"…you're never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there's always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don't speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside."
Audre Lorde's famous essay The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action includes this quote from her daughter Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins, and I love it. Those words are direct, she said what she said damn it, and those words are like Lorde's essay—perfect, short, and about shouting.
No, wait, that's wrong.
For me they're about shouting. Because how I communicate best includes arm waving, wide eyes, and volume. So hotter and hotter and punching and maaaad? They resonate with me and like every one of the words in Lorde's brief essay I hope, hope, hope they resonate with you.
There's a reason for that.
Women and Minorities Are Socialised to Silence
Told that her cancer was almost certainly malignant, Audre Lorde lived through three weeks before learning it was benign and those hell weeks:
"put fear into a perspective gave me great strength. I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me"
Queer, black, female, disabled, autistic, trans…people speak for us all the time. Sometimes they shout louder, they're literally larger, they dominate the conversation, they take over.
We can take back, with our words, our books, stories, poems, songs, fic, essays, drawings, dissertations…we can find our way to speak for ourselves about ourselves.
If You're Gay, a Minority, Ethnic, a Woman—It's Time to Write
"we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us"
Lorde was gay, black, and female and so thrice damned in almost any country you care to name, including America, where she was born. She, like so many women, so many minority people, have been taught with meticulous care the value of silence, of remaining civil even while being abused, while others do neither, then speak in your name.
"the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid"
Maybe you don't write though. Maybe you do, but you decline to shout. That's fine too. I can't sing opera, or fix a roof, or knit. Nor do I want to do any of those things.
So if you can't break the silence, if you feel like your fear is justified and silence brings comfort? Please, stay silent. Find comfort. There are enough mountains to climb as it is.
Maybe instead you can stand behind someone who really, truly does speak for you. Raise their voices with reblogs or retweets. They're already out there talking or shouting, help them reach more people.
And for the love of all that's holy if you can find it in you to speak for yourself, for others, speak. Send out your story. Send out your book. Send out that letter to the editor. You are a writer or you want to be…if it helps you to know that someone else will talk about you if you remain silent, if it helps motivate you to courage, please let it do that.
"There are so many silences to be broken."
This is the final sentence in Lorde's essay and I ask you…what silences can you break? What worlds can you change with your words? Those worlds can be as grand and important and special and dear as your own. Change your own. Ask for something you need. Make a difference in your own life.
If you're a woman, black or gay, ace or disabled, if you're someone so often silenced because others have spoken over and about you…what silences can you break today?