Salutations again one and all! I am back after my brief hiatus to recover my health and to appear in a local pantomime ‘Mother Goose’ where I played a demon called Typos, competing to become the Apprentice of the Demon King. This wasn’t the main narrative of the pantomime mind you, but I do think it was by far the more interesting one 😉 Anyway, time to get on with it!
The central themes of this particular entry essentially boil down to frustration and self-care.
For clarity, this entry is being written from a bisexual activism view point, but the examples I will cite in regards to frustration can easily be extrapolated out to situations. I know I have felt similarly in many social situations as well. We have all, I’m sure, encountered the phenomenon on more than one occasion in our lives, of feeling as though we are smashing our heads against a brick wall. That profound epiphany that no matter how articulate your argument to the individual/s in question is; it is having no impact whatsoever.
Be it the well-meaning volunteer who just refuses to see why calling a new group the bi/pan/omni/kinky group as its title, because that is how he identifies, is unwieldy and impractical; not to mention potentially off-putting to prospective attendees unlikely to have encountered these terms before.
To venue managers/organizers charged with providing a safe space for all, but whom if any misconduct in relation to bi/trans/ homophobia, misogyny, etc, does occur; respond to it simply by shrugging their shoulders in disinterest and telling you prejudice happens everywhere.
Not too mention community leaders who loose their way and take the attitude that unless you have a similar wealth of experience and community history to them, you are incapable of forming a contribution or indeed, an opinion, of any worth.
Or even professional colleagues or acquaintances that, upon learning you are bi, instantly assume they are entitled to ask the kinds of personal questions they would never consider it appropriate to ask you, were you gay or straight; and often compound this by then taking umbrage if you object.
My reason for citing these examples is not as a rant for catharsis, well, not entirely, but to use them to highlight a point when it comes to self-care.
Self-care is a term banded about often in activist circles but I have found it’s true importance is not sufficiently explained to new-comers whom upon hearing this term, must just think ‘Well, duh’! I first came across the term in the handy guide given to me at my very first BiCon back in 2008 and in this context was referring to sensibly managing your energy levels and not burning yourself out in over-enthusiasm. I had the ‘well, duh’ response, before going on to learn to my cost just how easy it is to over-do yourself mentally, physically, psychologically etc. This is especially true if you have never been in that kind of space before and are struck with ‘OH MY GODS THIS IS AMAZING, I MUST THEREEFORE DO EEVERYTHING!’ There is nothing wrong with sticking a ‘sensible head’ on and choosing to opt out of some activities so that you can enjoy the over-all experience more. Remember, popular workshops and activities at events like BiCon/Fests are often repeated, some even over following years.
On the activism side of this spectrum, is ensuring that you have everything you need on a logistical and personal level in order to be able to fully contribute to the event/meeting/discussion etc, you are participating in. While it is vital to ensure all of the resources such as reading materials for example, are accessible to you, the personal side of this equation should never be over-looked. I have known of experienced activists, well-intentioned, knowledgeable people who should know better, still being silly and falling into the trap of sub-consciously thinking ‘I’m hardcore, we’re making some good headway here, I don’t need to eat, so I’ve only had 2 hours sleep; I can pull through on caffeine and gumption!’
The upshot of this tends to be that the activist in question then later feels grumpy, vulnerable or in some other way unable to engage as much or as effectively as they were before. I used to joke that my task was not only to ensure the activist I used to be involved with had food/drink, but also that they had indeed eaten/drank it. While I appreciate it may be vitally important to pin down how a particular grant application should be approached, or an official lobbied, the nourishment isn’t going to benefit you much if you don’t actually ingest it!
I feel that if a newbie asks if saying you need to do a little self-care in order to function isn’t a little selfish? That it should be better explained how this self-regulating works in terms of managing your own capabilities and thus your ability to be effective either at activisting and/or socializing. You should never feel guilty if you need to duck out for some alone time, go for a nap, do some knitting, colouring or whatever, or even stomp up and down for 5 minutes listening to Industrial music. Whatever you need, just be sure to give yourself that space.
The reason this is so important for activists is that we so often find ourselves in a mentoring position, even it is in an indirect capacity, so it is important we set a good example and look after our newbies by taking best care of ourselves.
To end on a cliché of my own devising, remember, a broken lantern can guide no one.
This turned out to be longer than expected! An that was after pain-staking reconstruction from the original draft of this I made the mistake of writing on my phone (mental note: Do not try to blog from the wordpress phone app again).
I would love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to comment below.