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It’s hard to find your voice in a society that suppresses you while convincing you that you’re free to say what you want. The Stonewall riots of 1969, led by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, both transgender women of colour, marked a turning point in LGBT history. Fed up with the status quo, they rebelled, and to this day these riots symbolise a refusal to simply accept the state of affairs. Society taught me from when I was just born that it was okay to question and be myself, as long as I asked the right questions and as long as my personality fitted in with what was deemed acceptable. I was told to obey and trust authority, because ultimately they knew what was best. And I was okay with that. For a while.
For a while I was content to enjoy the comfort of conformity, acceptance and being a passive bystander in society. I was content not to question why things were as they were or how they could be changed or bettered. I was content to be voiceless. I didn’t see a reason not to be. Until one day, something inside me snapped. Something that I had had repressed for fear of being labeled a rebel. An agitator. A dissident. Years of turning a blind eye to questionable things around me and suppressing my own free will had caused an eruption of desperation within me. It was desperation to express myself, to speak and be heard and to try and change societal norms. I realised pretty quickly that it was a lot easier and safer to conform and obey. Standing up for what you believe in and being your uncensored self takes a lot of bravery and losing your courage happens very easily and very often. It was the discovery of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera that inspired my inner strength. Reading about these two remarkable women fuelled my desire for change, both within myself and in the world around me. But before I began trying to change the world, I had to change myself.
The most vital instrument for change is to learn. Learning about previous activists and current issues facing the world was enough to motivate me to step out of my comfort zone, so intricately designed by the world, right down to the last detail, and speak up for my own beliefs. The burning fire of strength from those non-conformists before me illuminated a path for me, a path that was different to any path I’d ever considered walking down. The difference was that this path was not forced upon me, but was rather a personal choice. As I progressed, I changed from the person I was, who blindly accepted the way things were and questioned nothing beyond certain parameters, to someone who questioned every aspect of society, from the highest powers to those they controlled. This path may have been frightening; after all I was rejecting every idea of normality that I’d ever known, but the more I indulged in self-expression and free thought, the safer and more comforting the path felt.
Despite the fact that society has supposedly changed since the Stonewall riots 50 years ago, society is still just as cruel and unfair to those within it. Perhaps freedom just turned out to be a bigger cage. 50 years later, our ideas and our lives are still not fully ours, only the issues we see have changed their faces. We are still told to just accept and let things remain as they are because that is the easy way. I disagree. Living in a world where I couldn’t express my own thoughts, opinions and where I couldn’t be the trust version of who I am sounds far more oppressive and difficult. Having to resign myself to the notion that the way things are is the way they’re meant to be would turn life back into a dull grayscale movie which I silently watched, removed from the situation. So instead, I choose to fight. I choose to add explosive colour to the world, to pay attention and to embrace the chaos that comes from non-conformity. I choose to demonstrate my raw self for the world to see and I let my words be a manifestation of the passion I hold within me. I embrace my resistance. I am a rebel. An agitator. A dissident.
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