Watch What You Say

In college, I studied psychology.  I won’t get into my disappointment in the lack of clinical experience in the program or the fact that I learned more from the elective classes I took than the required ones for my degree.  What I will say is that hand’s down, the class that stuck with me the most was one of those electives.  It was a counseling and educational psychology course taught by a man who worked tirelessly as a disability advocate.  He worked with the state government, with the Special Olmpics, with more groups than I will ever hope to remember.  He had a wife and family, taught at the university, and he had cerebral palsy.

I was very deliberate in the way I worded the description about him.  It’s one of the lessons I learned in his class.  It might seem like a minor thing to be described as a blind person, or a gay person, or a white person.  None of those are bad things.  But it puts an emphasis on that descriptor.  It puts being blind or gay or white above being a person. Above what someone has accomplished in how ever many years he or she has been on earth.  Is it nit-picky and politically correct to worry about such nuances in the language we use?  Maybe.  But if you’re someone who spends your whole life being defined by those adjectives, maybe it makes a difference.

who are you question

Maybe we should acknowledge people for their accomplishments first.  Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  Would you rather be viewed as a teacher who happens to be blind? Or “that blind guy who teaches”?  Would you rather be a writer who’s a lesbian or “a lesbian writer”.

In that class I met a woman.  An incredible, brilliant, hard-working woman who is a lawyer, has a fantastic husband, and a family.  She also was born without arms or legs.  Now, which do you think she’d rather be known for?  Her accomplishments? Her family? Or the fact that in utero her body developed differently.  There’s no denying that what she’s accomplished is extraordinary. And her disability makes it that much more impressive.  But it shouldn’t define her as a person.  Although it’s shaped her life considerably, it’s only one aspect of who she is.

To be frank, it gets clunky and awkward sometimes when I try to watch how I describe people. I get it wrong. I screw it up, I forget, I get lazy.  But I try to keep it in mind and do my best because it does matter.  At heart, we all want to be known for who we are as a person, for what we’ve accomplished.  Not for the aspects of ourselves that we were born into.

I’m a writer. I’m a woman. I’m bisexual. I’m a person.

Who are you?

And how do you want to be defined?

Bisexual Visibility Day – Feeling Like I Don’t Fit

It’s funny, I’ve had this half-finished blog post sitting in my drafts for months.  It never felt like quite the right time to post it.  Even though it’s Bisexual Visibility Day, I still hesitated to write a blog post about it.  And why is that?

The very reason I should blog about it is the reason I hesitate.

I don’t feel like I fit anywhere. I don’t feel like I have an identity.

I hate that. I know I’m letting other people’s views of me color who I am and how I behave.  That’s not me.  But I’m human.  I have doubts,  I second-guess myself.

I live in a world where some people honestly believe that bisexuals don’t exist.  They think it’s a phase, or something that people grow out of.  They think that by marrying a man, my bisexuality no longer exists.

And although I know better, on some level, those thoughts are internalized.

But choosing to marry my husband doesn’t negate my previous relationship with a woman.  It doesn’t negate how much she meant to me or how devastated I was when our relationship ended.  It doesn’t change the fact that I am still attracted to women.  That if, perish the thought, my husband were no longer around, I might fall in love with a woman again.

Why is so hard to believe that we human beings are capable of a broad range of emotions? Why is it difficult to believe that gender isn’t the most crucial part of attraction for some of us?

I don’t have the answers.  I don’t have the magic words to explain it to people.

I do think this video does an excellent job summing up many of the frustrations I have while educating in a humorous way.

I guess when it comes right down to it, I’m a work in progress.  I’m still learning about myself, I’m still discovering my identity.  Sometimes I think pansexual might be a better term for who I am and how I feel, but that’s a post for another day.

There will be days when I don’t feel like I fit.  Days where I resent having to label myself at all. And days where I know I’m part of a much larger community.  One who supports me, encourages me, makes me feel welcome.  One who embraces me for being me.

Today is the latter and I’m grateful for that.

So speak up.  Be proud of who you are.  And know you’re not alone.