Race, my professor concluded, was something that we have created. There is no biological basis for it. But we made it, and we give meaning to it, so it influences our lives. The girl on my right agreed. “If I were to find out tomorrow that my mother was Caucasian, not Puerto Rican, it would be a huge identity shift. I don’t know if I could deal with it.”
That struck me. But that’s exactly what I had to do, I thought. That’s what all LGBT people did. For every one of us there was that moment when the lies and self-deception collapsed on itself, and we had to stare the truth in the eye. I am not what I believed I was. What’s worse, what I was had big consequences.
I knew the truth in my classmate’s statement on loss of identity. For many of us, coming to terms with our sexuality was a complete paradigm shift. The world itself changed color. Friends had the potential to become enemies, and those we avoided or even despised became unexpected allies.
Looking from a post-Mormon context, I could also see how I lost my culture, yet couldn’t escape it either. I cannot run from what I was, because it has made me who I am. I must learn to live in both. In the past three years I have had to completely reinvent my identity, and learn how to defend it, at the cost of all I had before.
The journey for me was gradual, as it has to be, because it’s too much for a person to take all at once. The crucial moment that forever kept me from backtracking was finally experiencing what I had craved for so long. To finally feel that love, deep, potent, and completely uninhibited. That led me to reevaluate my religious and spiritual identity, and it gave me the courage to allow my world to crumble, and then rebuild it, brick by brick.
It’s not a journey for the faint of heart. But it’s one I will never regret taking. It has refined my character and led me to the life I have today. And it’s a pretty good one, if I say so myself. I’m not bound by identities like gay, straight, Mormon, or not. I’m allowing myself to settle in to who I am, to just be me. Be Nick.
The other day I was thinking about the point my professor made. If race has no biological basis, and we’ve created it, then potentially we have the ability to deconstruct it and cease using it to divide and discriminate. Maybe we’re not African, Caucasian, Asian, Latino, etc. Maybe we’re all just different shades of human. And then it struck me. Perhaps sexuality is something we have created as well. Maybe that’s why we still haven’t found the “gay gene.” Maybe we’re not gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, etc. Maybe we’re all just different shades of human.
What would it mean to deconstruct these things? I think part of the cost would certainly be what my classmate said; we would lose significant parts of our identities. But you and I are proof that this is survivable. What I think it would do, if we could push through the identity crisis, is allow us to define one another based on the content of our character. Perhaps the day will come when we can stop defining ourselves and others with categories, and just see people. It’s just me. It’s just you. And certainly you and I can find ways to get along.