By: Patrick Gill
There is a cadence to survival stories. A rhythm often matched by facial movements. The face often veers to the right of the person being told the story, this is what I have seen, what I have experienced. Maybe the listener gets thrown for a loop though, the speaker is light, even finding something to laugh about—no matter how much pain might be present. There are still these pauses, searches with eyes, a slight roll back to recall. They were being mapped out on a screen at DePaul’s Cortelyou Commons, I know them from therapy sessions and conversations with close friends.
I attended “Queering Consent: Conversations about Sexual Violence on LGBTQ Bodies and Spaces”. Apprehensive as I get when entering discussions on sexual violence or spaces devoted to examining it. The care and respect made apparent from the outset put me at ease.
The night consisted of audience and panel discussion, lead by Randall Jenson—of SocialScope Productions; the panelists were Lisa Gilmore, LCPC, M.Ed. (Director of Education & Victim Advocacy, Center on Halsted) Lara Brooks (Director of Broadway Youth Center) and Sharmili Majmudar, MSW (Executive Director of Rape Victim Advocates).
The event utilized video interviews from SocialScope, with the discussion fueled reactions and thoughts from audience and panel; both were never lacking in responses.
Often events centered on consent can verge on redundant. It is necessary to retread, to remind ourselves of the importance of clear communication, that respect is a minimum, that much like the act of consent we must renew and reiterate what we want and don’t in and of our intimacy. This occurred as well as so much more.
The clips ranged in both interviewee (in race, sexuality, age, and gender) as well as narrative. As did the panel*. The variety of stories told opened a space for complex discussion and inner thoughts on what is violence, what violence was being perpetrated on LGBTQueer persons, and how we should view and prevent this violence.
We talked about youth homelessness and resources or how to better our activism; About legality and criminalization—of being street based or HIV status, with a particularly interesting turn into “quality of life” policing; About how to no longer being a bystander to assault and complexities of being close to a both a survivor and assaulter. We got into the messier, the things we are told are unfit for discussion, we did so because we understand their importance, their ability to stop sexual violence and promote healthy and beautiful moments between people.
I am unsure of my original intent of attending this event. Yet I know how I was during and after. Enlivened. I picked up fragments of myself in the pauses, the reel of eyes, emboldened by the screen I saw so much more in every moment and sound each interviewee made; in some way they transformed into the moments of safety I feel each time I stop to ask if something is okay, what a partner wants to do or not (in the moment and in conversation). I felt mine and the pain of other survivors and through this I was reminded of my strength and worth. Reminded of each of our indelible worth; how the audience reacted, the panel responded, I remembered I was not alone in my desire to let our strength to shine. I was reminded, I was thankful for my abilities, forged in experience. I was thankful to see so many willing fight of consent as well.