When I think back on a lot of what I once believed I feel sick: the homophobia, the effeminophobia, the internalized sexism and even sometimes racism. Ashamed of the times because girls were weak, but ashamed of the times I was too rough and unladylike. Trying to prove to whites that I was not the stereotypical black person, and yet trying to maintain to black people that I was still one of us. Denying so many parts of myself because of stigmas, taboos, and prejudice.
I’m weird, I always have been. It’s just my compulsion. How imaginative I am. How analytical and observant I am. The way my mind gathers and uses information. The conflict of wanting to think the best of people, but being afraid to be stupid. Being compassionate, but not wanting to show it. And every step of the way there were people there to tell me how I should be and I just took their word for it.
It made me feel inferior that I wasn’t what they said I should be. On the one hand I felt bad as a tomboy, but on the other I felt bad when I couldn’t keep up with the boys. On the one hand, I felt too suburban, too out of touch, and on the other I didn’t feel worldly or open-minded enough. At all times I felt pulled in two different directions; like I had to choose between two extremes.
I couldn’t accept all of who I was. I was scrambling. Trying to blend in and yet isolating myself. It took a long time for me to really like myself. It really came down to me saying this is who I am, trying to change the things I could and learning to live with the rest. It’s a process.
I still squirm under how homophobic I once was. I felt like, “nah, my best friend is gay”, but I still was worried that people would think I was a lesbian. I had to identify that homophobia and exorcise it. I am not gay, but I love gay people. To the point that when I see an openly gay man on the street I smile and feel an automatic unity with him. More than likely because with them I don’t feel the pressures to live up to some kind of heteronormative template, or because I understand feeling wrong for just being who you are. I just feel at home amongst people who have had to make choices between extremes like I have.
It really is difficult to be yourself when you know who the people around you expect you to be. For whatever reason you feel like it’s your responsibility to live up to those expectations. There is a guilt that comes with self-expression. It’s probably the socialization that occurs in our childhood. Whatever it is I’ve been working against it. Unfortunately, it makes me cynical and often disappointed in the beliefs of those around me, but I’ve long since decided the world has to change one person at a time.
The most important thing for me is to be comfortable in my own skin. I’m still baffled at my long held self-esteem issues. I look in the mirror now and see a pretty girl and I wonder what could’ve been clogging my mirror to make me think I was otherwise. Just the Pecola syndrome. I’m still learning. Not to be a pretentious member of the academia, but simply to know better so that I can do better. That’s all we can do. Life is trial and error. We live and we learn. Keep moving. I’m still getting to know myself. I haven’t even decided what name I’m going to write under yet. I’m under construction, but better that than eternally broken.