Thursday, April 28, 2016

What Defines Me

I've had sort of a hiatus on writing my thoughts here. All of my energy has been focused on the world of academia and analyzing the way people think and promoting social justice. To say my brain is tired is an understatement. But today I felt compelled. I felt the words burning my fingertips in a desperate attempt to force my hands to the keyboard. I have multiple assignments coming due but I have no choice but the place them to the side until I tackle something that has been causing my soul to weep.

Defining Self.

I don't know what it feels like to not identify with the gender that I was raised to designate myself as. I've always believed myself to be female. I've always felt that the genitalia with which I was born matched the words that were given to me. I don't have a need to use the men's restroom because I don't see myself as male. I've never been followed into a restroom by another female, or a male, and made to feel like I don't belong there or had my life threatened because I don't match a symbol on a door. So I will never assert to have a deep understanding of what it feels like to be transgender. I even spent several minutes on how to word that last sentence because I'm not even sure how to reference what it means to be born in a body that doesn't match your identity. To assume would be offensive to so many people that I love and care for. 

Here is what I do understand.

I understand what it means to be defined by what someone else believes about me, 
......or within the rules of an identity that has been assigned to me. 

I understand what it means to want to feel feminine but to be told I am too much of a tomboy or too skinny and lacking of curves to be a real woman,

.....that my voice is too loud, too demanding, too opinionated, too inflammatory, too accepting, too aggressive... 

I understand that my wisdom is only acceptable if the men I am under agree with it...that what I want to say isn't equally as important because I was born with a vagina.... and ironically that my lack of a uterus lessens my value as a woman...

.....that my consent isn't important if I dress in revealing clothing... that I'm asking for judgement and disrespect if I show cleavage or even acknowledge that I have breasts...

I understand that God thinks less of me if I don't follow the rules created by man....that I shouldn't dare challenge patriarchy... that if I do I must be a liberal feminist...

.... that if I advocate for, love, accept and appreciate anyone who is LGBTQ I must not love God or understand His word... I am definitely not a true Christian.... I am surely going to hell.

I understand that my life has been full of people telling me what I should be, who I should be, how I should act, how I should dress.... Society and my direct influencers have become the loudest voice. And it screams hate. It tells me that no matter what I do it will never be good enough. It tells me that no matter how hard I try, I will never be fully loved or accepted. This is the voice that was granted to me by the world.

I work every day to challenge that voice. To silence it.

And when all is calm, I hear it.

It's quiet, and squeaky. It's scared and battle scarred.

But it's there. 

My authentic self. My voice. My true identity.

And this is where I begin to understand the experience of those who are directly impacted by a society that argues over bathrooms... over body parts... over what a predator looks like.

How do you define a woman? A man? Neither?

Is someone a woman if they have a vagina, breasts and a uterus? Is a man really only so if he has a penis and testicles? Is it the right mixture of estrogen and testosterone? Or is it the length of hair... the level of femininity or masculinity? 

And what happens once we do set the standards? 

I know how society has defined it for me.

And I feel inadequate.

This issue is SO much bigger than who can use the bathroom.

I don't know what the global answer is...... I know for myself it starts inside. Challenging the loud voices that tell me I have to be something I am not. That my worth is only determined by what others think of me.

Because when you love and accept yourself it get's easier to fight the world to accept and love others.

What defines you?

or rather...

Who defines you?

What voices are you listening to?

And more importantly....

Are those voices keeping you from loving others....

                                                          ....because you haven't yet learned to love yourself...