Thursday, September 22, 2016

I'm The One Who Writes My Own Story

"When we deny our story, it defines us. When we own our story, we have the power to write our own brave ending" - Brene Brown

 I just got home from my last counseling appointment - for now.  Dealing with bullying, death, and a break up in a short amount of time gave me the opportunity to meet an incredible man,and  try an incredible new to me therapy called EMDR. In a very short period of time I was able to feel like i was handling messy life again. In parting words today, he said to me- "Just keep owning your truth."

 I also recently finished Abby Wambach's Memoir "Forward", which was probably one of the best books I have ever read.  What I loved most about it was that she owned her truth, and she took labels given to her throughout her life, by herself or others, and owned them by defining them for herself, and in so doing removed the shame others could put on those things, and empowered herself to move FORWARD.

As I read this, and in the weeks that have passed, I have thought about some of the labels I have been given in my own life, pieces of who I am, though not the whole puzzle.  If I were to write a Memoir in the style of Forward, What labels would be my chapter headings?

New Girl
Good Girl
The most Olympic non Olympian you have ever met
Figure Skater
Same Sex Attracted
Soccer player
Tree Huger
Returned Missionary

I think those are some of my most prominent labels in my life.  They are all representative of pieces of my history, both parts of who I am, and who I was, and who I continue to be.  The thing about labels is, they can be forced onto us, and when they are someone else is writing the definition. But if I have learned anything from the queer community, it is that owning these pieces of yourself, you can take the true part of the label to yourself. You can discard the untrue parts, and you can change the parts you no longer want to be, and you can find beauty in the parts that are you, that others may disregard, or look down on.

 Owning my Mormon part, my beautiful heritage inspired the title of this blog. As a teenager I spent a lot of time listening to my "My Turn On Earth" soundtrack. There was a song, I don't remember all the words, but  these ones I still find inspiring....

         I'm the one that writes my own story, I decide the person I'll be.
 What goes in the plot and what will not, is pretty much up to me.
     Everyone who writes his own story, now and then will make some mistakes
but given some care, they needn't stay there, and this is all that it takes...
    you don't try to hide it, do try to right it, then you wont do it again.
I'm they one that writes my own story, I decided who I'll be.

In her book Abby owned some mistakes she had made, and then she didn't hide it in shame, she owned it. The end of her book you felt she felt empowered by so doing,  to go make her life her own, to go make it what she wanted it to be. She said many times "Who do you want to be? how do you want to get there?" were important questions she encouraged people to ask themselves.

 I have learned in my short life, that that is what is important. Not who everyone else thinks I am or wants me to be, but who I think I am,and who I want to be. That is the truth I must ask of myself. I must write my own story, not someone elses. Labels do not take away from or add to our ability to do that. We all have labels attached to our lives.  But what does that label mean to you?  what does that piece of you mean to you?  and what do you want it to mean or become?

one of my mission companions taught me a valuable lesson one day, as we were walking around Lithuania.  "I'm just really stubborn"  I remember saying to her.  I have never forgotten her reply  "No. You are determined... when you use your powers for good. You are only stubborn when you use those same powers for evil."

In that moment I learned words have positive and negative connotations. For every bad label, there is a positive one for the same trait, and we can define that for ourselves.

Almost a year ago I felt I had been given a label that didn't suit me, that wasn't me in Apostate- as you can see it up on my list. Right next to it, you will find the word Renegade that I felt defined me better, and which I attached to because of a song.


Run away with me
Lost souls and reverie
Running wild and running free
Two kids, you and me
And I say
Hey, hey hey hey
Living like we're renegades
Hey hey hey
Hey hey hey
Living like we're renegades
Renegades, renegades
Long live the pioneers
Rebels and mutineers
Go forth and have no fear
Come close the end is near
And I say hey, hey hey hey
Living like we're renegades
Hey hey hey
Hey hey hey
Living like we're renegades
Renegades, renegades
All hail the underdogs
All hail the new kids
All hail the outlaws
Spielberg's and Kubrick's
It's our time to make a move
It's our time to make amends
It's our time to break the rules
Let's begin
And I say hey, hey hey hey
Living like we're renegades
Hey hey hey
Hey hey hey
Leaving like we're renegades
Renegades, renegades

This song resonated deeply with me, the mention of pioneers,  I felt honored my honoring my moral inner compass in my decisions, and hearkened back to also honor my heritage and ancestors.  so that meant a lot to me.

And I share this,not to get into a discussion about my religious and spiritual evolution, but because that for me, was a moment where I felt my story had been written in part for me by unwanted and unwelcome labels being attached to me, and I felt empowered by finding a word of similar meaning that resonated more deeply for me. By owning the label renegade, I lost the shame of the label apostate.

