February 18, 2012

Finding Myself

[Editor's note: Yesterday, Duke and Duke Med issued a statement of support for This Wonderful Community. Read more here, if you wish. But definitely read more below for an incredibly powerful blog post!]

If you asked me at the beginning of my Duke career to tell you who I was, I probably would have given you a really superficial answer. You see, what I would have said then would have referred to what I did rather than who I was. I say this, because looking back on it, I was very lost as a person and very unsure of what it meant to be confident in my identity. Coming out of high school, I allowed my identity to be defined by what my family, friends, and environment expected of me. Looking at my life now, it seems as though I have nothing left of what I used to deem important—sports, religion, school activities, etc. In writing this, I feel as though I should mourn the ‘identity’ that I seem to have lost—but I don’t. You see, it was never my identity to begin with. And in realizing that over the past three and a half years, I feel as though the value of what I have gained entirely outweighs whatever I may have given up.

I suppose to begin answering the question of who I am, I need to first explain how I came to realize that I needed to define my identity for myself. While I go back and forth between not wanting to be labeled first and foremost by this one aspect of my identity but then also realizing that it is very central to who I am, I think that I have come to accept that my identity as a queer woman has been the driving force of my identity development. I began to question my sexuality late in high school, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year at Duke that I was ready to fully admit it to myself. My biggest struggles adjusting to life as a college student ultimately stemmed from the major questions that I was dealing with internally—questions that absolutely made it extremely difficult to define who I was or who I wanted to be. The inner conflict that I experienced over those first two years affected everything from the friendships I formed to the activities I chose to get involved with on campus. Unfortunately, those decisions that I made out of fear or confusion were not fulfilling and led me to be relatively unhappy or discontent with my life.

My dissatisfaction with the way I was living my life continued to grow until I reached the point when I knew I had to make a change—there literally was no alternative. So I made a decision which I think will probably be one of the most crucial and life-altering decisions that I will ever make. Since I felt as though I could not get over my fear in order to come out at Duke, or more generally in an environment where there were people who knew me, I decided to study abroad. But, I made myself promise to take active steps towards coming out and affirming my identity. I sat on a beach a week after I arrived in my new temporary home and said to myself, “Okay. You’ve flown across an entire ocean to get away from everything you know. Start from scratch and figure out who the hell you are.”

So I did. I started taking very big, very scary, steps towards affirming my identity. I went to LGBT events held by the university I was studying at, I met new friends and didn’t let them assume that I was straight, I cut off all my hair (something I had been dying to do, but was too afraid that it would ‘out’ me), and I even pursued a relationship with a woman. Within a few weeks, or perhaps even days, of starting to take these steps I felt like a completely different person. I woke up happy. I lived every day to its fullest, and enjoyed it. And most importantly, I felt a huge sense of confidence in myself. I finally felt like Logan, a person who knows who she is and who shares that person with the rest of the world. I felt like a person of worth.

These are feelings that I really had never experienced before. I think it’s important to note that I don’t think coming out in itself was what made me happy. More, I believe that in denying my queer identity, I also had to hide other parts of me. Accepting and affirming my sexuality has allowed me to reveal and develop so many other really fantastic parts of my personality: I feel comfortable and confident in expressing all of me, not just bits and pieces.

So who am I? I am a queer woman. More importantly, I am funny and love nothing more than making people laugh. I am passionate: I want to be an advocate for transgender youth who often receive little to no support from their family or friends. I am social, and would now almost always choose spending time with friends over being alone (which would have been a crazy thought for me a few years ago). I am intelligent, and I finally feel confident enough to engage in conversations that challenge my thinking. I am strong—nothing like the weak person who didn’t have the strength or courage to take charge of her own life.

Who I am will surely continue to change. I’ve learned through my time at Duke that I should and must be an active participant in my own life. It’s up to me to create and live a life that I am proud of, and if I’m not satisfied, it’s up to me to make a change.

2 comments:

  1. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! I feel like I was reading part of my own story for most of this! Especially this line: "My dissatisfaction with the way I was living my life continued to grow until I reached the point when I knew I had to make a change—there literally was no alternative." I don't think I was initially motivated to come out because of how great being out seemed, but rather how bad the current alternative (aka current state of the closet) was for me at that moment.

    yes. :)

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  2. This is an incredibly powerful and well written post and a true testament to the amazing person you have become

    Thanks for sharing :)

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