Our hands were linked wrist to wrist, pulse to pulse, as I held my trapeze partner in the air. The stage lights illuminated the contrast between dark and light skin as we moved through our act in unity. As our feet touched the ground, we took a bow and joyfully scampered into the wings, where a dozen friends fell upon us with jokes and hugs. Like squirming puppies of the same litter, we all collapsed into a laughing dog pile on the polka dotted floor.
Those friends are my circus family. Though we come from different backgrounds, we love each other deeply and openly. When we hold each other up physically while practicing circus arts, we learn to lift each other emotionally as well. In an unparalleled and nearly breathtaking way, our mutual trust and shared vulnerability reinforce each other to build bonds stronger than the aerialists who form them.
So when members of my circus family are hurt because society marginalizes them in some way– whether that be their race, gender identity, religion, or mental health– my blood boils for them. I want to support them, so I listen. I make myself available and willing to hear and validate their stories. And when they trust me with their perspectives, no matter how greatly these differ from my own, I honor their experiences and use them as motivation to educate myself. My circus family has made me aware of my privileges, but I have also learned that privilege is not an excuse for me to blindly disregard discrimination. Rather, it is a cause for me to defend others, love them fiercely, and lift them up with me.