“You will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge.” Danielle LaPorte
“Only ever doing what feels comfortable is a form of suicide.” Oli Anderson, Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness
On my way to a writer’s luncheon, I ran into an acquaintance, someone I knew from my past life as a law school administrator. When I shared about my work as a sexologist, sex educator and blogger he remarked that his friend had transitioned from being a lawyer to teaching Kung Fu. He thought that his friend’s transition seemed a bit ordinary in comparison. And he doesn’t know the half of it.
Two weeks ago, I stood in front of 400 people at the Portland Mystery Box Show and shared a deeply personal story that is part of my sexual healing process. It was something that I felt compelled to do—and it felt right to get up on that stage and tell this specific story. I didn’t get up on stage for attention or showmanship. It simply felt amazing to acknowledge how far I’ve come in healing sexual wounding. Similarly, it felt empowering to break the code of silence around sex abuse and to speak out. And while writer Elizabeth Gilbert would skewer me for this one, I spoke out with the hopes that perhaps other sex abuse survivors hearing my story could find hope. Hope that there is healing. Hope that there is empowerment. Hope that even for sex abuse survivors, sex is something that they can retake as their own and enjoy once again as I have done.
Despite feeling grounded and strong after telling my story, I’m feeling vulnerable as I contemplate whether to share the video more broadly on YouTube.
I’m completely comfortable with what I said on that stage. I’m comfortable sharing the video with friends and others who I know will support me. What I worry about is the consequences of making my story accessible to people who haven’t earned the right to hear my story, to borrow a concept from shame expert Brené Brown. People who haven’t earned the right to hear my story include: 1) people who may be critical or who may blame me (and in our culture, the destructive practice of blaming sex abuse survivors is alive and well); 2) people who don’t know me well and/or people who may feel embarrassed and avoid me; or 3) people who simply lack compassion and cannot relate to the depth of my experience.
There are other reasons that I feel vulnerable. This is the first time I’ve so publically identified any of my five abusers (yes, five different incidents, five different perpetrators). I don’t name the person but family members and a few others will figure it out easily enough by listening to my story. This in itself may open a whole new wound, something I really would prefer to avoid. And yet, as I write these words I realize there is something else at work: shame. Fuck it all, there is still shame and it is at the root of that uncomfortable feeling that I shouldn’t be talking out loud about sex abuse, that I might offend someone or make someone else feel uncomfortable.
Through the grace of doing all this healing work, I can spotlight the shame and replace it with this awareness: I’m not the one who did anything wrong, so why should I feel uncomfortable (shame) in disclosing the act of sex abuse someone else did to me?
Even more importantly, my story is far more about courage and my tenacity in pursuing healing. Frankly, that’s the real story. There’s no shame in that and I am not responsible for other people’s reactions—whatever they may be. In my women's group, we have a saying we love to shout out at times, "Fuck Fear." I'm borrowing the concept and shouting out a hearty, "Fuck Shame!" You'll see a link to the YouTube video of my Mystery Box Theater Story soon.