My parents personify the ideals I’ve internalized over the course of my life. They represent all that enslaved me until recently, as they are the primary parties responsible for implanting all manner of cumbersome ideals within my psyche. When I finally came to realize that my parents do not hold special knowledge or power, inaccessible to me, I was able to, at last, evaluate these ideals–to scrutinize them, and to determine for myself, whether they were worth preserving or discarding. As it turns out, I’ve discarded most.
When I began sharing my personal narrative on TikTok, I didn’t have to worry about my parents’ witness. I shared all, and I shared freely, completely detached from any potential repercussions, as my folks do not use that platform (and thanks to increased xenophobia induced by the right leaning political narrative, they likely never will). Completely detached from the symbolic relationship, I proceeded without caution.
Eventually, I decided to share my story on YouTube. I knew my dad subscribed to my channel, and I was careful for a while, to use diplomacy in the narration of my tale. However, with no response or interaction from my father, I became cavalier. I took for granted the fact that he was likely watching. I assumed he wasn’t, since he’d failed to reference the content when we did interact. This illusion, of his absence from my audience, prompted bolder risks.
I began to tell my story with the same candor I’d already used on TikTok. My freedom rested in the fantasy that I was not bound by the demand to preserve my parents’ feelings. If they weren’t watching, I faced no confrontation with my repressed desire to please or protect.
Todd McGowan reflects on the psychoanalytic principle of the gaze, in Capitalism and Desire. We assume that our experiences are exactly as we perceive them, without consideration of the role of subjectivity in their construction. Experience is distorted by our desire, which is inextricable from all we encounter. Yet, we lack awareness of the interplay, until it accosts us. This confrontation with the gaze (which is our subjectivity embedded within experience) forces us to acknowledge that experience is “distorted by our desire.”
“This distortion forces us to reexamine everything that we see…The encounter with the gaze transforms the subject by creating an awareness in the subject of its role in producing what it sees.”Todd McGowan, Capitalism and Desire
My dad had been watching my YouTube videos, all along. When I published one regarding my parents’ complicity in my experience of teen sexual assault (via neglectful parenting choices), my mom confronted me through a barrage of lengthy text messages. She accused me of marring dad’s reputation and of lying to my audience to garner followers, views, and praise. She shamed me; for, by sharing my story, I’d deeply wounded my father.
After this encounter, I blocked my mom’s phone number, and within the next month, I blocked her email address. In the beginning, I know she attempted to reach out to me, but I’m confident, by now, she’s come to terms with the fact that I’ve blocked her. It’s been seven months.
I endured traumatic confrontation with the gaze. My subjectivity deceived me. I mistakenly believed I could simultaneously protect my parents from my pain, while broadcasting my story far and wide to an unknown audience.
My desire to please my parents, mixed with an unconscious compulsion to confront them, erupted in the form of YouTube content. I think I’ve always wanted to face this contradiction.
My parents damaged me. I have long since played the role of their savior. I don’t want to play that role any longer.
My desire to please them–to protect their feelings–out of a need to meet their demand for me to do so–no longer outweighs my desire to walk boldly in my own truth. At last, I desire authenticity more than I desire their approval.
The impending consternation of my folks terrified me. This is why I initially operated covertly in producing and disseminating my content. Once the siren sounded–once battle ensued–there was nothing left to fear. I’ve lost only what I never truly had in them and from them. There is no shame in my calculated advance because I know I march in truth and power.
“Freedom does not consist in fighting against some dominant external power but in recognizing that the subject must provide the ground for its own act.”Todd McGowan, Emancipation After Hegel
In anticipation of the fray, my parents’ approval held me captive. My stealthy mission only served to substantialize their influence over my will. Once the relationship severed, so did the influence.
I have been protecting these humans at my own expense for far too long. Should I bear remorse for the pain my revelation causes them now? I won’t. I will empathize with their pain, but I will no longer let it rule me.