I moved to South Carolina 3 weeks ago. I am already thinking about leaving. Maybe I was too naïve, assuming there would be some homophobia, racism, and sexism, quietly tucked away like in my native state of Connecticut, because what I have experienced in the past three weeks way surpasses some.
I should begin by explaining I moved in with my parents, after a particularly trying 2 years of mental anguish and hopping from job to job, hoping to relieve my rampant Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Living with my parents, again, felt like a good place to “clear my head” and get a “fresh start.” And it has been…from inside the house.
I have ventured out with my mother and her neighbor-friend on occasion and in the sixty minutes spent in her presence was met with all three. To be fair, my neighbor is ten years my mother’s senior and has lived in this town her entire life. I tried to remind myself of that when my anger began to bubble up in my throat and mouth. And maybe that is why I have failed to speak up. Something that is profoundly foreign to me.
At 33, I feel less inclined to rally for my rights than I did at 23. Why is that? Is it easier? Is it all to “protect my parents”? Is it really to avoid making them pariahs in the neighborhood, long after I’m gone? Or is there a deeper issue here?
It’s possible I’ve put my own needs (calming my mental unrest, figuring out my next move…) above my previously innate desire to fight for human rights in a “loud and proud” way. And if that is the case, I am supremely unhappy with my decision. In doing that, I am rejecting the very reason I left everything in the northeast in the first place: to become a more authentic person. By shunning that part of myself, in the name of “being a good neighbor” and “making things easier for my parents”, I am setting myself back at least 15 years…
Residing in the very state that still flies a Confederate flag, where racism is as common as a Waffle House, woke me up to the damage I was undeniably doing. Denying my sexual identity as queer, bisexual, pansexual (insert whichever term fits someone who has no bias on the gender, gender identity, or sexual identity of the person she wishes to date…), enduring racist comments, and accepting sexist assumptions not only quietly concedes to such ways of thinking, it actually speaks for me stating: “I agree.” AND I VERY DON’T.
So, what to do? I have weeks and weeks of self-exploration left before I feel willing and able to obtain a job and resume contributing to society. The answer is not simple, as it rarely is. I’m unsure what to do in the large sense, but in the micro sense I need to continue my journey to authenticity. I need to reconnect with the woman who marched in the New York City Gay Pride parade, not two feet behind the mayor, and proudly smiled as she walked, alone, through the subways decorated head-to-toe in rainbows.
The woman who participated in the National Day of Silence on her college campus and watched as passersby took our flyers, promptly crumpled them, and threw them at us, when they realized what we were standing for.
The woman who was verbally assaulted by the word “Dyke!” while walking down her street, holding her girlfriend’s hand.
The woman who challenged Pro-Life protestors outside Planned Parenthood.
The woman who for 2 years hung an enormous rainbow flag in her living room window.
The woman who felt secure in her spirituality when countless churches told her “once you repent, God will forgive you.”
That woman is still inside me. She is screaming to get out, shouting to be heard, despite acceptance from the world. She wants to make a difference, again, no matter the cost. I think it’s time I let her freely roam this globe again.