A few afternoons ago, as I was preparing for an evening reading from my book, The Inheritance of Shame, in the background in my apartment I was also listening to several radio interviews, most of which were like white noise as I concentrated on writing short introductory comments to my chosen excerpts. For some reason, though, suddenly I began hearing the radio host’s interview of an American woman who’d fought in the Iraq war. The woman said she grew up believing lies that her government had told her, which later informed her choices to fight in a war that also turned out to be based on more lies. The radio host cut back and forth between the interview and several audio clips of President Bush Jr. making jokes about “not finding any weapons of mass destruction” long after sending his troops into a war based on what he’d earlier said was informed by “intelligence.” The woman said that she fought in this war, but over time began asking herself what the war was really all about, and why she was killing innocent people. None of it made sense to her, and she learned to see that many of her life choices had been based on lies. When the host asked the woman for her main message to people today, the woman said that she needed to resist the lies and speak her truth—even if it was to just one other person.
“Speak your truth,” she said, “even if it’s just to one other person.”
I started to cry—the last thing I’d expected, while preparing for my evening, but this women’s message could have easily been my own. Conversion therapy is nothing if not a war against a person’s sexuality or gender identity, “weapons of mass destruction” are the various ideologies that form the basis for these “treatments,” all of which are based not on intelligence but on lies, and when we actually “volunteer” for this kind of war, the war against who we truly are, we are fighting a losing battle and will suffer through its lasting impact—a sense of being “shell-shocked,” for years to come.
Later that night I attended my reading at the event sponsored by Simon Fraser University’s Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. Ten people showed up. Of course, I’d hoped for more, but the evening progressed smoothly—I read several passages from my book; talked about my current understanding of these “treatments of torture”; and answered several questions from the audience.
“Speak your truth, even if it’s just to one other person.”
And then if you happen to speak your truth to ten people, remember that’s even ten times better.