Deconstruction journals iii

Honestly, the concept is still so foreign to me that someone could ever want to enter into a romantic relationship with me purely because they like me as a person, and not as an idea or expectation, not as a lost cause they just haven’t yet given up on.

Only recently, I’ve started to understand that in this and other areas, I have been expected to merely tolerate my life. Tolerate depression, disillusionment, loneliness, and rage because I don’t fit. Because I have never quite fit, I thought the best I could hope for was non-conformance and frustration. The price of being an old soul, of standing in the middle ground.

I was expected to call this right. Living but not quite alive. So long as I was functional, what did it matter if I wasn’t human and could never hope to be?

Only recently, I’ve realized I can leave this behind. I can be fully alive.

Not just practical, useful, or safely “content.”

I, too, can be human.

I can be happy.

+++

Woman

Ugly chest, ugly hips.

Sex on soft, ugly stilts.

23 years trying to accept this body.

In a sea of voices screaming.

You are female: You are ugly, beautiful, sensual, horrible. Cover your repulsive, delectable skin. Anything that happens to you is your fault. You are a woman, it is always your fault.

Wait to be rescued and valued by a kind charitable soul, because the world hates you.

Procreate and try to be pretty and maybe it will be satisfied.

Too much and not enough. The disgusting message of my culture.

Too much, not enough.

A 12-year-old, afraid of what was happening.

What it would mean.

A 15-year-old bleeding for the first time. Paying a lifelong debt of pain and fatigue and blood to be hated by the world.

A child, terrified to grow up. Because her culture tried to get her to believe that women aren’t human. Women aren’t funny. Women aren’t strong or unique or interesting. They are pursed lips and styled hair. They are strange, needy, bitter creatures with annoying high-pitched voices. They are sexual vending machines, a status symbol, a lubricated hole.

Ugly chest, ugly hips.

Is it any wonder I hated these parts of myself?

Because all I’ve ever wanted was to be human.

And this soft body made it hard to masquerade as one.

I could try to disown myself, if I wanted–say I am neither. I am nothing.

Except my heart won’t let me.

I intend to stay here, in this body and its labels, declare for myself that it is human. My body is a good place to live, and I have decided that for myself. I will reach out for as many hands as will join mine. I will raise my voice to be heard and I will defend to my dying breath that women are funny, they are strong and unique and interesting and they can be whatever and whoever is in their hearts to be. They are human.

We are human, and we do not owe the world anything.

Quiet chest.

Steady hips.

Cherished skin.

The world cannot define for me whether I am human or not.

My body is a temple, and first and foremost, it is mine.

Hate it, hate me, if you want.

But I will not.

+++

A/N: Some thoughts on womanhood and rape culture.

We are not monsters

When it began to mature, I was terrified.

There was no hiding what I was.

People would stare. They would think they knew what I was supposed to be or do or want. Some would understand, others would look at me like some kind of animal.

Centuries of objectification, symbolization, fanatic sacralization.

Beautiful yet ugly, sacred yet shameful. Mysterious but inferior, immaculate yet disgusting. Desired, yet abhorred.

Just because ideas are ancient doesn’t make them right.

What does that make someone feel, to be born in such a body?

Someone who wants only to be human?

Who looks upon their own physical container and wonders why. A child feeling that pain for the first time and thinking what a curse it is to be born this way. Why do creatures like us carry such burden? What an honor, I’m told.

What an honor. We can be procreators, but never human.

And rising against the voices, the dominant, the brutish, the ancient, we hear our own. Insisting what we are. Perhaps we’re crazy. Perhaps we’re wild. Rabid, diseased beasts. Overstepping the lines we did not set, renouncing our masters. Whispering or snarling what we know to be true, however we can get people to listen.

We are not monsters.

We are human.

We are human.

+++

A/N: Thoughts while milling around the apartment this afternoon.

Speaking up

I care far too much of what people think of me, and perhaps this post is one of the first public manifestations of a long string of minor subterranean adjustments. That finally I am willing to bare my soul on this subject, knowing full well that people will read this and will disagree, and may feel compelled to tell me in no uncertain terms.

