Apologies for my silence this past week. I have been very busy and the news this weekend has left me in sort of a funk. The shooting in Orlando has stirred up the hornets’ nest on social media and people are at each other’s throats again over political agendas. Look how it just takes one man to tear families and friends apart! It’s taken me a few days to decide how or if I wanted to deal with this news, but #WeAreOrlando says it best. This could have happened anywhere to anyone. Sure, the LGBTQ community is not universally accepted, but school children also get massacred.
It highlights, for me, the reality that I have two very separate versions of myself between online and offline. People might say that I adopt a false persona online, but the truth is I live in the middle of a very conservative town in Texas, and the person I am offline is the mask. I don’t broadcast my orientation, religion, or political affiliation to the people I encounter in public, because I’m actually afraid. I’d love to deck out my ride with decals that show the world who I am, but I worry my vehicle would get vandalized. I worry about neighbors, clients and coworkers watching me, waiting for me to screw up so they have some reason to get rid of me. I worry about these things, and my situation isn’t even that hard to hide, so I can’t even imagine the courage it takes my friends to be open about who they are.
I’ll say it once so there’s no confusion: I’m a genderqueer, pansexual, nature-revering agnostic. I’m fortunate, because I happen to be in love with a man, enjoy wearing makeup, and don’t have any major religious obligations that anyone would need to know about. When I go out in public, I’m pretty unremarkable (even when I have bright pink hair). People forget that I was ever there, and that’s worked fine in most parts of my life, with the exception of work history on job applications because no one remembers the years I worked alongside them.
I’d love to wear strange clothing and be my authentic (eccentric) self, but I’m even worried about interactions with police. The only time I’ve been pulled over was because I had a plate light out (yeah, right), so I know that it could happen even when I think I’m being a completely safe and responsible driver. My concern is what might happen if the cop walks up and finds Elvira in the driver seat. I realize, in this regard, that I’m a product of a victim-blaming society. One where I have to be mindful of myself and dress as conservatively as possible (being overweight keeps me modest) so as not to provoke strong opinions and reactions. It’s not enough to know in my heart that I’m a good and loving person who follows the rules, because I also know that’s not what I’ll be judged on when I leave the house.
Whenever something like the Orlando shooting happens, people start pointing fingers and busting into factions. It makes me very aware of the opinions of others. Aware that, if we weren’t friends with history, we wouldn’t even tolerate each other. This is exactly how our nation falls, afraid and lashing out at each other. I promise I will try my hardest to separate the person from the politics, because I know you’re just as scared as I am. There’s only one way to win.