Have you ever felt labeled? I would think, if you are human, the answer would be OF COURSE! Have you ever struggled with what you want to be labeled as? Because I sure do.
My whole life I have been labeled. When I was a child I was an awkward "freckle face red head". When I was in high school I was a "teen mom". When I got married I was a "military wife". When I got into the game I was "a prostitute". When people started recognizing that I was searching for help I was a "victim" and now that I am trying to make a difference in the community, more specifically against Exploitation, I am a "survivor".
Now I am not innocent in obtaining the name of a "survivor" because I honestly didn't know what else to label myself as when I was transitioning out of the game. But now that I have been out a while and done a lot of growing and self seeking as well as many different collaborative events, I am starting to despise the word. At first I felt empowered by it. "Yeah! I am a survivor.. I survived all these horrible things!" But now I am starting to feel like it limits my growth.
In order to be a survivor you have to have first been a victim. And I HATE that phrase and label. So by labeling myself a Survivor I feel as if I am choosing to stay attached to victimization. I also feel as though that all others see when I choose to include that in who I am. "Hi, I'm Jaimee and I am a survivor of sex trafficking" is starting to slowly give me the same type of feelings I got when I was in the game as when I would introduce myself as an "escort" or "stripper".
"Survivor" limits my capabilities in my eyes.
When I go to speak at events to empower and educate, if I start off the sharing, or someone introduces me as a survivor, the whole demeanor of the room changes. Its very heavy and apparent. People are scared to offend you, they are scared to look at you the wrong way, they are sympathetic and kind of looking at you like a lost puppy. Sometimes people look at you in disgust they try to hide and sometimes people look at you as a zoo exhibit waiting for their chance to get up close and personal.
None of these are helpful or progressive in the reason I share anything about my experience or expertise. I share to encourage, give strength, and send love to those who maybe feel discouraged or shamed of their past. I share to educate on certain areas only someone who has been there first hand would know. I share to help a family recognize and interject with the children or young adults in their lives who may fall into a similar downward spiral.
I don't ever share for pity, sympathy or attention. I was given my battles to overcome so that I could make a change in my family, my loved ones and my community. And I am starting to see that with labels, that is not possible.
You see, the women and men that choose to share their trauma openly, they don't do it for a label. They do it for freedom. They do it to get their power back. They do it to take back what was stolen from them. They do it to use their pain as power and trials as triumph. They do it to make a difference. They do it to open minds and hearts and eyes. They do it to help others understand. They do it to help themselves understand. They do it to heal and help.
They don't do it to be put in another box with your label on it.
"So what do you want to be called?" Is usually the question followed by my rant about the word survivor.
I want to be called "Jaimee". Because my whole life I have been known as everything but that and after 29 years of being on this Earth. I finally want to understand who JAIMEE is without any directing propositions that labels give.
What do you want to be called?