To that, I say I hate arguing. I refuse to engage in a passive aggressive Facebook-comment-esque fight over politics and ideologies. But I do want you to think. To extend a possibility that some of you might not have considered.

I only ask that you make no quick judgments as you read this. Not for my sake, but for yours, and for the sakes of the marginalized. For this whole battle of technicalities we are engaged in, which is pulling us further and further from the real focus.

+

Society is changing. Some aspects for the worse, and some for the better.

I personally consider the feminist and LGBTQ movements to be among the better.

Why?

Because, man or woman, straight or otherwise, we are people. Human beings. As a culture, we are moving to find and embrace whatever we are, whoever we are. To get to know ourselves and assert our value despite being misunderstood. We do not fit in a preconceived box or align well with dominant culture. And that is valid. We are valid. Because God says we are.

Believing it for ourselves is harder, though, and that is why I think the major social movements of our era are so incredibly important.

Because God cannot be contained in a box. Should not His people also transcend boxes?

But we are warned about being like the world. Left to our own devices, humans tend toward destructive behavior and we must not compromise ourselves and blend in too much with the dominant culture. But, to some degree, sanitized, Christian, evangelical culture has become like a secondary dominant culture.

And the dominant cultures are still unaccepting of marginalized groups (which isn’t a new phenomenon). We still tend toward forming sanitized, gated communities and wondering why the outliers are so averse to that. We get so stuck in our ways of thinking and doing things that we get too comfortable and stick to what we know, to the detriment of those our systems don’t take into account.

But where is the line between compromising our moral standards and being even remotely relatable to real people? How much is our in-group mindset and how much of the alternative are we better off embracing?

Isn’t lifting people’s spirits good? Isn’t convincing them they matter good? Isn’t it good to fight against cultural and racial and ideological barriers that tell people they should be who they clearly are not, and whose persistent denial is serving no productive purpose?

That is not to say we are to baby people and only tell them what they want to hear. Because that isn’t loving. That’s lame and patronizing, and counterproductive. I’m not saying we should avoid setting people straight when necessary. But we must really think hard about what we’re trying to set straight and decide before we hurt someone whether it is something that really needs to be fixed.

“What feels right” is a term scorned by the conservative, evangelical community I grew up in. But there’s a lot of truth in it. “What feels right” is a valid starting place. Follow your heart, your head. But follow God. He’ll work with you in the spots He’s not cool with.

Learn, grow, keep an open mind. Dare to be wrong for a little while in search for what’s really true. Because I know for a fact that God is very much not cool with stagnancy and marginalization.

But am I getting desensitized? Desensitized to the blatant depravity of the world and its devices? Buying a lie? Slipping to the dark side?

The Holy Spirit lives in me. God guides me, and watches out for me. And right now, I see our sticking to our guns—our conservative, men and women have their places, gays will tear the world apart mentalities—as doing so much more harm than good. It is divisive, and smells too much of “I know your place. Here, let me put you in it.”

The territory’s uncertain, so of course we’d be apprehensive, but we’ve come a long way as a species. And maybe the world will come to ruin. In fact, unless drastic intervention takes place, I believe it will.

Because I see the signs everywhere:

Violence, dehumanization, objectification, and abuse.

No desire to understand, no empathy, no selflessness. No care, no time,

Addiction, destructive sexual habits, destructive relationships.

Unspeakable things done to other human beings out of greed.

Ignorance, arrogance, spite, entitlement, exploitation of the defenseless.

I don’t see self-acceptance, validation, empowerment, protection, or equality fitting into that list.

Anywhere.

If anything, the very social movements I see pushback against are in part solutions to the problem—persistent humanization and validation of people as people, and support as they search, as we all are, for our identity.

In my ignorance, I once invalidated the very people I now defend. And I regret it. I pray that I never do that again. That I never be the person to tell someone their feelings and experiences are invalid.

I pray that I will be open-minded, patient, flexible, and brave. That I will be able to distinguish the key components of my moral compass at all times—that God’s business is God’s business, and love trumps absolutely everything.

