I learned to talk earlier than any growth chart predicted, but I never had a voice. My mother spent all her time teaching me wrong from right, so by the time I grew up I could stand up for all the people suffering from injustice. Even in pre-school, I could tell some classmates were better than other classmates. They would steal toys and push kids on the playground as they smiled politely at the teacher. I never understood how some people feel entitled based on who they are. Who came up with those ideas? How did they become accepted? Why do we brush them off with cute sayings like “boys will be boys” and “girls are naturally catty”? I tried to stick up for the other kids, but my mouth would take shape of words and no sound would come out.

The older I got the girls I hung out with were really mean. I didn’t want to exclude other girls from sleepovers, but no one could hear my whispers protesting their life-ruining comments. When you are a pre-teen girl and you don’t look like the women in the magazines, you might as well be ostracized because, someone in the grade, thought this is what it takes to get your first boyfriend. If your body isn’t defined by an unrealistic idealization, you might as well start walking back to elementary school. Where the students are still convinced the opposite sex still has cooties. Doesn’t anybody understand that a young girl’s body isn’t supposed to look like that?

When I went to college, I saw a lot of things that could never be unseen. I heard stories of torture. I saw men hurting women and women hurting men and women hurting women and men hurting men and people hurting animals. I knew it was all wrong, but when I tried to scream at them I choked on the dryness that overcame the back of my throat. By the time I found water, everyone disappeared as if minutes before the world wasn’t on fire in the eyes of a survivor.

My first job out of college I became an advocate. At first, I was so quiet that people questioned me. I was an exhibit at a museum; they never seen someone so silent and still. I needed to perform surgery on myself to fix my voice. The whispers from my childhood came back. I practiced as if my voice was an instrument. It may still be- very much- out of tune, but my words are being accompanied by sound now. I stand up for people when there is injustice because that is what my mama taught me. I could’ve been the good person I thought of myself, but my silence sided with the bad people. If only I always had a voice I could have saved the forgotten people. I could have saved myself time after time from all the girls who were mean to me, from all the teachers who told me I’d fail in life, from all the men that made me feel worthless, from the voice of doubt in my head.

So, if you are a kid born without a voice, I beg you to try to find it. There will be more times where you are shouting alone than standing with like-minded people. Just remember one voice can be as loud as a thousand. If you believe in something or find fault in the world, use your voice. You might stutter over words and your vocal chords will probably crack, but someone will hear you.