Identity Politics

Identity is a powerful thing. The more we grow and evolve in life, the more we tend to gain clarity about “who” we are. Some of us find confidence and solidarity in labels: Gay, Strait, Bisexual, Pansexual, Queer, Trans, Nonbinary, Man, Woman, Black, White, Latina, Asian, Deaf, Teacher, Doctor, Nurse, Student, Activist, Artist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Pagan, Atheist, and on and on. There are so many identities we can embody and several that can define us all at once.

Often, labels can help us to understand ourselves and our place in the world. This is especially true for minorities and marginalized groups. A simple label can give a person a sense of community, liberation, and something to stand for. Our identities often drive what we want from politicians and social campaigns. We go as far as to label our political stances: Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, Independent. The very thing that can bring people together can also divide us, creating an Us vs. Them mentality.

Some people don’t like to label themselves at all. Not their sexuality, not their gender, not their race, not their belief system, not their politics. People who prefer not to fit into any one category may find themselves being pressured to choose a side, or to fit neatly into a box that everyone can readily understand and, consequently, judge.

Labels can change over time. A person can go from being an Atheist to a Christian to a Buddhist. A person can go from being a woman to gender-fluid. A person can go from being conservative to liberal. Few people stay in the same boxes their whole lives. We are creatures of change.

I think labels can be valuable. They give us a sense of self and purpose. But I also think fitting into a box can be limiting. When it comes to politics, many (not all) gay people will take a stand for gay rights and social acceptance. Many (not all) women will stand for women’s rights and feminism. Many (not all) immigrants will stand for other immigrants and refugees. But it can create a problem when people only take a stand for their own identities.

If people who are not directly impacted by the struggles faced by the LGBT community, the deaf community, people with developmental disorders, people with mental illnesses, Black people, Hispanic people, etc, aren’t as educated or involved, what does it say about political movements? If our politics are mostly driven by personal experience, how can we expect others to step outside of their own experiences to understand our needs?

I think we need to challenge ourselves to step outside of our own labels. I think sometimes our politics need to transcend our identities. And I think the way we do that is by educating ourselves on the experiences of people who are different from us. Otherwise, we’re stuck in our own bubbles, surrounded by a group (some smaller than others) that understands our struggles and our fight, remaining as unaware of our neighbors as they are of us.

I think it’s important for us to know ourselves. But I also think it’s important for us to build bridges by knowing about others, too.

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Laurel vs Yanny

[Note: this post gets political.]

Yesterday, a clip was trending on social media where some people heard the word “yanny,” others heard “laurel,” and some heard both. People have been comparing it to that dress that appeared to be a different color to different people.

It’s interesting that we can all have different perspectives and that we can perceive things differently, even though, in most cases, our experiences of our senses seem to be similar and somewhat universal. This whole thing has made me think about something that has permeated our (United States) culture much more over the past couple years–politics.

A lot of people say that, politically, the U.S is divided. For some, this division is about republicans and democrats. For me, this division is about racism. It’s about homophobia and transphobia. It’s about Black Lives Matter, affordable healthcare, affordable education, and affordable housing. It’s about policing and controlling women’s bodies. It’s about the fact that there are states that I am afraid to live in because there is a higher chance that I will experience discrimination in the workplace or other settings. It’s about the fact that people who claim to be nationalists are more outraged about political protests than they are about homeless veterans.

It’s about the fact that Nazis and the KKK STILL EXIST. It’s about the fact that there are people who care more about displaying confederate flags than they do about respecting and protecting minorities. It’s about the fact that brown people who commit acts of violence are terrorists or thugs while white Americans who commit mass shootings are “mentally ill,” “troubled,” “lone wolves,” “isolated,” and “bullied.” It’s about the fact that gay pride, Black Lives Matter, and DREAMers being supported by mainstream media (at times) does not mean most places in this country are safe for marginalized groups.

It’s about the fact that sex workers are shamed by the same politicians who watch porn, hire escorts, and cheat on their spouses. It’s about the fact that immigrants and people seeking a better quality of life are shamed by a country founded on genocide and built on the backs of Black slaves. It’s about the fact that people of color, LGBT people, and women are astronomically underrepresented in history textbooks.

There is a division between me and the people who are contributing to the above issues. There is a division between me and the people who turn my existence, and the existence of my friends, into a political battle daily.

This is my perspective. This is my “yanny.” But the fact is, not everyone is hearing what I’m hearing. Not everyone is seeing what I’m seeing. Not everyone is feeling what I’m feeling. My values are not the same as everyone else’s. Other people are hearing “laurel.” And maybe some of us can hear both at times, just like some of us can at least empathize with a perspective that is different from our own.

We all experience life in our own way and there are perspectives I will simply never understand. And there are people who will simply never understand me. Everyone is fighting for their own existence to be validated, heard, represented, and understood. We are seeing different stories unfold. We are seeing the same dress in a vastly different color.

I want to feel safe and respected. I want the people I love most to feel safe and respected. That will always be the force that drives my perspective. That will always dictate the color I see and the sound that I hear. I don’t think divisions can ever go away while anyone’s identity is be swept aside.

At least, that’s the way I see it.

 

Thoughts on 24

Walking1

I’ll be 25 in six months. I read somewhere that when you turn 25, that’s when your brain transitions more into adulthood, or something along those lines. And I can kind of see that. I feel like I’m at a point where I’m still wanting to experiment, while also looking for constants. The truth is though, being in your twenties is hard. I see this as a decade of my life that’s one big experiment. It’s filled to the brim with failure, and it’s filled with the illusions of what you think your life should look like.

