You are not my home. You are not my community. Please stop. Just stop. Stop telling me you are these things. Stop demanding my allegiance without giving anything in return but a handful of broken cobwebs tied together with bullshit.
I’m never going to learn your language. And you will always consider me morally inferior for this. Why should I even try?
It was hard enough learning this language. The one I’m speaking to you now. The one that was forced on me before I knew there were choices in the world, before I knew what language even was or meant.
The one that requires not one but multiple layers of translation. Translation from experience to ideas. Translation from ideas to words. Translation into an entire context where my experience does not exist and can’t exist. Chopping everything into jagged pieces that don’t match where they came from and rearranging them into something unrecognizable.
This is exhausting. This takes everything I have and a lifetime of learning. I can’t do more. Stop demanding more.
And you expect — expect so deeply that you don’t even ask it out loud — that I renounce everything important to me. My culture, my language, my religion, my social ties, my moral compass, love, connectedness, personal privacy, compassion, integrity, self-respect, depth, wholeness. All of these things, and things that don’t even have names, you want me to leave behind. In exchange for what? You haven’t shown me a damn thing worth all that.
And you treat all of those things as if they never existed, as if they couldn’t have existed, not where I’m from. And as if they are worthless, useless, baseless. Even though they have roots deeper than you can see.
And in your world, there’s an invasion of personal privacy at or even before the beginning of every single conversation or social interaction. You want me to divulge detailed, sensitive information that has been used to hurt me. Every time I talk to you. Every time. And if I don’t, that will be used to hurt me.
If by some miracle that doesn’t take place, then the invasion will come later. It will come when I say something totally innocent, and you give a response that demands an explanation. Either you actually make the demand out loud. Or you make assumptions that require I either accept being harmed, or give explanations that will also harm me. I’ve heard this kind of thing called a double bind. Whatever it is, I don’t like it.
This isn’t the only double bind. Every interaction with any of you is a double bind. That is, according to Google, “a situation in which a person is confronted with two irreconcilable demands or a choice between two undesirable courses of action.” In my case, a choice between opening two cans of worms, in public, either of which you could use to break my heart and trample on my soul.
One of your most common double binds: Take a knife and chop myself into pieces for you, or you’ll do it for me without my consent.
You promised home. You promised community. You promised belonging. You promised justice. You promised love. You promised a lot of things.
You broke every promise. Every. Single. One.
I have to carry my home in my heart the way a turtle carries its home on its back. I had no choice but to leave where I came from, but your world is worse than the one I left. I understand you built it with the best intentions, but you know what they say about good intentions.
A friend once called me a perpetual outsider. Certainly, among communities like yours, I am.
The world has a place for me though. Even if you’ll never see it or acknowledge it, even if you try not to allow it. An exact place, a precise place, a tiny place, a place at once private and connected to everything. A place nobody can change or dislodge. The redwoods showed me that.
This is not intended to apply to just one person or community, but to many connected experiences I’ve had over my lifetime. And I’m far from the only person in the world who’s experienced this, or I probably wouldn’t post it.