When you read the title of this post, is there a particular activism that pops into your head? Perhaps YOU engage in a cause that is socially unacceptable.
For instance, feminism is the dinosaur of unacceptable activism. Even many feminists don't want to be called the "F" word, for fear of being equated with the crazy, shame-slinging, man-hating ones.
Perhaps it is easier to start with socially acceptable activism? It makes me think of environmentalists, animal rights protectors, Monsanto opposers, breastfeeding champions; even LGBT rights has gone mainstream.
I like to think I am all of those kinds of activist. But I am also a fringe activist belonging to two very different socially unacceptable activism movements: sex worker rights and vaccine awareness. I know what it's like to be hated.
Moral crusaders and radical "feminists" hate me. They call me out by name publicly in blogs and on websites. To them, I am a pimp and perpetuator of rape. To them, I am "privileged" and my experience in the sex industry is not "typical." All this because I enjoyed being a stripper and I challenge the stigma associated with it.
Medical professionals and people who have faith in the medical establishment hate me. They have accused me of being a baby-killer, a promoter of disease, and a "conspiracy theorist." All over the web, they demand that people like me be put in jail or quarantined on an island. Some even make threats against children of people like me, who don't vaccinate.
I have to tell you. Being a part of socially unacceptable activism isn't easy. I have faced scorn, ridicule, blame, and outright hostility for speaking my truth.
I have feared for my safety, been cyber-stalked, felt many times like I've been punched in the gut when I opened my Facebook or email accounts. I've embarrassed my family and lost friends. For speaking my truth.
And that is the essence of activism to me. It is speaking from experience and having allies. I have experience as a sex industry worker, therefore I am entitled to demand my rights. I have experienced vaccine-injury, therefore I am entitled to warn others about the risks.
At the heart of every movement are the people who've suffered.
You can't tell me what it's like to be a stripper if you've never been discriminated against for being one. (Or flicked your underwear off your toe, into the air; catching it with your finger in front of a bar full of men.)
If your child was vaccinated and went on to be a straight "A" student and valedictorian, that does not erase my experience of vaccine harm. (Thousands of parents aren't lying.)
Sex industry workers are not collateral damage in the war on organized crime or in the name of abolishing male privilege or for the sake of Christian morality. People who are vaccine-injured or lose their lives following a vaccine, especially children, are not collateral damage for the good of "the herd."
I am not disposable.
People become passionate about a cause because it has impacted us. It is our truth.
I find it ironic when I see other activists slamming a movement, like my sex worker friends slamming parents who don't vaccinate. Or vice-versa. I live with the stigma of both.
I go through moments of fear and anxiety. Should I stand up for this cause that has impacted me? Will I be attacked or is this person open to learning?
Yet, there is a certain rush to standing proud and loud about my truth. When I'm quoted in the media or my writing is featured, I feel a rush that I decidedly enjoy.
I get a big grin on my face, giggle a little. I know I'm about to be both criticized and congratulated. And I am ready. I am armed with experience and knowledge. No one can intimidate me...today! (Maybe tomorrow I will hide and nurse my wounds.)
I am passionate about my truth; socially unacceptable, though it may be. Sorry Mom. Sorry Aunt Head-In-The-Sand. Your ex-stripper, anti-vax relation is spouting her mouth off again.
Being a socially unacceptable activist isn't easy. I have days when I feel very attacked. I feel drained. I feel despised. I feel threatened. I wonder why I put myself through it. I turn off my phone, boycott my computer and hide from the cruel world out there.
But I can't help it. Once I have recovered, I am compelled to speak for what I believe in again.
I challenge other activists to stop and think before they criticize a socially unacceptable activist. Stop and ask yourself, have I suffered around this issue? And, how much do I really know about it?
If you have neither experience or knowledge to inform you, consider being an ally. Us fringe activists of socially unacceptable causes - we can always use more of those. Allies are the people who respect our experience and support our right to speak our truth.
Respect my experience. Support my right to speak my truth. Be my ally. And I will do the same for you.
After remark: I LOVE this article by Kathi Valeii. You could replace "anti-vaxxer" with "sex worker" in this article and it would still work perfectly. Women oppressing women in the name of Feminism.