I remember the first time I spoke up about harmful, oppressive language. It was in my home and I was a child, speaking to grown men. “Not in my house,” I said. I was emotional and I knew they were wrong, but consider that power dynamic for a moment.
All of the times I have not spoken up to address oppressive and harmful behavior and language have also stuck with me. In those situations, I recall looking around to assess whether I was safe, whether what I had to say would be heard or lead to a productive discussion, and whether I was in a good place, mentally/emotionally, to address what was happening in the space around me. We don’t always have to choose to engage, but it is important to realize whether it is our privilege that allows us to disengage or a means to keep ourselves legitimately safe.
At some point, after that first time, I learned that being safe is relative to who is present. Being brave has not always meant being safe. Being brave has often meant approaching unsafe situations or conversations with compassion and care for myself and others, with inherent risks at hand. It has meant listening with both ears and my heart and then learning to practice compassionate questioning and critical generosity. Certain things still elicit the “not in my house” response–bigotry, white supremacy, and intentional harm to name a few–but I’ve found better ways to address those issues, too.
This zine serves two purposes, to pay homage to the womxn, trans, femme folks who have been my teachers in this work, and to provide those new to conversations centered around social justice with a place to start and reflect and learn. We need more dialogue around social justice issues in our spaces, including in our homes, classrooms, libraries, community centers, online spaces, etc but we need to be weary of placing emotional labor expectations on those more marginalized than us, as well. We are acknowledging and uplifting the emotional labor of womxn, trans, femme people who *choose* to do this work. We need to engage in the topics that maybe make us uncomfortable with courage, through self-education and listening, particularly if you benefit from systemic oppression and the power structures of our society. We’ll start there.
I’d like to acknowledge and thank the contributors to this zine, first and foremost, as they’ve all helped shape my understanding of bravery in their own ways, through their friendship, generosity and some very real and shared emotional labor: Jenny Weston-Rubianes, catherine lockmiller, Chanti Jung, Libby Coyner, Rachel Tso, and Stacy Murison. Our individual experiences, thoughts, wisdom, and words are woven throughout the following pages.
Womxn, trans, and femme identified people, in particular, often approach this hard, emotional labor with an ethic of care, love, and clear boundaries (necessary!). Sometimes this work is invisible to others, but we see it in others because we are deeply familiar with doing it ourselves. These brave babes challenge others and intentionally create spaces where racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, colonialism, xenophobia, ableism, and other forms of oppression can be discussed and addressed. This is a Brave Space. There are differences between Safe and Brave spaces more generally, but this is the defining factor of a Brave Space. We all need respites from this work, which is why Safe Spaces are still valid and important.