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To All The Femmes Who Have Walked Through Fire,
I suppose I should start this open letter with an explanation of what I mean when I say, "walked through fire." Any woman who has ever experienced trauma. This is for the femme identified people who have faced death of a loved one, sexual assault, abusive relationships, sexism in the work place, sexism in the home place, discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or orientation. This is a letter for all my female identified, or socialized people who have ever felt shame for existing, felt that they needed to be more than they are to be worthy, and less than they are to be loved. To all my femmes who have ever held their tongue in the face of a rape joke for fear of retaliation. Who have smiled at a street harasser, or who have lied to protect their abuser. I see you.
Not everyone who walks through fire comes out stronger. The fire can cleanse, can make us stronger, can make us louder, prouder, and fiercer sure. But it can also make us fragile, meek, and if you burn for long enough it can start to feel like home. Not all survivors become strong people who take a stand and end up at protests holding signs and stepping in front of those who are more vulnerable. Not all those who have been burned can put on lipstick in their reflection found in the riot shield of a police officer. And I am here to tell you, that doesn't make you less.
Of course we should all band together and protect each other, protect others, but some have found that smoke inhalation has made their lungs weak and their throats sore, and their bodies tired. Some have found that in their burning they have lost something more. Not all the wounded come to be warriors. Not all the singed become saints, and those of us who have need to recognize that, and enclose those who came out of the other side meeker, or who never knew they could step out at all in our arms. These are the people we should show compassion to, not disdain for not having the gumption to handle it at all with heads held high, and fists raised. If they are still breathing, living, thinking, then they are still worthy of our protection.
To those who have come out stronger, lead by example. Show others the way to find strength in your scars, to rebuild yourself. Remember that when a bone breaks it heals stronger, and teach that to others. Stand in front of you fellow femmes who have not yet begun to find the way through, and lead them. Find the ones who have come out broken, and lend them your tape. Be the supportive person you needed the most when you were crossing the blaze of your own victimization.
To those of you who have come out feeling broken. You are not gone. And while a paper crumpled can never be recovered, mosaics are formed from the broken pieces of other works of art. Of cement and steal. You are in control, and you can choose to proceed however you feel is best. Your feelings are valid, and we are with you, to support you while you fix yourself. No one else can do this for you. You must complete this renovation of the soul singularly, but not alone. Look for your supporters, and see that their hands are beneath you, holding you upright, finding pieces you thought were lost, and reminding you that yous survived.
To those of you who are still in the fire. This is as temporary as it is painful. Look upon your fire, and know that it is not as big as it seems. That each step out will be painful, devastatingly so, but once you are free of it, you never have to turn around and walk back to it. If the fire feels like home, I promise you, it isn't. There is so much more waiting for you. More that doesn't hurt, that doesn't strip flesh and will with equal indifference to the suffering of you. Stand, and be brave. A moment of radical courage is all it takes. We can't pull you out, but we can shout so you can hear us, so you know that it isn't much further now, you're almost out.
I don't know a single femme, female identified person, or female socialized person who hasn't walked through fire, and chances are neither do you. Life is painful, but it is not all burning, through uplifting each other we can find our way to cooling streams, and calm seas. See each other. Feel compassion for each other, and remember this is never a competition. We are entitled to our feelings, entitled to our pain, and how we react to it is subjective. Experience the love of a community of fire walkers, breathers, and spinners, and project that love further. No one can heal us but us. No one can soothe us but us, and I promise you, no one will try. The fire that scourged you can not heal you.
Loving You Sincerely,
The Burnt but not Broken