It’s been two months since the controversy over my past erupted in the blogosphere. The debate surrounding me has become bigger than I (or anyone I know) could have imagined. This week’s article in The Atlantic reignited the discussion, and has led to a new round of blogposts. Four for which I am personally grateful are here and here and here and here. I am also sincerely appreciative of posts which have been less friendly but no less thoughtful, such as this one.
Lawyers have done for me what I couldn’t do for myself: forced me to stop writing about the most controversial aspects of my situation. I’m not able to discuss publicly the nature of the legal injunction that bars me from speaking further about my pre-sobriety past, but can say that I am not currently under criminal investigation nor am I engaged in any civil litigation.
I can also say that silence on these matters is personally as well as legally necessary. This whole business has exacted a tremendous toll on my family and my friends. In order to prioritize my sobriety, and in order to remain the best husband, father, friend, son, brother and mentor I can be, I’ve needed to stay out of many of the most heated public discussions of my life, my writing, and my role in feminist community. It has been an extraordinarily painful and challenging time; I’ve lost many friends who have — for a host of reasons I won’t question — found it impossible to remain in relationship with me as a result of what they’ve learned about my history. Worse still has been seeing the pain that this has caused loved ones who are fiercely protective of me. By staying out of these debates, I’ve hoped to calm things for their sakes.
I remain convinced, as I wrote last month, that withdrawing from explicitly feminist spaces remains the best course of action. In the past, I have centered myself — or allowed myself to be centered — too often in those forums. While I do think that there is a role for men in feminism; it isn’t clear to me that someone with my past is a good candidate to take such a role. I believe in feminism today just as passionately as I did two months ago; indeed, the tools I learned in feminist community have helped me tremendously throughout this painful time. But it’s one thing to believe in feminism — and another altogether to be one of the better-known male faces of the movement.
I’m still listening to voices on all sides of this debate; some want me to continue to do public feminist work, some don’t. (The number of emails I get daily has fallen considerably, but I’m still getting 15-20 messages a day, evenly divided between the supportive and the condemnatory.) The voices I’m closest to remind me that it’s still too soon to make long-term decisions about the shape of my career. Though these last two months have seemed interminable, not enough time has passed for complete clarity to arrive. So things will remain in flux a little while longer.
As difficult as this controversy has been personally and professionally, I’m grateful for it. It has forced me to confront aspects of my personal and public privilege I hadn’t fully considered before; it has forced me to take responsibility for my cavalier attitude towards telling other people’s stories. It is an opportunity to grow, and I don’t want to squander it. Part of ensuring that this chance isn’t wasted is taking more time to reflect, to listen, and to say “thank you” over and over again.