The point of all this, is  that your life is yours, and even when you make some big mistakes, or when people think you are making a mistake, and you feel shame, or feel shamed, you can write your own story, and you can move FORWARD.  and that is super beautiful, and super inspiring to me. Owning my truth is inspiring to me, and others owning their truth, is even more inspiring to me. I am very glad Abby Wambach bravely told her own tale, rather than hiding in shame and letting the world tell it for her.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Beautiful: Celebrating Our Daughters

As I said a few months ago, with everything going on, I will be having My friend Melissa Malcolm guest blog.  Melissa Malcolm is queer woman of color who has been sharing her experiences of homophobia and racism throughout social media.  Last time she shared some thoughts  in an article called "Please Don't Justify the Hate"    This time she will share her thoughts an experience about body shaming and race issues.  Please enjoy.

                                 Beautiful : Celebrating our Daughters
                                                              By MELISSA MALCOLM

I was food shopping several weeks and ago I noticed a little girl about 4 or 5 look up at me and point to my hair in excitement.
“Look !! the girl exclaimed her hair is like mine !.” Our eyes locked for a moment and happiness spread from her face to mine and  back again.  Her hair was LIKE mine. Curly ,out and beautiful.

     The moment was suddenly interrupted  by a large gasp. Her grandmother leaned over half whispering  “thats not nice..... don’t say that ........ wild hair is not good , her  hair is just
all over the place.........”. I  forced a smile on my face as I kindly told the little girl how beautiful her hair was and tried to strike up a conversation with grandma.

    I noticed that the little girls eyes were no longer shining bright and her smile was replaced by a sudden heavy  shame that I could feel.  We talked a politely for a few minutes but I could see
the Grandmothers embarrassment only growing as she took her granddaughter by the hand and they
slipped down the next isle. I could seen the pain in this child eyes which pierced my soul.  I wanted  nothing more to run over give her a hug and say your hair is beautiful...You are Beautiful.

    I have carried this experience around for sometime and decided
I would use this situation for the positive. I want to celebrate our young girls of color and I am asking it to start with you .  Read on for ways to help our  precious ones cultivate self -love and acceptance.

                         H. A .I. R.
Honor :
-Teach young girls from an early age that are to honored for who they are and what they want to accomplish in this life. 

- Emphasize her personal characteristics when describing her to other people. She will learn that who she is more than her hair or her body.

- Reinforce that what she looks like is beautiful its natural form. Curly hair is just as beautiful as straight hair, an Afro is not less than a straight ponytail. How she and you decide to rock it should be honored by you and the family.

-Have her learn about other women of color and their contributions to society including those in the beauty and fashion industries.

-Negative thinking about your hair as she will pick up on this and begin to do the same

- That notion that she must have a certain hairstyle to fit in with peers

-  Feeling obligated to go out buy the most expensive products or hair pieces to appease her need to for acceptance. Let it start within first !

- How you view people of different skin shades : We have all heard the jokes about “redbones” or “so dark that they have to smile to be seen”. The words we use send a message about what is acceptable and what is not.

Insist :
-That people not talk about your child's person or hair as if it strange and out of the ordinary. It is OK for people to ask questions but it is not OK for people to touch and browse without asking. It is not OK for people to gawk and say insensitive comments such as “can you get a comb through that”

- That your child's school understand that she is not trying to be a rebel when she wants to wear Nubian knots or Afro puffs.   That it is NOT EVER OK for children to mock or tease someone because of their hair .  It  NOT EVER OK for the children who is being bullied to have change themselves to appease the bully.

- That she learn how to style , braid and adorn her own hair as she
gets older so that she can find pride in taking care of herself and understanding her own hair texture.


- Supply her with Mass Media , Dolls , and images of women from all
over the world doing great things. Let her see that beauty comes in
all shapes,sizes , colors and  from every continent on the earth.

- You and the other “elders” of the family are her first role models
and she will look at your bar for beauty standards and
self-acceptance.  If you want her bar to be raised high , then you
must raise yours first.

- Have continued discussions about this issues of race ,self -love
and personal acceptance .When she comes to you about stories of rejection or hurt ,make sure to make a learning experience.  Take time to help her build skills to deal with situations that may arise.

- If you are a parent that is a not a person of color ,it is still OK to talk to your daughter about these issues. If there is something that
you can’t answer , be honest and tell her you don’t know but you will work on finding the answer.
 If she is old enough , then she can help you. After all,we all here  to learn from each other .

As we work on loving our daughters and help them to love themselves,
we will create a powerful society of  teachers, leaders, an trailblazers.  It is more than just the Hair, “The  here and now “or the “here we go” moments of life.

 It is about raising up and saying we are not going anywhere.  It is saying to society you may try to erase us , but we  will not disappear... It is saying we are HERE.

*Note from Mandi:  I had no idea what this "redbones" term means, so
I asked Melissa.  She said  "redbones" is
" a degrotory word used to descirbe a person of color who is fair.
It refers to the fact that you can easily see under the skin"

Also, here is a link to what Urban dictonary has to say on the term