There’s a long history of groups policing other people’s stories, deciding whose is right and wrong. JJ Vincent would like to see that stop.
“It obviously wasn’t that bad.” “He’s disgusting.” “He’s not one of us.” “He won’t understand.” “I could never do that.” “You don’t get it.” “He wasn’t raised right.” “How could you do that?” “Really? But no one else says that.” “Hmmm. Well…..ok.”
“You understand.” “That’s terrible. You are so strong.” “You obviously know right from wrong.” “Join us.” “We’ve all been there.” “I understand.” “Tell me more.” “You’re one of us.” “He knows what it’s like.” “He’s one of the good ones.”
“The same thing happened to me. I was just afraid to say anything.” “I feel the same way. I was just too afraid say anything.” “Yep, me too. I just didn’t want to say anything.”
“Why? Because they won’t accept me.” “Why? Because they won’t want me.” “Why? Because it’s not ‘right’.” “Why? Because they say so.”
We are a nation of groups. As much as we cherish the ideal of “one people”, we are made up of groups. Some play well with others. Others don’t.
Within these groups, there are groups. And groups within groups. People with common interests, histories, likes, dislikes, goals, traumas, dreams, faults, aspirations, fears. They come to each other looking for support, comraderie, aid. Commonality.
What they often find is exclusion.
Because they don’t follow the narrative.
Because their story “isn’t right”.
Because for some reason, or reasons – pop culture, over exposure, repetition, a few loud voices, a few overwhelming voices, celebrity platforms, self-appointed experts, many experts – a few narratives have come to dominate the discussion.
And those whose stories aren’t inside the lines can find themselves on the outside.
This isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with the common or dominant narrative. Maybe 90% of ____ really do have that experience.
But what about the abuse survivor who feels no animosity towards their attacker. Or the gay man who married and had three children before he realized he was gay. What about the man who served in the Army and has no shame about the lives he took in service? Or the person who unapologetically allowed their son to wrestle, roughhouse, play with toy soldiers, and handle a gun, but made sure they knew they consequences of their actions. Maybe the semi-pro golfer and former drag queen who has a living room full of his pictures and tiaras – how does he fit onto the sports page?
What about the now-clean addict who has no shame about their past addiction, or the man who occasionally physically disciplines their child? Or the man who gladly stays home while his wife finds other lovers, male and female, and brings those stories home. And the guy who sometimes wears dresses and sometimes wears suits? What about the guy who is perfectly happy in a middle wage job, not aspiring to wealth or social climbing, just content to be a worker bee, like he always has been?
What about the man who unapologetically spends his Sundays watching football and drinking beer with his buddies, or the one who spent his college years sleeping with every women who would have him, and has no problem retelling those stories twenty years later. Or the parent who let their son dress up as a princess and play with dolls after he got back from youth football practice (full-contact)? How about the transperson who lacks the body shame and depression what’s suppose to be part of their story.
Can people with a common “history” or shared “experience” make room for people who don’t fit their definition of “right”?
Can a group of survivors make room for the person whose path forward is positive, but one of their own making? Can parents take in those parents whose parenting styles don’t mesh with theirs, even if their kids are best friends? Can the GLBT community take in someone whose story throws off the narrative they’ve tried so hard to normalize, the one who doesn’t want to settle down and marry but would rather continue a life of parties, clubs, and casual (but safe) sex.
Will a neighborhood anti-violence group welcome a member who spent their teenage years in gangs, and wants to keep this from happening to others? Would they welcome their experience, and what they learned?
Will the Football Boosters welcome a man who tells them that he’s free because his wife is out on a date? How about a man who spent time in prison in his youth for stealing cars, but now has a job and family?
Will a group that prides themselves on openness, honesty, and learning from others accept a man who admits to having been a bully, and now speaks out about why, and how what he did should never happen to anyone? Is there a place for the man who revels in the “feminine” in a society that rewards the manliest of men, or a place for the man who revels in the traditionally “manly” in a society that rewards men who eschew these things?
I dream of a day when there is a place for everyone’s story. When a person can share their history, their present, their future, without the fear of exclusion.
When they can share what they’ve learned without fear of being judged for the actions that lead to that. When they can share what they’ve accomplished without fear of being judged for their abilities.
When they can be themselves, regardless of who that “self” is.