A couple of weeks ago, I joined an LGBT organization in my current city of residence. I’ve already settled in so I decided it was time I continue to serve as an advocate for gay rights.
For my rights.
I long for a day we live in a society where there is nothing to fight for because we are all seen and recognized as equal. But alas, utopic idealism never got anyone anywhere. You have to support your dreams with hard work and perseverance.
So there I was at my first volunteer meeting. There were boys and girls present. Gays and lesbians. Bisexuals and transgendered. As a newcomer, I was asked to introduce myself.
“My name is Dolly. I’m a lesbian. I’ve been living here for a little over a year and I’m with you today because I’d like to help in whatever way I can. If you want to know anything else about me, just ask. I’m a pretty easy person to talk to.”
I like to keep it simple.
The meeting continued, I learned about a march the group was planning to bring visibility against discrimination and homophobia. I volunteered to do a few things and that was that. At the end of the meeting, a few girls approached me.
“So you’re a lesbian?” they asked, unconvinced.
“I am.” “How long have you been one?”
“Since as long as I can remember.”
“You mean you’ve never had a boyfriend”
“I didn’t say that…”
“So you’re bisexual?”
“I didn’t say that either.”
There was something about them, my inquisitors. They were the kind of women you could spot from a far were into other women. I envied that because I’ve always felt like this is something I have never had. No one has ever “mistook” me for a lesbian before.
Here I was in front of a group of lesbians pressuring me to confess that I was bisexual…
…Except I’m not.
I always thought that if I looked more like a lesbian that my life would somehow be better…. But what the hell does a lesbian look like?
Sure, they’re the stereotypes, for example: Butch or femme.
There are of course the infamous tells: short fingernails, short hair, wearing a thumb ring, partial to expansion earrings. Even possible facial hair, multicolored hair, wears sneakers, etc.
I’m cringing just writing this, but they are a real depiction of some big misconceptions that society has about us. About me.
The reason I have longer fingernails is because I haven’t had a significant partner in over a year. We keep our nails short so as to not harm our partner during sexual intercourse. Since I have no partner, I have no intercourse therefore I do not need to cut my nails. Although in retrospect I probably should if I ever want to change my status.
And short hair? I love my hair. It is one of the sexiest things about me. It makes me feel sexy, why would I chop all that hotness off?
I could go on but I think you get me point. It is that is we are all unique and by being our authentic and unique self we might find that we do not fit into the boxes or categories that society has allocated for us. And that is OKAY. Hell, it’s more than okay, it is AWESOME. We need to take pride in who we are even if no one else understands or accepts us. It doesn’t end there. What we identify as and who we love is just a singular expression of the macrocosm that we are.
I am a writer. I am a teacher. I am a traveler. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a woman.
Being a lesbian does not mitigate the accomplishments I have achieved, in fact, I believe it enhances them. I remember that after a poem of mine got published I received a compliment from my friend’s partner. He said to me, “not bad… for a lesbian.”
This hit a nerve. I felt insulted, degraded. Like being a lesbian was some kind of handicap that I carried around. Never in my life had I seen it that way until this stranger made that comment.
I imagined what my life would look like if every aspect of it was judged by my sexual orientation:
“You’re a good teacher… for a lesbian.”
“You’re a good daughter… for a lesbian.”
“You’re a great friend… for a lesbian.”
“You’re a terrible feminist… for a lesbian.”
Bizarre, right?As if lesbians couldn’t be great teachers or poets and are only, somehow, allowed to be good feminists and friends.
We have been stereotyped for long enough and I think it’s time we start breaking that paradigm in order to create a new one that is inclusive of our individuality.
So if you’ve ever felt like me, I encourage you today to embrace your uniqueness as I have. To love yourself knowing that there isn’t a soul on earth that could replace you. You are special. However you dress and whatever you identify as is just another aspect of your truth. Always be true to yourself. I believe there is a reward far greater than any of us can imagine for the brave hearted; for the ones truly bold to reject being subjugated by stereotypes and to defy the status quo. I believe the reward is what we call happiness.
As George Orwell says “Happiness can exist only in acceptance.”