How Do We Leave?
A conversation on the matter of leaving and letting go of a commitment
This conversation follows the one by Fátima Masoud Salazar and Castillo titled To Our Friends in Therapy first issued by Brussels theater Kaaitheater in 2021, and republished on NERO in December 2021.
Lili PJ and Marge
We discuss and record our reflections in this text where we address endings, community ruptures and the sufferings that go with them. We talk about the community activism that has inhabited us or that we still inhabit, primarily from queer, feminist, or sex work collectives; communities that have sometimes taken the form of professional and/or employment structures. This conversation is non-exhaustive, it does not claim to explore everything. It touches on complicated subjects, which can sometimes tear us apart or separate us. The idea here is to put down these experiences and reflections to open up other conversations.
Lili PJ and I met a little before the summer of 2020. We had crossed paths quite a bit, friends of friends of lovers, we were never too far apart even though we didn’t know each other very well in L-Brussels. We became going-out friends, and then support friends through our respective separations; we accompanied each other through these painful processes, at times when we still had no words, no eyes yet, when we were still drowning inside our feelings and couldn’t understand much of anything. We offered each other flowers for comfort, we listened to each other laughing with grief, raising our glasses to the sound of our sorrows.
Lili PJ was going through a romantic break-up, mine was with a community. This conversation about leaving the collective unfolded in several stages, and often the origins of our conversational history were found there—the romantic and the collective. Can our way of loving, of being lovingly attached, also be translated into the ways we invest ourselves—sometimes with fire and passion—and then tear ourselves apart, in our collective groups? How do we leave? Are we capable of leaving, Lili PJ and I—whether in love, or from the communities in which we have invested so much of ourselves? Questions came in the form of spontaneous outbursts, which is just like us. Then we dug deeper, digressed, and studied.
In this text we talk about the difficulties of being together, through trials and disagreements, when we have suffered so much before; then of the difficulties of separating, of leaving, of putting words to and understanding each other even as we separate. We try to speak to the collective mechanisms that we study, that we observe, and from whose shortcomings we suffer.
Of course, all of our experiences are complex and not everything can fit so easily or rationally into boxes. This means that our conversations are inevitably situated: we are both—among other things—white, able-bodied, cis or perceived as such, and thin. Our views, whether we like it or not, are oriented by these qualifiers. And it is clear that we often find ourselves in groups where the norm looks like we do. Just as our relationships are not limited to these more privileged boxes, we can witness and hear the different experiences of our friends and lovers although we don’t experience their realities. This means that this text will obviously have shortcomings depending on the lived experiences of the reader. And yet, we dare to hope that by putting down our sufferings and our points of view, this can be shared or contradicted by others, and that all of this can be inscribed somewhere, in the Brussels activist context.
Lili PJ and Marge
Brussels, June 2022
Marge: We started our conversation very simply, with Lili PJ—a faithful ally during this community separation that has shaken me for the past few years—who asked me, “Why did you leave, what did you leave, and how?”
At first, this question twisted a kind of knife under my skin—the painful and somewhat shameful impression that I had not succeeded in leaving this collective which was suffocating me and eating me up from the inside. I was literally letting myself die little by little while continuing to give my body and soul “to the struggle.” It was as if I was caught up in something “bigger.” Maybe by the idea of at last building a world in which we would not suffer anymore—or at least a little less. To create a family, or even just a momentary feeling of being one. To bring justice. An engine that would combust hatred, one’s own suffering, and the suffering of others who have had less opportunity or privilege than we did. So, I saw the theory—that is, the values we were supposed to fight with (self-management, self-support, anti-authoritarianism, creation of safer spaces, horizontality, feminism, etc.) to obtain certain rights, to fight violence—but I didn’t see that for other people there were other issues at stake: issues of power, a hidden agenda, predefined roles.
