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Olivia Nicole
non-binary, pansexual and poly enthusiast
ig: @oliviayourlife

A factory sits
Built for one purpose, destined for another
Hardened concrete walls, cold to the touch
Spaces carved out within its hollow frame
One for this, one for that
but never for its own sake

Vines in dust reclaim
breaking and building
strangling what needs to go
nourishing what needs to grow

The structures of the old way
on and on

for a new life is being made
what it holds we do not know
but it will be

for its own sake

Most of my younger years, I wanted nothing more than to get away. From the divorce, the abuse, the fighting, the pressure, the hyper-conservative religion my family practiced, their control. I didn’t have the words for it then, but all I wanted was my own autonomy. There were some moments of joy but by and large it was barely tolerable. I attempted a half hearted suicide when I was 14. Nothing much changed. I guess I lacked the courage; either to commit to the act or to be honest with my family, friends, and therapist. Although I don’t know if that would have helped either. But then, like so many other times in my life, I was stranded in the middle. The bible says god hates those who are lukewarm in their principles the most. Like I had no core; nothing there but an absence. The bad blood between the various members of my family led to accusations, arguments, and all around bad mouthing. All of which my brother and I were put in the middle of; all of which isolated us from the people who were supposed to care for us and love us. It stranded my brother and I nowhere, and because of our age gap, we had more hostility than solidarity with each other. No foundation, just bad habits and damaging socialization.

Maybe that’s why they clung to church so much. Needed the foundation. For me, being queer (and as I later discovered gender-queer as well) put me in conflict with the literal translations of the King James Bible that I was supposed to adhere to at all cost. Although I didn’t yet know what I believed other than the bible, I could at least see cracks in the foundation of the supposed one true religion. And although I didn’t believe it word for word, my family still did and their stifling rules denied me the space to seek elsewhere. No black nail polish, no cutting my hair, no school dances, no harry potter or goosebumps. No faith, no family, no foundation, just quiet suffocation.

Sexism was always apparent in my world. Being raised as a female meant I was always supposed to be a ‘help-mate,’ a follower, a bearer of children and a faithful subservient wife. There was no hesitation in telling us directly to be subservient or obedient. God, Husband, Father, even Brother. Them, always the Shepard, and I, always the sheep. Anything good I ever did was just me being lucky enough for some of their light to shine on me. There was no self, outside of the ‘sin nature’ and that was the thing you had to drive out.

So I grew up looking to please others, knowing only how to take care of others, and not even recognizing that I was a thing worth caring for. Always oriented around others, for their ends, because I had never been taught to discover my own. In an odd twist, this repressed lil late bloomer got a job in an industry where I translated femininity and sexuality into money. I learned a lot from that experience and it gave me so much freedom, though it has not been without complications or harms. In many ways I came of age sexually through this industry, and it caused me to filter myself through a heterosexual and cis lens while my queer and gender-queer qualities were long left undeveloped. However, it did put me in a position where I had to insist on my priceless worth, because no one else would. And through a lot of practice and mistakes, it became not just a projection, but a lived truth.

All the things I was taught before, what a Proverbs 31 woman was supposed to do, what a ‘good citizen’ was supposed to do, was never meant to serve us. Just make us serve them. So why be ‘good’? In a world designed to keep you subservient good just means enabling your own oppression. I’d rather be bad. So very very bad. We have to discover and re-remember our own foundations. Be our own cores. Learn what is good for us, what is rooted in our actual existence and experiences, our own pleasure and pain, our own expectations and criteria, and not just societal barometers.

Now that I recognize I am a person and therefore I matter, that my hopes, dreams, desires, dislikes, pleasure, boundaries, ideas, words, actions all matter, I recognize that I need to know what those things are. For so long I had no way to process so I just tried to shove pain away and I thought I was coping so well, but really I’ve been carrying. All this time. But when I try to gather my collection of joy, I find my hands are empty and so is my mind. Like the first time someone asks you what you like during sex and you are taken aback, you don’t know what to say, because it’s never been about what you like, so you actually just don’t know.

The wonderful thing is that you are never fixed in one place, we can reorient ourselves to our authentic selves and each other. Things are always shifting and we can always be learning, listening, and growing. Like this factory which has been repurposed for a new creative life, I’ve repurposed my own life, my own self, my own body for myself. And that’s not just okay, it’s a good thing. Self care is community care. I spend most of my time community organizing, and I doubt I’ll ever stop fighting for the liberation of living things or the well being of the Earth, but now I include myself in the list of things worth fighting for.

Our world, our communities, our bodies, our minds, will never be blank slates. The sites of such violence never go back to how they were or how they could have been, but they can be sites of transformation. Sexuality is certain one of those sites, and I am proud of how much of a home I’ve managed to make inside of a space that was once so foreign and frightening to me. The first time I had queer sex, I instantly recognized the danger it presented to the cis/hetero-patriarchy. It was pleasure for pleasure’s sake. There were no scripts, no roles to fulfill, no timelines to follow. It was just what we wanted it, for however long we wanted it. Just us listening to ourselves and each other, because we had long before tuned out the society that called us an abomination.

I have so much in common with this factory, built by the many for their own exploitation so that it may benefit a few that are external to the building itself. Unfinished certainly, rough around the edges at certain points, marks of past times now lacking their context, barb-wire ‘defenses’  like the ones that make me self-isolate under the guise of protection and remind me of the self harm scars that mark my body. As time and nature reclaims and transforms these structures of oppression, I am reclaiming and transforming within the space of who I once was to become everything I need to be.

I am no longer asking who people need me to be and how to get there. I am just being present and being me, because it’s the best thing in this world I can be.

Words to live by