The Story I Can’t Tell You, Per Patriarchal Gag Order

The patriarchy is real.

While its poster boys seem to be tumbling like dominoes, there is still great risk to those who speak out.

I can’t write publicly about some of my particulars—you know, the ones that are so raw, honest, and scary specific that my story becomes universal and I feel seen and may even be able to help someone else feel seen?

As an artist whose love language is language itself—I am gagged by a legal system that would punish me with the deepest of heart wounds if I told you what my life is now.

The frustration of it is that I’ve finally come to a place where I have all the courage and none of the fucks to give. I’m strong enough now to tell you everything—to feel that tuning-fork vibration when you say “me too” and “thank you,” to not worry if you grow bored and click somewhere else, to fix myself a steaming cup of turmeric tea when you respond with analytical reasons why what happened to me couldn’t be the truth. St. Felicia would be proud.

Across the internet, people are discussing how they will engage with or disengage from the work of the abusers and assaulters. I’ve done it too. In fact, I even decided that rather than be someone who bans books in my home, I will print relevant articles about the problematic fucks on my bookshelf and tape them into their books so that, when my children come across their ideas, they will have a grain of salt at the ready.

But as we come to terms with this body of work produced by agents of the patriarchy, have we stopped to wonder about those who have been made silent by it? Have we mourned their voices?

I haven’t been writing, for many supposed reasons. I realize now its because the story I most need to tell is one I legally cannot share. My closest friends know it. In secret Facebook groups, women like me trade our stories like precious gems, supporting them on beds of velvet as they pass lovingly from hand-to-hand.

I had coffee with one such woman the other day, a rare treat of safety and understanding in the analog world. We have a new and very promising friendship. While I revel in the relief of shared experiences, I also mourn that I don’t yet know her favorite movies, authors, painters. I don’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up, what she studied at school, or if she has a bawdy sense of humor. Because we first are sorting through the muck, carefully holding each other’s tragedies in the sunshine and saying, “I see you. I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve this.” As important as this is, I am sorry that it will take even longer to learn about the parts of us we don’t share—the deep, mundane, and profane ones that make her uniquely her and me uniquely me.

I don’t have a list of five ways you can support a woman artist who has had “do not cross” tape wrapped around parts of her own story.

You are at just as much of a loss as she is if, at best, you can read her unborn masterpiece between the lines. There is no War and Peace or Of Mice and Men in those narrow, wordless spaces.

Meanwhile, though I can’t describe what cut me, I can tell you that there is a crudely made cross at the side of this winding road where I died. I can write of the sulphur in the matchstrike as I lit the candle of Guadalupe for mother’s love; and of the flowers I gathered and placed there, knowing they would certainly decay once I left the hairpin curve and its bottomless drop-off behind me.

I will share my rebirth with you—what I see as the new, pink skin forms and the scar tissue knits itself together, shiny and strong. I’ll take what I can get; which is, after all, much more than most have in this world.

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