No, I’m not fighting for a brighter future for myself. I’m fighting for a brighter future for the generations to come, the future females, the future LGBTQ+ community, the future people of other race or religion. I’m fighting to change attitudes towards minorities or marginalised groups of the community so that young people moving forward don’t suffer with the inner turmoil I do, and are not subject to racial discrimination like so many others I have seen.
Growing up as a female in a world still caught up in the Patriarchal net was damaging. I grew up surrounded by ‘be a lady’ sentiments, being told that sex was a shameful thing to talk about, being told about big, strong men. Every time I heard someone talk about ‘punching like a girl’ or a girl being ‘slutty’ I was slowly (but surely) convinced that these things were bad. Girls were weak, girls needed to dress pretty and act nice so that boys would like them. Girls that didn’t dress pretty were dykes, and I didn’t know what that meant but that was bad. Boys who cried were girls and pussy’s and probably gay and therefore were not good men. I grew up in a world where men were (and are still) paid more than women simply for being men. At age 12 I was told I had to start dressing more modestly because men would see that I was becoming a woman and some men just couldn’t help themselves. Sex is for people you love and only people you love, sex equals love and it might feel nice but don’t sleep with too many people because men don’t like a slut. I shouldn’t walk alone at night, I shouldn’t wear a skirt too short or a top too low cut, I should wear makeup but not too much, I should get skinny but not too skinny. Don’t talk too loudly, don’t be too proud, it’s okay to need help from a man… men like that. I want men to like me, to find me pretty and to fall in love with me, don’t I?
I was young when I first heard LGBTQ+ people spoken about negatively, except I didn’t know what it meant. I knew that gays and dykes were bad. I knew that if a boy cried in the school yard he was a fag, I knew that if a girl didn’t dress pretty enough she was a lesbian. I didn’t know what those words meant but I knew they were an insult. I was (probably) 10 or 11 when I found out what the words meant when someone explained it to me. They explained that it used to be bad but it’s okay now, except it wasn’t because those words were still and insult. I thought that was wrong but I was 10 and I wasn’t the bad thing so I didn’t think much of it. I was 13 when someone told me not to get too close to the lesbians because they’ll try to turn me and I didn’t want that. I had a friend who was a lesbian, I told people I didn’t care because I wasn’t a lesbian and she knew that. My 14th birthday party was held at my house and we played spin the bottle, I’d never kissed anyone but it was okay because I’d just kiss people on the cheek and they were all my friends anyway. On my second spin the bottle landed on my friend and as I went to kiss her cheek the jokes and cheering started. Asking me why I wouldn’t just kiss her on the lips, what was I? Afraid of being gay? I certainly wasn’t and I wasn’t afraid so I took a deep breath and I kissed her on the lips and oh shit maybe I was a little bit gay. The next year I got a boyfriend who I really liked, who was older than me, and I slept with him because that’s what people did when they ‘loved’ each other. I didn’t tell anyone about my first kiss for two years, I had boyfriends so I didn’t really need to think about it, then I told my best friend and then we never spoke about it again. I didn’t really think about any of that again until I was 21 and met a girl who I couldn’t stop thinking about.
I spent a lot of time between the ages of 12-21 trying to figure out my style. I knew that tom-boy kind of girls got to wear comfy clothes but not makeup and that pretty girls got to wear makeup but the two never really mixed. You had to pick what you were, you couldn’t be both. When I went through my ‘tom boy’ phase I copped a lot of teasing. When I went through my pretty phase I was ‘high maintenance.’ I changed my hair, my clothes, my perfume, my weight, my makeup. I did everything according to what society and boys told me they liked. Often, I thought it would be so much easier if I was a boy, I wished I was a boy. Don’t drink beer, that’s a man’s drink. Get a salad, it’s more feminine. Everything was gendered and I knew that everything feminine was less than but it was what I was expected to be, lest I be a lesbian. I was confused, I felt lost and unhappy. Why couldn’t I wear a mens shirt with pretty makeup? Why couldn’t I wear a pretty dress one day and pants the next? Why did it matter if I looked like a girl or not? Why should I have to change myself so someone would love me?
I don’t walk alone at night because I can’t, because it’s not safe, because boys will be boys and men will attack you. For years one of my first instincts when a woman was murdered or raped was to question why she was out so late, or what she was wearing, or how drunk she was. For years I thought my worth relied on whether men wanted to fuck me. I spent years being the butt of ‘lesbian’ jokes because I hadn’t had a boyfriend for a while because I just genuinely didn’t find anyone that became more than a fling. When I told people about the girl I was seeing the first questions were: “so you’re a lesbian now?” “well what are you?” “you have to pick something,” “should I stop getting changed in front of you?” Jokes hurt, and the pressure to label myself sucked, feeling like a failure and a disappointment sucks, being scared to walk down the street on my own fucking sucks. I don’t want to hold my keys between my knuckles when I walk to my car. I spent years being afraid to speak up about how I felt because women should be agreeable and nobody likes a man hater or a kill-joy and I should just smile because I’m so much prettier then… right?
I’m fighting for a future where women aren’t scared to exist. Where men can show emotion. I’m fighting for a future where self-expression and happiness are important. Not the clothes you wear, or if you wear makeup, or if you identify as male, female or non-binary. I think about all the confusion, and inner turmoil and hatred inside of me that I still feel to this day and my heart breaks for every person who was different from the norm. The boys who grew up wanting to play with makeup and wear pink, or women/men who grow up in the wrong body. People of different race, religion, or other. I imagine the shame, the fear, and how I bet at least once in their life they’ve wished they were anyone but who they are. Even once is too much.
Spite, hatred and fear are taught. Nobody is born bigoted, they learn to be. For the future to be brighter, we all need to play our part and teach the future generations to be loving and kind to one another. To treat each other with kindness. That’s why I’m fighting… what about you?
This post was originally written for and posted on the Passionately Petrified website. Go check it out!