Guest Post: Thoughts on Spencer and Those Who Stand Out

Editor’s note: We’re featuring a series of guest posts by the fabulous Emily Swayne, a geeky therapist who sees clients at Blue Box Counseling & Wellness in Minnesota.

This week, Emily is reflecting on the movie, Spencer, and experiences of those who stand out.

I’ve just recently (finally) watched the movie Spencer.

I’ve never been much of a history buff and honestly, I don’t know that much about Princess Diana, although this movie has made me want to learn more. I also have the biggest, fattest crush on Kristen Stewart so really, I think anything with her in it is likely worth watching in my book. But none of that is what I really want to talk about in this post.

As I think about the movie and the feelings and thoughts it provoked in me, maybe it seems silly as I’m far from being a princess and I will likely never ever know how heavy the head that wears the crown feels, but I could see pieces of myself in her. Pieces that felt similar to my own story. I know how it feels to be encouraged to just go through the motions the way one is expected to and to be treated differently when I do not. I recognized in that movie something that I sadly believe to be true of the world in general; and that is that the people who fit themselves into whatever structure and rules and roles that dominant social narratives demand, too often seem to hate those of us who don’t. Or perhaps fear us. Or loathe us. It’s one of the things about this life that baffles me- why can’t we just let people live their lives as their authentic selves without trying to impose our own ways upon them? Why do so many try to beat people down when they’re different? Why is it that so often those that shine the brightest in their truth and authenticity are cut down mercilessly for it?

I’m going to pause here for a disclaimer. I’m not saying that if people are being unsafe towards themselves and/or others that we shouldn’t try to support them and utilize resources to help them. I’m not saying that the world should be an anything goes, no holds barred, free for all of anything people want. The point I’m trying to make is, why is it 2022 and we’re still making laws that harm queer and trans people? Why do we still try to enforce christian values on a nation that is full of non-christians? Why shouldn’t women who want abortions be able to do so safely and legally? Why are black people still constantly being killed by police? Why is it that so often the more you stray from what is expected of you the more you lose, often much needed, love and support? And why, when we don’t live up to pre-determined social scripts or people’s expectations of us (like being white, straight, heterosexual, neurotypical, healthy, wealthy) are we vilified for it? Where is the understanding that we are all, every single one of us, just human beings trying to muddle our way through and do our best?

Back in what feels like a former lifetime I was a christian. There’s a lot of talk in certain christian traditions about being persecuted and under attack. I can assure you that I have never felt as widely and harshly judged as I have since I’ve realized that I’m polyamorous and queer. However, since discovering that and leaving the christian tradition I’ve also never felt more fully and truly free and myself. Over the course of these realizations, I have lost more people I love than I can even count on both hands and feet. It’s a strange feeling to simultaneously be thrilled for what the future could be as this truer version of myself while at the same time feeling like I’m literally dying a slow death under the weight of the grief. I wanted the people who loved me to want to know the true me, wanted them to be excited to see me more fully alive; I hoped I would find support, but with many people what I have found is judgement, misunderstanding, and abandonment.

When Diana is running through memories and thoughts of her life, when she stands at the precipice considering suicide, when she feels she can never fit in a world that assures her she is not doing things right at each and every turn…I’ve felt that, more times than I’d like to count. Inclusion, celebration, acceptance, love – these things literally save lives. There is another moment in the movie where Diana wonders if she will be remembered for being insane and wonders about her mental health and a friend says to her: “What you need is love. Love, shocks, and laughter. Plenty of it.” Isn’t that true for all of us? Don’t we all just want to be seen and loved and accepted? Don’t we all want to be allowed to grow bigger and different than the containers people construct for us?

Some of the most beautiful, incredible humans I know are people who don’t fit into the stereotypical molds that society tries to make for us. People who are queer, neurodivergent, non-monogamous, disabled, mentally “ill”, artists, the “weirdos”- people who are standing strong against the push back and living life on their terms. Why do so many seem to want a world in which we are all the same? I just can’t wrap my mind around it. I think our differences can be so beautiful and can bring so much more to the table. Maybe it’s because we as humans are still much less evolved than we’d like to think, and still act in fear of what is different or what we see as “other”. Perhaps it feels easier for some to try to bully people into submission or push them away if that proves unfruitful, rather than to sit in the possible discomfort and lack of surety of allowing others their autonomy, choices, and freedoms.

There’s a song in the musical Hamilton where Burr agonizes over the fact that he didn’t realize until it was too late that the world was big enough for both him and Hamilton, two men that ran in similar circles and likely had much in common, but in numerous ways couldn’t be more different. Guys, the world is f*cking big enough. Let people be who they are. Hell, celebrate them for it. THAT is something that will make this world a better place, unlike trying to force each other into assimilation with our own views and practices. I would rather love someone for who they are and what they bring to the table rather than hate them for what they do not. I believe true love, acceptance, and celebration can save lives while isolation, rejection, and ostracism can take them. Would Diana’s life have turned out different if she could’ve been accepted and celebrated and seen for who she was despite being a royal? I don’t know. What I do know is my life, and likely the lives of people you love, would be significantly better if we were celebrated for who we are rather than who others want us to be.

Struggling with societal, family, or religious pressures to fit into a box that is not you-shaped? Want to work with a therapist who gets it? Reach out to Emily to schedule today.

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Guest blogs do not necessarily reflect the views, values, or stance of POW! Psychotherapy, its owners and therapists, or other contributors.

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