Authenticity vs. Façade

For once I need to write without the constraints of respectability

Last night I realized that it was my three-month anniversary since I published my first article on Medium. The objective of doing it was to finally unload a period of my life that weighed me down. I remember I explained it to my mother as, “dumping an anvil off of a small rowboat.”

Since then, I’ve published four articles to An Injustice! magazine on Medium, one on my own, and all were curated. Life comes at you fast, huh? Life dealt me an unfavorable hand, and it seems the universe is reshuffling the deck in my favor. If you read the first article I published, there’s mention of what I endured.

The article I’m most proud of is the one I wrote about a skater girl from Gaza. The fact she trusted me to tell her story made me feel alive and actually useful. To be honest, I haven’t felt that way in a very long time. Unbeknownst to the Medium community, I’ve known her since 2014. We connected on Facebook. I’ve watched her grow-up — thanks to social media.

As far as I could remember, I was told I had innate writing talent. This past year, I wrote an op-ed for the Columbia Spectator and was able to showcase my writing when I submitted essays, research papers, and writing assignments. Being able to write on Medium in a non-academic capacity empowered me even more. Writing articles allowed me to feel productive, heard, and validated. This is a transitional phase in my life. There’s quite a bit happening behind the scenes. For most of 2019 and all of 2020, I’ve been in the thick of chaos.

About a month ago, I clapped for an article that covered how anxiety is romanticized. There’s no such thing as a “Sexy French Depression” — a la Crazy Ex-Girlfriend — or anxiety isn’t a Kendall Jenner-esque meltdown over an ill-fated decision to trivialize Black Lives Matter in a Pepsi commercial. Yes, marginalized citizens of the ‘hood have C-PTSD too.

I’m feeling the weight of my mental illness trifecta, and perceived alienation from the writing community. I know without a doubt Medium values my voice and the work I put out, but I can’t say I feel the same from my fellow writers, unfortunately. There was a class I took in the Fall 2019 semester where I knew the professor didn’t care for my input or mere presence in his lecturing space. When he did decide to call on me, he would shoot down my feedback and/or analysis. Often, another student would say the same thing, but only worded differently, and he would welcome it. I feel this to be a passive occurrence with my writing on Medium. What I write about are often hot topics on this platform, but the applause seems to be fainter.

COVID-19 caused the global operation of society to dramatically slow down, and my city was in the virus’s death-grip. The Bronx was hit hard. The New York Times published an exposé, where my home was dubbed The Death Towers. The city and property management concealed the fact the virus was killing and sickening my neighbors. The crime rate all across the city is reminiscent of the pre-Giuliani era; my community grapples with this reality. As I type this article, an NYPD police van sits outside my window.

Now, I have to consider new living arrangements for safety, health, and mental wellness. A locality that’s been instrumental to my identity, I need to move from. Thinking about the people, I saw every day, who were deemed unworthy of protection from a deadly virus, haunts me.

Writing is supposed to be a creative outlet, an escape, or a way to amplify situational elements a person is passionate about. I view literary work as art, and there are no rules on how writers should scale on the invisible respectability pyramid society operates on. In contemporary “progressive” collectives, the existence of safe spaces is important. This platform is a safe space for all writers.

(via http://lachristagreco.com)

It pains me to say this, but too many writers possess an implicit bias or engage in respectability politics. Medium is a well-known platform where anyone is welcomed to publish. Despite my socio-economic situation, my past, or hidden disabilities, I’ve been curated. My work has merit and ticks all the boxes for curation. I’m incredibly thankful for that. I want to convey this.

Respectability and gatekeeping constrain people. My writing is very often derived from personal experience, what I bore witness to, or what people/communities I know well experienced. I can’t be abstract, detached, or technical with my writing.

We need to see value in anyone brave enough to publish their written work. There are no criteria or qualifications one needs to be considered a “good writer”. Many people want to write but they believe they aren’t allowed to because they don’t have enough cultural capital, or the right persona to be a writer.

I love being a writer. I love publishing my written work. I can’t help who I am, what I went/go through, or what I struggle with daily. This is a creative space where none of that should matter. I want to acknowledge the few writers that engage with my publications, which nourishes me with encouragement.

I need to thank my supporters outside of this platform. The circulation of my articles assist me in readership, despite constraints, I, unfortunately, face from the cultivated environment of respectability perpetuated by many writers on Medium.

Let’s work together to dismantle respectability politics in writing communities. There’s too much ugliness people have to experience day in, and day out, outside of this platform.

A boogie-down Bronx girl who knows the importance of reciprocity. An aspiring writer, humanitarian, and reluctant academic, striving for self-improvement.

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