There are a few details about me that I am, for the most part, very out and proud about that some might consider controversial.
For example, probably the lesser of all these details is that I have short hair, which is shaved into a pink mohawk.
I don’t exactly live up to the stereotyped image of the punk-rock party girl. I’m rebellious in your typical let’s-smash-the-patriarchy sort of way, not so much in a let’s-do-hard-drugs-all-night sort of way, but I like my mohawk. It’s cute. It’s stylish. And it’s surprisingly easy to maintain, despite the constant question: “Oh my god, how do you manage to keep it up all the time?”
And, yes, I’m aware of the assumptions that might arise about me because I have a mohawk—that I’m trying too hard to be cool, that I’m not pretty or “feminine” enough—but I always try to remind myself that these assumptions are wrong. I am totally feminine enough, and I’m damn beautiful, thank you very much.
Like I said, I always try to remind myself of this.
On another note, I have proudly and openly identified as a feminist ever since I was about 20 years old. That isn’t to say that I didn’t believe in women’s rights before then (heck, I’ve sort of been wrapped up in the whole “girl power” thing ever since my days of watching “Sailor Moon” in kindergarten). But before I’d turned 20, I was always a little bit too aware of the assumptions that followed women who identified directly with the word “feminist.”
The assumption that all feminists were essentially black holes who sucked all the fun out of the room. The assumption that all feminists were man-haters, or stuck-up, or generally more hateful than they were loving. The assumption that all feminists were overly-aggressive b*tches, fighting battles that had already been won because they wanted so desperately to stay relevant.
I didn’t agree with any of these assumptions, but I was aware of them, and being aware of them was enough to make me distance myself from the label.
And then, after I’d turned 20, I took a women’s studies course at my university, and I learned all about how important and relevant feminism still is. And I decided that all of these assumptions were wrong, and just an attempt to undermine a movement with a powerful message. I decided that I really needed to identify as a feminist if I was going to help make the world a better, more equal place for everyone.
So, I continue to try to ignore the assumptions that follow me around.
On a third note, I first realized that I was bisexual when I was about 10 years old and then, between the ages of 16 and 19, I retreated back into and came out of that closet a few times. Coming to terms with my own sexual orientation has been a long and difficult road for me, and a big part of the reason for that is, again, the assumptions around bisexuality.
The assumption that bisexual people didn’t exist—they were just confused heterosexual or homosexual people. Or, bisexual people were greedy, or dirty, or “special snowflakes.” I knew that 47 percent of people won’t date a bisexual person because of these assumptions, and that bisexual people experience alienation and exclusion within the LGBT community because of them. I had a hard time buying into these assumptions, but the knowledge that they’d follow me around kept me in the closet.
At 19 years old, I finally said “f*ck it” and forced myself out of the closet, for better or worse. I knew who I was. I knew that these assumptions were false, and that best way to prove it was by being the best damn bisexual person I could be.
So, again, I tried.
I hope you’ve noticed this key word that comes up over and over again: tried.
Because, here’s the thing: I’m proud of everything that I just told you about. I don’t waver in my conviction when it comes to any of it. If I’m only ever known as that bisexual feminist with the bright pink mohawk, well then, there are worse things to be known as, aren’t there? I’m cool with it. I’m happy.
Except, every single time that I meet with someone new, I find myself doing the exact same f*cking thing: I shy away.
I dread adding them on my social media accounts before they can get to know me, because I know they’re going to notice that I talk an awful lot about feminism and the importance of combating biphobia, and they’re going to make assumptions about me based on that.
And I know, logically, that it’s stupid of me to fear that. I know the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie quote:
And yet, just the same, the part of my brain that still wants to please everyone won’t turn itself the hell off.
This is my character flaw—I shouldn’t go out of my way to please people who would be so quick to dismiss me. I am aware of it. I am working on it.
But I realized it would be more constructive to work on it publicly so that everyone can see that being yourself is difficult, and something that requires actual effort. Learning to be yourself doesn’t happen like a light switch. It takes a ton of time, self-confidence, and training yourself to not be afraid of what others might think—sometimes more than we’re ready or able to give. But that doesn’t mean that being yourself isn’t worthwhile.
I don’t want to make it sound like I’m ashamed of who I am; I’m not. I love who I am, and the moments when I am most free, most me, have been some of the most fulfilling moments in my life.
And I sincerely hope that everybody can know that level of freedom and fulfillment.
I hope that you, dear reader, can read this and consider whatever it is that you’ve been hiding from people because you were afraid of their assumptions. I hope that you can start talking about it, open up, and re-introduce yourself to people who have yet to meet the real you. And, most importantly, when you find yourself faced with some of the inevitable assumptions (or even just your fear of them), that you can find it within yourself to decide that you still matter, that who you are is still valid and important, and that you deserve to be recognized for more than just the stereotype that others have created.
And, besides, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie so eloquently pointed out: isn’t being true to yourself more important than pleasing some close-minded person who doesn’t even see you as an equal?
Author: Ciara Hall
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Callie Rushton