Being who we are.
Several weeks ago I read a beautiful post over at Authentic Realities called Monday Morning Agreement. Something happened when I read it and I keep going back to it in my head. In the post, Dian talks about waking up next to her love. As I read her words, I was jolted into self-awareness. I already knew that Dian’s partner was a woman but somehow, a little piece of my brain stopped as I read and went “hey, wait a minute, what?” At first I was uncomfortable with myself. I wondered if I was suddenly, secretly, not as comfortable with same-sex relationships as I believed I was. Then I realized it’s just not what I’m used to reading. Not as a heterosexual in a heterosexist world. I’ve had this realization before – in conversations with friends, in my Master’s program – and every time I have it I am deeply saddened.
My husband and I played this game when our friends started having kids (well, his friends started a long time ago but I didn’t know him then). We would look at each couple and wonder how accepting they would be if one (or more) of their children were gay, or lesbian, or bi-, or transgendered or anything other than a boy who loves a girl, or a woman who loves a man. Of course we asked the same question of ourselves. Even though I will love and support my daughter as she is, for as long as I live, I find myself saying things that assume she will be straight (or will get married, or have babies of her own). As soon as the words are out of my mouth I realize what I’ve said and add to it, modify it, vow to not let it slip next time. I want her to grow up knowing that her parents love *all* of her, not just the pieces that might fit into our vision of her future.
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My husband said something to me today that hit me with a cold splash of awareness. He was talking about ordering another video affirmation from John Assaraf’s i-Grasshopper but he was concerned. Their daily postcards use both male and female voices and he found he didn’t respond as well to the affirmations read by a woman. He felt that the man’s voice was resonating with him more fully. “Welcome to the world of being a woman” I snorted, where so many of the voices we hear, read, even think are male.
I remember the first time I read a book with a female voice. The Mists of Avalon. I felt validated and alive. I felt seen. It was life-affirming and life-changing. I WAS WOMAN and I EXISTED. If only that one experience was enough to erase the years of dissonance. Over the course of my life, I have been involved to a greater or lesser degree in discussions on gender roles, sexuality, feminism, and sexism. It’s easy to become complacent in the normalcy of daily life. Then something shakes me loose and I start to spill out of myself. I get angry. I get sad. I find my power again.
The incredible Julie Daley wrote this post on what it means to be fully a woman. It started to shake me loose. Dian’s post too. Conversations with my mother, who is on a mission to teach the world that “guys” is not a gender neutral term, replayed in my head. At times I have been embarrassed by her zeal. Then I remember what she lived through, what her mother and grandmother lived through, and I am horrified at my acceptance of the status quo.
I want to have difficult conversations, dangerous ones. Conversations where I could offend someone with my unintentionally ignorant questions but only because I want to learn, to grow, to think bigger thoughts, to change the world. I hope that kind of offense is forgivable. In university and in grad school, I did this regularly (the conversations, hopefully not the offenses). My boundaries stretched and grew. I reached outside myself to understand others and I explored deep within. I don’t want to stop this process because I have a husband, a child and too little sleep. I don’t want to walk into a room of powerful women and say, unconsciously, “hey guys”. I want to state my case with gentleness when necessary and fierceness when it’s called for, with humor and acceptance always. I want to raise shadows of doubt in closed minds and crack open doors of opinion that have been closed too long. I want to teach my child that all of us truly are created equal and that it’s empowerment, not charity that’s needed. That it’s listening, not telling, that changes lives.
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I’m taking my daughter to her first protest tomorrow. There’s a hospital here in Ventura County that’s decided to stop allowing midwives to deliver babies under its roof. It’s a political decision couched in a conversation about safety and it has the birth community up in arms. It plays on people’s fears, is indicative of the medicalization of birth, and is a slippery slope that leads to more and more rights and choices being taken away from women. There are many doctors in this country who would like nothing better than to see midwifery outlawed, just as there are many people who wish to see abortion outlawed. Yes, these are very different situations in some respects and yet they both boil down to taking power away from women – power over our own bodies. I believe all of this anger and conflict stems from fear and when we are so full of fear, there is no room for love. There is no room for differences of opinion, for differences in choices, for differences at all.
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Where is all this going, you might be asking yourself at almost 1000 words in? Let me see if I can tie it together. I’m not sure I can. I think for me, it all points back to our individual voices. To being authentic. To living our passions. To writing our truths. As I thought about Dian’s story I imagined someone coming across her website and feeling an unspeakable relief that there is someone else “like her” (whether that’s related to her sexuality or some other part of who she is). The same with Julie’s writing – from the comments on her blog it clearly speaks to many of us. I think of my friend emma’s soul-baring post about the effects of sexual abuse. It was incredible to see how many could relate and that’s just those of us who left a written trail. When we walk our talk, banish incongruity, and strive to live our best lives, we may never know who we touch and how deeply. The important thing is to do it. To get off the couch, out from in front of the television and even away from the computer. To reach out to people, to invite them in, to find the place of love and let go of fear.
I leave you with two quotes by American anthropologist, Margaret Mead, and one of my favorite videos on equality. I invite you to the table and into the conversation. Let’s grow together. Let’s change the world.
Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man. – MM
A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – MM