Representation is Important!

Notice: There are a few definitions at the conclusion of this blogpost to clear up any meanings in question.

As a cis white person, I grew up without noticing my privilege. It’s not about looking around and seeing all of the white and cis people, it’s that I never did. I grew up blind to what it was like for people who are perceived as different from the “norm”. You get told that difference is something to be celebrated, but you equate it to having different interests, wanting different things, and having different opinions.

As a woman, I quickly learned that my value was perceived as less in this society. My opinion mattered very little compared to a man’s. My worth was equated to how a man would view me, and not how I would view myself. As if my sole purpose in life was to make a man happy enough to grace me with the ultimate goal for a woman: being a mother.

In the military, I experienced sexism in the most apparent manner. In training, I clung to my female platoon sergeant, and the female platoon guide in the senior platoon. Because they were there, I saw what I could be. For the first time in my military career, I saw my ambitions as attainable whereas previously I only saw males succeed. It was because of them that I worked so diligently on studying. It was because of them that I eventually became a platoon guide myself.

As a queer person, I often find myself looking around, assessing my situation. Am I in a safe space? I’m lucky that in some ways, I look just like some hipster, but in others, I am perceived as different. Because of this, I often frequent places where I know I won’t be the only queer. I seek out the nightlife of gay bars as a place where I can look around, and see others like me. I attend a camp for queer women. It is the most freeing feeling that I have EVER felt. Regardless of my social anxiety and introversion, I still felt comfortable because of that sense of belonging.

As a bisexual, more often than not people see you as one way or the other. If you are with a man, you must be straight. If you are with a woman, you must be gay. Finding others like you is even more difficult, because you are glossed into one category or another.

I’ve recently borrowed a book titled The Telling by Ursula K. Le Guin. Previously, I had no idea that the main character, Sutty, is queer. Le Guin does a beautiful job in introducing that fact, and by the second chapter, it is revealed. As soon as I read it, tears came to my eyes. I’ve seen celebrities come out, and have been surrounded by queers many times, but this is the first book (outside of Hannah Hart’s Buffering Book) that I’ve read where the protagonist is queer. Because of the words in a few short sentences, I cried. I cried because finally there was a character like me.

Representation is important. There needs to be more women in leadership. There needs to be more safe spaces. There needs to be more queers everywhere. There needs to be more representation for people of color (POC), more trans representation, more representation. This blog post has been about my own experiences, but I am not perceived as different nearly as often as others are. I’m still learning how to be an ally to those who are POC, and trans, and non binary, etc. This isn’t just about safety, but safety is a huge part of it. The more representation there is, the safer it will be out in our world.

So, I ask you, do you look around? Do you try and find someone who is different like you? Do you feel comfortable everywhere? In what ways? The first step is to acknowledge privilege. I know some of you may not think that you have privilege. I hope that this post has shown you that it is possible to have privilege in some areas, and not in others. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Definitions:

  • cis: A person who identifies with the gender assigned at birth
  • queer: In this article, I use it as an over-arching term for anyone on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. ***This term is in the process of being reclaimed by some members of the LGBT community***
  • trans: A person who identifies with a gender that is different than what they were assigned at birth.
  • privilege: a special right or advantage granted or available to only a particular person or group of people.

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