to tear down our walls

I too have built walls.

This is a phrase that keeps running through my head as I sit in my studio space at an artist residency. I’ve worked hard to be here but I’m also very privileged to be here. It’s November 7th and the election results have been on the tip of everyone’s tongue. There are people here from New Hampshire, Washington, Illinois, Canada, Thailand, and New York (just to name a few). Every once in a while I get distracted from my workflow by a notification on my laptop - BREAKING NEWS from the New York Times. The White House continues to send me emails and why I’m still subscribed to them, I honestly don’t know. However I continue to read them and the manipulative language that is used somehow appalls me. I should be used to it by now but I remind myself that I cannot turn the other cheek. 

“You can’t live your life with so much anger.”

My mom frequently tells me, “You can’t live your life with so much anger.” I know she’s right but I also know that if I am not angry, if WE are not angry, who will be angry for us? As a non-binary transgender person, I face the threat of being erased. So much of my life I have repressed my own identity and a little more than a year ago I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. Now there is someone with much more power who can technically make that decision for me.

But I too have built walls. 

Frantically refreshing the results, all of us are consumed with the polls from our individual states. We are wondering who it is that will be representing us, speaking for us. The Canadians shake their heads, “I don’t understand your country’s political system.” I look up from my phone, “I don’t either.” It’s not that I haven’t done my research; it’s just that everything points to corruption. How do we dismantle a system that is built to work against us?

I shut my laptop and walk down the hall to a friend’s studio. She asks me, “What’s up?” to which I reply, “Just wanted to see what you were working on.” It wasn’t a lie but really I just needed a distraction from the black hole of media I was beginning to get sucked into. She tells me about her process, how she studied architectural theory and how construction has become the top contributor to climate change. “The way that we construct buildings has changed so much, they’re now built to be easily demolished. It’s more profitable that way.”

And I too have built walls.

I built walls for protection, to hide behind. I fired from behind these walls at my mother, who simply couldn’t understand my queerness. Her trauma was projected onto me but at the time I couldn’t see it for what it was and I couldn’t see her for who she was. Obstructing my view was this wall, a refusal to try and understand this person on the other side. It took a lot of time and a lot of effort to dismantle this.

I have been racking my brain about how and why people have conjured such hatred for brown people, black people, indigenous people, people of color, queer people, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, gender non-conforming people, what have you. These (white cis-hetero) people have built such strong walls around them, keeping them safe inside their bubbles of ignorance. What leaks through the cracks are our cultures, our music, our slang – they gladly take it and patch the wall back up. 

As Gloria Anzaldúa writes in Borderlands/La Frontera, “In trying to become ‘objective,’ Western culture made ‘objects’ of things and people when it distanced itself from them, thereby losing ‘touch’ with them. This dichotomy is the root of all violence.”

I know that this political system was not built to last; it was built in and for its time. We as human beings have learned, created and become so much more since then. How do we reintroduce empathy into the lives of those who refuse to see us as humans? How do we ensure that future generations don’t fall into the trap their ancestors have set for them? It is much more profitable to construct a building that is meant to be destroyed. Once these walls protecting the current administration have been demolished I will no longer hold such anger. I know that our communities will see justice, reparations, the wealth of freedom and equality we were promised.