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May 2016
When I was younger I bit my tongue so hard that all you can see in my mouth is blood and the colour red. They thought it wasn’t severe and just a normal bite but they didn’t know that bite would change my life. My mother brought me to a doctor who she called “******”. The doctor told me that in order to stop the bleeding, he will need a thread and a needle, to do the job of putting stitches to my tongue. My mother thought, “Is this doctor crazy? Sewing my daughter’s tongue? Is he serious?”, my mother was worried about the things that are bound to happen to my tongue, that it will connect to my speaking, that I will have a speech deficiency, but that time all I worried about was the pain. Of course, I was young, and kids were afraid of pain. Kids were afraid of bruises, wounds, blood. But they were never afraid of the world, instead, they loved it. But now, I think I see it in a different way. Thinking of all the things that are happening to my life I think the doctor is sending me a different message. A needle, a thread, putting stitches to my tongue, I think this doctor is telling me to shut up. At such a young age, he was warning a little girl who didn’t even know reality yet to keep her mouth shut, does he know that these things would happen when I grow up? That the moment my eyes will be open by reality my entire perspective will change? That I won’t let my voice not to be heard? That my tongue will serve as my gun and my words will be the bullets that can ****? I wondered if he knew, but I also wonder how is he now, where is he. Because I would want to say some words that I didn’t get to say before when I was just a small child who had her tongue held back to prevent her for the words she was about to say.

I would want him to know that I will not keep my mouth shut.

I will not keep my mouth shut because we tell young girls how they should act, what they should wear. Don’t go to the streets in the middle of the night, don’t wear that, that’s too short. Because ever since we were young we already needed validation from everyone.
I will not keep my mouth shut because we teach girls how to prevent being harassed instead of teaching people to stop harassing girls. Because the questions you will get after that are “What were you wearing?”, “Were you drunk that time?”, and that oh so famous line “Maybe you were asking for it.” Did you think I dressed up that night and got drunk because I was waiting for someone to ruin my life?
I will not keep my mouth shut because we still make jokes about ****, we still think it’s funny, we think something that could destroy someone else’s life is hilarious. And you tell us, “Lighten up, couldn’t you take a joke?”.
I will not keep my mouth shut because my clothes determine my consent, the shortness of my skirt will tell you that I want your hands to touch my thighs, my sleeveless top will send you a confirmation that I want your skin to touch the different parts of my body. That I don’t have my own name because you are throwing different ones to me, I never knew my name on my birth certificate was “hot thing.” But then you did it again while I was wearing long sleeves and jeans, what’s your excuse now?
I will not keep my mouth shut because you think that being a woman is an insult, you will shout phrases like “You’re such a girl.”, “You fight like a girl.”, because we are seen as damsels in distress that are always in need to be saved, because we are the weaker ***, right? But why, that when the moment we already fight and be the heroes of our own that makes us less of a woman and more of a man.
I will not keep my mouth shut because when a boy gets harassed you will tell him to “man up, dude.”, because boys are meant to be strong and women are meant to be pretty, because boys should avoid being sensitive and girls should not be powerful, because blue is for boys and pink is for girls, but didn’t it ever crossed your mind that maybe colours and descriptions could be for both?
I will not keep my mouth shut because we always need to be modest, hush, act like a lady, the way of your sitting is not very ladylike, your clothes are not really for girls, your taste in music isn’t fit for a lady like you. Because you see us a delicate flower that you can pick and own all the time. But let me tell you this, we aren’t just flowers, we are fire. And when you play with us,  prepare to be burnt.
I will not keep my mouth shut because all my life that’s what you’ve been telling me, and after that say sorry. Say sorry for fighting for your rights, say sorry for speaking up, say sorry for not being silent. And tell me, does my voice terrify you? I hope it does.
I will not keep my mouth shut and I am not sorry about it,
I will not keep my mouth shut because I can not,
I will not keep my mouth shut and I never ever will.

After our encounter with the crazy doctor, we found another one, the second doctor, and he said, there’s no need for sewing, you will only need to put some ice to stop the bleeding. I think he even gave me a frozen delight. I didn’t get to thank him before and now I want to see him and see what he’s doing. I think he forgot to give me a message before, a message that he was dying to tell but couldn’t because I was only a child, but now I think I know it. I think I heard him say these words to me in my dream last night:

**“Not because you bit your tongue, that doesn’t stop you from speaking. Don’t be silent, speak up.”
Kelly Bitangcol
Written by
Kelly Bitangcol  Philippines
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