I am a social justice activist. I live and breathe social justice. It is my lifeblood. It is probably the biggest part of my identity. I live for the days that I get to open eyes and raise awareness about the true nature of world we live in and its stark realities. I live for the days that I get to teach people how to fight oppression and achieve a more equitable world. And I live for the days when others teach me. When we get together and share knowledge and strategize on how to make the world a better place. I live for those days when I find out that your liberation is bound up with mine and that we must fight together to make a difference.
I’m a social justice activist because it is work that needs to be done. It is often times overwhelming, exhausting and thankless. It is easy to get discouraged because its hard to see any immediate results. Not only that but dealing with the backlash. Few people enjoy being faced with their privilege and how they were bred into a system that kills. Few people like facing the truth. But I feel it needs to be done because if nothing changes, nothing changes. If I don’t do it, who will?
At the same time, I am a very spiritual person. I have felt and seen things that, for me, can only be miracles. From getting sober to escaping a queer bashing by making myself “unnoticeable” to money manifesting from nowhere, I have come to believe that there are powers greater than me and that said powers have my back. And whether this is ultimately a delusion or not is unimportant because its real to me. Moreover, spirituality as taught me that I am powerless over so many things and the only thing I have power over are my own actions. It has taught me that the only way to effect change in my community and in my world is to act and act in the right ways, whatever right means in each context.
These two sides of my identity are constantly at war. The spiritual side of me is constantly trying to reassure me that the powers that be will take care of me. That my needs will be met and that I will be safe. That I will lead a successful, happy life with wonderful friends and a partner (or two) at my side. And to turn over those things of which I am powerless to control. And yet the social justice side of me understands the harsh reality of the body that I have and the oppressions that it subjects me too. It knows that my body is a battleground for almost all of society’s baggage. The fact of the matter is, transwomen of color frequently get the shit end of every stick. Whether it be because I’m brown or because I defy what society says a person with a penis should act and look like or both, I have a harder time finding places to live, places to work and people who love and support me for who I am.
And I wonder that if this greater power really had my best interests at heart, wouldn’t she have put me in a white straight man’s body? Or better yet, would she not create a world where people were equal regardless of the bodies they possess? Why give us this fucked up world where people, thanks to systems of power and oppression, live fruitless lives and die ignoble deaths?
These are questions that I am constantly grappling with myself. And the answers that I have come up with are not always happy.
I can come to the conclusion that, despite my experience, there are no powers above or below that help us and guide us. That we are utterly alone and that our problems must be solved with our own solutions. Nothing and no one else will help. Another conclusion that I can come to is that while a creatrix might have gotten things going in the beginning, she is no longer involved now and that is why things have gone to shit. Still another conclusion is that the reason why our world is fucked up is so that we can learn to be better human beings. Its like a huge cosmic game that is being played so that we can advance as spiritual beings. The final conclusion, and the most attractive by far, is that greater powers exist but they have a limited sphere of influence. They can only effect this world in subtle ways and sometimes, or oftentimes, that is not enough. And because of their limited influence, shit like greed and oppression are allowed to occur.
All the conclusions have draw backs. The first and second one are devoid of hope, which is so important. The third conclusion is also problematic because if greater power could create a world in which we must learn and grow why not just make all of us automatically as spiritually advanced as we can be and avoid the suffering? Is there something intrinsic in suffering that makes it so that we learn? But again, if she has all this power why make it so that it is painful? Why not make it so that learning comes from joy? Moreover, what does that say about people who have easy lives? That they are spiritually advanced enough that they don’t need to struggle as much as those with hard lives? That seems to me to be erroneous.
Lets look at the final conclusion once again. If the greater powers can only influence us in those subtle, coincidental ways are those than enough to keep us afloat? Or perhaps because we are oppressed we are given greater access to those subtle powers? That since we are oppressed we have a better ability to move and shift those subtle energies? And how are we to trust these things when not only does mainstream culture invalidate it but also when they are so intangible?
I would argue that yes, the greater powers that be might not be all powerful but they can and do help us. That we as oppressed people must trust, more than those who aren’t, that there are powers out there who want what’s best for us even if they can’t always get it. My experience has shown this. And we must believe if only because it gives us, it gives me, hope. And hope is vital. It is critical. It is so fucking important. The battle is already lost when hope has already fled. Even if its an opiate, its an opiate that has kept me alive through times when I thought I would never survive.
But just because there might be greater powers out there helping us out doesn’t mean that we get to rest on our laurels and not fight. Just because they have our back doesn’t mean that they are gonna fight our battles for us. Social justice is the work of the people and the people must work it.
None of these conclusions are airtight nor are they all positive but its the best that I’ve come up with so far. But I suppose uncertainty shall always be a part of life.