Hiding from the World

Freiya Benson

 

You pull your hood up around your head, and your softly contoured face falls into shadow, obscured by the cloth. You tell me that you're cold, but I know why you hide your face from the world. 

I know that you're just readying yourself, battening down the hatches, preparing for the oncoming storm. 

You pull your jacket on, over the grey and black hoodie. Another layer of protection, another piece of safe, to hide you from the looks all of us are too used to now. 

 

Sometimes we talk about standing out. Sometimes you tell me that we're witches, strong, powerful, untouchable. We stand out because we're not like other people, we straddle worlds, boundaries, preconceptions. We are witches, but we are also so much more.

When we are mighty nothing can touch us, but sometimes that might comes at a high cost. It's hard to maintain strength when every look can have the power to knock you down. It's hard to stand tall when you're attacked by people who don't even realise they're doing it, because their worlds are smaller than yours.

 

You tell me you want to shout in their faces, to tell them to leave us alone, to push them away. You tell me how they call you 'mate', how they use pronouns that are not yours, and I feel. I know that pain so well, it's been a dark companion of mine for longer than I can remember, and now it's leeched itself onto you, whispering in your ear, corrupting both our worlds. 

 

I want to hide from all this, I want to shut it away, to make it stop. I see that in your face when I look at you sometimes, your hood pulled up tight, shutting out the harsh realms, pushing the dark companion from your ear. 

But when I see you reflected in me I also see the other side. 

I see the fire. God that fire. 

I can almost hear it crackling behind your eyes. It's in your voice when you tell me how you look up and catch the staring eyes, when you correct the words that don't fit your gender. 

And I nod, and I agree, and I feel that fire in me, God that fire. 

 That fire is what makes us witches, that fire is what makes us mighty and unstoppable. We are the fire of change, burning bright with our words, our actions, our existence. 

  We don't need the protection of clothes, the safety of non-existence, the invisibility of blending in, not when this fire runs through us, coursing like a raging torrent. Pain, anger, pride, love. Emotions we all know so well, like old friends, as strong as the person that carries them, as mighty as the people we surround ourselves with. 

That collective fire, that fire, it never burns us, even though it can burn others. They try their best to put it out, with their words, their actions. They aim for the source, because they're experienced at this and they know what tools to use, a wrong pronoun here, a denial of identity there. They try their best to put our fire out, but they don't know the thing we know. 

They don't know that every flame they crush, every life they extinguish, every person they hurt with thoughtless cruelty and blind prejudice, makes our fires burn brighter. 

They don't know that every trans person murdered is another reason for us to fight harder, they don't see that every act of violence makes that fire more consuming, more urgent, more of an unstoppable force. 

Their hate feeds the flames of change. We are that change, and that change will come because of us. They are just the catalyst, the fuel, the reason.

Every time I want to hide, to pull my hood up over my head, and just have a break I think of these words. 

Every time you hunch your shoulders and steady yourself for the storm I want to lean in and whisper over the dark companion on your shoulder. I want to whisper and tell you how we are living fire, how it is coming out of us, breath after breath, till it drowns out the darkness, like fiery stars, blazing in the skies, turning night into day, letting everyone see what we already know. 

We are witches. Mighty, unstoppable, beautiful and unflinching. Just try and stop us.

Just you try. 

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Sunshine Coast, Canada.


Joan of Art acknowledges that we are on the unceded territory of the sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nation.