It’s been a difficult week.
I feel appreciative of having this space to write. I appreciate all of you who have read my thoughts here over the last two years and contributed to this dialogue.
This is the space that I created when I first decided I had something to say. The timing of all of this is in some ways fitting, because this weekend I was back at the place where it all started.
I was back at the site of the conference where I first called myself a radical doula. I was back at that same hotel in Atlanta, this time for a board meeting of the Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective.
Because of the dialogue over the past week, because of the criticism and personal attacks, I keep coming back to this question: why do I blog?
Over two years ago, when I first stood up in a room full of birth activists and abortion advocates and said, “My name is Miriam Perez and I’m a radical doula,” I felt the seeds of this blog stirring. The reason I felt compelled to stand up and say that is the same reason that I come back to when, in these difficult moments, I ask myself why I write. I write because I have a philosophy that motivates my activism. I said those words then because I felt alone in that vision, unsupported in it. I wanted a place where I could flesh that out, articulate why all the pieces of my activism fit together. In these 2 plus years I’ve learned that I’m not alone, that there are people everywhere who also feel similarly.
I come back to the identities that I hold which contribute to this philosophy: I’m Latin@, I’m a doula, I’m an abortion advocate and a part of the reproductive justice movement, I’m genderqueer (when I started this blog I used the term gender non-conforming), I’m a feminist. For some people these identities were contradictory, and it was that realization that made me want to articulate why they weren’t. That’s what motivates my activism.
This activism isn’t only reflected on the internet, on these blogs, on the evidence you find when you google me. Most of my activism has happened offline. It’s happened in my doula work, in my work in the reproductive justice movement, in all the other things I do off the internet.
Having an online persona is new to me. It’s strange and wonderful in so many ways. It can also be painful and damaging at times, particularly when I don’t feel like I can faithfully represent myself. My offline activism doesn’t get the same weight as what I do on the internet. The irony of that sometimes is painful.
Take this weekend for example. At the same time as there were really difficult and strong criticisms being made about me and my writing about issues of gender and transphobia, I was at the board meeting for Sistersong. While things were being written about me that I couldn’t fully respond to or engage in because of my commitment to this organization, I was doing the work of engaging with a WOC organization around issues of gender identity and trans inclusion. I pushed forward the conversation about gender variance and inclusion—a conversation that feminist and women’s organizations are being forced to take on, rightfully so. I feel a responsibility to push these conversations with whatever influence I have in those spaces, because I know it is vital and important to the work of feminism, and important to me as a member of the gender variant community.
How do I hold that work along with what is said about me on the internet?
Being in the public eye means there will be criticism. I’m accepting that. At the same time I’m remembering why I write, what ideas and beliefs motivate me and what my agenda is. I do have an agenda, and I won’t pretend that I don’t. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to discussion, or pushback, or dialogue. But I also won’t let myself live on the defensive, or only in response to others. If my agenda doesn’t speak to you, if my philosophy doesn’t jive with yours, you can engage with me and you can also choose to leave.
I won’t be bullied into responding on someone else’s terms. I do the best I can to be faithful to the online communities I’m a part of. I’m limited by my offline commitments to my activism, to my work, to my life and my self-care. The truth is that for some people, nothing I do will ever be enough. I have to sit with that and know it’s true and there’s nothing I can do to change that fact.
I’m sure I’m going to screw up along the way, as we all do. Call me out, say how you feel about something I did or said. But personal attacks and vendettas aren’t going to be where I engage.
I remain committed to why I began this work in the first place. Because I have something to say. I know that what I say may not fall favorably on the ears of every person. That’s fine.
But sometimes, in these tough moments when I feel like shutting down to protect myself from the drama, from the internet and it’s anonymity (which protects everyone but those of us who have put ourselves out there) I have to remind myself why I came to this part of my activism in the first place.