I was four years ago is still waiting for someone to prove they care. ♦