“Ladies should be seen, not heard”
Therein began my lifelong excuse for the presence of mental and sometimes physical abuse in my life. A term of endearment that I once held in such esteem would end up being an anchor weight. That weight prevented me from escaping unhealthy situations. This is what happens when we – whether intentionally or not – place stipulations on each other. The rules almost always ensure we will live a life outside of who we are. That is the definition of unhealthy.
Christian religion taught me homosexuality is a sin. As a result, my interactions with gay, lesbian, and trans people were challenging. Unlike what I had seen embodied in the actions of those who were against homosexuality, gay people weren’t sick or in need of being saved. In fact, they were some of the most well-rounded individuals I had ever met. Their sexual orientation and gender expression were only a portion of their character. Yet they were often ostracized or worse just for being who they were.
A Change of Heart
Most of my teen to young adult years were spent being a slave to religious indoctrination. It prevented me from forming deep connections within the LGBTQ+ community. Yes, I grew up with friends who were queer but, my conditioning put a wall between us. A stipulation that until a few years ago I decided I wanted to dismantle.
Oddly enough, my support didn’t start because a queer person checked me about my lack of support (which they should have) or because of my lived experience as a now openly, bisexual person. I discovered my solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community through my advocacy for the Black community. I thought: How can I advocate freedom for myself and not want the same for someone else? After all, isn’t limiting freedoms the mindset that oppressed me in the first place?
Stepping Outside the Box
Both of my grandmothers, one Black and one Indigenous fought for my right to peacefully protest in this country. I come from strong women and activists. It’s in my blood! When local advocacy groups called for a protest for the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I – without hesitancy – showed up.
From the moment I stepped out of my car and into a crowd mixed with all colors, gender expressions, and identities, my heart was forever changed. For once, I wasn’t just in a crowd with people who looked like me. There were all types there, united to a common goal. Crushing the construct that was made to keep minorities oppressed, honoring the life of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others.
The LGBTQ+ community was amongst those on the front line. Living in their truth, while being sure to center the Black community because we were in need. They showed up when others didn’t. Not only did they show up but they made me and others feel welcome and safe. It was then that I realized that the feeling of kinship between myself and the LGBTQ+ community was in the shared trauma of being discriminated against, being judged, being excluded, being denied, and the beauty in overcoming it all.
Where I Stand
While at the protest I was asked “What was your reason for protesting today?” Without thinking the words spilled out of my mouth. My reason for protesting was so my voice could be heard, so my nieces and nephews could grow up in a society that allows them to be whoever they are, unapologetically!
The truth behind my answer was scary. People were and are dying in the name of bigotry, racism, and homophobia. Black, brown, trans, and gay people are being oppressed, vilified, and executed due to fear of difference. As my answer continued, at that moment I realized something important. It was time for me to take accountability.
I had to admit what I knew in my heart was true. I spent years being afraid to form connections that could have saved me, connections that would have embraced me instead of criticizing me when I was a loud girl with questions and things to say. A girl who wanted to be a boxer and have tea parties too. Instead, I was silenced and overlooked because who I was didn’t fit into the box of what a girl was supposed to be. I had to admit that staying in that box was me being just like those who tried to get me to conform. At times, when I should have been accepting of others, I chose to judge and that was wrong. I was wrong.
Who are you?
A thought that led me to where I am now: isn’t it a sin to operate outside of who you are meant to be? They say God doesn’t make mistakes and in the name of religion there are people who, due to fear of being who they are, or questioning who they could be, are taking rights away from those who are no longer afraid to live and speak their truth. Isn’t preventing their deaths and violence against them more important than being “right”? To get to where I am, you have to ask yourself some hard questions. You have to accept some tough truths. Start with this: who are you uninterrupted by society’s standards? What are you willing to change to find out?