What Inspires me in Life by Sarah P.

What Inspires me in Life by Sarah P.

When I was fifteen the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Obergefell in the history-making equality case that affected lives around the nation. In my high school, no one mentioned it. Hardly any of us had even heard of it. My father made a single grumbled remark at the dinner table and that was the end of the discussion. The event came and went through my year without notice–I honestly don’t think I was aware same-sex marriages were only legal in 37 of our 50 states at the time. Same-sex couples felt foreign to me–something used as comic relief in the media, the women hypersexualized for the eyes of men, an insult on my father’s tongue, as separate from me as another country I had only heard the name of–a place I had never seen nor given a second thought.

Nine months later, near the end of my sophomore year, I began to question my sexuality, and thus began the hardest year if my life. With junior year came college and scholarships, adult decisions and AP classes, bigger workloads than ever and a distinct lack of free time. On top of school-based stress, the first major argument split my friend group apart and ever-present issues at home were a constant pressure that made it feel impossible to ever get a moment to relax, a second to catch my breath. Beneath it all was the growing fear that there was something wrong with me.

A large part of that is rooted in the woeful lack of healthy representation of the LGBTQ community, specifically in literature. As a child, I was an avid reader. Through my parents’ divorce and moving between California and Oregon every year, books always stayed stable. I found a sort of refuge in the worlds where the line between good and evil was defined, the correct decisions were obvious, friendly faces were always around the corner, and happy endings were guaranteed after every struggle. Books were my escape, and I had been creating my own stories just as long as I had been reading them. And yet that year there was no refuge to be found. There were no books on my library shelves where girls fell for other girls and the concept wasn’t scorned, wasn’t laughed at, wasn’t a drunken ploy to get a boy’s attention. I was painfully alone in these emotions, in lecturing myself that boys were my only option, that even considering girls was something to be ashamed of. Over a year later I know I would not have spent so much time hating myself if I had somewhere to turn.

So I wrote instead. I did what I always did, coped through words and far away worlds, where the heroine was working for the greater good, and if she fell for a woman at the end of my pen then that couldn’t be wrong because she was the hero of the story. I wrote about acceptance, I wrote about struggling with attraction and society, and all the while I learned. I learned my history, through riots against inequality and police brutality, I learned about GLAAD and the Trevor Project, learned the names of those who helped push us forward, and I read our poetry and novels and found the dismally small lists of media that portrayed lesbians and bisexual women in a way that’s healthy and helpful for the community, I learned about the AIDs crisis of the 1980’s, about conversion therapy and suicide rates and gender identities and the fact that parents turn their own children on the streets simply for existing as they are, I found what butch and femme truly mean outside of society’s assumptions, the abuse we’ve suffered and what happened on June 26, 2015, and how far we still have to go. I made connections within the LGBTQ community, I learned I have never been alone, I simply hadn’t found them yet.

And there lies both my inspiration and dream in life. I am eighteen, and the majority of those years a marriage between two women or two men was not recognized nationwide. Like my generation struggles to comprehend that interracial marriages were once forbidden, my children will wonder at the fact that I was alive the year same-sex marriage was declared Constitutional. I am eighteen and most of my life was spent under the delusion that I would never meet someone who was not straight, or that the LGBTQ community was fighting. I am eighteen and I still struggle to find representation outside of token gays and tragic character death and objectification and infidelity. So many people before me have fought for what we have, and there is still so much progress to be made. I am learning my history in fragments, and each piece is filed with hardship and struggle and blood and abuse. Hatred, shame, discrimination, fear, and anger lace even the softest of stories. To forget what my community has accomplished is to take advantage of the fact that my class never ostracized me for talking about a girl, for the fact that my parents are adjusting to the fact that I will not marry a man, that there are shows on tv that depict women falling in love and it isn’t a lot but it’s still something. Still we are shunned and told we are wrong, still we are denied on the basis of morals and religion, still kids grow up like me unaware that they are normal and that there is an entire community waiting for them with love and support and acceptance and reassurance.

I have a gift. I have always been a writer, an artist, and my creation of paper worlds has always been a mix of aptitude and practice, learning hundreds of vocabulary words and grammatical rules on top of the ease with which my sentences came. I have always built my refuge where none was to be found. When I was coming to terms with my own sexuality, I had nowhere to turn, nothing but silence and pressing loneliness that there was something wrong with me for far too long. I want to contribute to changing that. I am majoring in English not only because I have always loved writing but because I can help people with it, because I cried while reading Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues, because I spent countless nights reading whatever material I could find on the internet that normalized women falling in love, that normalized me. I want to be the name on the spine of a book someone finds that becomes the place where they can release some of their tension and fear, where if only for a moment everything they are feeling is not something they have feel ashamed of.

I want to help push our fight forward in whatever way that I can, just like my community has done before me. For me, that means writing. With a Bachelor’s degree in English and studying a minor in Women Gender and Sexualities Studies will give me the writing experience I need, as well as new knowledge for the issues I am most passionate about and give me the necessary credentials to start making my way in the world of publishing and editing. A career in that field would not only be enjoyable but would also help improve my writing quality until rather than working for a publisher I can work with one with my own novels.

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