16 December 2011

All of the Gay

All of the Gay

Every single person has their own identity and different qualities that make up that identity. At some point in time, I believe everyone struggles with that identity and has times where they have changed, for better or worse. Quite like that, I myself have had times that my growth as a person has influenced my identity today. I truly believe my change was for the better and has helped me identify myself today.

            When I was in the sixth grade, I don’t think I was too different than I am now, but rather the people around me weren’t as open minded as they are now. With that said, I’m not saying I was or am better than those people, but just that those people were more naive and closed minded then than they are now. We were pretty young, after all. But back then, people would make assumptions about me just because of what I wore or what TV shows I liked. “Oh, you wear black a lot. You must be emo and goth.” “You watch anime? You’re weird. Why are you still watching cartoons? That’s childish.” Try as I might to set them straight that black clothes does not equal gothic and anime is totally different and more mature than cartoons, they would never listen to me. If anything, it would tend to egg the comments on even more.

            I remember for one of our art class assignments, we had to take this rubber-like block and carve out a design on it to make prints. Me being the anime geek I was (and still am), I decided to do mine about the anime Inu-Yasha. If you’ve never seen Inu-Yasha it is a television show about a girl that gets transported to feudal Japan and ends up meeting Inu-Yasha, who is half-demon. They end up fighting against evil in order to gather a sacred jewel. So I went about doing my block just as everyone else did, but for some reason people started picking on me for doing my project about an anime, or rather a ‘cartoon’ to them. I remember one girl specifically was calling me weird and such for doing a ‘cartoon’ when she’s over there doing hers of Strawberry Shortcake, the cartoon character. Needless to say, I thought that was a big pile of bull crap.

            Around this time, I found a friend, who I'll call Soundwave, that didn’t make those assumptions and embraced my weirdness and we became, and still are, best friends. When I’m around Soundwave, I feel like I can be myself. She came out as bisexual pretty early, which really got me thinking. My other best friend that I’d known for much longer, Shockwave, and I would get into talks about sexuality due to Soundwave's coming out, saying that we are cool with it and such.

             Soundwave had gotten me into many different things such as the TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation, which I was instantly in love with. I came in on season five which featured a lesbian couple and watching their love unfold on the show helped me realize that I want that someday, boy or girl. Love can come from anyone and that’s how I naturally felt with this couple and in life.  With this realization, I started to notice why I was probably so pulled in by Soundwave--I had a crush on her. I was afraid to tell her about my realization at first, but eventually the truth did come out (no pun intended), although we ultimately decided to keep our relationship strictly friendly.

            In the years to come, I slowly started coming out and finding myself. Although it was scary at some times, I knew that being open about it would make me feel happier in the end. I shouldn’t, and wouldn’t, hide my identity. Instead of hiding, I decided to embrace myself. After I embraced that, I was able to embrace much more of myself. I became more comfortable with myself and who I am.

            Coming out to my friends was the easiest, since most of them are kind of gay anyways. They pretty much knew before I even said anything. I then came out to my aunt who lives in Virginia before I came out to any of my family that lives with me. She’s very open-minded and likes a lot of the same things I do, so it was a bit easier to come out to her. The reason my sexuality came to conversation was because we had gone shopping earlier and I bought a book called Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez, since I knew my mother would never let me buy it with her. We were talking about it in her kitchen when I just told her that, yes, I like girls and she was perfectly fine with it.

            My mother was the one I was most scared to come out to. She’s the one whose opinion matters most in this situation, for me. She’s very religious, so that’s one reason I struggled with coming out to her. I had tried to drop subtle hints, just kind of being “Yay Gay!” around her and I kind of think she knew. One day I was talking about this paper I wrote that had mentioned homosexuality and being accepted. Her response was kind of like “Is there something you’re trying to tell me?” and so I told her. Initially, she told me that she loves me no matter what, but she did think that I was young and that it is a ‘phase.’ We often got into fights dealing with religion and sexuality. No matter what, she would still say that she loved me, though.

            After that, I feel like she denied my sexuality and never took it seriously. There were times that she’d disregard that part of me. If we were talking about the future in which she was waiting for nieces and nephews, it was always me getting a husband. She’d always mention me getting a boyfriend, never a girlfriend. That changed a bit when I got myself a girlfriend.

            My first legit girlfriend came along my junior year of high school. She wasn’t really out at the time and she was more so just starting to come to terms with her sexuality. So, no one really knew we were dating for the first week or so until she was comfortable with me telling my friends. After a couple weeks of us dating, she came over one day to just chill with me. We were just in my room (which is downstairs and has no door but thick curtains) watching television and kind of holding hands and resting heads on shoulders type of thing. My mom decides to randomly come in my room (I call it “mother’s intuition”) and she demanded that my girlfriend go home.

            After we have a mini-freak-out moment together, she leaves and I stay in my room to continue my freak-out, contacting friends for some sort of help. I think one of them agreed that I should go talk to my mom, so that’s what I went to do. I found her in her room, lying in her bed, crying, on the phone talking to her pastor. She said she didn’t want to talk to me right now, so I went back to my room. When we finally talked, she grounded me for a week. Oddly enough, my girlfriend and I broke up in the early days of my grounding (I think my mom scared her a bit), so I was left grounded over a girl that I wasn’t even dating anymore.

