Erin O'daniel is a writer, artist and gender expansive womxn living in Duluth, Minnesota

What is my role?

Part one: I’m a question asker.

In spring of 2016, two Black/Women’s History Months ago, I saw the inimitable Twin cities based, Black Lives Matter activist, NAACP president, and lawyer Nekima Levy-Pounds speak. After her rousing speech of more than an hour and a half, she asked us all (an incredibly multi gender, multi generational and multi racial audience for Duluth, Minnesota) to ask ourselves, “What is my role?”.  What a fucking gift to folks who turned out to hear her speak, stayed the entire evening and wanted to continue the conversation about systems change, racial justice, and community organizing further into the night. We walked away with a working formula to fit ourselves in to the fight. in my experience, the world answers when such questions are posed.

And yes, this question has shaped my entire last year. I use it constantly as an organizer and artist, in my community outreach work with Planned Parenthood and as a feminist, as a writer and partner. I love when riches come my way of this flavor. Instead of getting bogged down in the desperate and guilt laden “what can I do?” What is my role? has a lightness and power to it that allows me to simultaneously surrender to and see through situations.

Recently, talking about gender equity v. equality with my sister (see SiMC blog post), the question how can I/we do this differently? became a new frame. Similar to Nekima’s ask, with this question I’ve been given a different lens to see the world.  Things are different now as I imagine Angela Davis as secretary of education of the United States of America instead of DeVos.

And for SiMC, both questions work brilliantly. Since the election, I’ve constantly asked myself the question “What is my role?” as I sit in fantastically electric feminist meeting after meeting of well meaning white women new to organizing around gender equality. We all have our learning curves and for some the journey to raising their voices has been slow and steep. I’ve been blessed with education and best friends and work that took me right into the heart of the beast in high school in Texas. I wanted something different and I wanted to establish my role as a dynamic change maker early on.

Even subconsciously, as a young feminist pup, while queering herself in the south and asking tons of questions about sex and sexuality and gender from the age of eight on, I used these two questions without an awareness of how or why they are so potent. So as I contribute in countless ways right now in my community, I’ve been aware of the affect of engaging my critical voice in a different way than I had for the last eight years under Obama’s charge. And I’m reminded that being against something has lasting affects. Focusing on what I do want and believe in serves me so much better.

I sit with how the coupling of these questions sheds light on my work with SIMC. Yep, I’m bringing it back to the sexual climate of Northern Minnesota my people. What is my role here? I ask questions-Lots of them. And I imagine a different community when it comes to how we bring our sexual selves to the table, and advocate for the sexual well being of ourselves and our community, and see the intersextionality of the above everywhere. I also point to people who are similarly inclined and doing crazee inspiring work in their homes already.

Part two: “How can we do it differently?”

Since my sister posed that question, I’ve been examining everything with new eyes. I love when life offers up such opportunities (why exploring new places and meeting new people light me up while on the road like no other). So, relationships. Allow me to start there.

Damn have I, even as queer and sex positive as I think I am, bought into a mega boring, minimalizing, bullshit way of thinking about relationships. Another example of how the craptastic patriarchy seeps into everything.  And…“How can I/we do relationships differently?” is a fierce and fun question to use. Right away, I feel things shift as I imagine creating a innovative way of loving. In Duluth!  So to explore new territory, one must know where they come from. With future SiMC posts, I’ll list some of the 'old' that I’ve unconsciously been ascribing to and digging into sex negative experiences (yours- interviews! and mine) in the northland.

 

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