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Your existence is resistance

Content Note: Violence, Anti-Semitism, Colonization, Trans erasure, Racism, Xenophobia

“…When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them. When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them. When we have decisions that are difficult to make: We remember them. When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them…” -Rabbi Jack Riemer & Sylvan Kamens

Hello Tender Hearts,

We wanted to write a note amidst many exhausting, devastating, and overwhelming things that have happened this last week. Gender-based violence and sexualized violence do not operate in a vacuum—namely, these experiences are impacted and perpetuated by other systems of oppression and acts of violence happening in our political, social, and global contexts. As Mahroh Jahangiri puts it, “Gender-based violence does not exist without other systems of violence, especially those built to uphold white supremacy.” We want you to know, we see you. We believe you. We value you. We would like to talk about the violence that has been coming in waves through the media.

There was a shooting on October 24th at a grocery store in Jeffersontown where Maurice E. Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones were two black people of colour who were shot and killed by a white supremacist, while grocery shopping. For those of us who are white, we must remember that this violence is cumulative- it is ongoing and more common than we know. Believe people who tell you their experiences of racism. I think of Dr. King’s words, “we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, way of life, and the philosophy that produced the murderer.” We see you. Your pain, anger, and hurt are valid. Your existence is resistance.

On the morning of October 27th a man shot and killed 11 people and injured 6 others at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Every single one of these people have already experienced the impacts genocide long before this. For those of us who are not Jewish, we must remember that this violence is cumulative- it is ongoing and more common than we know. Believe folks who tell you about their experiences with anti-Semitism. Josh Gad says “the words of those who lived through the Holocaust, like my grandparents, were very simple… Never forget. My fear today is that we are not simply forgetting, but have possibly already forgotten. Racism, fascism, and nationalism are like a fire in need of oxygen to survive. The more we feed these intolerant embers, the more we will witness events like this past week’s. Hate is spreading. Fear mongering is working. Together, we have a choice to either sit back and to wait for the next shoe to drop or to stand up and say ‘not on our watch.’ Never forget. Not again.” We see you. Your pain, anger, and hurt are valid. Your existence is resistance.

There have been recent reports that the United States federal government is moving to eliminate or limit legal protections for Transgender people. For those of you who aren’t Trans (known as cis, pronounced ‘sis’), please remember that this is violence that is ongoing and more common than you know. Believe folks who tell you about their experiences with transmisogny, transphobia, and trans erasure. One organizer of the ‘We won’t be erased’ event, Andrew Weston said, “You cannot erase us out of existence. You cannot intimidate us out of existence. I am going to be a trans person, no matter what happens…Even if there is no governmental word for my identity, I am still going to hold my identity. And we just wanted to let people know, and garner support for transgender people…and let people know that we are here, we are seen. We will not be erased and we cannot be erased.” We see you. Your pain, anger, and hurt are valid. Your existence is resistance.

Brazil just elected Jair Bolsonaro as president, someone who has previously spoken horrible things about Indigenous people, black people, queer people, and women. He speaks highly of the period that Brazil was under a dictatorship. He has promised that he will abolish the environment ministry and sell off what is left of Indigenous reserves to loggers and miners. For those of us who are settlers on Indigenous lands (whether the Americas, Eurasia, Africa, or Oceania) we must remember that this violence is cumulative- it is ongoing and more common than we know. Believe folks who speak about the harms of colonization. Qwatsinas of Nuxalk Nation said, “We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.” We see you. Your pain, anger, and hurt are valid. Your existence is resistance.

For those who are experiencing the trauma of what is happening on a very visceral level, some things you can do are:

  • Ask your friends for what you need
  • Give yourself permission to ‘log off’ of Social Media platforms
  • Seek emotional support from the communities you are a part of
  • Take time to grieve. To feel angry. To feel hurt. These feelings are not your enemy- your feelings are valid.
  • Allow yourself to disengage and avoid things that are too heavy to carry right now (you can come back to them later)
  • Let your dishes pile up. Don’t do the laundry. Call in sick. Back out of a commitment. It’s okay. Do whatever you need to survive. Your existence is resistance.

Some things you can do to support your loved ones who are impacted by violence:

  • Offer to run errands
  • Cook meals
  • Babysit
  • Send a care package
  • Check in and ask how the person is doing
  • Cover some shifts for a co-worker
  • Allow room for anger, hurt, and grief
  • Resist the urge to ‘make things better’
  • Listen & believe
  • Educate yourself on things like: bystander intervention, practicing allyship & solidarity, anti-racism, decolonization, Trans inclusion
  • Don’t take it personally if they want to avoid you for a bit while they seek support from others who have lived experience or who are a part of their communities
  • Acknowledge that their pain, anger, and grief are all valid

For all those who made it this far into this post- I hope you are finding some space in this world for both giving and receiving care.

In Solidarity,

Jaq and Lane

The Trans Inclusion Team at VSAC