So a big deal part of this project for me is the importance of first person narrative in political movements. I wanna tell you alll about it. Please don’t snore too loud—this is an excerpt from my senior thesis for school. Just ignore anything jargon-y, I have to use a way different vocabulary for school and I’m not always sure how much I’m even getting my point across.
I’ve always found myself drawn to memoir, autobiography, and personal storytelling. I especially appreciate the use of personal storytelling to share learning experiences, pieces of history, and moments of everyday life that, in sharing, become extraordinary. What’s motivating in these stories is the capacity in our lives for growth and change, both personally and socially. The writers who I love and admire have given voice to experiences that people can connect to and empathize with and know that they are not alone.
This kind of connection can often be overlooked or trivialized, but has so much cathartic potential and political charge. The act of telling has the potential to create powerful connections between movements and communities. As a young person developing a political analysis in radical activist circles, the totality of devastation and trauma in the world can feel like an impossible barrier to impacting any kind of positive change. These narratives take colonization, capitalism, and systemic oppression out of the macro and into an engaged personal context, demonstrating change-making in individual lives and relationships. It is so vital to balance big picture political work with small-scale personal activism, or we risk losing the meaning behind our work.
My experience of writing these personal sex education zines has been empowering because I can be the subject and not the object of these stories. I have been able to write in a way that is cathartic and motivating, directly challenging the misinformation and societal pressures that made my coming of age so challenging. My own writing has always focused on issues of identity, and this project has given me the opportunity to channel my personal writing, creating meaningful work to share with others as well as processing through my own experiences.
Writing and publishing this allowed me to make my own connections to identity, self-expression, and relationships, without having to follow the expected scripts of what happens to those who deviate from the norm. Many use the act of writing for this kind of catharsis, to recover and release strong emotions. When I started to write about my experience of sex education, I was overwhelmed by how painful, scary, and hard my recollections were. In Acts of Narrative Resistance, Laura Beard quotes author/playwright Maria Campbell who has a beautiful explanation of this kind of catharsis in her book Halfbreed (1973): “When you are oppressed, and when you are trying to be born again, when you are trying to reclaim, you have to go through all of the pain. That’s the first thing that comes out, and we have to deal with that. That’s our first song” (p. 133 in Acts, 2009). My writing has made space to honor what I’ve overcome, the valuable things I have learned through growing, healing, and finding community, and the real effects of ongoing struggle.
There are some really cool storytelling projects happening online these days! Check out:
http://cowbird.com/ (love this one especially much!)