As you read my story, I hope that you are able to remove your lens of preconceived judgment and allow the diversity and beauty of our differences room to exist.
I was six years old when it was explained to me that I couldn’t be myself. My gender assignment was explained in terms of how to dress, how to walk, how my hair should be worn, what toys I should and shouldn’t play with, and all the other intricate terms of what “A Girl” is.
Unbeknown to those who were reading me a social script and supporting a value system that inherently devalues individuality. They were causes me chronic trauma. I struggled to fit into the narrative assigned to me. I learned at the tender age of six that conforming and pleasing those in authority over you was important to avoid being ridiculed and shamed.
For years, I carried around shame and lived a lie about my “otherness” of being attracted to women, in order to avoid the pain of embarrassment and rejection. I hid from the people who were supposed to love and accept me because these very people sometimes perpetuated the highest degrees of disconnection with my otherness, causing me to carry around shame and anxiety about who I was.
It took me years to dispel the illegitimate concept that my gender and sexuality are what define me. It took me half of my adult life to realize I was good enough. Unfortunately, my younger self only understood the reinforcement of discord whenever I projected my gender expression as a Masculine of Center (MOC) woman.
As I write this letter today, I want “Lil Gwen” to know how strong she was to endure the hurtful comments, repeated insults, rejection, and confusion about her way of expressing her essences. I want her to know that her strength not to conform, and not to give up on life, has helped mold me into who I am today. I want that little tomboy to know that we did play sports and that we still love tennis shoes, jersey shorts, and basketball.
Most of all, I want Lil’ Gwen to know that we made it! In spite of having no space carved out for us in this cold world, we created our own. All the worry about who would find out that we liked girls is so funny now because we actually married one!
Lil’ Gwen, we have healed from a great deal of pain, and the source of shame we used to harbor in our identity is now our source of empowerment! You can stop wanting to die now, because Big Gwen is taking care of business for us!
Please share your thoughts or experiences with me about living in your “otherness” and how you express your authenticity in your daily life.
Gwendolyn D. Clemons, Editor-in-Chief