On Forgiveness…

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About three weeks ago, I forgave EVERYONE who EVER did ANYTHING that hurt me! Including the small things, the big things, the betrayals, the manipulations, the sexual assaults, the back-stabbing, the neglect. EVERYTHING! I’m excited about who I’m going to have to be, to make that stay true.

Already things feel really different. A few times a tiny twang of non-forgiveness has begun to creep in to my behaviour or feelings, and I immediately thought “nope, I forgave them” and the bitterness dissipated and got replaced with space. It’s not even necessarily a relief, it just kind of feels like emptiness (a good sort of emptiness), like being in the moment I’m in, or looking forward, rather than being dragged back into the past. It doesn’t mean I necessarily want to be friends with the people who I forgave. Just that I’m not bogged down in resentment, bitterness, anger, upset or frustration. It also doesn’t mean that I’m going to accept the same sort of behaviour from them as I did in the past. In fact, it means I am in a more powerful position to communicate and negotiate for things to be different, because I’m not spending all my energy just dealing with the hurt.

The forgiveness was inspired by watching someone, after a great internal battle, bring himself to a place of forgiving the people in an institution that hurt him horribly and repeatedly in the past. And I thought, if he can forgive them, hell, I can forgive so-and-so, and so-and-so and so-and-so… In the moment I watched him go through that transformation, the idea occurred to me “why not just forgive everyone then”? I neatly filed that idea away to digest later, then realised, if I left it to later, I’d probably never do it. I mean, what a mammoth thing to do! Is that even possible? So instead of letting these boring thoughts interfere, I took a deep breath and without thinking about it too much, I forgave everyone who ever did anything thing hurt me.

I never understood the power of forgiveness until recently. I know it’s a strong part of a lot of spiritual and religious traditions, but I never really “got it”. I’ve always struggled to be a forgiving person. I was someone who was actually pretty difficult to get on the wrong side of, but once someone ticked me off or did something that majorly or repeatedly hurt, I’d hang onto that for YEARS!

Through a personal development course that I did, I began to unpack some things behind my non-forgiveness. Firstly, there was a lot of things I was getting out of being non-forgiving. Power. Superiority. Holding things over people’s heads for a long time so they’d have to “make it up to me”. Of course, this was not what I told myself. My internal rationalisation was that I was protecting myself from getting further hurt. Ironically, the act of not forgiving WAS what was hurting me further. The effects of non-forgiveness in my life have been: physical unwellness (the stress, resentment and hard feelings that get stuck in my gut), not getting to have the relationships I want with people because I’ve been stuck in resenting them for the past and not having as much energy as I could because I’m spending it dwelling on the past.

My non-forgiveness has been shaped by the prison mentality of the society I’ve grown up in. My people punish each other. And not just once. We punish in ways that are never really done. Like when someone gets sent away to prison, even when they get out, they continue to be punished forever. For example, the fact that they have a criminal record limits them from getting work. Not to mention a lifetime of healing ahead from all the messed up things that prisons do to people and the broken relationships such large absences, sexual assualt, trauma and stigma causes. This punishment mentality has seeped it’s way into every area of my life. And forgiveness is one of the tangible ways I can start to undo those punishment oriented learnings.

One of the workshops I’ve offered to universities, youth centres and other groups is a Personal Accountability in Relationships workshop. In the workshop I integrate things inspired by many amazing groups like CUAV (Communities Unite Against Violence) as well as a theatre excerpt which we use as a tangible example to unpack the concepts. One of the things I love about doing this sort of work, is that it calls me to walk the walk, rather than just talk the talk.

So, about six months ago, I forgave someone important in my life for a whole list of things that had been lingering unresolved between us. In doing this, I committed to her that I was also giving up the right to ever bring those things up again in a way that held non-forgiveness. I can bring them up if it’s about recognising patterns and negotiating for things to be different, but not in a way that just seeks to perpetually punish by constantly parading past “wrongs” (for which she’s already apologised) and the accompanying bitterness and resentment. This has been transformational in our relationship, creating a massive amount of space in our relationship for new things to grow.

