The Personal is Political” ... and Intersectional

“The Personal is Political” ... and Intersectional"

By: Anonymous

Catalyst Center held a series of conversations with diverse providers and trauma survivors from varied sectors to discuss how to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), human-centered approaches to healing, and cross-sector collaboration to mitigate the toxic stress response and curb the cycle of intergenerational trauma. Catalyst Center deeply thanks our anonymous contributor for their thought-provoking, courageous, and insightful message below as part of our ACEs Aware Stories of Impact Campaign.

Being queer is an intrinsically unique experience. While there is no universal gay or queer experience, each member of the LGBTQIA+ community understands the significance of being bold and living our truth, even in the face of great pain or cost. Many of us lose our families and support systems simply based on who we are or who we love. If we can create opportunities to thrive in society and the workforce, we are often tokenized for the capital gain of others or left out of the meaningful processes that take place there. While I marvel at the growing intersectional approach to policy issues as it relates to race and socioeconomic status, I have yet to see the same momentum reach the queer community. Transgender, gender nonconforming (GNC), and queer youth of color are disproportionately impacted by this omission, further compounding upon existing barriers towards upward mobility and political agency. As Angela Davis said, “the personal is political” - and this ongoing fight for our lives is an intersectional one. We all have a part to play in amplifying the voices and lived experiences of those most greatly impacted by trauma from oppressive systems and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Ask yourself: What experiences can you bring to this fight?

I never thought of myself as having ACEs until I became an adult. When you’ve operated in survival mode for so long, you can’t help but normalize the daily instability and abuse at the hands of those tasked to love and support you. Growing up in a strict, fundamentalist Christian household, I was intentionally isolated, forced to exist in a silo of submission and intolerance. I was not allowed outside of this bubble, a proverbial square peg shoved into a round hole - told that opinions and intellect were no way to “secure a husband”. It has taken time, and lots of therapy, to process the fifteen years of shaving my edges down to fit the mold for which I was bred. When I inevitably failed, it was up to me to pick up the pieces and make sense of it all. How do you make sense of a mother’s face - disgusted by the admittance of what she’s always known to be true? How desperately I used to wish that you could put toothpaste back in the tube once it has been squeezed out. What a mess I created by the audacity to be myself.

The hardest part came after my mother’s face. Suddenly, I was not welcome anywhere familiar to me. My attempts to reconcile with my church and community led to years of emotional and sexual abuse, framed as “valiant” attempts to reform my life of sin. The safe-haven of a queer community seemed like a distant illusion, so there I lived - in my car - in the limbo between these two worlds. Two years later, higher education became my lifeline that allowed me to complete 5 degrees (B.A., B.A., B.S., MPA, MPP) in five years and become the person I had once so desperately needed, first as a classroom teacher and then an anti-bias curriculum director. My lived experiences and passion for equitable access to resources and education led me to now work as a public policy advocate for issues related to children and families. It also led me to my best friend and partner who I married last November with my chosen family in attendance. What a marvelous life I created by the audacity to be myself.

People are quick to see my journey as a “success” story, something to be celebrated- admired even. But degrees and awards and a career don’t heal the scars of complex trauma. They don’t make the process of unlearning the behaviors I learned to protect myself any easier. I am so privileged and fortunate to have had the chance at a lifeline all those years ago. But it is not the responsibility of a child to pull themselves up. Someone should have helped me. Someone should have known what I was going through and intervened. Instead, each familiar place passed the buck to the next, never thinking to ask me what I needed. No struggle should exist in a silo; there is an interconnectedness to our lived experiences that should be shared and destigmatized. Transformational justice and healing can only come from designing with - not just for - the communities most impacted by adverse experiences.

Now, we must go one step further: we have the capacity to map the system and commit to having those most affected by ACEs at the table as co-designers while addressing critical power dynamics that hold systemic barriers and oppression in place. To understand and engage these key stakeholders with empathy is to embrace an iterative process where those closest to the problem are closest to the solution. It is up to every one of us to find the catalysts in our journey for deeper conversation, change, and transformational healing because each one of our lives has intrinsic value to share. So, I ask you again: What experiences can you bring to this fight?

Resources for LGBTQIA+ Youth and Advocates:

Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

GSA Network

LGBTQ Student Resources & Support

Point Foundation

Safe Schools Coalition

The Trevor Project

HRC Welcoming Schools

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