All marginalised people are practiced at biting our tongues

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness
Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well
as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here.
Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from

Senior Partner #1 likes me to be “discreet” 
about my sexuality and in a million ways tries to poke me back into
the closet as much as I can. Usually I bite my tongue

Senior Partner #2 loves having a gay lawyer
and will use me for bonus novelty points whenever she thinks it will
earn some prizes; she treats me as a toy. Usually I bite my tongue

I have a colleague who makes life very difficult
because we have been instructed to “avoid each other” because
he can’t keep a civil tongue in his head. I’ve nearly bit my tongue
through on that one.

I bite my tongue because arguing with one’s
bosses is something to be done sparingly and they both do things I won’t
bite my tongue about, so I have to stock up my Awkward Conversation
points. I bite my tongue because the firm already believes they are
being tolerant by hiring me. I bite my tongue because I don’t want
to be considered awkward. I bite my tongue because this is far from
the best time to job hunt – and I know there’s no guarantee any
other job I get will be better

One of my neighbours can’t formulate a sentence
without a slur. I bite my tongue

One of my neighbours’ child needs his
mouth washed out with bleach. I bite my tongue

One of my neighbours thinks they’re wonderfully
sweet when they comment on how we’re almost like a “real couple”.
We get some variation of the same patronising bullshit every week. I
bite my tongue.

I bite my tongue because I’ve already riled
up one neighbour enough to leave snide little menacing notes on my home
and car (for over a year now – they’re starting to repeat themselves.
I ask you, is it that hard to keep the hate fresh? At least show some
originality). My car has been scratched, a lot. I don’t feel safe
enough to risk alienating more neighbours.

One of my friends is married to a very noisy
bigot. She won’t keep her mouth shut, they’re a really awful person.
I try to avoid her – but that inevitably means I avoid my friend
and when we do meet, when I complain he gets a long argument (and then
complains). Inevitably, I end up biting my tongue

One of my friends has a hanger on even she
knows is offensive as hell, but she’s desperate not to upset her. 
Whenever her friend puts her foot in her mouth, she silently pleads
with me not to say anything. I bite my tongue.

One of my acquaintances needs to do a lot
of editing to their internal monologue and it keeps slipping out. But
when I point out what they’ve said, they can spend in excess of 3
hours on dramatic apologies and reciting all the wonderful things they
do and attitudes they have. Most of the time, I bite my tongue.

I bite my tongue because my friends are caught
in awkward situations. I bite my tongue because I don’t want to drop
them in it. I bite my tongue because I don’t want my social time to
descend into an argument. I bite my tongue because I know I will just
be embroiled in more cluelessness or bigotry I have no energy or inclination
to battle through.

I don’t spend much time with my family now
because of the amount of times I have to bite my tongue. Failing to
bite my tongue just raises vast numbers of relatives against me, all
of whom aren’t homophobic, but… I bite my tongue and avoid

All marginalised people are practiced at biting
our tongues. There are many many reasons why we do – because
we know we’ll be the one who suffers for speaking, because we’re
tired, because we’re sad, because we just don’t want to do this
again. But remember:

Our silence doesn’t mean we’re ok with what you just said or did.
Even if we return your smile or wave off your pathetic “no offence.”

Our silence doesn’t mean you didn’t hurt
us, you didn’t make us afraid or worried.

Our silence doesn’t mean you didn’t assert
your privilege, that you didn’t “put us in our place”, that
you didn’t make the world a little worse for us.

Our silence doesn’t mean you didn’t trigger
past traumas.

Our silence doesn’t mean you weren’t an

Our silence doesn’t mean you can repeat
your behaviour.

Our silence doesn’t mean that it’s 
“no big deal” or otherwise not important.

Our silence doesn’t mean you can tell people
who do call you out on being a bigot that we agree with, accept or tolerate
your bigotry.

Our silence isn’t consent and this is something
privileged people really need to learn. Just because someone hasn’t
called your arse out doesn’t mean your arse isn’t showing. Consider
that our silence isn’t a sign that you haven’t done anything wrong
but that you have put us in a painful, difficult position where we do
not feel we can speak. Consider our silence not a sign that you’re
not being an arsehole but that you – you as a person – 
are someone we don’t feel safe enough to call out. That you – 
you as a person – are someone who we don’t think will listen
to us. That you are someone we have resigned ourselves to

See, if we trusted you, if we thought you could learn, if we thought
you were invested in challenging your privileged, if we thought you
really, truly gave a damn about marginalised issues, if we thought we
could engage you without causing ourselves further pain or hurt – 
then we probably wouldn’t bite our tongues. If we thought the space
was safe, if we thought you would listen. If we thought we could talk
to you, then we wouldn’t be biting our tongue

Our silence speaks volumes
about you.

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