My name is Kara. If that is the only thing that you take away from this blog post I would be extremely grateful.
I was labeled as “the loner, the angry kid” “different.” Not the same. Invisible.
I was outed when I was 18 years old to my family. I lived in a rural area and had no access to other people that were like me. Meeting the status quo of being a quiet country girl in a small country town reigned supreme. Society drilled into me the idea that I was to act and behave in a way that was socially and culturally accurate. I spent so much time preparing myself to enter into a heteronormative world. A world in which I felt that I was an imposter. A world that had already deemed me a second class citizen because of my sexual organs and feminine appearance.
It gave me the conflicting message that being my true self was something that was better kept in the closet and only taken out on special occasion.
Not to mention that the only images that I had of successful lesbians was what was portrayed in the media. Ellen, Portia, The L word, Wanda Sykes, Rachel Maddow, the WNBA.
To meet the expectation of being a successful lesbian. Because all gay people are “successful” aren’t they? That’s what the TV says. That’s what the radio says. That’s what other gay people expect/believe, right?
I existed in two worlds.
The message from the hetero/family world:
“Hide who you are.”
”Don’t tell anyone, they will treat you badly.”
“Because you’re gay, you’re a target and “we have to protect you.”
The LGBT world:
“Be out and proud!”
Proposition 8, gay marriage equality, gay adoption!
What I never heard or believed for myself:
That I was capable of interacting in the world as my authentic self. It took me approximately 35 years to finally come out as “myself.” To rip off the label of what society had labelled me and just be. Be me.
I would start my day in the heteronormative world: Shower, shave armpits, shave legs, dry hair and use tons of product that is marketed to women in pink and purple bottles and has a flowery scent (As if, somehow, having my body reek of synthetic chemicals made me any more self-confident or sexually attractive to either sex).
Feeling like a Stepford wife I would leave my home and go to work. I worked at a clothing store where the sole premise was to have women purchase credit cards and magazines and tons of clothes. To use my feminine form to model the product to the consumer and gain her loyalty to a brand name. I was told over and over that it was my job to gain a woman’s loyalty to a product that would magically make her feel happy and give her a sense of identification and higher self-esteem amongst her peers.
When I would get home, I would be able to take off the Stepford wives uniform (as I called it) and step into my “gay self”. My more comfortable self. The one that didn’t have to pretend to have a perfectly crafted image behind it.
The self that wears thrift store clothing and stuff from H&M together. The self that doesn’t need a thick layer of makeup to make me feel attractive, to hide the “imperfections.” That doesn’t need to accessorize an outfit, or grow my hair long to “fit in” with other women. Or to fit in with the world.
The person that has ideas, and goals and opinions and humor and wit.
The person that has life experience that is willing to share.
The person that would grab another person’s hand in a crowd and start dancing for the fun of it, not afraid of what other people would think.
The person that is on the inside that was screaming my whole life to come out. To come out of the closet in my own way. In a way that I felt comfortable with.
The person that became invisible once I stepped out the door of my home.
The pressure of trying to keep up this guise lasted until this past January. I walked out of a job that wasn’t me. It was nothing that I stood for. Nothing that I believed. Nothing but shaming women into purchasing overpriced clothing to make them feel more attractive, more competitive in a group of women.
I have learned that it isn’t the clothing brand, the job, the money, the car, the makeup brand, the music that you listen to or what trend you follow that makes you who you are.
These things are a “label.”
These things are not you as a person.
They are not the heart and soul of you the human being.
What makes you worthy of acceptance is the way that you treat yourself and those that you come into contact with on a daily basis.
You have the choice to make the world a little better each day. Why not make the world a little better every day by being your authentic self?
When you deny your authentic self, your core beliefs and values, you begin to walk a very thin, very treacherous line. If you hide your inner self for reasons of safety, I can seriously relate. That is a survival skill. That is nothing to ever, ever, ever be ashamed of.
But the moment you begin to feel safe, supported, loved is the beginning. The moment that you gain acknowledgement from others like you, the authentic people in your life, is the moment that the world begins to open up a little bit.
And what a fantastic place it has become.