This post has barely begun and already I’m struggling to find my words and express myself without a coming off as phony or self-righteous. I spend most of my time fighting for my causes and fighting against oppression for people and animals alike. To me, oppression is oppression, violence is violence, and death is death, no matter who you are. However, despite the energy and time I put in every single day and how often I break down and sob, I feel, almost always, that I’m not good enough and not doing enough. I believe in activist spaces—and in the case of this post, animal rights organizations—frontline, “extrovert work,” as I’ll call it, is considered the most valuable work.
When I went to school I majored in Communications, thinking that all businesses and organizations need writing in some form. Fast forward a few years and, despite not living in NYC or LA and not coming from a prestigious, Ivy League school, I managed to get myself published all over the place. At the age of 22, I was on the first page of Google for ‘homonormativity,’ a complex, intersectional queer social hierarchy that is often limited to academic spaces. I made homonormativity a story that publications across the map were interested in when they weren’t before.
Homonormativity aside, I’d written countless pieces, all over the web, spanning culture and identity, with my intent always being to stay conscious, considerate, and write as I would speak to someone in person. I’ve done so much that I’m proud of the past few years, becoming vegan ranking high among those things. When veganism ignited my passion to work for animal rights organizations, I immediately set my sights on applications based in the media production side of these organizations, as it was the most reasonable fit for me. However, I quickly learned or felt within myself that I was incredibly out of my league, that I was not fit for a job in animal rights.
Now, I won’t name names because this post isn’t about bitterness or anger or exposing anyone. I have nothing bad to say about any of the organizations I’ve applied to. I can’t know for sure what the people on the other end of my application thought. All I know is how I feel and, in this case, I think it might be important to share those feelings.
Going back to accomplishments and me being proud, this year I did something I’ve wanted to do for years now… I got help, mental health help. I attended therapy for a few months and, after getting to know my therapist very well, was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I’d felt anxious for most of my life but had it written off as shyness. PTSD, however, I’d never considered. But, when it was explained to me, it made sense, it fit me like the proverbial Cinderella with her slipper, except this wasn’t something I wanted to fit. It explained how, through my childhood and adolescence, I was made to fear rejection, to feel unworthy, to feel unlovable, and to hide in my shell to keep myself safe. PTSD made my worries about leaving the house or dealing with people feel justified, something that was very new to me.
I’m still learning how to cope with my PTSD in a world that moves so quickly and has so many requirements for potential employees. I want to make phone calls to horrible, animal-torturing businesses but I panic and tremble being on the phone… I always have and I don’t know why. I want to go to meetings and rallies but I feel deep down that no one wants me around, that I have nothing to offer as I’d been led to believe. I want to leaflet and spread the word about plant-based lifestyles, but I genuinely fear men, fear that they will attack me, that they will insult me, that they will call me the slur that every gay boy is called. I want, so desperately, to leave the house and take part in the world but I’m afraid I’ll be jumped and physically assaulted, again. It’s hard to include this in any application, particularly when I’m applying to places that I really want to like me.
Some of the organizations I’ve applied to encourage folks to volunteer more often, as a means of finding a full-time position. I was down for that. I don’t mind volunteering. I used to do it every week. But two problems arose. One, I am currently unable to even pay for tokens to go back and forth from my house to the city because my partner already has to pay for travel for himself to get to and from work. And two, most volunteer opportunities with animal rights orgs include protests, rallies, handing out leaflets, hosting tables at public events, and making phone calls, all of which are absolutely terrifying and overwhelming to me because of my PTSD.
I don’t know how to tell people on applications that I have PTSD. I don’t want to sound crazy. I know PTSD doesn’t make people crazy but I don’t know who is reading my application or what their preconceived notions about PTSD might be. I worry that, like most people, they’ll believe I’m traumatized like a soldier and would be prone to scary and violent episodes and outbursts. So I don’t include it. I say nothing at all about it. But now, I feel that I look lazy to the organizations I want so desperately to be part of. They don’t know why I’m not at the protests, even though I click ‘Maybe’ on Facebook every time because I hope the event will be on a good day and I’ll have the energy and courage to go.
When I have good days I reach out and try to find ways to use my writing for animal rights. My options have, frequently, been limited to writing op-eds, which I’m not complaining about. But it leaves me feeling disconnected like I’m not volunteering with anyone at all. The only way I can even prove to them that I’m worth anything is if the piece is published and lord knows most mainstream publications aren’t trying to make room for pro-animal, plant-based pieces. I know it might sound like I’m making excuses, and maybe I am, but the point is I just wish there were more spaces for people like me in the animal rights movement.
I’m not angry, I’m not indignant, and I’m not embarrassed. I’m perfectly comfortable accepting that maybe I’m just not good enough for the jobs I’m applying for. I just want to see a change in how we fight for justice.
I hope to see a day when animal rights organizations and all activist groups make space for the people suffering from anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, and more. Not everyone is capable of leading a march. Not everyone is comfortable talking to strangers who may have aggressive, violent reactions to the information that’s being shared. Some of us are quiet and reserved, not because we don’t care but because we’re dealing with our own baggage 24/7. Must we be loud to be proud?
I know I care about my causes and I know I fight with everything I have, but at the end of the day, I feel like people see right through me.