Edited to add: When I wrote this post, I did not know where “Your silence will not protect you” came from. It’s from an essay by Audre Lorde called “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action.” That essay is amazing and important, and I do not mean this post as criticism of it. I’m talking specifically about a way that quote is used to hurt people.
“Your silence will not protect you”, says the favorite quote quoted by people who want you to come out.
The thing is, silence does protect you, in some situations. Sometimes it’s the only thing that protects you. Sometimes you know you have something valuable, and you want to protect it, and you know that there are people with power over you who will beat it out of you if they ever find out about it.
Your silence will protect you, sometimes. Sometimes it’s all you have. And – don’t be ashamed of that. Do what you can to move toward a life where you won’t have to do that, if you can, if there is any way – but– in the meantime, you have to hide. And, that’s not your fault.
And don’t feel pressured into giving up the only thing that’s keeping you safe.
Find people to talk to, if you can. Even if it’s only occasionally, even if it’s only online, even if it’s only in person, even if you can’t tell them everything or even most of it. The experience of being treated as a person helps. Even if it’s incomplete. Even if it’s not enough. It helps, it does – because if you are treated as a person, it’s much easier for you to believe it yourself. Be careful about trusting people, but not infinitely careful.
If someone who is trying to crush you sends you to a therapist, you’re probably better off lying to that therapist. You’re probably safer if you learn to pretend to be happy and grateful, and to avoid telling them anything important. Be careful. Don’t trust them unless you have an exceptionally good reason to. Even if they seem kind. Even if they seem to sympathize with your position. Abusive therapists are very, very good at faking that and misleading you. A therapist who is working for someone who wants you crushed is probably working for the purpose of crushing you, and they’re probably very skilled at manipulating you into betraying yourself.
Write, if you can. Even if you have to burn it afterwards. Writing can be like talking to yourself, and it can give you experience treating yourself like a person. That can help to preserve things that others are trying to squash.
Learn how to protect your privacy on shared computers. Learn where to find computers that people who want to hurt you don’t have access to (for instance, public libraries).
Learn to control your facial expressions, if you can. Learn to read without having an outward reaction to what you are reading, if you can. Especially, learn how to suppress laughter and expressions of anger, because when people see those, they tend to ask questions. And some people are really good at asking dangerous questions and extracting information from you that they will use to harm you.
And remind yourself that you’re a person. That you have the right to exist. That the people who want to squash you are wrong. It’s not your fault you have to hide, and that it’s to your credit that you have something *worth* hiding, and that you’re able to hold on to it in the face of abuse.
Do what you have to. Use silence, if that’s what protects you. And give yourself the respect you deserve, even when others don’t.