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Friday, July 23, 2010

Why there is no Hollaback in Western Mass, a tale of missing solidarity

A little over two years ago, I was the target of three strangers whose attack on me started as a barrage of contradictory insults and “compliments” and soon led to rape. The men initially noticed me because I was wearing a shirt that identified me as gay. Coming from a radically conservative town where almost everyone knew me, especially after I came out, I rarely experienced street harassment from people who I didn't know. This experience was a first for me on many fronts and has scarred me from all directions and in all aspects of my life. From then on, any time anyone made a comment about me in the halls of my high school or while I was walking around town, I felt utterly powerless and would often have flashbacks. I came upon the Holla Back New York blog a while ago and was inspired by the tools the site offered for ending street harassment. After attending a workshop on how to holla back this year, I've been considering starting a Holla Back site for the area surrounding my college. This journey has not been without obstacles, however.

The idea of me starting a Holla Back blog by myself is something that scares me. During high school, I was active in efforts to end harassment of LGBTQ youth and was often the target of a great deal of hate. Having moved from my small conservative hometown to college in a really liberal area, I feel that I've just recently become a less visible target and am not willing to risk that sense of comfort. To split the weight of my decision to Holla Back, I began searching for a partner. This search, thus far, has turned out empty. The friends I have talked to about partnering with me for a project like this have found the idea of a Holla Back blog to be problematic for differing reasons which I don't necessarily agree with but don't want to repeat here because I think I would express their opinions differently than they would.

I guess the point of my writing this post is sort of the old “there's power in numbers” speech. When fear is shared, it's lessened. When we are there for each other, start projects together, march side by side, we feel stronger and can do more. I don't feel that those I asked to help me were wrong in choosing not to, but I think that if someone in your community is trying to start something and you think it's a good idea, join them. The more of us holla back, the louder we are, which would be nice because I'm tired of all this silence.