By 24, lots of people in the boomer generation were married, buying their first house, and having babies. At least, that’s how it seems. If my math is correct, my parents were 25 and 27 when they got married, and less than a year later I was born. So, by that standard, I still “have time” to figure things out. Right?

Honestly, by thirty I’ll probably be single. If I’m lucky, I’ll live in a shoe box apartment in Brooklyn, and if I’m really lucky I’ll have a cat.

The thing I hate about being in my twenties is that this is the youngest I’m ever going to be, while also being independent and old enough to do anything I want. But I can’t even enjoy it because I’m too stressed about having a career, AND a relationship, AND a car, AND exercising/ eating healthy, AND earning degrees, AND having an apartment, traveling, etc. Not to mention wanting to be happy 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

I’ll be the first to admit I get stressed because I try to do everything at once. But maybe the truth is, we can’t expect ourselves to do and have all of those things at the same time, can we? In high school and college, the only thing I really truly had to worry about was school. There may have been jobs and skills to build on the side, but school was the one thing that was really important. It was the top priority for my time.

After graduating, it’s like everything becomes the top priority. At least that’s how I feel. Suddenly, work, relationships, and everything else needs to be number one. It’s like everything you want in life is part of a Jenga tower, and if you don’t get one thing quite right, the whole tower (i.e- your whole life), will come crumbling down.

Of course, that’s not really how life works. People I know in their 50s, 40s, and even 30s are either married or not, they have kids or they don’t, they live in their own house, or they don’t. I’m not saying people don’t stress when they’re older, or that they don’t get bummed out about not having things they want, but I do feel like there’s less pressure.

In your 20s, people want to know how you’re using that degree you just got. They want to know if you’re dating if you’re single, or if you’re gonna marry the person you’re dating, or if you and your spouse are gonna have kids, or if you’re gonna breast feed the kids you already have, etc, etc, etc. It’s endless. If you don’t have a job, people want to know if you are looking. If you’re earning a degree, they want to know what you’ll do with it. It’s like being a young adult gives everyone permission to watch you under a microscope, and to make sure your decisions and answers align with whatever can make them the most comfortable.

I always thought my twenties would have a sense of adventure, but instead, it just feels like a long climb toward stability. Now that I’m halfway to twenty-five, it just makes me think. I don’t want to spend the rest of this decade feeling stressed and sad and inadequate. I don’t want it to pass me by while I’m drowning in job applications or worried about being “forever alone.”

But unfortunately, as much as I want to live my life to the fullest, I don’t really know how. I want to do what makes me happy, but it doesn’t always feel that simple. I’ve learned the hard way that no one but you cares if you’re in a lane that makes you unhappy. You have to fight for that on your own. And sometimes that fight is exhausting, or it has to wait.

The past five years have been transformative. I’ve been through a lot, accomplished a lot, and learned so much. It hasn’t all been failure and sadness, but it can feel that way at times. I remember the anxious times more than I remember the good times.

I want the next five years to be better. I hope they are. I hope happiness can be less elusive.

Your Gender Won’t Stop Me From Loving You

If you’re a woman

Then I stand with you in solidarity

You’re free to embrace your feminine

And masculine energy

You can express yourself how you choose

Only you own your body

No one else can tell you

The kind of woman you should be.

.

If you’re a man

You can be strong and together

Or you can fall apart in a puddle of tears

There’s feelings that flow through us

For all these years

So of course let them go

Without holding onto social fears.

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If you’re nonbinary

I respect you

And I want you to always live your truth

And if you think the world sees you

As a little too much “he”

Or a little too much “she”

Give it time, I know you’ll make them see

Who it is you really want to be.

.

If you don’t know what your gender is

Or if you’re confused or lost

Or afraid to find the truth

Because you’re worried about the cost

Don’t worry, I’m here

And many others are, too

You don’t have to have it figured out

Either way, I’ll support you.

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Your gender is a part of you

It won’t stop me from loving you.

Black Hair Magic

[This story is taken from a book I’m self-publishing called ‘Impossible Things.’ The genre is magical realism. Thanks for reading! Full book coming soon. ❤ ]

A short story

By: Ashley Tiara Lilly

Black Hair Magic

It was a hot summer day but the air conditioning was cool. Abigail sat on her bed, flipping through a copy of her favorite magazine while eating from a pack of peach-flavored mints. She was wearing a new pair of denim shorts with her favorite white top that was decorated with lace.

She paused when she saw a picture of her favorite popstar, Daphne Moon, and circled it with a blue pen. Daphne wore red lipstick, a golden, glittery dress, and her smile was bright. What really stood out, though, was her hair, slicked back but still showing off her beautiful curls. Abigail snapped a picture with her smart phone and sent it to her best friend, Jayla, typing,

“Ugh she’s so perfect. Why can’t my hair look like that????”

There was a knock on the door and her mother walked in, carrying a brown box. She shook the box to get her attention, its contents rattling inside. As soon as Abigail heard it, she knew exactly what it was. She hopped out of bed and took the box in her hands, holding it to her chest like a long lost treasure.

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Like this story? Read the rest of it here 🙂

I See You

My dear women

Who are worried their health rights

Are threatened, I see you

My dear trans kids who are worried

They won’t be protected or accepted

I see you

My dear LGBTQ community

Who feels scared or discriminated against

I see you

My dear Muslims who feel unsafe

Or judged, I see you

My dear people of color, who feel this world

Does not love them enough, I see you

My dear misfits

Who feel judged for being different

Who feel the brokenness of a system

That leaves them feeling not good enough,

Not heard enough, not cared for enough

I see you

I care about you, I Am You

Our ancestors before us fought for equality

And we will continue that fight

Because we are here, we matter, and we belong

If you feel invisible, powerless, or scared

I see you

I love you, and I have hope.