The Psychological Impact of Advocacy – You Can’t Rip a Ream

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It’s easy to rip a single piece of paper. It takes a bit more strength for a small stack of paper, but it can still be done in a single tear. You can’t rip a ream.

Advocacy is not easy. To be successful you have to be able to absorb a lot of toxin and still present yourself as strong and confident.

That’s why I have such admiration for my fellow citizen journalists who were honored last night with Courage Awards by NYC’s Anti-Violence Project. Andy Towle, Pam Spaulding, Joe Jervis, and Bil Browning are among the leaders, in my mind, of the queer equality movement. They are the ones who keep us informed, almost up to the minute, of the issues that confront our community, and I couldn’t think of a better title for their honor.

As a relative newbie among their ranks, I know the challenge of the work. I appreciate how taxing it is to watch every hate-crime surveillance video, to read every anti-gay piece of trash the fundamentalist right publishes, or to stay up on election night just to learn of devastating results. I see religious privilege trumping knowledge and denying freedom as people turn a blind eye. We’re often the front line of processing all of this information, and then we turn around and write something we hope our readers will appreciate hearing about, each with our own approach. Whatever we absorb, we have to be strong in how we present it. As an educator, I appreciate this fully, as I often have to serve as a support structure for those who struggle with the news they hear, even as I hurt with them. And we continue to do this, day in and day out.

I can’t speak for others, but some days, it catches up to me. Today’s one of those days where the burden of inequality is just piling up and I don’t feel like I can rip the ream. It’s a very lonely feeling. It’s not just about the anguish of a defeat in Maine or another delay in the New York Senate; it’s feeling sometimes like you’re the only one who cares. Why isn’t everyone as concerned as I am? Why isn’t everyone as upset as I am? How can so many see this continued oppression and so blithely go on about their lives?

The answer of course is that not everybody’s seeing it, not everybody’s feeling it, and not everybody would even understand it if they did. And that’s where I get right back on that horse. I remind myself how much work there is for all of us to do to make a real difference in this world. I have the potential to educate, to raise awareness, to offer my own strength and support, and to hopefully inspire motivation in others to respond to these issues. That is exactly why I do what I do in my life. And it is hard. And there are bad days. And there are worse days. But we continue because we have to. Nothing is gained by giving up, but the fight makes us stronger.

I can’t rip a ream. But as a community, we can work together to overcome any challenge. The challenges keep piling up and the road is tough, but we have each other to keep us motivated. We have hope and we have a very clear vision of the change we want to see in the world. We start ripping up a whole lot of little piles and we’ll be through that ream in no time.

You have to take your breather and get right back into the game. I can’t sit around beating myself up just because the picture isn’t always pretty. Here we go, team. Our struggle continues.

A little musical motivation on a day that just feels a little tougher than it ought to:

Levi Kreis – Standing Tall

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