“We must think about our audience and the impact of our words on our communities. We must think about the intersections and how we highlight or erase them. We must ask ourselves why we are raising our voice and in service of what.”
It’s not necessary for what I am about to say, but take a few minutes to read this eloquently stated article entitled David Bowie: Time To Mourn or Call Out by Aida Manduley. Please try hard not to have a knee-jerk reaction at our beloved Bowie being crucified to communicate much larger and more important issues. Then come back and spend a few minutes with me in my Truth.
A friend of mine shared this article the other day and although I didn’t find myself triggered in this particular instance, it reminded me that sometimes I do and I am. Like so many of you, I’ve paid my respect and tribute to the art and character of Bowie (and other amazing artists) in so much of the work that I have done, and in who I’ve become as a person. Nothing has changed for me after reading this article. I will continue to love his Art and pay tribute to it through mine, mostly because (for me, as a Transformer 😉 ) it’s impossible not to have been inspired by his work. In the interest of balance, I cannot avoid speaking to the larger point about Bowie’s (and other of our idols) multifaceted humanness because it happens quite frequently in general, and sometimes with my “idols” in particular, that I find myself having to reconcile and sort through the grey area of completely opposing emotions and thoughts regarding human behavior.
I am a survivor of years of sexual, physical, & emotional abuse. Because I was abused from as early as when I have memories, there is actually never a time in my life when I remember not feeling alienated in some way. These traumas have ripple effects that carve and shape how we act, our personalities, who we become, and how we see ourselves. I embrace the feeling of alienation now as mechanism for higher perspective on my art, thoughts, and interactions with other creatures on this planet. Now it is just one part of my strength. I’ve learned to adapt by creating bridges of connection that help me transcend my trauma and, in turn, that have eased what was once a very painful existence. By default, I consider myself somewhat of a lone wolf. That has its advantages and disadvantages; in truth, though the sharpest pains of past traumas have eased to some degree or have been transmuted, I still struggle with loneliness and despair almost every day. This is my truth, even though I am lucky enough to have more than one magical pack to run with when I need, and even though I know I am deeply loved and that now every step on my path in this world is of my choosing.
Throughout my childhood I felt alienated by the burden of a secret I thought only I carried. In my early youth I felt alienated because, among other reasons, I was bullied, attacked, and isolated for my introspective “strange” behavior and called a slut and a whore even before I consensually lost my virginity. When I was in my teens and having sex I was bullied and called a slut and a whore for the way I dressed, the makeup on my face, the intellectual themes I spoke of, and for experimenting with my sexuality. Now, as an adult, those words don’t have power over me because I’ve spent years training myself to know I am more than what has been done or said to me. Though those experiences are a permanent part of my reflection, they are not who I am.
My sexual trauma and the fact I came of age in a patriarchal culture inundated and oppressed by misogyny is the story of so many women…fucked if we do, fucked if we don’t. If we are lucky and supported in love, empathy, & understanding from the beings we choose to surround ourselves with, we find and grow our strength, adapt, and roll onward. The way out is through.
Like so many sensitive souls I lost and found myself in music, books, movies and art. It was safe. It was ideal. It was human connection on the deepest level without any danger of being disillusioned and disappointed by the actions and behaviors of the humans who created that art- at least that’s how I felt. I found the most strength in boundary defying, gender bending (feminine & masculine energy embracing) transformative artists like Marilyn Manson and of course, David Bowie…those who I felt were radically *both* and beyond “other.”
I’m posting this for any other survivors who find themselves enraged, upset, or who are finding themselves triggered by any instance of disillusionment at any time. I don’t often speak of my personal experiences because I’ve fought for all of my critically thinking years not to see myself as a victim; to integrate all my pain and suffering and transform it into some sort of magic and strength I could be proud of staring in the face. But I also know that is a very clever way of hiding from my vulnerable self. Empathy and understanding are the most powerful tools of transformation and healing that we creatures have and it is impossible to experience those feelings without true vulnerability. Whatever we experience as individuals, we all experience. We are not alone.
The more subtle and dangerous point that I am trying to make here, and that is addressed in the article above, is that if whatever we experience as individuals we all experience, then we all have the potential to be predators and act atrociously; Everyone has the power to be Human to its fullest capacity, “good” or “evil”, because both are contained in all that we are, in every cell of our being. I’d like to think that most of us cannot identify with the more “immoral” or “unethical” macro acts against our fellow creatures, but absolutely none of us are above it leaking into our micro actions.
The struggle to reconcile the art we love and the actions of the artists themselves will always be hard. In my earliest instance of this struggle, I remember crying uncontrollably for days in a prolonged panic attack when I was young and had first heard Michael Jackson had been accused of molestation. It didn’t even matter if it was true or not; even the idea that he was a potential predator devastated me because it meant my heart could be tricked and made a fool. Again. A couple years ago when Dylan Farrow came out about being molested by Woody Allen I was physically nauseous and dizzy with emotions for weeks. Again, the “truth” of the reality of that situation mattered less to me than the fact that I found myself triggered and disillusioned without a way to escape those feelings. His films are some of my favorite of that genre and his sharp existential wit and the way he perfectly balanced nihilistic despair with joy and absurdity, for me, was unparalleled. He erupted so many deeply felt truthful tears of laughter from my heart that it was impossible not to feel betrayed. How could I not empathize with Dylan? How could I also go on loving and being inspired by this man’s art at the same time without feeling sick?
In this age of extreme exposure where we cannibalize “stars” and strive to become some form of them ourselves, and as we tear up the stones we’ve laid and try to change our world and our views of it, idols and ideals (great and small) will fall. But I think that’s a good thing. We need new ways of thinking and feeling about each other, new ways of connecting and understanding. I don’t think I was aware that Bowie was accused of rape prior to reading this article. To be honest, I find myself less affected by the news, probably because I’m finally coming to terms with the entirety of my specific human experience and multiple traumas, as well as the larger multifaceted experience of being human. Maybe I’m just a deep beautiful shade of jaded. But really, this isn’t about Bowie or Michael or Woody…Again, the “truth” of what they did or didn’t do outside of their art matters less to me than the sorting out of how I/we navigate the very real and true discomfort of human fallibility, how we critique ourselves honestly, how we find forgiveness for others and ourselves, and how we will act and build ourselves back up in Love in order to ensure our survival.
For all who struggle every fucking day through your traumas (on any level, to any degree) to be a better and more compassionate person, to be a free thinking free spirit, to be a Transformer of the human race: Thank you, and I feel for you…Lo Siento.
You are not alone.
In radical Love,