I can’t wait to see what grows in the space I’ve just cleared by letting go of ALL that resentment and upset about the past!

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Financially supporting trans women’s access to surgery

Here’s a short blurb I wrote in 2011 as part of fundraising for a friend who was having bottom surgery, about why I believe it is super important for cisgendered people and trans men to support trans women/ trans-feminine spectrum people in accessing surgery (when they choose it).

▪               Trans women, especially those who don’t pass as cisgendered (ie, trans women who get read/interpreted by most of society as “men”) face huge barriers to finding employment due to prejudice. They may also face racism, classism or able-ism. So their job options can be very limited and therefore it’s harder to pay the bills, let alone fund expensive surgery.

▪               Because the medical industrial complex sucks! Many trans women are made to jump through years worth of hoops and red tape to prove that they should be allowed to have surgery. Having just been through this system as a trans-guy – my psychiatrist said “most of the FTMs (female-to-male) are a lot more straight-forward cases than the MTFs (male to female)”. BULLSHIT! The medical industrial complex, like the rest of mainstream Australia, does a lot of serious hating on trans women. Apparently one of the factors which slows down psychiatrists from approving surgery, is trans women having depression or anxiety. Is it any wonder a bunch of trans women are depressed when they get so much hatred thrown their way, beat up, denied jobs, called names and then made to tell their stories over and over to the boring cisgendered psychiatrist for years. (NOTE: recognising the discrimination faced by many transwomen doesn’t mean others should just assume it sucks to be a trans-woman – it rocks to be a trans-woman! Just the discrimination sucks). Cisgendered people act as gatekeepers and attempt to make every decision for trans people. Their decisions are greatly shaped by trans-misogyny (like the broader world) and can make many trans-women jump through very narrow definition of what it means to be trans – what the fuck would they know? This sucks. So, fundraising for trans women can give them more control over their transition through having money and therefore access to more options (like going to Thailand for the surgery, where there is less red tape).

▪               Because trans women bear the brunt of some of the most disgusting discriminations of the patriarchy. Levels of violence & assault against trans women are horrific. They are often doubly punished by then also being left out or violently marginalised by so called “feminist” and other movements e.g. being barred from accessing “women’s” shelters & services. This is blatantly anti-feminist! Many “feminist” movements are hung up on the notion of trans women having been socialised as male and therefore having male privilege. The transphobic and misogynist cultures I grew up in absolutely do NOT build a sense of entitlement/privilege in trans women. Anyone read as male who has any feminine or womanly presentation, traits or identification gets that ridiculed, punished and beaten out of them. This is hardly likely to build up someone with a sense of entitlement or privilege. Also, socialisation is a complex beast – a person picks up socialisation as much from how they identify inside, ie we have agency in how we socialise ourselves. Many trans women who identified that way from an early age, are likely to have picked up a lot of female socialisation because they were looking for the education and cues with which they identified. So I don’t see much privilege going on for trans women – especially trans women of colour, raised poor/ working class, trans women with disabilities etc. So, since they have to deal with heaps of shit, supporting trans women in ways that feel good to them (in this case – funding the surgery) is essential.

▪               Because access to surgery is a class issue. It sucks that rich trans people (who still have the support of their rich families or have miraculously managed to access well paying work) can get easier access to surgery. It’s up to us as a community to collectively be a “family” who raises money for poor/ working class/ financially struggling trans women.

▪               Because misogyny exists even in our queer/ radical bubbles. A little exercise: count how many fundraisers you’ve heard of for trans men. Now count how many you’ve heard of for trans women. Get the point? And that was just for starters – the way trans women are often ostracised, whereas trans men are celebrated (and even fetishised) is gross. Let’s change that.

So, these are some of the reasons why I’m giving money to my friend for her bottom surgery.  Also, because I like her a bunch and she is smart, hot, fabulous, funny and a good friend of mine.

Some other popular blog articles:

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2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website