illegal thoughts volume 1
who i am, who i am not and other thoughts from a mfer thats supposed to be dead
TW/ nuanced takes & uncomfortable subject matter
these are illegal thoughts with ideas that will make you uncomfortable whether you agree with them or not. proceed with caution, nuance & empathy.
things i am:
somebody’s wife. a writer. a community member. a big sister. an abolitionist. a case study in how not to do transformative justice. a content creator. my mother’s first born. an Igbo quing. a funny guy. the little spoon. a leftist. a thiccccc boi. a home cook. a slomad. an organizer. the realest nigga i know.
things i am not:
a rapist. an NPC. a collection of boogeymen under your bed. a martyr.
i call bullshit
i’m not a rapist. this is the first and last time i’ll make this particular assertion. one thousand eight hundred and twenty five days of swallowing my own memory chased with gasoline & a match. burnt my own truth to bits to preserve a morality that requires self immolation and offers few comforts when the smoke clears. i’m invoking my god-given right to call bullshit.
i’m aware that according to the Woke Folk™️ bylaws, one cannot simply declare themself ‘innocent’ of an accused crime. as we all know, the accusation in itself is a crime. even if you are innocent, how dare you fuck, create, talk, laugh, want, need, live loudly enough to be the target of something so irredeemably evil? we believe all survivors even when the bad guy is also a survivor. the legal system is fucked so we rely on the court of public opinion and we all decided that your sentence is for life. no appeals. no possibility for parole. no space for redemption.
“But Gem we follow your finsta. Your life is beautiful. You’re engaged & fat & traveling. If the life you have is what ‘social death’ looks like then I’ll take a cancellation over the shit I’m dealing with.”
i get it. my love and I have cobbled together a life so full of love and joy and hope that it must be impossible to see the flashing red sores I’m still healing from. i’m a fucking landmine of triggers. it takes a glance of a movie scene involving sexual assault or the mere mention of someone else’s ‘accountability process’ or somedays nothing at all to send me into a life-threatening spiral.
i have been gifted the kindness of a harassment free finsta and a job with which to sustain myself, but every time I meet someone new for the foreseeable future I will spend the entire interaction wondering if they were amongst the 106,000 people who watched me admit to something i didn’t do. i will hide from the organizing communities that used to nourish me and I will mourn friendships that couldn’t grow under such a heavy weight.
the absolute last thing I want to do is hurt anyone with my words but for fuck’s sake at some point I need to stop hurting myself. i can’t keep holding onto a label that is not mine to hold for the sake of the movement or abusers or survivors or anyone that isn’t me.
the left is the court of public opinion.
depending on the specific combinations of identities you have there are a myriad of crimes the left is willing to forgive. some crimes most Woke Folk™️ won’t even recognize as real crimes. theft for example, physical & intellectual, is of course not a real crime. unless your victim was Black or brown then you’re a racist. interrelationship abuse is only a crime if you’re coded male in the relationship dynamic. do you wear chinos? do you use they/them pronouns? are you dark skinned? all of those transgressions make you more likely to be a monster, so obviously you must be guilty of whatever you’re being accused of. everything from classism to transphobia to ableism can be forgiven depending on how hard you grovel, what identities you possess, and how big your fanbase is by the time the offense becomes public.
the inequality is whatever, that's just life.
what bothers me is the fact that no matter who you are in the world, if you have ever had sex with anyone, they could wake up one day and decide that you are a rapist. and that would be it. you would just have that label forever? they could refuse to tell you what happened and decide that you’re no longer allowed in half of the community spaces in your city. they could decide to call it a “an uncomfortable sexual interaction” for years and one day pronounce that you in fact assaulted them. you could go to sleep one day a regular, semi-law abiding citizen and wake up the next day a violent, power-hungry, monster.
i get that this isn’t a normal fear for most people but I feel like it should be? i’m not a special case. i was slutty and arrogant but no more than any newly gender-affirmed twenty two year old. i was just a person that had the wrong combination of identities and a very warped view of how other people should be allowed to treat me.
