Welcome to the big finale installment of the introvert’s guide to activism! Today we take on the big one: Protests. If you ease yourself into it, protests for (most) shy folk are not all that hard to participate in. Today I’m going to try to help you do just that.
First thing’s first, if you can go with someone, do so. Obviously having a buddy with you will make you feel more comfortable and at ease. But if that isn’t the case, you’re probably already fairly comfortable going out and doing things on your own; and you are already aware of how to navigate your exit strategy in a crowd of people from getting dragged to a party by that well-meaning friend who just thought you needed to “get out more.” We’re going to need those odd powers of ours to participate in a demonstration.
If you’re bad at finding places, make notes (even if they’re so specific it’s silly) so you don’t get lost on the way and talk yourself out of it. Plan an exit strategy in case you just can’t handle the crowd. This is good advice for anyone in a protest really, because if it gets violent when or if police get involved, you might not be thinking clearly enough to plan an escape route on the spot. Choose an area within the crowd that makes you feel safe. If you feel brave as the day goes on, slowly move to more crowded areas. You also may notice that once you’re in a crowd you do have a decent amount of space around you. Don’t forget to pump yourself up & piss yourself off! Create a playlist of music that makes you feel like a bad ass or read an article about what you’re protesting against on the way there.
Don’t feel bad for X, Y, and Z.
I struggle with this a lot. The fact that you are attending a protest is definitely enough for the moment, if you aren’t chanting along with the crowd, it’s okay and does not mean that you care any less about the cause. If you get claustrophobic and have to leave, at least you still participated for as long as you did. And if you took pictures, you can go home and post them, which could spark conversation. Don’t feel like you deserve to be there? If you happen to make an acquaintance, tell them and tell them why you feel that way. Chances are they will either feel the same or tell you that you absolutely deserve to participate. Solidarity is important.
If you do want to talk to people, use what you’ve got. I make self-deprecating statements about being shy. “Hey I’m super shy and don’t wanna wander around here alone, mind if I walk with you guys for a bit?”
I understand that talking to strangers is tough, and you don’t have to if you’re cool with hanging out on your own. If you want to though, you can always use the age-old shy person’s plan: create a sentence or two in your head and repeat it till you feel confident saying out loud. Let me tell you though, the best place to practice talking to strangers is in activist spaces. 90% of the people there will gladly talk to you and tell you their stories.
Before heading to a May Day parade, you may want to try going to sponsored and planned marches where the streets are blocked off for pedestrians only, and police won’t get involved. It may not feel as ‘radical’ but you’ll meet people of all ages and that might make you feel more at ease, knowing that these kids and older folks care about something so much that they’re still out supporting it. From there you can slowly work yourself up to bigger unplanned protests. But as always, as cliché as it sounds, try to use your passion to drive you. Remind yourself why this is important to you and push forward. (No protest pun intended.)
Jamie is a modest transman from Montreal, where he does casual work for a gaming company as a localization tester. He’s obsessed with news and politics, and would rant about injustice all day if he could.