For as long as my searching mind can remember, I have been on the receiving end of ascribed societal roles. Cry Baby, Slutty Girl, Unwed Teenage Mum, Unemployed Islander, Bloody Victim, Stinky Indian, Poor Brown Lady, German Guy’s Wife, and Emotional Woman. These are the ones that have built my tough exterior and at times held me back from living out the daydreams in my head to simply experience belonging. The world was a book and I was hollering from the margins in a different language, because there was no space unwritten for me to tell my own story.

These are minor infractions when I consider the continuum of human identities that are relegated to positions of powerlessness. I was still always aware of my privilege; in that, I have my sight, my hearing, two legs, two arms, and a skin-tone and face-shape that can sometimes escape everyday racism. This doesn’t mean that I never wished things were easier, was pissed at the cards life dealt for me or that I knew how to navigate my own self-imposed labels.

Such identities were given to me by groups of people who I both admired and abhorred, and in many ways their taunting notions spurred me to be more than what they saw. I learnt how to talk and walk and show up in the ways that made me acceptable in a world where, who I am by nature, is sometimes undesirable. Over time, I was able to shape my own facade for the world, through education, mimicking and gaining the status of employment. I truly, and naively, believed I had toppled the fences that transpired to keep my social growth to a minimum. And, I had retreated into my world of believing in opportunity being easily accessible.

Recently, I became aware of that ascribed history repeating itself. This is an old adage, of course; yet it still stings to find myself confronted with old truths which I thought I had made peace with. They have been showing up in the form of people and systems using power dynamics to overtly direct me back into a silent corner.

This manifested when I tried to use my convenient place of new privilege to start giving room to voices that are still underrepresented, even if their truths make some of us uncomfortable. However, uncovering these perspectives has led to the barrage of questions I answered years ago, when the world asked me why I was even talking. It seems we have not learnt from the myriad of movies, songs, books, wars, truces and theories that remind us of the woes we are recovering from.

The overarching answer for me is that we will always need to create space for new ways of understanding our social evolution. Without these conversations we repeat the mistakes from which we should have learnt and we grow weary with ourselves. We hide in memes about depression and find hope in superficial ways of representation.

I realised that my place to offer a platform is amongst the curious and the converted. I am inspired to keep the conversation going, even though it is exhausting to often make hard truths more palatable. This may seem defensive, yet I have learnt that enacting my agency does not have to be a rendition of opening old scars and entering battle again.

Charmilla Kasper