Affirming Others

It takes a lot to go onstage. Standing under bright lights while a group of people sit and stare at you is, to put it mildly, an incredibly vulnerable position, and it can be doubly so for those who have experienced marginalization and oppression throughout their lives. Last night I watched fifteen performers pour their hearts out at the Glitterbomb Queer Variety Show, and I watched a packed audience respond with so much love and support and overwhelming positivity, it blew my mind.

So today I’m reflecting on what it means to affirm someone.  More than just tolerating or accepting a person – truly lifting them up and celebrating who they are.

I think that’s my favorite thing about DFW’s queer performance art scene – the ways in which the audience’s cheers and hugs and dollar bills speak so loudly of affirmation.  All those things mean the audience is saying more than just “I see you.” When they give such enormous affirmation, they’re saying “I see you, and I celebrate you!

And isn’t that what we all need, to be seen and celebrated?  Not put on a pedestal, not idealized, not depersonalized, but actually seen, and actually celebrated.

It’s a skill I wish I could see more of in my communities. Because I move among lots of people who belong to marginalized groups, I am around a LOT of folks who are rendered invisible on a systemic level. I’m talking about Queer and Trans folks, those with chronic pain and other physical differences, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC), and many, many more. It’s my hope that I can make myself a better friend and ally by being deliberate about my own affirmations of others’ identities.

I’m inspired (as always) by the performers and the audience from last night’s show, and I am thinking hard on ways to be more actively affirming for those around me.  Here are some of my thoughts, feel free to add your own!

Ways to Affirm Others

  • make eye contact
  • smile often
  • offer a genuine compliment
  • ask about preferred pronouns, and use them
  • make sure I’m knowledgeable about cultures other than my own
  • mirror language (using the same words the person used to describe themselves)
  • a quick Facebook message when I see someone having a hard day
  • in-the-moment self-correcting things I say wrong
  • give offer a hug, pat on the back, or hand squeeze
  • offer a quick check-in when I sense something might be wrong
  • stand up for others in the moment
  • challenge oppressive language
  • tell people when they do a good job
  • own my personal privilege and set it down whenever possible
  • know when to be quiet
  • be willing to hear feedback
  • encourage self care
  • check/ask for gender-neutral bathrooms
  • share my belongings, time, knowledge, and energy