The past few years I have become more versed in conversations on identity. I have known three people who have gone through three very different journeys that hinged on gender identity and transgender issues. I have witnessed and celebrated the new milestones in tolerance, acceptance, and compassion the country has gained in regards to gay rights. I have seen movies, comics, books, and television embrace open discussion and exploration of a wider variety of characters that including everything from a 16 year old female, Muslim, Pakistani superhero to a transgender prison inmate.
Two women passed the rigorous US Army Ranger training, a bi-racial man became our president, gay marriage was legalized. The world has been opening its eyes to greater possibilities.
Racism took center stage as people struggled to have their voices heard as they spoke out about the burdens and inequities they face daily.
Through it all I continued to primarily identify as the same things I have for most of my adult life.
- Daughter/Sister/Cousin/... then Aunt.
Yet I've found a few things have changed... (*the added "cis" being one of them)
When I went to graduate school to become a teacher, and even after my first year teaching, I still struggled to see myself and my identity as being a teacher. Now I don't struggle, but I don't see teacher as a stand alone identity. Just as my role in my family has multiple facets/titles, I feel my role as an educator has multiple facets:
- Teacher/Social Justice Advocate/Loving guide to children/Concerned Voter & Citizen
I cannot separate being a teacher from the love and concern I have for the 75+ students I have called my own. I cannot separate my concern for them and the struggles they currently face and will face in the future for my concerns for our country. I cannot separate the importance of my personal job from the importance of education as a whole for repairing damages and creating futures for our country and EVERY child in it. This responsibility is huge and if I don't work hard to limit myself can sometimes be overwhelming.
Being a teacher and the stress and anxiety related to it might have also contributed to my next identity:
After an extremely difficult first year of teaching, and a principal who would publicly and privately shame teachers, I went into a bad cycle of anger and shame and shut out the world for a while. It took a long time for me to get back on my feet and even longer to fully come to terms with the damage done and the foundations of that damage in my system of values and beliefs.
After making it through a school year on anti-depressants, I started therapy. In therapy I recognized in myself many things that I was unaware of or did not want to admit to. I embraced therapy and became determined to be open and honest with myself and others. I have talked openly with others about my depression, about my difficulties, and about my therapy. I have embraced vulnerability and honesty. In doing so I also recognized that one of the labels I would have assigned myself in the past does not currently hold true. It has perhaps been one of the more difficult pieces to be honest about because in some ways I wish it were true and it would be easier if it were true.
So here is my honesty. My vulnerability.
While I was raised within the Baha'i Faith, and have spent much of my life identifying as a Baha'i, acting as a Baha'i, attending Baha'i events, and making Baha'i friends, I do not currently feel as if I am a Baha'i. While I continue to search my heart and my mind to grow as a person, I do not think this belief is something I can hold or seek to hold on to right now. I know that this switch may cause disappointment and pain to some of my friends and family. I know that it may mean losing some friends. It is not without great thought that I have come to this conclusion, but it is with honesty that I feel I must address it and let those who know me best become aware. This in no way changes the deep love I have for my Baha'i friends and family or for many of the teachings of the Baha'i Faith. I will continue to be an advocate for peace, for empathy, for compassion, for equality and for the elimination of all kinds of prejudice, but I will do so as an individual, representing only myself and my own views.
So it's said. Now I need to find the courage to publish it and share it. May I have the strength to deal with whatever may come (and the money to cover the therapy sessions for anything beyond that.)
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