I became an employee. Power dynamics set in very quickly, and the precariousness of the organisation was a breeding ground for abuse. A whole dynamic of violence gradually took hold. At first occasionally, then a little more often, here and there, then more and more, until it was there all the time, and getting worse. It was as if I was in a swamp. I had to be expelled, to be out of the machine, in order, for example, to be able to put these tacit dynamics into words—imperceptible if you don’t do the tortuous work of unpacking them—in which there are two or three dominant figures, and the others fade behind them to live in their shadows. Anyone who broke this dynamic—because of their difference (in character, behaviour, identity…)—was seen as profoundly disruptive. If they did not understand the signals being sent (indirect messages, bullying, silence, isolation), they were sidelined little by little. The leaders stayed in their place or climbed higher and higher, in their unreachable tower, while the others were crushed. I understood none of this. I tried to express myself, to protect myself as best I could. Then there was this rather sad dynamic that played out in spite of myself: the more I was crushed, the more I gave. Since I couldn’t say no, I ended up saying yes with a smile. I was afraid. As if I had nowhere else to go, as if without this I would fall into an abyss and disappear, as if the only way to live was to give myself to this struggle. I didn’t want to let go of anything, I had given so much and hoped for so much, in the end this was all I was.
I felt that nothing was right, that I was suffering. I was no longer sleeping, hardly eating, dropping all my commitments. Maybe I was as crazy as they thought I was. I was dizzy. But I would never have thought of getting out of there. I could be treated in the worst possible way, humiliated, led on and then dropped, have others turned against me, my initiatives shut down, my voice made invisible, have lawsuits filed against me, and yet, I don’t know, I felt like I was living in terror. I had given so much, what would become of me without it?
Unsurprisingly, it ended in a nightmare, and it’s a story I’ll always carry inside me. I was very angry at myself and sometimes still am for not having known how to leave. The other evening, though, I told my dear friend/ally/lover about this anger at not having been able to leave what was doing me harm, and she gave me her version, a different, less victimising point of view, “You left the role they had given you, that they had assigned to you. The role of the one who doesn’t question, who follows the group and the leaders. You refused it and continued to push it away. They couldn’t stand it, and they were the ones who left you.”
Lili PJ talked to me about roles in collective communities. We talked about authorised and unauthorised roles in different queer “activist theatres” (a term I discovered in the writings of Kai Cheng Thom), but also about roles that depend on the tacit norms of each group (this reflection is linked to my reading of Starhawk); how other forms of authority are established with anti-authoritarian codes; how many of us seek to build an identity validated through our activist roles—where sometimes the community seems to be almost a façade, a means to access a kind of celebrity—and then who are we behind these activist roles? Are we able to be “Other” and many? How do we lose ourselves in politicised rhetoric of social justice without intimately revealing ourselves—with all our contradictions and nuances—within our communities?
Talking about roles, norms, the different types of power that take particular forms within our groups, and the differences in privileges that come into play, is a way of addressing the multiple contexts in which our suffering unfolds. Why is it so difficult to deal with conflict? What is at stake, in terms of identity, when our traumas confront each other, or in terms of fragility or the risks involved, when we consider the dangers that leaving a group represents for a person? Leaving a group is leaving a survival strategy, a way of existing. Being able to leave means having other resources and not risking the abyss.
Lili PJ: I am going to situate myself.
I study astrology. Today Mercury is retrograde in Gemini, and Jupiter has entered Aries, so it’s a good time to reread and finish the first draft of this text.
I have French nationality, I’m white, a dyke, queer, and I’ve taken it upon myself to present my situated identity to speak on certain topics. I am able-bodied and I have a Belgian residence permit with the words, “access to work unlimited.”
I don’t like working fixed hours, I don’t like the police, I don’t like authoritarian governments, nor the noise of cars.
I live in the centre of Brussels; I have a paid job with fixed hours, and I volunteer at queer socio-cultural collectives.
I generally like people, but not every day.
I believe that the stars speak to us and that our senses only pick up a minuscule portion of the universe.
What does that say about me?
I recognise the importance of situating oneself as a political tool.
I see the failures of “identity politics” as soon as they are no longer used as means of emancipatory and creative development. Sam Bourcier, interviewed by Laura Dasinières for the queer Swiss magazine 360° wrote, “Moreover, individual strategies have supplanted the idea of creating community. On social networks, this creates identity politics that tend towards essentialism. It is also a politics of visibility. LGBTQIA+ feminists construct themselves as vulnerable individuals. So, we move towards individualism and ‘boo-hoo’. The result is a political agenda that is bound to be incomplete, lamenting, and extremely likely to fail, as well as actions that are minuscule and essentialist.”
