Emma Scott Lavin
To the hateful: Did you hate when you were four?
Hatred is learned behavior. Maybe that’s why you pretend your hate is “natural” — not a choice, not something you’re responsible for.
What’ll it be like for you when you give up hate?
Surrender will begin when you have no choice but to face and embrace my full humanity. Surrender will begin when you can’t avoid seeing yourself in me any more; when you have no choice but to see fellowship and beauty in me when you want to see foreignness, idiocy, derangement and abomination.
When you have no choice but to face and embrace my humanity, you’re left to see your fortress of rationalizations and justifications for what it is. You won’t be able to hide that you’ve been the one defending it to avoid seeing how naughty you’re being.
When it rises, the question “Why am I doing this anyway?” will doom your bigotry. That question will herald a flood. Waves of shame, sorrow, regret, horror and grief over the possibilities you’ve squandered will tear your fortress apart, and you’ll want it gone.
This is transformation, and for anyone, even you, dear hateful, it will give you four-year-old eyes again. Life will become new again. Colors will brighten. Your body will move differently. You’ll wonder why you held on so long.
If you stay open, you might notice gratitude, even joy and serenity among the waves. You’ll see that where you feared losing your very self, you’ve gained unimaginably.
Are you laughing at what I’ve written? That’s the sound of your walls trembling.
Now let’s get down to the practical stuff.
How do I transform your hate when you’ve arrived in our town with buddies and a thirst for glee? How do I transform your hate in the middle of your performance?
I admit I don’t know, but let’s test a theory. I have two hypotheses.
One: If you’re a committed bigot, you’re an addict. That’s not an insult, it’s psychology.
To get your fix, you need me to follow your script: I’m supposed to hate you back and go into fight, flight, freeze or fawn so you can 1) be right about me and 2) feel justified in doing whatever you’ve got planned for me.
If I fight, you can call me “sadist,” “hypocrite” and “monster.” If I flee you can call me “weakling.” If I freeze, you can call me “weirdo.” If I fawn you can call me “trophy” and parade me around as a symbol of your “triumph” and “divine sanction.” If I buy that your name-calling means anything about me, I’ll freeze in the “impossible bind” you’ve set up for me, then you can call me any name you like.
Two: One of my friends says: “When I’m authentic, you can’t help falling in love.”
When everyone understands one and two, everyone will get why you hate when I stay present, vulnerable and authentic in the face of your performance.
By focusing on my breath, I can slow my nervous system and observe, not react — even when fight/flight/freeze/fawn tugs at my insides,
I can abandon guile, laugh at our shared humanity. and trust the strength of defenselessness. I can be fluid. You won’t be able to predict me or count on your fix.
Instead you’ll be forced, over and over, to face our shared humanity. You won’t let yourself harm me, because you’ll have to look at the blood on your hands.
At this point you’ll do anything to make me question my worth, intelligence and sanity, won’t you? Anything to capture my big river in your little box. Chances are, you’ll get bigger, noisier and more belittly, baity, eye-rolly, impatient, name-cally and sarcastic.
But if I stay with you and your process, you’ll know I see you naked. When I don’t shame your nakedness, you might just set yourself free.
Then maybe we can talk about what we’re really needing.
I have to admit that sometimes, dear hateful, I’d rather just put you in my box, throw things at you, and respond to your emotional and sometimes physical violence in kind. I’m only human, and if deep listening fails, I’m glad for those on my “side” willing to do that.
But I’ve studied enough history to know where that road leads. I don’t want to go there. Again. Sigh.
Let’s take transformation to the streets, y’all. Interested? Find me. I’m apparently easy to spot in a crowd.
Emma Scott Lavin is a trans-female drag and performance artist who performs live and online as We Are Belov3d. She made international headlines attempting to hold civil discourse with protesters at the Drag Queen Story Hour at Old Nick’s on Oct. 23, 2022.