February 19, 2015

Identity, or How I Learned to Balance on One Foot on a Small Piece of Earth

Guest Post by S.B. Divya

I was born female. I'm starting out on pretty firm ground.
But girls aren't supposed to have short hair.
Dig a circular hole around me.

I liked watching "The Smurfs" and "Scooby-Doo" and "The Dukes of Hazard"and "CHiPS" when I was a kid.
But Indians have no claim to American 80s culture.
Dig another hole.

I love Star Wars with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.
But Star Wars is for boys.
Dig another hole.

I love books by Asimov, Herbert, Clarke, Bradbury. I liked Timothy Zahn's first Star Wars sequel books. I subscribed to Analog, Asimov's, and SF&F for years.
But hard science-fiction is not for liberals.
Dig another hole.

I studied physics and astronomy. I love math. I have degrees in electrical engineering. I work in the tech sector where I'm often the only woman in the room.
But women don't like STEM fields.
Dig the holes a little deeper.

I like to paint and draw and dance.
But engineers aren't creative.
Dig the holes a little wider.

I like parties and books by Jane Austen and wine.
But that's not geeky.
Dig them deeper still.

I've played Master of Orion and World of Warcraft, Halo and Portal, Pac-Man and Tetris.
But girls aren't gamers.
Dig them wider still.

I speak Tamil. I know how to wear a sari and cook sambar.
But that's not American.
Turn the holes into pits.

I dated before marriage. I married a white man.
But that's not Indian.
Turn the pits into craters.

I took his last name. I had his child.
But that's not feminist.
Turn the craters into canyons.

I was happy to leave the child and go to work every day.
But that's not motherly.
The canyons grow deeper.

I hate shopping. I like romantic comedies. I hate high heels. I love dressing up.
But that's not ... anything!
The canyons look bottomless.

Now I'm standing on a tiny bit of land, enough to balance on one foot, and staring into the abyss. Everything that's part of who I am is falling away.

typedef void ME;

So to all the lonely, sad [your identities here*] who are feeling marginalized right now, who feel like everything they believe in is being taken away, I have this to say: Guess what?


But I am stronger than the abyss.
I can dance on foot and be who I am.
So can you.

And if we stand together, side by side, we'll find ourselves together on level ground, and we can stop shouting at each other across chasms.

*Possible examples:

  • * white male nerd
  • * gay conservative
  • * geeky black woman
  • * female atheist
  • * LEGO-loving princess

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