I don’t know who I once heard saying that one of the cops’ strategies was to wait until we’d had a fight before arriving. Who do we serve when we’re shitting in the community boots? Not us.
Failure to talk the right way, to do things the right way, failure in activism, community and queerness. Failure and fear. Failure and anger. Failure and conflicts.
We search, we make mistakes, we learn, we re-invent. Let’s do it with love (#NotAHippie).
Often, we leave wounded. The pulsing of the wound can make us clumsy.
Many times, I have seen tools of political analysis hurled among us as ammunition.
When our chosen families become battlegrounds. Like the biological ones we left.
I like the idea of replacing be with have in some formulas (I think I heard this at Habibitch’s “Decolonize the Dancefloor” conference, which she herself quoted from the kiffe ta race podcast)—not saying you are ableist, racist, fatphobic, but that you had a comment or behaviour that was ableist, racist, fatphobic.
Being freezes whereas having allows for evolution.
When we started this discussion, people were leaving collectives of which I was a member.
It had been looming for several months—unresolved conflicts, disappointed expectations, unmet needs.
This is my interpretation, not their words.
I think that on the part of the collectives, there was a lack of listening to, of collective support for, the needs expressed. Also, because we have been subjected to the rhythms and constraints of productivity—producing events, moving the machine forward, because it is necessary.
Despite being in opposition to the systems of violence production that press on our lives, we are in a terrain—a conditioned environment. When our desires for subversion unfold in a hurry, we sometimes forget to make space for what we aspire to.
For example, I aspire to live at my own pace.
When you’re running at the pace of emergency, there’s fatigue, exhaustion, and crashes along the way. Activist burnout or something like that—when you said to me, “Have you read The Magic of Burnout? That book accompanied me when I was sleeping 20 hours a day.”
It’s as if we had forgotten other important things or downgraded them. Emotional work, as they say—reflecting with patience, kindness, and intelligence on our dynamics, our operating modes, our needs. Listening. Unfolding time. Putting being on an equal footing with doing.
Astrologically speaking, the end of the old world is in 2025. Everyone tells me that’s a long way off. I don’t think so if it means we are to be done with centuries of crude stammering.
Following these departures around me, I wanted to set up a collective project about our different roles and our needs for recognition—the roles we give ourselves, the roles we are given by others, and what I felt was a lack of explicitness of these roles.
I often hear frustrations related to a lack of recognition. How can we give each other this recognition? When do we take the time to say to each other, “for me, recognition means…”?
What are we known for? We wonder, until we learn to love ourselves simply because we exist. Why do we want to be recognised? How do we learn to see the different forms that recognition takes in each person’s ways of being? I have Venus in Leo sextile Mercury in Gemini: I’m going to tell you that you are beautiful, funny, and intelligent. There are those who will bring you a cake. Others who will fix your bike. There are ways to listen to and see each other.
I gave you my example: I see myself as a joyful person who likes lightness. Often, I am in a jovial, bright mood. Sometimes I perform this identity, even though I don’t have the desire or the energy to do so—as if it were my role. Because I think that’s why I’m valued and loved. Because that’s how I can be seen, I sometimes automatically respond to this projection. Out of habit and preservation.
You replied with a quote from Lao Tzu which opens a chapter in the book Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown, “Talk to someone untrustworthily and they will become untrustworthy.”
We continued with these dynamics that are reproduced in the groups.
I gave other examples of positions embodied in a way that is not always comfortable or desired.
Those who were driving forces, the authority figures, the care resource people, etc.
It’s a whole spectrum of our qualities that colour our re-inventions. I had seen a drawing of the different types of warriors (I prefer creators) we need to make our communities (or simply, the world) flourish.
We need the reserved and the loudmouths, the carefree and the serious—we need the whole colour spectrum. We need to have space to dance on the ghosts of our past, to allow ourselves to travel from one end to another according to our moods and our resonance with the needs of the moment.
We gravitate to circles that claim the fluidity of identities as a recognition of life, a force of joy and a political struggle.
