Monday, 25 April 2016

An open letter to Stephen Fry

Dear Stephen Fry,

Like many people I read your comments on trauma with frustration. I was disappointed, but I wasn't actually that surprised. Even though you've been a mainstream figurehead for mental health issues, liberalism and LGBTQ+ issues, you've also always been a symbol of quintessential "Britishness", whatever that means. When you read Harry Potter on those audio tapes and everyone was fussing over your voice, I thought it was okay. But I was bored really, because yours is the same voice we hear most of the time across most of society, the voice that is churned out over and over again - the voice of a well-educated, wealthy, white man. Yes, we both have mental health stuff, and yes we're both queer, and yes we're both politically left wing... but I never felt like I had that much in common with you. That feeling of distance started long before the comments.

But what really separates you and me is this ideal "Britishness" that you have always embodied. It's a culture of "keep calm and carry on" which has become the token phrase of Britain, and which I have never subscribed to. It is the voice of the establishment, a big dominating voice telling us that whatever happens, we should just keep our heads down and get on with it like "good citizens". It's the voice that tells us that if only we kept calm we would get further in life, and climb society's ladder. It's the voice that tells us that if we ever are to protest, or make a fuss, or stand up for something we believe in, we should do it politely and in an orderly manner.

It's bullshit of course. Your activism involves going to dinner parties and mine involves breaking them up. You might be able to keep calm, but some people just can't. For those of us who see day to day the failures of the government, at home, at work, and everywhere we turn, staying calm just isn't an option.

The reason most protestors can't stay calm is because we're angry, stressed, and frankly pissed off at people like you trying to police how we should and shouldn't do things. You talk about getting rid of trigger warnings and the "ugliness" of self-pity as if you're an authority on the subject. But the only people who are authorities on these things are the people who live day to day with trauma.

I speak out about my trauma Stephen Fry. I speak out about what I have experienced because in a society that tells me to "keep calm and carry on" one of the most empowering things I feel I can do, emotionally and politically, is to talk about what I've experienced and how it has shaped my life. The personal is political. Being emotional is political. And admitting we are humans, who suffer and feel pain, is political too.

So please don't try to be all pc on us. We don't need your pity, or for you to tell us we don't have your pity. We just need you to be a bit more of an empathetic human being.

Best, Yas

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