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telling each story

April 19, 2010

This was an amazing read. It put into words a lot of what I think, why language choice is so important to me, how powerful it can be to have someone define someone else. I try very hard to resist someone telling someone else’s story. I resist when someone tells me what is the story of being a woman, or the story of being bisexual. I also try to remember that I don’t know the story of disability, of poverty, of color, or of the multitude of ways to be not me. I read other people’s stories to make sure that I don’t have just one. I read stories by disabled people, instead of stories about disabled people, so that I can hear their voices and understand better their frustrations and triumphs. I read stories by people of various shades of not-white, and every time I do I realize a little more just how narrow my understanding of color is. I listen to stories of people from other backgrounds, other countries, and come to understand a little more why other countries are the way they are.

This is why I try so hard to make it clear that this space speaks for me only. I don’t speak for all women, or all feminists. I don’t speak for all bisexuals, let alone all queers. I don’t speak for all chemists, or nerds, or people with anxiety issues, or people with guinea pigs, or small(ish) town folk, or midwesterners, or first generation immigrants, or Dutch people, or tall people. And I don’t want anyone else in any of those groups – or the hundreds of others I belong to – to speak for me. All we get to say is “This is me. This is my story. Parts it might apply to some people like me, but they have their own stories.” Each story speaks for exactly one person, because I’ve never met another feminist bisexual nerd from a small town with anxiety issues and guinea pigs. That’s at the foundation of intersectionality: each life is unique, and if we forget that then we’re missing the point.

Anyway you shouldn’t be listening to me blather on. I recommend you go check out that link. Then if you feel like it, wander back and tell me what story of yours you think gets told as a single story. For instance, I think small town midwest America and bisexuality are in that category.

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