Journey Story

Internalized Resilience—Embracing Thrivingness

by delfin w. bautista

I am not oppressed, I am not a victim—I thrive, I rise, I am.

A few months ago, I participated at an organization’s Board of Directors meeting. It was an intense gathering where we were all challenged to stretch beyond our comfort zones and look at how each of us participates in anti-oppression work and in oppression (intentionally and unintentionally)—sometimes at the same time.

At the end of the meeting, I was addressed directly.

The outgoing board president told me that he fought for me to be on the board and that I should share my pain—a pain in which I am not alone.

I have been reflecting on his words, becoming mindful of what they are triggering in me. I initially felt coerced, then attacked, then humbled, and then WTH (what the hell). I appreciated his honesty and was humbled at his belief in me, while at the same time, I was wrestling with feelings of being forced to feel guilt.

I still don’t know how I feel about the whole experience, but where I am now is wanting to scream that I am not a victim, and I am tired of being told to feel pain that I don’t feel!

I have chosen to embrace resilience within myself and within my community.

Being able to embrace resilience is something I don’t take lightly as I am mindful that it is a gift that stems from the blood, sweat, tears, and lives of people like my mother, like the members of the organization who are people of color, and of the countless people whose names are known and unknown who dedicated and gave their lives for us to be free and celebrated in our wholeness—I live on their shoulders and witnesses.

Perhaps I take the access, privilege, and freedoms I have for granted and have been brainwashed by dominant cultural rhetoric that have fragmented me rather then make me whole.

But I am tired of being told that I have internalized oppression.

However (truly however), though I am mindful that people of color, queer folk, women, and all who dwell in the fringes have been oppressed and silenced, I have also witnessed how so many of us have come into voice, reclaimed our chutzpah, and remembered who we are and whose we are.

I have not internalized oppression; I have internalized resilience.

I am proud of my heritage—resisting oppression has been an opportunity to be out and proud with a Spanglish accent, to remember and remember all of who I am while internalized resilience has invited me to discover Latino, queer, and trans-liberative narratives.

Dwelling in the guilt and oppression does no one good and undermines the struggle of all those who have come before me.

Focusing on oppression does not honor the journeys of those who had to prove who they were to dominant and hegemonic narratives throughout their lives, overcoming feelings of not being good enough and living into wholeness. My mom raised us with the understanding that though we were Latino, we were also American—instilling in us pride in the heritage we were born with and born into.

My mom raised us to be good people not because of any notions of inferiority but because living divine servanthood is just the right thing to do.

It is not about forgetting la lucha (the fight) but channeling it in ways that construct and reconstruct wholeness.

I am not a victim. I am not a mere survivor. I am a thriver.

Getting lost in feelings of guilt, inferiority, and victimization does not honor heroes and sheroes like Harriet Tubman who dedicated her life to freeing others, both figuratively and literally; David Kato, who embodied boldness regardless of risk to his own personal safety; or Sylvia Rivera, who was tired of being treated as a second class citizen sparking a revolution at Stonewall and beyond.

Recognizing and embracing resilience honors the struggle of living new ways of beloved community—becoming aware of the hurt and living thrivingness honors the memory, lives, and witnesses for all those who confronted pain so that we can all freely live and live freely.

Que así sea, no soy una víctima. Bendita sea la lucha para sobrepasar la opresión y poder abrazar la integridad y resistencia.*

*English translation: Let it be, I am not a victim. Blessed be the fight to defeat the oppression and the power to be able to hug integrity and inner resilience.

Originally posted on La Lucha, Mi Pulpito in January 2014. Photo by Carl BSr