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Fragile white intersectionality

Sharkk Heartt in Montreal - photo by Andrea Gibson.

Just over a week ago, Sharkk Heartt wrapped up four months on the road with Andrea Gibson, poet and activist extraordinaire. We got to perform for all the most wonderful audiences full of vibrant, kind queer people. I have felt honored to be even a small part of creating a safe space in which these big crowds of amazing humans can show up and be themselves.

I’ve also spent some time questioning myself. I’ve thought, what am I, a mostly straight white woman, doing wearing rainbow face paint? I mostly don’t know what it is like to walk into a space and look around assuming that my safety could be threatened for who I am or who I love or the way I present. Am I claiming something that isn’t mine to claim?

And this is the conclusion I’ve arrived at for now - it’s open to further reflection and change.

For now, it feels important to wear the rainbow face paint to announce that my intention is to create a space in which everyone can show up and feel safe and welcome regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, race, or ability. I wear the paint to announce that if you are someone who has felt marginalized because of any of these things, I would like to be on your side and fight the good fight with you, even when it gets hard, even when we might get hurt. "They cannot take one of us out/without taking both of us down."

But I know that good intentions aren’t enough. I take activism and being an ally seriously, and I know that there are things I can’t speak to, and places where my job is to amplify other voices and make space for those voices to be heard. If I can help other straight white people feel uncomfortable and inspired enough to take further action or simply reflect, then great. If I can create a truly safe space for queer people and people of color that is owned more by my audiences than it is by me, so much better.

But I hope the paint will say this, too: Obviously I am a white woman. Obviously I will not do this perfectly. Obviously there is a lot I have the privilege of overlooking every day of my life. Because I am publicly wearing this paint, I hope that if you see me attempting to be an ally in a way that could be harmful, in a way that is uneducated about a particular issue, in a way that is clueless or alienating, you will call me on it. This paint is an invitation. It is a door left open. It is a come-in-and-let’s-talk-about-this-over-a-warm-cup-of-tea, because we are both human and in need of small comforts and I am willing to confront my own fragility.

I want this paint to say, we are all in this together. And rising doesn’t mean anything until we can all rise.


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