Looking back on where I’ve been

It’s weird sometimes reading back on where you’ve been and wonder why you were there. I guess that’s easy when you’re in a different place. Sometimes empathy is hard, even with yourself. I read what I have blogged and wonder why I was the way I was. But then I remember the feelings. I didn’t feel sure of myself or my place. I felt unsure of how I fit in with my family, church, sexuality, and work, all huge sources of identity. That liminal space where nothing is truly defined allows one to ask questions of everything because the givens that were formerly given are no longer given.

It gives me space for grace, though, to extend to others in similar circumstances. If I have gone through things in which I didn’t have the answers, how would I want to be treated during such a time? If I wasn’t sure and someone else was overconfidently, I didn’t want to hear them; I doubted the very foundations of their surety. But I enjoy leaving my blogs up as is. I can say I was different then and still accept myself.

People change. It can be scary, because I want people to treat my current incarnation the same way as they had treated me insofar as they knew me before. Change is a risk. Sometimes others welcome the change. Sometimes, I find, one loses trust, even friendships. Sometimes others can’t handle the change, or at least their change in perception of you (you may have been constant all along, just not presenting yourself authentically). I could find it sad that it’s taken me 32 years to learn that, but I’m thankful that I know it now. I can use it in how I approach relationships. I can use it in helping my children learn the ropes of the world.

If you feel you need to change (or you already have, but you want your public presentation to match what you are in private), take stock of yourself. Make definitive plans, because change has effects that lie outside your control. It can affect your job, your romantic relationships, your family relationships, your friendships, your access to social resources. However, the other side, as difficult as it might seem when you’ve taken stock, is liberating. People know you for what you have presented, and then can know you in a new way that may differ from what they thought they knew of you. Identities are funny things. Sometimes I want others to remain stable so that I can explore new horizons, but that’s not fair to them. Life is sometimes an unstable mess and that’s what makes it an adventure.

Privilege, or My Undeserved, Arbitrary Advantages

I don’t have to think twice about walking into a gas station with a hoodie and walking out with skittles.
I don’t have to travel two states over to get married because my state doesn’t recognize me.
I don’t have to look for special ways to get into a building without ramps because I can’t walk.
I don’t have to ask people to repeat themselves and eventually give up communicating because I can’t hear.
I don’t get my character questioned because of what I wear to a club.
I don’t have to pull out my green card when I’m pulled over.
I don’t have to ask someone to describe things to me because I can’t see.
I don’t have to have my loyalties questioned because I don’t practice the majority religion.
I don’t have to endure stares when I walk into a bathroom because my clothes don’t seem to match my born gender.
I don’t have to have my decisions questioned because I’m retired.
I don’t have to suffer insults at an intersection because I’m hungry and all I have is a sign.
I don’t have to work three jobs to make ends meet.
I don’t notice suspicious stares when I ask a stranger for help.
I don’t have to defend myself when I kiss my significant other in public.
I don’t have to worry about a clerk watching me when I’m perusing through electronics.
I don’t have to think about employers “losing” my application because of my last name.
I don’t have to keep being passed over for jobs because I did time over 20 years ago.
I don’t have to live in fear or instability because my country is colonized.
I don’t have to defend my body because it doesn’t fit a certain body image.

The fact that I can walk through life relatively easily and that others have to jump through arbitrary hoops isn’t fair. I enjoy most of these advantages by accident of birth and rearing. I didn’t set up these social advantages nor did I work to achieve them. I don’t mind the easy road, but I do mind that others don’t have the same privileges and that access to them is made harder by some. I do mind that some groups of which I’m a part keep other groups from their full potential. Is there a way for me to enjoy these freedoms while not appearing (or being) an utter douche? I think the only way I can is by helping to remove barriers. A friend of mine put it this way: acknowledging privilege, showing empathy to the marginalized (his words were discussing people of color), advocating and participating to remove barriers by many means, and then reading perspectives of the marginalized to hear their voices unfiltered through media outlets and paraphrases by the dominant. Who are the marginalized? LGBT, people of color, those who are poor, those of the working class, those of disability, those of non-majority religions, those who are older, those of radical politics, those who are colonized, those who are prisoners or have been, those of “different” body images, and probably others. What groups have I left out because my privilege affords me ignorance of them?

Want to hear voices different from yours? Here are some. They are not representative of every person in the group because there is ridiculous diversity within each group. Include others I don’t know about.