I keep my boughs from growing
On the side you stand
So our branches won’t clash
Or fight for the sun
Your branches batter mine
Demanding more, more, more
We live in a state of siege
We strive for a state of love
I can only love you through our roots
Which nourish and protect
Without hindrance or distraction
I turn away
So I can love you
Where your grasping limbs can’t reach
Hard and swift
Your branches grasp
And stillMel Baggs, written gradually in hir mind & on paper between roughly 2013-2018, for someone sie’s known most of hir life
Swift and sad
I turn away
And dig deep
Everyone deserves privacy.
Everyone deserves to decide what we will discuss about ourselves, and who we will discuss it with, and when, and where, and how.
Everyone deserves to decide what we define as private in a certain situation.
You don’t give up your right to privacy because you have discussed something before. You have no obligation to discuss it again.
You don’t give up your right to privacy because you have disclosed something most people consider highly private and personal information.
You don’t give up your right to privacy because you consider something highly private and personal that most people would not.
I find it relatively easy to discuss the fact that I have been molested, a thing that most people consider highly private and personal.
I find it harder to discuss other abuse that most people would consider less serious and also less personal.
Because sexual matters are generally considered more personal, and non-sexual abuse is usually considered both less personal and less severe than sexual abuse.
But this is not how I experience these things, and I have every right to choose which one of these I discuss. And where I discuss it. And with who. And how.
I have a right to discuss information about myself that most people would consider private and personal.
I have a right not to discuss information about myself that most people would not consider private and personal.
I have a right to choose when, where, and how I will discuss any of these things.
I have a right to change my mind on things like this.
And so do you.
Why am I writing this?
Lots of reasons.
But one is that there’s a culture online of making you disclose certain information about yourself, or expecting that you disclose it. Not even as a matter of discussion, just as a matter of course. You’re supposed to put it right up on the front of your blog, in some circles. And it’s a problem.
There’s a thing where you’re supposed to list in which ways you are marginalized and in which ways you are privileged. I’m not going to get into the assumptions made here about a shared vision of reality in which you can sum such things up in a word or two. But even disclosing this information can be private for some people. Failing to disclose this information, and having to explain why, can be private for some people. Discussing why they do or don’t agree with the entire system of seeing things can be private for some people. Discussing the complexities of the person’s actual position with regards to some kind of oppression can be private for some people. All of these things and more can be private, and the expectation itself can create invasions of privacy, as well as a sense of obligation to disclose private information.
Asking people’s preferred pronouns can be an invasion of privacy.
Demanding that everyone present tell their preferred pronouns can be such an extreme invasion of privacy that some people will never show up or will go away.
Discussing gender can become an invasion of privacy when people are expected to disclose anything from our actual relationshp to gender, to our relationship with our bodies. Some people don’t want to be open about such things. Some people know it will endanger us to be open about such things.
And sometimes what we want to discuss requires the disclosure of private information in order to discuss it in a way people will understand. And sometimes we decide to do so, and sometimes we don’t decide to do so. Sometimes other people’s expectations play into this. Sometimes they don’t. This can prevent us discussing certain topics altogether, or prevent us discussing them in a way that really shows what we think.
At any rate, you have every right to decide what is private information for you right now, and not to discuss or disclose it except when you want to. You have a right to decide whether you will discuss it. You have a right to decide in what manner you’ll discuss it. you have a right to decide when you’ll discuss it. You have a right to decide who you’ll discuss it with. You have a right to decide how you’ll discuss it and what you’ll discuss. All of these things are part of your right to privacy. And you’re allowed to exercise that right.
I’ve learned to sustain myself
In tiny drops of water
From oases so small
To the naked eye
You flow over jagged rocks
Like a mountain spring
That reminds me
I’ve forgotten how
To be thirsty