I believe that in order to overcome our limited and limiting habits, we should be able to formulate the roles we think we have, to turn them around and exchange them.
The roles that feel good to us. The expectations that go with them, the responsibilities. The roles we want to be able to take on intermittently—the drag room of our community status. Let’s switch the hats we wear! If you like being a director, if you’re good at it, and if you’ve managed to formulate an explicit agreement collectively around this energy, then why not wear the boss’ pants for the day or for the week (with a safe word to be readjusted if you abuse it) the following week, the General Assembly entertainer’s cape, the committee dunce’s hat, the accountant’s glasses, the amateur handyman’s overalls, the community homemaker’s strap-on!
You can be very good at one thing and enjoy doing it. Hooray! And let’s remember the potential of rotating tasks (yes, I’m thinking of you) to unveil expertise, share knowledges and powers and, for example, avoid what we were talking about: individualistic outbursts such as celebrityism.
Celebrityism is a concept you tell me about, from the book I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World by Kai Cheng Thom, “In the absence of formal leaders, social justice culture has built a system of micro-celebrities […] within the masked hierarchy of the movement […] Even more disturbingly, celebrity culture encourages us to view people’s value—their right to resources and social inclusion—as contingent on their ability to produce.”
When we use our status, our role as an activist to valorise an individual person, I wonder if we are not confusing a position with a person. Again, the question arises, who and what are we serving? When this “honour” is used to gain social and economic capital and power but is no longer used in the service of the struggles and people whose tools it has appropriated, we come to see them as an old fraud or a sad failure. But if this celebrity, with their audience-fuelled force, continues their work in the service of the needs from which they emerged, if it fulfils its function and uses its power with the consciousness of possessing it—it is good for those who take it on and also for those who do not want it and take on other roles. We will not put on judges’ robes (neither) to shame those who make money and clicks (nor for anything actually, what a tedious position).
But how does it circulate? “How is it restricted?” you ask.
Masks off: authorities in disguise.
I was telling you about a collective that I wanted to leave, in particular because of my annoyance or my lack of control in the face of “authoritarian people, but from a very ‘whoosh’ (wind noise) position of authority, an authority from below.”
You have the metaphor of the half-rabbit half-wolf, of those who act like so, “Since we are anti-authoritarian, we’ll say it in an anti-authoritarian way, but we’re still authoritarian.”
Sometimes, this is done through maternalistic biases, “This is the best way to do it—validated best_feminist_practices©.”
Prevalent discourses emerging from hierarchical positions – more senior, more active, more comfortable with words, + + +
We need to be able to deal with these mechanisms.
How can experience be shared through communication without domination?
And also: On whom do we project our power?
Sometimes we don’t know how to deal with it: because we are tired, because we are not equals in the conflict, because we don’t have the words, because we don’t have the confidence, because we don’t have other plans. Because we aren’t sure that the work of deconstruction is worth the effort.
Maybe that’s why we leave. When the equation doesn’t add up.
Investment of energy + work > Creation of fulfilment + joy
Marge: To try to understand what had happened, I talked around it for a while with a lump in my throat without ever telling everything. Then I opened up. To make sense of it, I read and listened to the stories of others, stories that were similar. What does it mean to live through violence, rejection, deep wounds, or traumas all within groups in which one wanted to take refuge, to repair oneself, to grow, to stay? I wrote a paper on the different articulations of our intra-community violence by interviewing queer activists in Brussels and some from elsewhere.
Through all these lived experiences and literature (a list of our readings is at the end of this text), there is ultimately a lot to say about what makes it so difficult to leave. There are vulnerabilities that are all particular to community activism which make leaving, or daring to imagine leaving, unattainable, inaccessible, and too risky for our physical and psychological integrity.
When we get into a group that seems to be like us, maybe we finally have a place somewhere, for the first time. This group becomes active, we do a lot of things, and maybe we finally feel like we make sense. To be meaningful somewhere, and for the people we really wanted to be meaningful to. We serve a purpose. We have a role. And it feels so good. It saves our lives.
But when things get complicated, when the disagreements pile up, the silences do too. When we give it everything—we live, we fuck, we sweat through the lens of this role. To move forward. To not think about the wounds of the past. Not to think about ourselves deeply, but just about us in that context. Because it worked, because it was safe, because at least we knew how to do it.
