I realized I was a woman, or more precisely at the time, a girl, the day in first grade I noticed boys were looking up my dress when I was on the monkey bars. I started wearing shorts under my dresses. I now prefer pants.
I realized I liked other women when I was nineteen and noticed I was heartbroken when my friend, who burned a hole in my jacket with her clove cigarette the year before, was no longer in school. I started kissing a lot of people; I now have an amazing girlfriend.
I realized I was white when I was twenty-two and noticed the invisible backpack of privilege I carried around. I started reading a lot about race. I’m still reading now, and am adjusting my actions and interactions accordingly.
This, of course, is not an exhaustive list of my identities. I could add cisgender and middle class; I could add daughter and lover. When I look at my many identities, I am struck by how old I was when I truly realized the privilege of being white, and how young I was when I understood the oppression of being a woman. Although the discrimination I faced because of my gender hit me in the face pretty early, privilege is a part of my identity and a reality of my culture I could not have figured out on my own.
I am grateful to Unitarian Universalism for helping me develop and analyze my identities. This faith has helped me deal with the oppression I face, and realize the privilege I have. I am grateful that my religion has fostered and spurred my development and pushed me to develop aspects of myself as I could not have done alone. By growing older amid the support of this community, I have realized many aspects of my identity. I am still growing into them. I’d like to think that I’m a more out queer woman last year than I was five years ago, a more racially aware white person this year than I was last year, and that I will be a stronger woman tomorrow than I am today.
The sad yet relieving truth about all of these identities is this: I’m not good at being any one of them. And I probably never will be. Yet it is helpful for me to think about these different aspects of myself, so I intentionally develop my different parts and maintain balance.
I am still growing into my many identities, and for that, I am grateful. I know I will never perfectly be any one of them, and so I’ll keep growing and getting better at being the intersection of them all.