Monday, October 19, 2015

That's Not YOUR Voice

Dear White Cis Men*
Every single person on this planet has a voice, a lived experience, a story, even an opinion that needs to be heard.  This includes you.

And I still might tell you to shut up sometimes.

When someone tells you their story, and you respond with "maybe you misunderstood/maybe they misunderstood/you're overreacting/but I don't do that/it wouldn't have happened if you.../don't be so sensitive/here's something I think is more important that is vaguely tangentially related to one word that you said but really distracts from your story/but my one friend said that was okay/but I didn't mean it that way/I'll listen if you say that nicer" or any of the other damn things you say:

That's not YOUR voice.  That idea did not spring ex nihilo from your uniquely creative genius brain.  That is not the lived experience you have struggled to name for the world.  It is not the story you were created to tell. I know, because all of you speak in the same voice, say the same words. That is the voice of the demon/dominant culture/toxic narrative/viral meme/pick your metaphor white supremacist hetero-patriarchy. 

And that voice doesn't need to be heard.  We've been surrounded by it every single day of our lives.  It has been shouted to us from rooftops, written in our textbooks, and whispered to us in our lullabies.  It lives inside our own heads.  That voice demands to be considered, to be answered, before every word we say.

So when we tell one of the few stories that we are so certain of, that is so very clear it has survived even the deafening roar inside our own heads, and you respond by repeating that same voice, we have no choice but to ignore you, or tell you to shut up.  Your "opinion" needs to be silenced, if our story is ever to be heard.

But, dear white cis men, that voice is stealing your story too.
Let me say it again: that voice is stealing your story, your voice, your lived experience too.

Every time you spout it, you are silencing your own truths.  We want you, and we need you, to go claim your own voice, and tell your own stories.   Go wrestle, go listen to your own life.  What were you taught in your own childhood about your own race?  What did you learn about your own gender?  How did that help, and how did that hurt you?  What forces held you back from being the person you were created to be?  How have you overcome those, and what are you still struggling with?

You have things to tell us that only you can say. Your life is a story only you can tell.  Your voice matters We want to hear it.

Go learn those stories, go claim that voice.  And we'll listen, we'll celebrate, we'll join your voices to our own.  And we'll be loud together, and it will be beautiful.

*White cis men are particularly taught this behavior growing up.  But obviously, white people of all genders do this to people of color, men of all colors do this to women, straight people to LGB, people with money to working class people, temporarily able-bodied to disabled people, neuro-typical to neuro-atypical, etc etc etc.  Some terms and conditions may apply.


  1. Wow, Laura, thank-you. This a very helpful word for me.

  2. Oy, I'm so sorry, I spelled your name wrong, Lura!