Thursday, September 27, 2012

Permanent Pride

On September 20th, 2012, I got my first tattoo:

It reads "Love is never wrong," and wrapping around my ankle are 3 sets of couples holding hands - 2 men, 1 man and 1 woman, and 2 women.

As a matter of luck in scheduling, September 20th coincided with the one-year anniversary of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the policy that kept LGBT members of the United States military from being open about their sexual orientation.

 LGBT equality stands as the human rights issue closest to my heart. I have endured harassment over the years because my bisexuality does not fit the typical Southern American's definition of acceptable. It took me until this year to completely accept my orientation. I display my tattoo as a badge of pride in that accomplishment.

I live my life as a relatively quiet individual. I have strong opinions, but neglect to share them out of fear of intimidation. My dislike of conflicts with people holding strongly opposing viewpoints leads me to shy away from wearing my political t-shirts. When I do gather up enough courage to wear the tees, I frequently hold my arm or purse in front of the message in a paranoid attempt to avoid controversy. I realized this pathetic display had to stop. So what if some moron comes along and disagrees with me? That's life. It's a complete disservice if I stay silent about an issue I claim to hold dear. LGBT equality's importance to me far outweighs any future harassment I might receive. I smirk knowing there's nothing bigots can do about the tattoo anyway - it's not going anywhere, no matter how much they hate it. I could cover up the tattoo if I so wish, but it's not like a t-shirt I can remove at the end of the day. It's literally and figuratively a part of me now.

It's obvious that my sexuality played a substantial role in my decision to get this tattoo, but I was not the only person I had in mind. I would not be here today without the love of my friends of all sexual orientations. "Love is never wrong" is a simple but straightforward message to let friends and other equality supporters know that they are my brothers and sisters. I was supported with love; this is my way of returning it. Good friends taught me that their first concern about a relationship I'm in is not the sex of my partner, but my happiness. They've compelled me to continue spreading this message wherever I go, carrying their support with me every step of the way.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Love it or Leave it - Why I Stopped Accommodating

When I revealed to the world on Myspace five years ago that I was bisexual and not religious, my mother became upset. She wanted  me to take the information down because I was "flaunting it." My persistent refusal to comply resulted in no computer privileges for months. It took her a few years before she completely understood why I wanted to be open. She feared for my safety, living in a place not very welcoming to different folks. I understand her now, although I did not at the time. Her phrasing of "advertising" my atheism and bisexuality made me angry because I didn't see why everyone else was able to list themselves as straight and Christian. I knew I deserved the same freedom. I kept insisting I was not "advertising" because advertising involves spamming people with a message over and over again. I described my actions as a declaration of honesty. I never forced people to acknowledge my differences. The information was simply there for those who cared enough to know. It was and never will be a "HEY EVERYONE, LOOK AT ME" type of affair.

It's the same today with other social media (and in real life). My mother was right in that some people who view my information will not like what they see. Some have made it a point to tell me so in a hateful manner. Thankfully, a secondary function of listing this information about myself is weeding out people I don't need in my life anyway. I find it easier for others to see who I am up front. If they're too close-minded to befriend me, I'll have saved myself valuable time and effort. Should someone choose to complain about my identity after having access to the information in plain sight, I am not at fault for their ignorance.

Trying to accommodate others to avoid making them uncomfortable is no longer a part of me. When a friend or potential dating partner has asked me not to reveal my sexuality or religious beliefs to other friends or their parents, I make no promises. I refuse to lie or stay silent if an offensive comment is made by the person or people whose good side I'm "supposed" to stay on. A person either likes me or doesn't. I'd personally rather find out sooner than later if someone doesn't want my company.

The request I've received most often by casual friends is "So and so's super religious, so don't mention being an atheist around her." Unless the religious person asks me where I go to church or whatever, I have little reason to discuss the subject in the first place. It's not my style to incite controversy. I simply warn the friend in advance that bringing me along to meet someone new means they acknowledge I won't shy away from who I am in any way.

I'm out because I've worked so hard to accept myself that it would be a detriment to my progress to publicly deny any part of who I am. I'm an atheist, a bisexual, and a former cutter (among many other things). It's not my responsibility to coddle people I make uncomfortable. The issue lies within the person with the objection. While these aspects of my identity have indeed scared (and pissed) some people off, I am at peace knowing that these qualities regularly filter out ignorance I have no time for. I refuse to let anyone rob me of the happiness I deserve.