i’ve decided that it’s actually impossible to rape someone and not know.
it’s a forced exchange of power and it just isn’t possible to ‘accidentally rape’. i don’t belong in a support group full of people who know they have violent impulse control problems. i shouldn’t be taking up space and resources necessary to transform people with deep seeded trauma and mental illness.
i’m sure my accuser felt harmed in a real and tangible way but I am not a rapist. it does my accuser a disservice to simply write me off as a monster without a serious interrogation of the circumstances that led to their discomfort. i know that this is a shitty conversation to have and there are no tidy resolutions but this is my real life. not a case study or a concept, just a person trying to figure out what went wrong and how to make it right.
the left is a fucking cult
i was brainwashed enough to, as a Black, trans person living under the United States’ criminal justice system, proclaim to the world that I had committed a crime punishable by 20+ years in prison. by the time my removal from the in-group was in progress, I was so far removed from the rest of my support system that the social isolation was both immediate and long lasting. i felt guilty for showing myself any empathy and I lived in constant paranoia that I would say or do or feel or think the wrong thing.
the first time I shared this with my therapist she pulled up a silly online “Am I in a Cult” quiz and asked me to read through the questions. and as a zillenial who was forced out of the closet by an ‘Are You Gay?’ Buzzfeed quiz, reading this quiz was the first time I allowed myself to seriously consider whether my politics were actively causing me harm. the left, as i experienced it, is a cult. and like all cults it took away pieces of my personhood until remaining a member of the in-group became more important than protecting myself.
in a way my cancellation has been a blessing. the separation from the clusterfuck that is the online left allowed me to be loved fiercely and completely enough to let the scabs heal over. in the wake of the rubble, two years later, i’m sober and alive enough to finally call bullshit.
i spent a long time running away from being a person that talks about ‘cancel culture’. i fucking hate the idea of this being what I am defined by for the rest of my life. i am a writer and a creator and i want the room to talk about other shit. i have built a life outside of urdoingreat, but the legacy of how I was removed from the public eye will follow me forever. i’ll be damned if I don’t at least own the conversation about the most traumatic events of my life.
this substack is equal parts journal entry, research paper, propaganda machine and satirical essay.
i’ll talk about myself in all my parts and hold this space as a public record of all the illegal thoughts I'm no longer afraid to share. i’m trying to do a better job of being a part of a community again. so let me know what you think. how this essay made you feel. i’ll do my best to talk back. thank you for reading and listening and making a little space in your busy brain for me.
thank you. for still being here- alive, in the world, emotionally engaged instead of numbed out, here talking on the internet. I know it all takes tremendous courage. I don't know you but I know the world is better for having gem in it
Great read and I was always looking forward to your return. I watched the whole "cancel" from start to finish in a sort of "how is this happening" type way because it seemed so forced and incongruent and wrong. Any trust in leftist community justice I had withered away during those lives which felt super punitive and one sided and riddled with public shame. It didn't feel like you and the issue at hand were being explored, but more so that the "cult" was making you an example of the power they had and how easily they could snatch away yours, showing everyone they could be next. It also felt that you were being punished for your success? You made the best abolitionist content the internet had ever seen, lead with true belief and passion, and in seconds your contributions were forcibly removed... it was so odd. I never stopped following you in hopes I could see your work again and here we are. Hope u stick around I can read more of you. Cheers to your life and love
P.s. I always feel like the "oh but your life is fine after ur cancel" or "that celeb still had so much money after their cancel theyre FINE" is such a misperception. To be forced into a false truth is traumatizing and icky... and then to have to silence your need to share and express and connect to others is not as simple as "oh but your life is fine"... especially for those like you who clearly have some wonderful thought and guidance to share. Money and good vibes doesnt drown out your heart lol and I'm surprised people don't know that. People don't share their work for money or happiness they do it because they *have to* and their heart demands it. You take that away and you take a lot.