30 June 2018

Why I Take PRIDE

Pride 2018 wraps today.

So naturally it's a good time to talk about me. 😊

Very soon the social media avatars will switch from heart-shaped rainbows to logos with patriotic overlays. Marketing teams will applaud themselves for their inclusive lip-service without acknowledging their own blatant pandering. June will end. Pride 2018 will be over. We'll bring other issues forward and pledge to fight all the good fights.

I enjoy going out for Pride, smiling in the sunshine and doing my level best to radiate love. Pride--the celebration of queer people--is extremely important to me. And I've never explained why. It's actually never even crossed my mind. But this year I felt like switching it up. So gather 'round friends, as I have tales to tell.

I mean it's not just a party.
But it is a party.

I hung out with lesbians before it was cool--and way before I knew what that meant. I remember gatherings of women. I remember watching friendship. I remember witnessing love. I remember being spoiled. I remember being in Vanessa's kitchen after she got a single cross earring just like George Michael. I remember group gatherings without any self-identified men. I remember Vanessa and Shelia and Linda and how they made my mother laugh.

In high school I remember "gay" being used and not understanding it was meant to be negative. I understood it as a declaration or as gossip--but never as an insult. (I was younger than my classmates and blessedly oblivious to social cues.) It didn't occur to me to be cruel. It seemed to me to be gay was to be different. And since I had been labeled different by every metric applied, I decided to align myself with "gay." There. Case closed. It was a decision rooted in logic that didn't have any consequences. I went to college as self-assured as any 16 year old could be.

College introduced me to some of the struggle. My parents had raised me on the realities of racism and sexism but in college I learned there were people whose families outright denied them. I learned people saw queer as not just "bad," but as an absolute worst outcome. It did not compute.

At the same time changes were happening at home. I realized it wasn't just other people who had those kinds of families. I witnessed the struggle for understanding, then for acceptance. I saw rejection and derision. Imagine finally loving yourself and having people turn away from you. Imagine having that which you are be used as a slur and wondering if it's true. I'll never experience that anxiety of coming out. But to me, it seems exceedingly brave.

I participate in Pride because I am proud. I'm proud of the women who first showed me the strength of female friendships. I'm proud of the men who taught me not to be afraid of using my voice. I'm proud of the lesbian, gay, and trans people in my life for unapologetically being themselves. (If I make bi, ace or aro friends, I'll be proud of them too.) I'm proud to be capable of offering support. I was proud to be a black female face waving from a corporate float. I'm proud of all the "different" people who decide to stand together in love.

14 June 2018

Hearing through my eyes

The occasionally influential on Twitter often encourage their followers to every day do one thing that scares them. Personally, I don't mind my anxiety-driven existence. Yet lately that sentiment has held resonance for me. I won't say I've become adventurous because there's no stretch of the imagination that could make that statement true. Instead I'll tell you I've become more accepting of myself and therefore bolder by accident.

I'm more willing to do things I'm not already good at doing. I accept I can't go as hard at the gym as I used to--which was necessary because the alternative was to talk myself out of going at all. I've started saying "no" to my family, rather than take on the stress of their questionable decisions. I'm thinking primarily about my own well-being for the first time. The introspection has made me okay with being "just okay." It's quite liberating. Tonight I realized it can also be terrifying.

I'm taking America Sign Language. It's something I'd been thinking about for months. After coming to terms with giving up one of my two trivia nights,  I couldn't give myself a reason *not* to take an intro class. Our first meeting was tonight. I learned my first lesson about four minutes into class.

I've been excited to sign.
I'd not considered learning to sign.

Just like all my Spanish classes and Italian classes and German classes, my Sign Language classe is immersive. I don't even know if my professor can hear, because he didn't speak aloud once in three hours. He came in signing repetitively, writing on the white board, and passing out syllabi.

He didn't speak.
So we didn't speak.

There were about 40 people in the class and it was silent. I regret to inform you I was not ready for that. I assumed it was a lecture, where the instructor explained ASL syntax and provided nonverbal neumonics to help us retain. I wanted to learn a new language in my own language. My ableism was shameful. Clearly the guilt has pushed me to confess. I got over myself pretty quickly, because he started giving out assignments and looking away--whether to take notes or read handouts--was not an option.

Half of the class time was a documentary. I learned some interesting things about deaf history. By the end, I was once again ready to sign and also ready to learn.

Welcome to my new obsession. I'll do my best to keep you posted.