Dr. SWL in Paris in 2016 at the Seine River, 2019 in N California near her home
Shortly after I came out first on Facebook with friends and family letting them know I was gay / queer, I had a horrible nightmare that my beloved Jewish ancestors disapproved, quoting the Torah that love was just between one man and one woman. In this dream, my living Jewish relatives wrote homophobic, hateful comments about me being gay and backed them up with proof my grandparents, whom I had been very close to, believed this, too. Alarm bells went off. I was in complete shock and crisis of self. And I woke crying and shaking. This was December of 2019.
Three years before, I had a similar experience when I visited The Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation (“Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation”) where I was led step by step through a tunnel “shaped like a ship’s prow” into a type of crypt. As I walked, I looked at photos of documented women and children who were being deported to boats on the Seine river to be taken to concentration camps to be starved, tortured, and eventually killed. Just like in the dream when I felt myself persecuted by my ancestors by quoting the Torah and my grandparents, I felt transported back in time to that tunnel where I was one of the women depicted in the black and white photos. Where I was one of the little girls, holding her mom’s hand, looking absolutely terrified.
In both of these moments, I felt I wouldn’t survive those around me disapproving of who I was, persecuting, or attempting to annihilate me. When I woke from the dream, I spoke to my mother who told me I wasn’t just shifting my orientation. But it was my entire existence. I was coming to the reality of who I was and it was scary to me. I knew being who I was as gay / queer and now as androgynous gendered involved more risk than my previous identity of a het, feminine-appearing, coupled woman. Similarly, when I left the memorial, I was sobbing to the docent who didn’t understand anything I said. So I just sat on a bench and let it out. And the same way I had to come to terms with being gay / queer, I came face to face with my Jewishness.
When we observe International Day of Commemoration to Remember Victims of the Holocaust this week, I would like to offer this intersection. While this day can be thought of solely for those who suffered and perished at the hands of of Nazi Germany during WWII, and most posts will likely focus on Jewish people and anti-semitism. I want to offer a more integrative and humanistically universal mindset. As marginalized people (all marginalized people), whether we are Black, or PoC / BIPoC, AAPI, LGBTQIA+, GNC or trans, non-binary, genderqueer, QPoC, neurodivergent, etc., we have felt the shock of not being to integrate who we are with the response of someone around us. Who might be projecting something on us that has nothing to do with us. And, with that, might be actively (or passively) harming us with their words or actions. In these moments, we might feel under attack. And we could feel under threat of being annihilated. And in this way, I think we can all make this day more intersectional to think about the direct and more indirect ways we can relate this day to our experiences.
In this photo, I show the two time periods when I had to come to terms with who I was as a Jewish QPoC. The first in Paris in 2016 at the Seine river and the second at the levee by my house in 2019. Although I look similar in both photos (why Google put them together), I was grappling with different aspects of my identity, orientation, and culture. I think we can think of this day in much the same way. Think of yourself in different situations, whether at work or in your personal life when you felt you had to work hard to match who you were with how someone responded to you. And remember, even if someone doesn’t see you for who you are. You are the same person who can be reflected and validated back in the eyes of your closest friends, loved ones and lovers, family, and allies and co-conspirators. And, most importantly, with your own self-image. And those are the perspectives that matter the most.
#intldayofcommemoration #holocaust #genocide #resilience #selfworth #selfimage #allies #conconspirators #jewish #lgbtq #lgbtqiaplus #gnc #trans #nonbinary #genderqueer #genderexpression #androgynous