It’s what everybody strives to figure out about themselves. It’s what we see characters struggle with in books, TV, movies, and video games. This idea of facing your own personal demons in order to figure out just who you are. It’s something we hear about in various songs and poetry. It’s elusive. Other times, it’s concrete.
This past year has been one where the idea of identity has been weighing heavily on me. I used to think that when I was in my 30s–a so called adult–that I would know who I am and what I wanted. When I was a teenager it seemed like all the adults had their lives figured out, that they knew who they were and what they wanted.
How naive I was! Still am?
A lot has changed over the course of the past four years for me. I earned a Master’s in English and Creative Writing. I’ve been changing my philosophy on education and grades. I came out to everyone as gay despite my lifelong fear of rejection.
And it did cost me a lot.
My biological family sees me as mentally ill, screwed up, and a heathen for being gay. I haven’t spoken to my parents since July of 2020. A man I once called “dad” apparently said he’d always known I was gay (I mean they did discover gay porn on the computer when I was a teenager after all) but he’d said he hoped my mom would die before every finding out I was gay. Literally wished her to be dead so she would never know about my sexuality. My mom has repeatedly declared she never gave birth to THAT (referring to a homosexual person as myself) and that I am screwed up and sick for being gay. My sister, who just had a baby in September–my nephew–won’t speak to me and has made it clear I won’t get to know my nephew because I’m gay. And people wonder why I struggle with anxiety and depression…
For my whole life, I was rooted in my biological family. I was raised in the church, taught to believe in God and not question anything. I was encouraged to deny scientific fact in exchange for faith. I was led to believe in White Jesus (who is totally not White). I was told gay people would burn in hell and there was no hope, which led me to deny my sexuality for years and live unhappily. Hell, it even had me contemplate suicide a few times and carry out half-assed attempts.
I was encouraged to offend people in the name of “tough love.” I wish I were making this up. If a BIPOC community member claimed something said/done was racist, I was told the race card was being played and that people made big deals out of nothing. I was taught to say “All Lives Matter” in response to “Black Lives Matter.” I didn’t realize how racist that was at the time. Keep in mind that I’m a cis white male. Talk about white privilege, right?
Over the years, I’ve come to see that a lot of what I was told to think and believe has flaws and, well, is pretty destructive. I’m not perfect by any means nor will I ever be. However, I’ve learned to listen to people, especially BIPOC community members when they speak up about something that’s harmful to them. I take notes and work to be better. I’ve read countless books on social justice, marched in Black Lives Matter events, and work as an equity advocate in my school district.
The response of my family? “You’re going against your own race by supporting BLM.”
Think about that. Because I work to fight for racial equity, I’m going against my own race. I was floored. This was one of the last things said to me by my mom. It was a pretty disgusting moment.
Having been, essentially, disowned by my family I’ve really been able to take a step back and think about who I am. I no longer have to pretend to be somebody else. I question. I research. I read. I accept.
After conducting research on many things, reading a lot of history, and looking at scientific evidence, well, I’m not sure what I believe in the religious sense of things. There are some major flaws in what I was told growing up. There are a ton of inconsistencies, and I can now see why I was told to never question anything–to blindly accept and believe what I was preached and read. But after some research I realize that a lot of the Bible is cherry-picked and the justifications for homophobia, racism, and misogyny is utterly flawed and cherry-picked.
I’m not necessarily saying I don’t believe in a God, but I’m also keeping on open-mind because I’m noticing a lot of ugly in what I was raised in. I would be lying if I said that these past four years hasn’t led me to this place. For example, how can the Church claim to love all people unconditionally yet support a man like Trump who was constantly bullying and insulting people? Who displayed his misogyny and racism blatantly? People who literally used the motto “Fuck your feelings” as a foundation to stand upon. Isn’t that going against the very teachings of Jesus?
It actually pushed me further away because I didn’t want to be associated with any of that. Not one bit.
So, looking over all that has transpired, I find myself in a quest for my own identity. Who even am I?
I know I’m a teacher (even though I’ve been told by family I’m part of the “liberal” brainwashing agenda by teaching students to research, think critically, and fact-check). I know I’m gay (despite the condemnation people I know have spewed at me). I know I’m a writer and a nerd (despite the struggles writing brings and people thinking I’m too extreme with my love of stories).
There’s so much more of me that I’m trying to figure out and discover. It may take a few weeks. It will probably take years.
And you know what? That’s okay.
Well, because, it means I will never grow stagnant. My identity, on some levels, will remain fresh. On other levels, it will be strengthened.
I can’t say I’ll be the same person a few years from now. Don’t get me wrong some things about me will never change. I’ll always be a writer, a nerd, and I’m 100% gay even if I can’t find myself a man! Ugh.
But I’m open to this journey. And it’s okay to be roaming the forest… sometimes the desert… of identity. It’s okay to seek because if you don’t seek and ask questions, how will you ever discover your truth?
But for now? Well, I’m in the field of fragmented identity.