In all honesty, I’m not sure ultimately where I want to take the idea for The Anti-Stigma Project. I feel like there’s something big here, I just haven’t pinned it down yet. I mean, there are sooooo many things that our society unnecessarily attaches a sort of “automatic” stigma to, for one reason or another (or even for seemingly no reason at all). And living under the black cloud of that stigma can have a lot of really damaging, negative consequences for a lot of people, not even just for the people immediately affected by it, but for the people that those people interact with, and so on and so forth.

Just look at the top news stories over the past decade or two. The pain and suffering caused by ceaseless stigmatization has driven people to do unthinkable things, including causing harm to themselves and/or others. It shouldn’t be that way, and I believe it doesn’t have to be that way, but there is also sooooo much work to be done to dismantle the stigmas that are all around us every day.

What is stigma?

The word “stigma” itself has some religious roots, but a stigma is basically any mark of shame, dishonor, or disgrace attached to someone because of some perceived difference or “abnormality” setting them apart from the majority. Stigmatization is often achieved by means of some sort of labeling or stereotyping.

Bullying is born in stigma

the anti-stigma project -- woman with finger to lips shushing, with tape over mouth

When you think about it, bullying — the act of persecuting someone for being different — would not exist without stigma. Our schools would be less contentious environments without stigma, and the anti-bullying movement would never have had to come into being.

Without stigma, I wouldn’t have to be afraid to send my future child into the school system and be considering homeschooling instead.

(I have seriously had this thought in the past. No way would I trust my kid in the public school system. Or even a private one. But “future child” isn’t in the cards for me at this point in my life anyway, just FYI.) Anyway, seriously, think of all the good The Anti-Stigma Project could do.

No one is safe from stigma

No one is really safe from stigma in today’s world, unfortunately, because stigma can attach to just about anything that the majority might perceive as different (and thus threatening to the majority’s status quo), but underrepresented groups are very disproportionately affected, as you might imagine. This concept is especially prominent in the limelight at this time of year, as Pride month comes to a close.

See my stigma, hear me roar

Some of the issues in this realm that are nearest and dearest to my own heart include the stigmas attached to:

  • being a nerd (my original sin… which was a painful AF stigma to suffer through when I was in high school, but is now, miraculously, wondrously… trendy!?? #notfair!!),
  • having a non-mainstream sexual orientation (I’m pansexual and demisexual — the first part means I experience attraction without regard to gender; and the second part means that feeling a strong, intimate mental connection with a person is a big part of what draws me to them),
  • living a polyamorous lifestyle,
  • being an ex-drinker / non-drinker of alcohol,
  • living full-time in an RV,
  • having a history of body dysmorphia / eating disorder issues, and
  • being kinky / into the BDSM lifestyle (yep, I said it out loud here where the world can see… umm… sorry, mom).

All of these uniquenesses — things that to me are nothing more than a part of me being me and living life true to myself — are things that many people might see as “abnormal” and thus shun, ridicule, or even just generally talk smack about me for.

The dark side of stigmatization

the anti-stigma project -- woman covering her face with her hands

However, there is a darker side to stigmatization… a side where physical violence sometimes peeks its ugly head out… a side where stigmatized individuals in far-flung locations might find themselves not just persecuted or forced into hiding, but also in complete and utter isolation from community support… a side where millions of voices are still crying out in the dark. Those voices deserve to be heard.

Dismantling stigma by living out loud

Now I don’t have any easy answers to all of this, but I think the more we tell our stories, own our differences as parts of ourselves we are PROUD of, and live authentically “out loud,” the less power stigma has over us. That’s why I’m telling my stories here. That’s part of what my whole “feed your flame” spiel is getting at, too. And I guess that’s really what The Anti-Stigma Project is all about, when it comes down to it.

That’s also incidentally why I don’t worry so much about potential stray pics of my naughty bits floating around the world anymore (based on my limited in-the-field research, sexting is something I’m pretty sure most of us of a certain age have tried at least once, whether we admit it or not). Because damn it, if I sent you a pic, it was f*cking sexy. And if you share it without my consent, then you are just a big butthead racking up loads of bad karma for yourself. And none of that changes the fact that I’m proud of my body and not ashamed that I am a sexual being (although my sex life recently might argue that last point, I think).

Okay sexting and naughty pics was a bit of a digression from the main point, but you get the idea, I think. I’ll write more on The Anti-Stigma Project here in the blog as ideas come, and I’m also considering addressing this further on The Trish-tagram Feed, so check me out there too!