I pray that we not become, or remain, “Pharisees,” freaking out about doctrine and technicalities so much that we miss the point and reduce people to mere problems. To poor, misguided souls.

I follow God. The wild, confusing, benevolent, persistent God.

I believe technicalities are not nearly as important as a person, and I will always do my best to keep my current biases and prior conceptions out of the way.

I believe the push for gender equality is so incredibly necessary. For the sake of everybody, not just women.

I believe the LGBTQ community needs to be welcomed, respected, and embraced. They are not a threat to the world order, or to the human race. In fact, we could learn so many things from them about honesty, identity, courage, and self-acceptance.

I believe the American church has some wires disconnected, but that they are beginning to reconnect. I believe we can repair this ostracization.

I believe that men and women are different only in genetics—and the physicality and hormones that arise from that—but that the differences have no bearing whatsoever in their roles as human beings. Biologically male or female or in between, we can be whatever the heck we want to be.

I don’t doubt I have more to learn. I will have more to learn until the day I die and then some, but for now I don’t want to be right.

I want to be real. I want to be useful and nurturing and understanding.

Because maybe all those prayers that this generation would open up their eyes are working.

+

I know for some this must be extremely uncomfortable to read. By now, you may be feeling an odd twisting inside your chest, a direct challenge to what you thought was cut-and-dry, a discomfort with the subject and a temptation to retreat and hold to what you’ve already figured out. I have felt it many many times along this journey. We just want things to be black and white, right and wrong—but there are far too many factors rendering such simplicity impossible.

So thank you for making it to the end of this piece. Even if you ultimately don’t agree with what I have said, I appreciate your time, attention, and your willingness to think about this.

Because in such a revolutionary time, there can be no complacency.

There can be no “us” vs. “them.”

Lines Crossed

Andrew sat rooted to the bench outside the principal’s office. Dead silent. Shoulders hunched forward. A scowl intense enough to melt steel trained on the wall across from her as she held a tissue to her bloody nose.

The setting sun threw yellow shapes on the hallway floor from the end window. Andrew kept an eye on that window. If any of John’s stupid posse of wannabes showed up to taunt her through the glass, it wouldn’t matter how emphatically she’d been ordered to stay put. They’d wish they were roadkill when she’d finished with them.

But Andrew would go from probably-grounded to dead-and-cursed-forever when her mom showed up if that happened.

Knowing Andrew’s luck, her mom would arrive the moment she took to beating the crap out of them. And Mom would bring Derek too. Sullen, noncommittal Derek, whose black hair always draped over one side of his face like a funeral curtain. Her adopted brother would have a heart attack coming upon the moment justice was served, and that possibility was the only thing obstructing Andrew’s full conviction of annihilating her idiotic, self-righteous peers.

Why did she wear “boy clothes?” Why was her light brown hair so short? Why didn’t she chase boys and talk about makeup and have really any friends? They asked too many questions. Never in an effort to understand, but to constantly peg her as a freak and a disappointment. Andrew already knew she was some kind of misfit without them rubbing it in her face.

Did it matter she didn’t care about what a lot of 12-year-old girls were “supposed to” care about? Did it matter that she didn’t have a crush on anyone? That her hands bore impressive calluses and she could outrun eighth-graders?

Andrew had tried to be civil. She’d tried freaking hard to be civil. But John and his friends became more and more unbearable by the day. They belittled her, scorned her. Especially when she fought back.

And finally, that day, all the way through the punch to John’s face, all she could think of were her mother’s words. Violence doesn’t solve problems, dear one.

But it was a beautiful sucker punch. And the sheer horror on every one of their faces—especially John’s—was worth the fight that ensued.

The principal just happened to be looking out his office window at the time.

Now Andrew was probably facing suspension. She guessed she was a perfect anti-example of her mom’s pacifistic advice. Mom would be frustrated, maybe even disappointed.

But maybe now they’d finally understand that she would not be pushed around.

Even if she had to break each of their noses twice, they would learn to respect her.

________________________

A/N: A small scene from one of my characters’ childhood. Her tolerance for jerks has substantially plummeted since then, but she puts her angst to good use these days.