Hi, hello, my name is Aly Clarkson.
I’m your standard white female from Rural, Oklahoma. Being from a rural Oklahoma town, I’ve always been fascinated by the need to “fit in.” Rather, the need to ostracize those who have any difference from the majority – no matter how marginal or irrelevant. For me, this was primarily emphasized by my socioeconomic status, as I was “less blessed” than others around me. However, as time went by and adolescents chose to be more cutting and hurtful, the insults and alienation became more focused on the idea of self and personal identity. In my experience, these pubescent tactics were employed in making jokes out of my not-so-conventional beauty or personal style.
This issue, failing to die the instant I graduated high school, persists even today. Because I have shorter hair, or have (on occasion) refused to wear makeup, or even because I do not regularly sexualize myself, I am a “dyke.” A younger me felt humiliated by the lack of positive attention I received. I, though somewhat ashamed to admit it now, was horrified by the fact that I was called a lesbian. Now I understand that I was most directly upset by the fact that others chose to label me as whatever they saw as being the most humorous, or would alienate me most from my peers. I was broken by the fact that I was wholly unable to define myself or create a persona that didn’t get ridiculed in school hallways. There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian, but in Rural, OK there is something wrong with sinning against God. Barefaced in baggy clothes I embraced a religion that shamed me for something that I thought to be untrue, because I desired so much to be a part of the majority. At least, I hoped to find a sense of identity in something that would be accepted by the community of which I was a part. I desired so much to be accepted by others that I poured myself into the Church and let it become my identity. I was not myself, I was part of something bigger and I failed to see that I was belittling my experiences or hardships by claiming they were all part of God’s plan and would ultimately bring him glory. I allowed others to tell me that tragedies and trauma were not significant, because God would take care of me. I rationalized crimes committed against me, the bullying I faced, and my own inner battles as being something that had nothing to do with me – that I was not my own.
Why did I try so hard to be like everybody else and be a part of their culture? Why is it that people have to know that you’re not the same? Why does there need to be an individual or separate entity for the majority to bond over hating? I wasn’t alone in my high school – others were mocked more ferociously than I could’ve handled. Two girls were banned from a Valentine’s competition and sent home to tell their parents that they were “sinning together.” At the time, I faced nothing so severe as the school’s administration shaming me in that way. At most I was questioned “why don’t you wear makeup?” – “don’t you know that boys like long hair on girls?” – “wouldn’t a skirt be more appropriate?”
Coming from a family that calls Norman the “liberal shit-stain of Oklahoma,” I didn’t find much solace at home. Being surrounded by people who refused to cease use of the N word and hung a black Santa Claus by a yarn noose on our Christmas tree (accidentally purchased by my horrified grandmother at Cracker Barrel), I didn’t dare venture into conversations about equality with my family. This was, and continues to be, excruciatingly painful for me. In fact, it wasn’t until I arrived at the University of Oklahoma that I felt comfortable voicing any interest in women’s rights, racial issues, or even my own identity.
As a “dyke” everything is more difficult than it should be. Post a picture with your best friend on Instagram: she’s your “lesbian girlfriend.” Talk to a cool-looking girl at a party: you’re hitting on her. Voice that issues of social justice are important: another “queer” looking for attention. Things like good old fashioned heterosexual sex aren’t even safe! While re-dressing myself, a man once asked me, “so are you straight?” Being more frustrated than I can express in the remaining portion of this post, I clung to my Christian upbringing and the bigoted morals of my family and avoided answering directly. “Your dick was just in me, wasn’t it?”
Sleeping with men and eyeliner weren’t even enough to rid me of my dykey aura. I tried so hard to convince people that I was straight – and maybe to convince myself that I was straight. I became frustrated when the guys I dated weren’t bothered when I made out with girls at parties. “It’s not the same,” they’d say. It IS the same. Because the insolent men I allowed in my life didn’t value same-sex relationships, they failed to feel threatened by my affection toward women. The biggest issue is that I feel compelled to hide aspects of myself or even lie about them outright due to a continued fear of being alienated or ridiculed by the society that I’m a part of. Some of the most integral parts of who a person is can be terrifying to reveal, because conformity is still so widely embraced. For me, becoming comfortable with my attraction to multiple genders was hard to do, because it had been tattooed on my thoughts as being something that was sinful or wrong. In the state of Oklahoma it is heavy to carry the weight of being a non-Christian, non-heterosexual person or being any race other than white.
I dream of the day that it isn’t scary for us to claim our identities.
I love you for who you are,