• Jess

Don't Make Me Prove It: On Changing Our Minds

Over the last year and a half, you've likely changed your mind about something. Perhaps it was something you felt reasonably confident and knowledgeable about. That's one of the joys of being human. We have new experiences, we learn new information, and we take it all in from a different perspective than the one we used to. We arrive at a brand new conclusion, and, often as not, when one piece of our understanding shifts, other parts do too. But how do we do it?

When I was in my early teens, I thought you did it with righteous fury and impassioned pleas and fistfuls of facts. So I protested Imperial Oil, homophobia, and lent my voice to the struggle for same sex marriage (I had a dog in that fight, the way you do when you're convinced you're going to marry your first girlfriend).

As I met kindred spirits, my mind changed. Not about those things. I realized I was queer. I realized I wasn't, had never been, Catholic. I found Paganism, Wicca specifically, and stacks of books written by second wave feminists.

I came out as queer and as a Witch, wore my pentacle necklace and covered my kilt in queer positive and sex positive pins, making it impossible to deny who I was. I was not interested in passing. Through local queer youth groups, I met more people whose life held stories and shapes similar to mine.

In time, I realized that I had changed my mind yet again. I held second wave feminism up to the light and realized its gaps and distortions, its deep transphobia and biphobia, its reliance on essentialized notions of gender and its deep dislike and distrust of femmes. I didn't leave the Catholic Church with its rigid dogma and its distrust of women and pleasure and freedom just to choose a new dogma and cut myself off from new possibilities and insights.

With that awareness, I dove headfirst into queer theory, third wave feminism and riot grrrl. The best parts of my university career were spent in my campus Queer and Trans student group office, or next door at the office of the Centre for Women and Trans People. Between late night grocery store sushi and organizing events for Pride month, it hit me. Changing people's minds is not a thing.

That's not to say that people don't change their minds. What I realized was that my mind had only ever changed at the pace of my heart and my willingness to take in new information, seriously consider it and play with the idea that before I only had part of the picture or even some inaccurate information. No one had ever changed my mind with threats of exclusion or condemnation or tear-filled pleas or mile long reports on political or environmental crises.

No one could make me change my mind. It was an inside job. And if that was true for me, maybe it was true for everyone else. What I've seen in so many communities I've been part of is a strident, almost combative need to prove others wrong, to prove ourselves right, to make people understand. It pushes people away and in some cases, it leaves people alienated and in crisis.

In my personal experience, this combative approach is often borne of deep insecurity, out of a worry we might be wrong. I never changed my mind because someone else had something to prove. When I can feel the tectonic plates of my life shifting, when something that made sense for so long suddenly feels incomplete, I invite myself to make a game of it. I decide, just for one day, to act as if that thing I "know" isn't true.

For example,if it's true that I'm worthy, just as I am, if it's not true that I have to struggle long and hard for what I need, then what? From there, I can notice the way my thoughts and behaviour shift, the quality of my close relationships when I show up differently. And if it feels very vulnerable, I promise myself that, it's just for today and if it doesn't go well, I can go back to business as usual the next day. It sounds too simple to work, but this technique has been foundational in my personal healing.

The truth is, we have to be willing to die many times before we take our last breath. I have been at least a dozen women in the last decade. I've had to let each of them go so I could be who I was becoming. If we let it, the wisdom of our past selves lives on inside of us. That is how we honour our past selves, not by refusing to change.

Take heart. If the ground under your feet is shifting, consider that, instead of losing life as you knew it, you are moving into a space better suited to your continued unfolding. Who you are becoming might need more encouragement, less distraction, more space to explore all that is possible. Move toward the glimmers of your new self. The pace doesn't matter. It's all about the direction.

*Shoutout to Veruca Salt for their track "Don't Make Me Prove It".

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