Denial of Yet Another Queer Identity by Meme Dorsey

 

In “Denial of Yet Another Queer Identity,” Meme Dorsey writes a letter addressed to her “family” in which she discusses and highlights the emotional struggles she endured as she claimed her identity as a queer woman. Consider her uses of the epistolary (letter-writing) form,  photographs, and the refrain True acceptance and love cannot be conditional. You might ask yourself how each of these characteristics of Dorsey’s essay affected how you read or connected with its narrative. What innovative forms or non-textual elements (such as photographs) might you considering using in a personal narrative in order to speak about an issue important to you?


 

Dear family,

True acceptance and love cannot be conditional.

Cutting my hair was my first step towards personal acceptance. Cutting my hair consisted of months upon months of admiring various cuts and colors, before finally working up the courage to do it, despite your opinion. Cutting my hair was watching lock after lock of dark brown hair fall away as you tried to convince me to stop. Cutting my hair was shedding a part of the old me that you encouraged—the cute, soft-spoken long haired girl, passive and compliant. Cutting my hair was me emerging as the proudly lesbian, short haired girl, passionate about LGBTQ and social justice matters. Cutting my hair was me becoming unafraid, and more than willing to challenge your beliefs and expectations. Cutting my hair was you shaming me and telling me how much I’d regret it, but me being proud of the first of many things I did for myself.

True acceptance and love cannot be conditional.

True acceptance cannot be conditional; it cannot be conditional. I came out for you to acknowledge and celebrate a large part of my personal identity with me. I came out so I would no longer feel the need to hide how much the victories of the LGBTQ community affected me. I came out seeking support and guidance in my first same-sex relationship. I came out as I could no longer deny who I am, and who I’ve always been. I came out, after years of internalized hatred and fear, with hopes that you would see what I couldn’t; that being gay is an integral part of who I am, and there’s nothing wrong with me for it. I came out to seek the acceptance and love expected of a family.

True acceptance and love cannot be conditional.

I didn’t come out so you could condemn me with hateful words and spiteful actions. I didn’t come out to hear your pathetic attempts to justify your hate with religion, only to find myself resenting Christianity as a result. I didn’t come out to hear how “disgusting” and “sinful” I am in your eyes. I didn’t come out to have you scoff at the first same-sex relationship I had and tell me, “I don’t want to be there when this falls apart”. I didn’t come out to constantly feel condemned and persecuted by those who should have accepted and loved me regardless of something I had no control over. I didn’t come out to have you turn your back on me completely, before realizing you could use it as a platform to control me.

True acceptance and love cannot be conditional.

You’re not allowed to tell me that you’ll accept me dating girls as long as I remain the more feminine counterpart in the relationship. You can’t scrutinize the clothing I feel comfortable in and demand I wear more vibrant colors and more form-fitting alternatives. You can’t make me feel as though wearing makeup is a necessity for me to be beautiful. You can’t demand I have perfect hair and nails regardless of where I’m going. You don’t get to tell me that women who have protested shaving as an empowering act are “disgusting.” You can’t chuckle when I tell you I would rather wear a suit than a prom dress. You’re not allowed to ridicule any attempt I make to explore my gender identity because it makes you more comfortable when I’m your idea of feminine.

True acceptance and love cannot be conditional.

As a result of years of trying desperately to be the person you wanted me to be, I have brittle nail beds, acne-prone skin, an excessive amount of clothing I dislike, and no clear idea of who I am. As a result, there were many days I had trouble looking at myself in the mirror without make-up and perfect hair. As a result, the days I am less of your idea of feminine, and more content with myself, I feel like I was betraying you in some way. As a result, I feel as though the only way to be, is to be the standards you set for me.

True acceptance and love cannot be conditional.

I’m a lesbian. I’m most comfortable in sports bras, basketball shorts, and baggy hoodies. I’m content with no jewelry and make-up on, chipped nail polish, and my short, ever messy hair. I’ve gone from the passive long haired girl confined to your ideas of femininity and perfection, to the bitter short haired girl always ready to challenge you on your close-minded beliefs. I’ve never been allowed to define my gender identity and after years of not feeling comfortable exploring it, I honestly don’t know what feminine is and if I would use it to describe me. I’ve had days when I chose to wear makeup and dress up, and felt comfortable and beautiful and truly content. I’ve also had days when I was displeased with my more defining feminine features and instead broke away from the idea of femininity you have ingrained in me to find that I could be happy that way as well.

True acceptance and love cannot be conditional.

I fully intend to continue exploring my gender identity. While I’m most comfortable with female pronouns and don’t see myself going through a physical transition, that doesn’t allow you the right to deny my queer identity. I may one day change my mind and decide to alter my body, and you have absolutely no say in that matter. I live in a heteronormative, heterosexist world that refuses to accurately represent and acknowledge LGBTQ individuals, but I am told to accept the small victories we manage to obtain. I listen to the cries of the bisexual male, while he recounts the story of how the same night he came out his mother she took him to a “fire and brimstone sermon” on how gay people are “abominations” who will burn in hell. I listen to the cries of the lesbian as she tries to jokingly tell the story of how when she first came out her mother laughed at her and told her she “couldn’t be”, so she spent all of high school dating men to deny who she so proudly is today. I listen to the cries of all those who have been denied their queer identities by others, and I cry with them and, for a universal concept that needs to be understood. I cry that true acceptance and love cannot be conditional.

Much love,

Meme Dorsey

 Essays

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