The Quest for Community? Or what I desire in stability gets messy with my fluidity.
So, I am finding some of my better writing shows its head when I am uncomfortable, when I am not clear on my thoughts, and when I force myself to convey my ideas to others. So, know all of that is happening in this process, as I am (un)sure it happens with others’ writing. And as always, there may not be an end point this post, just more of a stream of consciousness.
Back in October, Dafina-Lazarus Stewart tweeted about community.* Ze was more specifically talking about being a part of a certain community and feeling like rejection from that community may be imminent because of other identities one many possess. This resonated with me, so naturally we struck up a short Twitter conversation (is there short hand for this? TwitChat? Who knows).
As a part of that conversation, I talked about a part of communities where I was a member and found safety because of some of my minoritized identities, specifically my queer identity but feared being more open about other part of my identities in an already small community would put me back in a place of isolation. AND, I talked about liking the community I was already in. The specific tweet read: “AND I like that community that I’m already in…which is troublesome if I think they’ll reject me, right?”
So that has stuck in my mind. Couple that with this post I shared two weeks ago about my gender identity and pronouns, and coming back from #ACPA15 and I have so many thoughts and feels about “community.”
I am wondering what community looks like for me and others. In thinking through it, I am not sure I have had a SOLID, singular community my entire life. Not even the “LGBT” community (that oh-so-debated monolithic community which has apparently been a single, solitary community of solidarity – please re-read that last line with sarcasm) which I am often told (and say) has been my community. But even that seems empty to me, at times. As I begin to live more openly and congruently with my gender identity, I see that “community” less and less inclusive as it can be exclusive. AND I still like and identify with the LGBT community – again, how troublesome does that become that I feel both a part of and apart from that community? While still unpacking that, I am just internally troubled.
Now, put that to the side, because I am going to come back to it. This morning, I finished bell hooks’s All About Love: New Visions. I have been working on the book for the past three weeks; it’s been my before bed reading and I have loved EVERY WORD. hooks was calling me in, out, and over for pizza because I was LIVING for what she had written down (I’ve been Instragram-ing a quote from that book every time I’ve read a new section). However, last night, as I was on the last three chapters, I came across something that struck me harder than anything else I had read:
Many of us are not ready to accept and embrace our true selves, particularly when living with integrity alienates us from our familiar worlds. – bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions, p. 187
…sorry, still need to take a minute to breathe after typing that. Let’s have real(er), live talk for a hot minute (or two). In such raw honesty and vulnerability, hooks put into words something that has been so personally difficult for me. As many know, I am a leadership educator at heart. And living with integrity is one of my core personal/professional/life enacted values. The Alex you get in the classroom is the same Alex you get in meetings is the same Alex you get at ACPA15, etc. However, embracing my gender and all its fierce components has been an area in which I have not been living with integrity, because I have felt it would alienate me from those I JUST worked on creating community with – my other queer-identified kin, my best friends, my Master’s cohort, my undergraduate HC framily, my (extended) family, etc.
Really, this discomfort also comes from a place of HUGE insecurity in making relationships with man-identified folks, because I have the biggest challenges connecting with men often (having previously identified as one and not feeling bro-enough or not having access to committed friendships with other men – which can be its own post, especially around the idea of bro spaces). Like, the amount of unpacking and thinking I’ve done around that is just exhausting.
Bringing it all together, though – I think of community as home, and can’t help but think of Maya Angelou saying:
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
I want community to be home. And as my identities continue to be fluid in terms of my sexual and gender identities, I am not sure my quest for a singular, monolithic community is the end goal for me. It may be finding multiple communities, with none being primary (which is scary), but all being that safe place where I can go as Alex C. Lange and not be questioned. I think I do want that singular, all-inclusive community but not sure that’s an option for me just yet. I think different communities in which I am apart have given me life and soul in different parts of my life but don’t yet feel I’ve found that one place to be and occupy, often because some of the communities can reify racism, heterogenderism, sexism, ableism, transmisogyny, etc. Another point about multiple communities could be (thinking out through type right now) another sense of insecurity for me, wanting to have a “back up” in case I am cast out from another (as I have been before).
I think communities like the T*Circle and a smaller circle within my Master’s cohort have come closest to being these all-encompassing communities but I do not inhabit those on a daily basis (and have to become better about that). So all of this to say, for me, multiple communities may be the answer for now. Maybe there will be one solid community I identify with one day but for now, that’s where I am at.
* Generally, I would show/quote the direct source material. However, the tweets are no longer available. You can follow Dr. Dafina-Lazarus Stewart on Twitter at @DrDLStewart (and you totally should)!