What does the term survivor mean to you?
I try to think of it as a commitment to my continued presence. My trauma has disrupted my relationship to the present and I have anxiety about having anxiety and I worry about living in the past or living out the past. My greatest tool thus far for building resilience has been remembering that I am still here and describing to others what my here and now looks like.
What do you want other survivors to know?
I want them to know what to do with their more complicated feelings. I am very sensitive to my self doubt and my seemingly contradictory feelings or reactions to things and I am very hard on myself and often that can lead to coping mechanisms that ultimately make things worse. I want to know how to live with that and not feel beholden to this linear narrative of healing. Because when I deviate from it, it feels awful.
How can someone be a good ally?
I’ll just speak for me personally, I’m sure everyone wants different kinds of support. But I think allies can help me best by helping me get my voice and agency back. Content warnings are helpful because it gives me my agency back. I get to decide when and how I want to engage with my trauma. Little gifts give me my agency back because they are a tokens of appreciation that don’t ask anything of me. I can very easily slip into a protective people-pleasing mode when sharing space with people, even when folks are doing their best to center me. Gifts make me feel worthy and offer private reflective moments to observe myself and feel comfortable with myself again. I honestly wish I could coordinate a self care fund (I don’t feel worthy of it) because my assault has cost me so much money. I lost scholarships, I dropped out of school. I’m lucky that I have been able to get some counseling for free but I’ve spent thousands on therapies. Now that the stress is starting to manifest physically, I wish I could afford more pain management therapies.
Was it difficult for you to open up to friends and/or family? If you haven't, would you?
It was difficult; a lot of people that are close to me, family or partners, found the disclosure to be heartbreaking and painful so I considered that and wanted to spare them. But in a lot of cases, it empowered loved ones to share their experiences. I try to make space for that because I want to undo all this generational trauma.
What has been some of the most difficult parts of the healing process for you?
Just believing that it’s possible.
How do you relate to shame and fear?
I experience a lot of self isolation due to the shame I still feel from being assaulted. Shame often leads to a fear of rejection and a defensive self isolation. It’s a viscous cycle that results in the denial of a lot of care.
How do you feel empowered? How do you, or have you, empowered yourself?
I have to practice self advocacy and putting myself in situations to practice is sometimes stressful, but ultimately empowering, and often a great relief. I treasure the people and moments where I can find a sense of ease sticking up for myself and voicing my desires. I also have found a lot of therapeutic work in gardening and erasure poetry. In my work with erasure poetry and with the cut up method, I try to accept the earth-shattering nature of the traumatic event and try to put the text back together, finding regenerated forms in what was lost.
What is self-care, and healing, for you?
Gardening has been the ultimate in self care. It’s pleasurable, it’s nourishing, it’s novel and surprising in the best ways. When something doesn’t grow like expected or yield, I always find myself delighted with what I end up with, odd shapes, bolting flowers. So I like to spend as much time as possible in that safe, green space. Self advocacy is also a part of self care and when I frame it that way, it helps me get over the scarier aspects of voicing my desires.
What has been a positive experience for you when sharing your experiences with others?
Sharing the story with an older generation and excavating their stories and offering healing over the generations (and getting healing and wisdom in return).
Define happiness for you.
Happiness for me would probably look like an implicit trust in myself and an implicit kindness towards myself. I’m not there yet. I am still sometimes obsessive over my faults and mistakes and the negative experiences stacked up in my memory. I want to get to a place where none of that means that I have to discount myself, that I can’t make change for the better, in my own life and the lives of others.
What makes you feel joy?
Being pleasantly surprised, some small bafflement when the universe puts its hand on the small of my aching back and whispers to me “look alive, germ. you’re not going to want to miss this.”
Describe a good day for you.
Waking up with the sun well-rested, no nightmares or stress dreams, and it’s such a nice sunrise that I have to take a picture and post it to Instagram. Then I make breakfast for myself, a fried egg and whole-roasted cherry tomatoes, and good coffee that doesn’t burn my tongue. I finish a book and return it to the library with no fees and I don’t get any scam phone calls or debt collectors all day. Just my friends checking in with me. I go to work in the city and everyone calls me by my name. I go to the garden to pick more tomatoes for tomorrow’s breakfast and they don’t get crushed at the party. And I find myself leaving the party early that night, feeling warm and full from whatever food and drink my community provided, and I feel really loved and taken care of.
What makes you feel secure and safe?
Warmth. It helps my aching body. Sometimes weight helps me when I feel like my insides want to leap out and scatter.
Does your art/writing help you cope?
Yes, certainly the cut up and erasure methods that I have mentioned before. But my writing, especially the more authorial stuff, also feels like self-assertion, which I don’t like. Rape culture has this insidious way of saying that if you assert yourself, you will be punished. Better to be small. I am very attracted to audacity in art for this purpose. Even if I don’t work it into my art, it’s therapeutic to be in the presence of art that demands attention and space.
What inspires you?
Neon colors. Glass. All kinds of people.
How do you want others to see you? How do you see yourself?
I want others to see me as capable and trustworthy and kind. I see myself as someone who has made too many mistakes and who experiences a lot of need and acts from a place of lack. I don’t want to look to others for validation in the way that I do, I want to be able to generate it more myself. And I want to freely give it away without feeling like it’s at a cost.
Tell me something you'd like others to know about you. Could be anything.
I’d like them to know, if they don’t know, that my name is germ.
Germ Lynn is a cellist and writer. Born in Florida, they got their start by publishing poetry in DIY zines such as Cracked on the Rock and Achey Breaky Heart Zine. They were one of the first writers to be selected for New York City’s Hypergraphic Writer’s Workshop, which highlights the voices of emergent LGBTQ+ authors. Their first work of short fiction, Swampwater, will be featured in a collection of short stories published by Hypergraphic. Their erasure poetry will be published in a collection of experimental/automatic works titled Rendering Unconscious (Trapart Books, 2019). Radix Media will publish their second work of fiction, a science fiction short titled What You Call. You can find them on Instagram.