            There were still times after that that my mother would deny my sexuality, but I pretty much just went with it since I didn’t want to share anything gay with her at that point. I know I said I wouldn’t hide my sexuality, but it’s different when it came to my mother. I didn’t necessarily hide it but rather didn’t flaunt it around her. I’d still wear rainbows like a pride parade, but I wouldn’t fix her if she only said “boyfriend” and I wouldn’t talk about my latest girl crush with her. I think she has become a bit more accepting now that I am older, but it still can be a bit awkward when it comes to my sexuality. I do know that she loves me, though.

            These events shaped me to be who I am today. I’m proud of my sexuality, but there are times when I feel that it hinders my relationship with my mother. I know that if I were to get a girlfriend, I would not hide it from my mother anymore, though. I’m not sure what exactly would happen in that situation, but I am an adult now so I’m not going to hide it away. I’m sure many other people in the LGBT community can identify with situations like this even though we all have our own stories. 
            Your sexual orientation can definitely influence your entire life and be a big part of your identity. Having to deal with coming out and dealing with all of the different reactions that come with that is just one part of it. Just one negative reaction can change things entirely. Since I had already embraced my sexuality, I also needed to come out in a different way: come out of my shell.

            In high school, I was put in a drama class that really helped me come out of my shell. It helped me be less shy and open up even more than what my friends brought out of me. It was intimidating at first, being one of two freshmen in the class, but I slowly began to love it. After my freshman year, I wanted to be in drama every time possible and I was. I had a drama class at least one semester every school year after that. My drama teacher joked that I was into it more than he was. That class really helped me be comfortable around others and to laugh at stuff instead of be embarrassed about it. It taught me to embrace the stage rather than be afraid of it. I even was in the school musical my junior year; that drama class made me comfortable to try out for it. I remember seeing one of my middle school teachers after a showing for the middle school and she said she would have never expected to see me up there. Back then, I wouldn’t have imagined it either.

            Everything in life becomes a part of your identity. These specific moments in my life are the ones that stick out the most in making me realize my identity. Even though I have only just started college, I am hoping that knowing my identity in that way will help me expand. I want to explore those aspects even more now that I have it figured out. Hopefully that will help me build my future and continue on with ease.

            When it comes to national identity, I do believe that the LGBT community does have a big part in it today. There’s always an issue or two in politics dealing with the LGBT community. There’s always something controversial being said. From our rights to get married to our freedom of being out in the military, our fight for equal opportunity and rights is a constant battle. In time, I do believe that these fights will seem almost silly, just as it is to look back and see how we used to separate ourselves by skin color. Race and sexuality are ridiculous things to have to fight about. It’s who we are; we can’t change that.

            I guess this could be biased, but I’ve never understood why gay marriage would be illegal. I understand the arguments, but I just find them rather ridiculous and not really reasonable. We are still humans and we should be able to marry who we want. Recently, there have been videos of Michele Bachmann saying that gay men can marry, but they have to marry a female or that lesbians can marry, but they have to marry a male. What the heck does that solve? We just want to marry who we love, yet people can go get married in Vegas even though they just met that night and it will most likely end in divorce once they sober up.

            It doesn’t make much sense when religion comes into the picture, either. If you’re religious and think it’s a sin and not moral to get married to someone of the same sex, then don’t get married to someone of the same sex! Making gay marriage legal does not mean you have to go get gay married. You don’t even have to like it, but it’s not your life that’s getting affected.

            These struggles of equality will always be a part of the LGBT community’s identity. If everything was just given to us to begin with, our lives would most likely be dramatically different. Now, the LGBT community is slowly becoming part of everyday life. From television shows and channels with LGBT characters to movies, novels, and music, the LGBT community is integrating. You can even find a lot more rainbow pride in stores these days. It’s a long struggle, but it will be worth it in the end. The LGBT community’s identity is slowly intertwining with the rest of the nation’s identity. I think, eventually, those identities won’t even be separate.

            At the beginning of the semester, we focused a lot on stereotypes in America. Stereotypes can be a tricky situation. Some stereotypes can be true, but it doesn’t make them true for everyone. There are lazy Americans, but we are not all lazy. Just because you’re an African American woman doesn’t mean you like chicken and wear a weave. Just because you’re a homosexual male doesn’t mean you’re feminine and like fashion. There are a lot of people that are not the stereotypical version of who people think they should be. Some of these stereotypes can even be offensive.

            I think the problem is that people tend to sort everything into these groups.  The thing is, you shouldn’t be grouping everyone based on this or that… Everyone has their own individual identity. I do think that having these ‘groups’ can make it easier when it comes to making a general term for this large group of people, but you can’t just say they belong to that group so they must be like this. If that doesn’t make sense, I’ll use an example: the term “LGBT Community” gives us a general understanding of who these people are, but there’s so much more to them than just the LGBT side of them. Especially these days when there’s so many more terms than just lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans.*

            With these general terms, people lose their individual identity. They just get lumped in with the rest of that group. It reminds me of a family. There’s the family as a whole, so it’s easy to call them, let’s say, the Smith family. But within the Smith family, John is nothing like Bob…yet people expect John to be like Bob, since they are in the same family. People sometimes forget that they can’t just look at the whole; they have to consider the individuals within the whole. Everyone has their own stories that separate them from the rest and gives them their identity.

            I don’t really think the nation’s identity as a whole should really matter compared to everyone’s individual identity. It’s the individuals that make a nation. America is considered a “melting pot” of all these different identities coming together as one…But just because we’re ‘melted’ together doesn’t mean our individuality gets separated from us. We’re always told that we are different from everyone else, so this shouldn’t change just because we are part of a group or nation. We all might be connected, like in Yamashita’s novel Tropic of Orange, but we still have different stories that are the reasons we get connected.

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