“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
Recently, Ingrid Nilsen of MissGlamorazzi came out as gay in one of the most honest videos I've ever seen. I mean, this was like full on Farrah Abraham ugly cry real for me. If you haven't already seen the video, I suggest you sit down and watch it. It is here and has already garnered several million views.
Of course, there are the idiots who are saying that she is only copying other people who have come out or why does it matter if she is gay and why should she have to tell everyone. While those comments are to be expected, they are a bit of a slap in the face of someone who had the courage to come out to the world in such a raw and honest way.
I mean, personally, I think the whole "coming out" thing in our culture is bizarre since it's not really anyone's business who you prefer to have sex with, but a such our culture DOES assume everyone is heterosexual until proven otherwise. As such, "coming out" becomes a thing that many people feel they need to do in order to live their lives honestly. And Ingrid, being a public figure, is not only doing that, but inspiring lots of young people to also live their lives as their authentic selves. So, yes, in a way, it is necessary for Ingrid to come out and share her story....but only on her own terms, of course. Additionally, Ingrid as a super girlie girl into fashion is busting stereotypes about what a lesbian is....a lesbian can be literally anyone, and I think sometimes not being able to fit others into a box makes people a bit uncomfortable.
Living My Authentic Life
There are a few reasons why this particular video really struck me. One is because I have really struggled to live my life honestly, and as Ingrid says, to give myself my best chance. Some of the choices I have made in my life to help me live as a truer version of myself have caused some conflict in my family and made it difficult for some people to accept my choices. Which is why I'm going to talk about something I don't really talk about very often in general....which is how I choose to live my life despite others' expectations.
When you think about it, everyone has a certain set of expectations put on them before they're even born. A child born female or male is automatically assigned roles and traits based on their genitals. Family members may begin to fantasize about their future partner (typically in a heteronormative way) and often the child is already born into a role within their family. If the parents are of a certain religion or culture, it is assumed the child will maintain that and feel a connection to it, despite his or her own feelings.
In my family, I was definitely already prescribed a role. It doesn't mean my parents were "bad" parents, it just means they had already imagined the life I would live. This included embracing their brand of Protestant Christianity as my own, which is just something I could never do.
Now, I know the topic of religion is often sensitive and there are those who don't believe that you can feel you belong to a certain religion or another, but this is my blog and my truth. I know it isn't the same as coming out as homosexual, but to me, I never felt as though I had much of a choice into who I truly was.
Following My Path
Although I was baptized in a Protestant church (Presbyterian, to be exact), it was never a secret that many of my family members as past generations in my family were Jewish on my mother's side. My father's side was peopled with Catholics and members of the Amish church. I grew up going to Sunday School and youth groups, but I couldn't escape the nagging feeling that something inside of me was very, very different. Protestant churches actually made me feel uncomfortable, something I still feel and resist going to church as often as I can (even though my parents often insist I come, "Just to hear the music."). I'm not exactly sure when I began to feel this way, but as a kid, I just knew something was off.
When I was about nine, I started begging my parents to take me to shul. They would sometimes take me on a Friday night to Shabbat services, but never allowed it to be a regular thing. During this time, I also attended Catholic school, and for whatever reason, Catholic services didn't make me as uncomfortable as Protestant churches.
As I got older, I tried to resist going to church with my parents, but most of the time they insisted. To say I hated it would put it mildly, but I put in a lot of effort to try and like it. My brother fit in seamlessly (and is actually a Presbyterian minister), but I just could never make it work for myself. As a teen, I attended youth group, but mostly because of the social aspect. Since I went to an all girls school, it one of my few regular coed outlets where I learned to, although not very well, to relate to boys my own age.
But during that time, I started to really feel the pull toward Judaism and my Jewish heritage, despite my parents' chagrin. Of course, my mother knew parts of our family were Jewish, but it wasn't something she had ever cared to explore. Partly, I think, because she grew up in the Jim Crow South where being Jewish wasn't necessary as "bad" as being black, but it wasn't really a good thing either. In her day, being Jewish (especially an assimilated Jew) meant being the target of hate speech, people tirelessly attempting to convert you (she did grow up in the Bible belt after all), being denied admission to clubs and organizations, having families not want to associate with you because you are Jewish and even potentially something even worse. Because of this, my parents were semi-supportive, but also, I think hoping this was just a phase that I would grow out of. I think they felt that in some way, they had done something wrong.
When I explained my feelings to the youth pastor at my church, I was told the devil put those thoughts in my head and that I was going to hell if I followed them away from Jesus. This made me even more confused. Although now I don't believe in hell, and at that time, I don't think I logically did either, the threat sometimes seems real. Especially when you are surrounded by it day in and day out both at academic school and church. So what are you supposed to think?
As I learned to drive, I started going to to shul, trying to find one I fit in. Of course, it isn't easy as a teenager on your own to find some place to fit in, especially when most shul youth groups are filled with kids who have known one another their entire lives. I toyed with the idea of converting, but all of the rabbis told me I would have to wait until I was 18.
Where It Took Me
Ultimately, I decided against a formal conversion because my Jewish heritage comes from my mother's direct maternal line. This means that I am considered Jewish by Jewish law, though I am sure since the chain has been "broken," there would be a rabbi or two out there who felt I should make things formal.
But since I identify as agnostic as well as culturally Jewish, it has never really been much of an issue. I had always thought I would formally convert if I decided to marry someone whom it was very important to, but in the mean time, having that heritage and the feeling of being at peace in my heart is the only thing that really matters to me. My parents have tried to argue that since I have not formally converted and don't see a need to participate in daily shul life, that I am not actually Jewish, but I think that is part of a wish that I will one day say that I would like to have some kind of relationship with Jesus again (though I'm unsure that I really ever had one to begin with beyond the times I asked him for a Barbie van as a kid).
I am honoring the heritage that my ancestors have participated in for possibly thousands of years. Additionally, I have gotten to know so many amazing people through Jewish activities, and my soul just feels "at home" when I affirm that yes, I am Jewish.
But, the reason Ingrid's video had so much of an impact on me was because like Ingrid, for a long time I felt as though my authentic self had to be hidden, like there was something wrong with it. Like Ingrid, I had a role carved out for me before I was even born and it takes a lot of guts to live your real life. Sometimes people will be hurt along the way if you live your life honestly, but you have to ask yourself, is it worth it for you to hurt people temporarily (most people will come around to who you are in time) or continue hurting yourself (and possibly even other people along the way) forever just to protect them?
Most of us have to figure out who we are in life. We may not find that in order to be fulfilled we need to do something as dramatic as changing religions or genders, but there will most definitely be times when you have to do things that others don't approve of in order to live your honest life.
As Ingrid says, we all deserve our best chance.