And then, it becomes complicated to quarrel. It brings us back to our old wounds. Our attachments, our abandonments, all that. We don’t have the tools. It’s too threatening to risk losing that belonging. If I get into a fight with someone, I won’t be able to go back there, and maybe other people will turn against me. I’m afraid that people will talk about me. I can’t risk rejection again.
The other who dares to contradict, attacks me. How dare they question me when all my life I have struggled to be proud and remain who I am? We can’t do it. To question ourselves, to question the other, to give up a little, or to dare to take the space for which our parents abandoned us when we were kids, a place that states its limits, that says, “no, you hurt me when you say that to me like that”, that says, “let’s not let go of each other, let’s try to understand what’s going on without escalating,” to see the mirrors in the wounds and the attacks. To see the shame that has been instilled in us come between us; this shame that makes us deviate, be afraid, that makes everything far too risky.
All of this. It makes leaving seem too much, too risky, or radical. It’s as if the only solutions were to rip it off like a band-aid, in one swift blow, without looking back; or else to ghost—to spend moments of pleasure without really succeeding in building anything—as alternatives to “leaving,” alternatives to words, to the difficulties of expressing and unloving oneself. It is as if we wanted the world after the suffering without ever having learned to deal with it, together. The relational dynamics of activism are like our love stories: complicated, wounded, complex, empowering, and vital but sometimes also violent and traumatic.
With Lili PJ, we told ourselves that we had trouble leaving, that we wanted “forever,” things that transform and adapt, that decide at each stage what the next one will be, that decide to write goodbye letters to each other, to have transformative break-up ceremonies, where we name the parts of the other that we will always have in us and those parts of us that will always be in the other.
Lili PJ: To sit next to them and listen to one’s internal compass: am I okay here?
You said, “Sometimes you stay for what you invested. It’s the metaphor of the vending machine. You put €1 for a soda can, it doesn’t come out, you put €1 back in, it doesn’t come out, but you put another euro back in because you’ve already put in €2 and so on. You stay for what you invested, not for the soda can.”
What are our attachments tied to?
“If you let it go of everything you have invested in, what grounds you? We put so much hope into a project…” So much hope in a story, in projections of futures.
We are conditioned by the idea of “leaving as failure,” “leaving as pain.”
It’s hard to let go of our identities and our soda cans.
It’s not ingrained in me to think of “leaving” as positive, or even neutral.
Leaving as joy. Leaving as a choice. Leaving as taking flight.
Leaving as an act of self-recognition, leaving as an opening: making room for what we want, what we love, who we are.
Leaving because it doesn’t fit us any longer. Moulting.
Knowing how to say no in order to say true “yeses,” you told me.
We both became disillusioned with the idealisation of our communities. This is good.
I don’t know about you, but it opened me up.
Collective communities have given me a lot and I still like to be and do in “families,” but I also like to extend the connections to those who would not normally share so much in common. And yet.
Ways to leave.
To those who have left.
When we leave without saying anything and leave others in the dark. Sometimes that’s just how it is. No judgement.
I left saying I was taking a break. And I’m still not back. An open door.
I left slamming doors, and I came back.
I left when I moved to another city.
I left by writing letters.
Several times I wanted to leave while on holiday.
(Funny, I forgot: and I got left. Left by telephone. Got left in a discussion which conclusion I hadn’t understood. Got left by omission. Getting “left”: concomitant actions).
We drew a lot of parallels between our love stories as we talked.
I told you about my clumsy attempts to leave while travelling. The first time I wanted to leave someone, we were on holiday together and I thought it would be a good idea to tell them at the beginning of the trip that it would be over between us at the end. Good, relaxed atmosphere. I was 18 years old.
The second time, I had an argument with a lover before going to the sea. I suggested that we go anyway, to leave each other there, by the water. She didn’t like the idea, we stayed together, our feet in the water.
You asked me, “Why did you want to break up on the road? Because it made you feel better? Because you realised that it was going to be painful and that it was a way of supporting each other while leaving each other?”
Yes, I think there is something in the idea of supporting each other, but also in the idea of leaving one kind of relationship and keeping another, transforming it. And going through the transformation together.
