Watching the second season of Luke Cage this past week did some interesting things for me. With one of the constant topics on the show being about anger and how useful it is, and what it has to do with family (boy, do I have a piece for that), I started to think about the role of anger in my life.
In short: I’m angry all the time.
This is an objective fact and people asking me about it in variations all the time. Usually, in the form of “Why are you so wound up about X?” I used to get upset about that very question until I figured out where it all stemmed from, and you know, why.
And, well, my younger brother is pretty much why.
My brother, who I’ll call Craig, and I are pretty close. And that closeness mainly has to do with having shared interests on one hand and having shared living experiences on the other — the latter of which includes having grown up in an abusive home with an abusive and despotic father present. My brother tells me all the time that he couldn’t have survived all that if I wasn’t there with him and I usually brush it off and say it was the other way around. But of course, I think about this shit all the time. Because we’re not just saying that for shiggles.
You see, without going into the grisly details, what made my father’s abuse of all his children pretty despotic is the fact that he tailor-made said abuse to each individual child. Yes. He was very talented at picking up on a person’s potential insecurities, what they shrink back from, and what they wanted to hide in general and he always used that to his advantage.
Most of his abuse in my case fell into two categories: either zeroing in on my fatness or zeroing in on the fact that I was dark-skinned. On the other hand, my brother became a target because he was more effeminate. So he’d call him “sissy/sissy boy” or a slew of other virulently disrespectful things but still counted himself “progressive” because he never outright called him a faggot.
And unlike my present self, I rarely fought back against insults and taunts that were directed at me back then. If anything, I’d internalize them and be like “you right” or would internally tell them to “fuck off,” but didn’t dare utter those words out loud until I was grown and had moved far, far, away from my “childhood home.” Because let’s face facts, having someone bigger and stronger than you (and someone who was SUPPOSED to protect you) be your tormentor kind of discourages the development of any self-esteem, backbone, or courage.
But I found that my reactions were different whenever my brother was targeted. Ironically, my brother had the same attitude in regards to the abuse, but that didn’t exactly sit well with me. I say this because Craig was often more aggressively targeted by not only my father but also by my older sibling and mother (both victims of abuse — but that never excuses using another victim as a punching bag) for being effeminate and girly and sensitive or whatever.
And I am aware that they did it to discourage the potential of him being “a gay”— which makes it all the more ironic that I am in fact the flaming gay one. They spent so much time making sure “the gay” didn’t suddenly leap out of him that they overlooked me and conveniently forgot that you couldn’t force anyone’s sexuality to merely go away.
But their torment of my brother taught me some things. The first of them being that people despise feminity a lot and are femmephobic in general. And while it is generally worse for cis gay men, trans folx, and etc, it is very much despised in cis women too. I remember casually observing the ways in which my mom shat on other, more “feminine” women and I remember my older sibling proudly proclaiming how much of a tomboy she was with the same energy and fervor she would yell at my brother to “man” up. I had tomboyish tendencies too for a while, but I eventually didn’t have enough energy to pretend that I hated the color pink or that I didn’t pioneer the Love and Hip Hop series before LHH was even a thing with my fairly diverse collection of Barbie dolls.
The second thing I learned is that some bigots, even if they are family, cannot be reasoned with. Anger (or consequences) is perhaps the only thing that can make them shut the fuck up. In the case of my brother, seeing him be a punching bag for two GROWN ass adults and a much older child broke the rather “civil” part of my brain. I remember being a pretty quiet and meek child, but all that meek shit went out the window whenever they would start up on him again. It made me irrationally angry. It still does. I despise when people conveniently don’t target people who are the same size as them. Who has as much cojones as them. Who can actually fight back. I see red. And I see even more red when it comes to family members who do this and then lean on the concept of “family” to then avoid accountability. Who seek to gaslight your anger—no matter how justified or righteous it may be.
But joke’s on them, because anger gets shit done. No matter how uncomfortable it makes folx.
So now, I am angry. And I use it to fight back. Is it tiring? Yes. But it’s necessary. And it’s way more useful to me and folx like me than civility will ever be.