Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In honour of Anger

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

We have often spoken about anger. We have spoken about a person's right to anger. Why criticising and trying to suppress a marginalised person's anger or angry response is wrong. We have spoken about tone arguments, of policing the marginalised to make sure they play nice, of stomping on their feet and then being outraged when they yell "ow! Get off!"

But I am going to talk about honouring anger. That we do not only have a right to anger, but that it is a good thing. That anger is not only something we should defend, but something we should respect and even praise. 

Now, by that I don't mean reaching for an edged weapon and hacking around randomly while screaming obscenities at the top of our lungs (tempting though that may be sometimes). In fact, the angrier I get the more formal I tend to become (and  icy), a habit picked up in the job since the powers that be tend to frown at berserker rages in the courtroom. 

But anger, as a force, as an emotion, and even as an expression - that I honour.

Anger pulled me up. 

I believe my anger very much saved me. For much of my life when I finally realised that I couldn't deny I was gay any longer (and, believe me, I tried), I felt a sense of shame. I was ashamed. I was afflicted. I was nasty and unpleasant and it was my duty to keep it to myself as much as possible so as not to bother the normal people.

What changed that (in so far as it has changed, shadows remain)? Many things, a growing sense of self worth. Growing awareness. And anger - anger at having to live like that. Anger at being punished for being. Anger at being treated like that. Anger at being regarded as less for no damn good reason. Anger at the way I was treated, the way I was expected to behave and even the way I was feeling.

Anger is my shield. 

When people/media/the work place/the eternal joys of a heterosexist society throws something at me that hurts, it hurts LESS when I am angry. My choice isn't between tearing into that homophobe in a rage and calmly ignoring them and letting their slurs slide of my inner well of peaceful serenity - my choice is between tearing into that homophobe in a rage and cringing back, wounded and hurt, devalued and demeaned.

Even now when I am going through a rough spot, when too many bad things are happening at once or I have one too many reminders of bad things that have happened, it hurts because I can't find my anger. I am weaker and more fragile and more vulnerable without my anger to protect me. When something hits home that hits me personally or comes from an unexpected direction or from people I thought were safe and even from family it hurts because of the closeness, but it hurts more because I my anger isn't there.

Anger is my message. 

We can sit around and discuss heterosexism and homophobia and we can have in depth discussions about privilege and societal context the pervasiveness of prejudice. We can have academic discussions and examine figures and statistics. We can present theories and considerations and extrapolations. We can use long words in an extremely erudite fashion. And yes, we can pass on a lot of information that way, a lot of data - and data that needs to be known and understood. 

But my message is that this is wrong. That it hurts. That it ruins lives, breaks people, destroys futures. That it makes people live a horrendously broken, tortured existence. That it demeans us and lessens us and it's never ending and ever present. This is the message that anger tells - this isn't information that we can study with curiosity, this isn't a theory worthy of consideration - these are real people and real lives and real pain. This matters. And my anger says that, my anger communicates that. 

Anger is my driving force. 

Some days I just want to close my eyes and hide. I want to pretend crap isn't happening. I want to delete my RSS feed, my news sources. I want to make sure I don't talk to any GBLT friends in case something has happened. I want to avoid the orgs and the charities.  Sometimes I am just too tired and too sad and just want to crawl into a corner and pretend it's all gone away. 

And sometimes I'm just too scared. I want to let that comment go and just try to ignore it. To cringe inwardly at the joke but force a chuckle out. I want to refuse to take Beloved's hand, I am afraid to touch him or stand too close. I want to put the photograph away, I want to cut my hair, I want to call my husband my friend. I want to even make up elaborate lies about a wife when someone notices the ring on my finger. Sometimes I want to take the ring off.  

And anger gives me the courage not to give in to fear or despair or weariness. Anger because it's wrong. Anger because I deserve better, because we deserve better. Anger because I shouldn't be afraid. That anger keeps me going, keeps me moving. That anger stops me hiding. That anger

I need my anger. Not only do I need it, I like it. I owe it, I respect it and I praise it. It has saved me, it protects me, it drives me. It's not a necessary evil. It's not something I will tolerate and demand others tolerate. My anger has worked damn miracles for me. 

My anger isn't only something I have every right to have, it's something to I honour and celebrate.