Today, I think it was a desire for ritual, for ceremony. I would like to have farewell ceremonies, where we leave each other together.
Naming what we brought to each other, why we loved each other. Recalling charming moments.
Speaking about where we part ways. Giving each other something. Kissing each other, letting each other go.
Two tarot readings
We finished this process as we had planned—with two tarot readings. Four cards each: 1. What resources do I have at my disposal to leave? 2. What is difficult for me about the act of leaving? 3. What does leaving bring me? 4. How do I grieve?
You can play: choose between the first and second draw and read—see if it resonates.
We used Cristy C. Road’s Next World Tarot and Ruth West’s Thea’s Tarot. The former was made in the late 2010s by a queer Cuban-American, the latter by a white lesbian US-American in the 1980s.
Cristy C. Road wrote on each card. Oliver Pickle wrote a book in 2015, She Is Sitting in the Night: Re-Visioning Thea’s Tarot. We used Cristy’s and Oliver’s words in the quotes to follow. We wrote their quotes in inclusive language where they were originally not.
The resources: The Five of Swords
The wisdom to choose your battles. “A symbol of resistance. [This card] is powerful. The Five of Swords is the act of believing in a just cause while your co-conspirators, superiors, or supposed allies align themselves with the other side for reasons of power. The Five of Swords asks you to question stability in order to find security.”
The difficulty: Strength
Power relations. Thinking that “to hold on is to be strong.”
The input: The Page of Wands
A new beginning, a fresh air of desire. “The Page of Wands reminds you that your power lies deep within the vessel of your subconscious. Trauma shuts it down like a trap door without a key, until an idea, a creation, an act of kindness or an act of resilience brings you and your community together to fight, learn and hold on. You are brave. You are ready for the challenge. You will soon know the depth of your magic.”
The grief: The Two of Swords
Learn to protect yourself. “Opening up an opulent space for self-preservation and understanding. This card requires learning at your own pace, spreading your discoveries into the ether and being gentle with yourself.”
Summary of the draw
To know your strength: withdraw from battles without victories, without winners and without limits. Set your own limits. Meet them with the curiosity of discovery.
Choose as your path the territories that excite you.
To create a balance with your impulses: let them flow from your groundedness.
The powers released will grow in consistency and smoothness.
The resources: The Lovers
Choose the paths that bring joy, then everything becomes easier. “The unity of relationship [the card] urges you to take is the one that exists within yourself, to find peace and compromise […] uniting passion and reason in one whole.” “It reminds you to take responsibility for the choices you make, whether they are rational, passionate, risky, restricted or otherwise.”
The difficulty: Cup Amazon
Idealised romanticism. “You may simply be motivated by the desire to escape the abundance of pain in the world. If you have been driven by fantasy to your own destruction or dissolution, hold your horses! Drink less, work more.”
The contribution: Daughter of Pentacles
Confidence in yourself, in your ability to create wealth. A quiet serenity in your body and territory. The opulence that we share.
The Grief: The Hermit
A time of research and observation. Going within to seek light and wisdom in order to enlighten yourself and radiate.
Summary of the draw
Between the sea and the land, find the space where your vulnerabilities can unfold. The space to welcome your fears and desires. The space where you can let tenderness settle. If it is not here, continue your journey in the light of this quest. Foremost, this space is built within you.
A list of our readings
Our reflections have been built thanks to those of others who have studied these issues before us, and our thoughts are directly inspired by them. Here are some readings that have helped us to understand and put into words:
Audre Lorde. Sister Outsider. USA: The Crossing Press, 1984.
Adrienne Maree Brown. Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. Stirling: AK Press, 2017.
Kai Cheng Thom, “8 Steps Toward Building Indispensability (Instead of Disposability) Culture” in The Village magazine, 2016.
Kai Cheng Thom. I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019.
Kai Cheng Thom, “Why Are Queer People So Mean to Each Other?” in Xtra magazine, 16 August 2019.
Laure Dasinières. “Sam Bourcier: Les militant-e-s virent vers l’individualisme et le ‘ouin ouin’” in 360°: Le magazine queer suisse, 5 May 2022. ()
Lily Zalzett and Stella Fihn. Te plains pas, c’est pas l’usine: l’exploitation en milieu associatif. Le Mas d’Azil: Niet!éditions, 2020.
