I always get asked, “Leah V, how are so comfortable with being transparent with your life?”
Growing up, I went from being very outspoken to quiet and withdrawn to being kinda sorta outspoken to shutting up and only saying the ‘right’ things to where I am now. And, even then, I still don’t say everything that’s on my mind. I’m getting more and more comfortable with each passing day.
The reason that I’ve been through these waves of shutting up vs. not shutting up was because people always told me to be quiet.
My father, ahem, my sperm donor, because real fathers raise their children, used to always call me a ‘broken record”. Yes, he was an adult and I was a kid, but he was a liar and I knew that early on. So, in order to keep him in check, make him have accountabilty, I’d remind him of the things he promised to do. I’d give him follow up calls like a damn office assistant at the age of 8.
“You ain’t nothin but a broken record,” he said to me over the phone one day. “You always repeatin yoself.”
I was young. I didn’t have a response. But, my feelings had been hurt.
So, I stopped talking.
I noticed that when I expressed my feelings or dislike of something, people would get angry, offended, and say, “You talk too much.”
So, I stopped expressing myself and kept it all inside.
No one wanted to hear what I had to say. Nothing I had to say was of importance. And, honestly, no one cared.
I ran away to books. That way I could communicate more effectively. I could live vicariously. No, they weren’t real people, but real people sucked.
Men hated me the most. Especially Muslim men. They still do actually. HA! Before I knew what feminism was and the women’s rights movements, I was an advocate and hadn’t even known. When, I’d see something foul or oppressive towards girls or women, I’d speak out. I’d be called names like “hoe” or would hear phrases like “She doing too much” and the best, “she needs to shut up because she don’t know what she’s talking about”. And, because I was married and didn’t want to rock the boat or embarrass him, I pick and chose my battles.
Again, I was quiet.
If you think about it, for hundreds of years, people have always wanted women to shut their mouths. To be quiet. To stop complaining. To disregard their truths and traumas. To get over it. The truth is a hard pill to swallow. And, it’s easier to control someone who is willing to bury the truth. Lock it in a nice fancy box.
Other than women, do you know who the world usually loves to have shut up? Women of color. It is ingrained in us to not speak up. Out of fear that we won’t be believed anyway, because we are less than. Out of fear that there will be retaliation if we dare to open our mouths. We are called liars. We are dismissed. Even by our own.
When other people’s truths are celebrated, called brave, our voices and stories go unheard. Our truths remain silenced and bottled.
There comes a certain point where a person gets fed up. Fed up of being called a ‘broken record”. Fed up of being told that you don’t know what you are talking about. Fed up of not being believed and afraid of repercussion.
After twenty-nine years of being silenced, something marvelous happened. I got divorced and the hypothetical tape was ripped from my mouth. It hurt like hell, don’t get me wrong, but the sting was only temporary. On the other side of fear is greatness. And, my fear was being told to shut up.
I made a decision: not anymore. Not one more day will pass that I fear to speak my mind. I might not have all the answers, none of us do, but I know what I am talking about. I am not crazy, like some of them like to call women who speak their minds. We are not crazy. We’ve just transcended the oppressive societal norms that seek to silence girls.
Let’s keep the conversation going: has someone ever tried to silence you? How’d you get over your fear and start living in your truths?