Lisette Lombe. La magie du burn-out. Bastogne : Image publique éditions, 2017.
Marie Dasylva. “Partir or not : Le dilemme de Sabrina” in the podcast Better Call Marie, 20 mai 2020.
Marie-France Hirigoyen. Le harcèlement moral dans la vie professionnelle. Paris: Pocket, 2002.
Marie Semelin. “Faut-il souffrir pour faire les bien?” in the podcast Travail (en cours) de Louie Media, 2021.
Pascal Chabot. Global Burnout. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.
Pascale Jamoulle. Je n’existais plus. Les mondes de l’emprise et de la déprise. Paris : La Découverte, 2021.
Rokhaya Diallo and Grace Ly. Podcast kiffe ta race
Sarah Schulman. Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017.
Starhawk. The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups. Gabriola: New Society Publishers, 2011.
Dear Lili PJ and Marge,
“How Do We Leave?” is the title of your conversation and the question we try to respond to when I first invite you to write this text six months ago in January 2022. Thank you for accepting the invitation.
What do we say when we leave?
The project of this text begins in the intersection of two engagements of mine: On the one hand, a series of conversations by collaborators in an experimental artistic research project devising processes to carry out arts and transfagbidyke community health projects which aren’t appropriative but cooperative with radical activisms. We carry out this research in partnership with erg: école de recherche graphique arts school in Brussels and with the support of the Fonds de la Recherche en Art in Belgium. Thinking about arts and transfagbidyke community health projects, we test answers to the question: What processes we choose to transmit transfagbidyke knowledges? Yours is the second conversation, published after one that Fátima Masoud Salazar and I titled “To Our Friends in Therapy” and which Brussels theater Kaaitheater issued in 2021.
Time to introduce myself as you did. I’m a white cis rad fag from Castilla-La Mancha. 11 years ago, I move to Brussels. Before that, I obtain a higher education degree in Madrid. In the past, I do admin and curatorial jobs in arts non-profits. Today, I’m an artist benefiting from arts research state funding. My art is administering transfagbidyke assemblies, writing, and performing. I collaborate in transfagbidyke processes for artistic creation and community health.
On the other hand, the project of this text is connected to my participation in the workgroup “A Fair New Idea?!: Working Internationally in The Arts” organized by Flanders Arts Institute in Brussels. More precisely, this text is connected to my stepping out of the workgroup. In the process of my one-year-long involvement with “A Fair New Idea?!,” I join a sub-workgroup on “sustainability,” which I step out of in October 2021. When stepping out, I decide present the reflections leading to such decision to the other participants. I send them this email:
“My interest joining this sub-workgroup was to question the very idea of ‘sustainability.’ To question this idea from my position of a queer arts and activism practitioner. A position that intersects with other struggles. I understand now that this isn’t a forum for such work. Within the group, I don’t want to take the position of continuously having to remind the need that I feel to question sustainability itself from a queer, anticapitalist, and colonialism-aware political standpoint. On the other hand, I don’t wish to stop the group from working on sustainability from their own concerns. Therefore, I step out of this group.”
Following my stepping out, Flanders Arts Institute proposes me that I write on the experience. I do not further want to explain my situation: I’ve stepped out.
How do I leave?
I grasp Flanders Arts Institute’s offer to publish a text as an opportunity for community and public conversations on leaving. Between transfagbidyke people and in the frame of arts discourse making. I invite you two, Lili PJ and Marge, to write this text.
What do we, transfagbidyke people, say when we leave?
Brussels, June 2022
Title in Italian: “Come ce ne andiamo?”, April 2023
Original title in French: “Comment quittons-nous?”
Title in English: “How Do We Leave?”
Written by Lili PJ and Marge
French copyediting by Joëlle Bacchetta
English translation from original French by Raphaël Amahl Khouri
Italian translation from English by Giulia Crispiani
Edited by Castillo
Produced and first published in English and French in March 2023 by Flanders Arts Institute, within the program “A Fair New Idea?!”
First published in Italian by Not.