The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

The Family, the Friends and the Self






Anyone who’s been with me when there are babies (I use that term loosely, any child younger than me) anywhere near me knows that I love little ones. My friend watched me dab tears away as I peeked upon a baby girl frolicking in Mac Field while her mother played with her. My two baby siblings of my own, aged three and one, have each nudged their way into my heart and made it their own personal play space, and the sight of other babes reminds me of how much I miss them.

My attachment to my little ones surprised me when it translated into a tangible trait that my friends picked up on. One day, after I strongly encouraged my friend to get his food from his lap onto a table (he could’ve spilled all over himself!) another friend of mine told me, “You like to mother, Geo.”

I took a second, blushed and felt flattered that my friend would pick up on this. Hell yeah, I mother! How I treat my kids has solidified itself as a piece of me, and every time I mother, their little lives manifest themselves in me.

We’re all reliant on the people of our inner circle for identification and support. This circle connects us to a group of people that we can rely on for social feedback and, ideally, support. This kind of thinking leads me to think of myself as a composite of the things people expect me to be, a la Looking Glass Self Theory.

In order to engage with this idea in a practical way, I find it useful to think about how to turn people’s perceptions of you into something that works for you. Focusing on the people who have influenced you identifies concrete traits of yourself and can help you imagine the person you want to or continue to be.

To be fair, I have a positive view of this sense of self because of my awesome and accepting family. People that don’t have the advantage that I do can still benefit from understanding this societally constructed sense of self. When faced with negative and groundless criticism, living your life not caring about what other people think about you can be an intensely empowering, albeit difficult, move.

Stepping outside of others’ perceptions of you is necessary to your well-being. What’s important to understand is where those perceptions are coming from, both the potential benefit and destruction holding those perceptions close to you can bring and whether or not you choose to align yourself with these perceptions.

This preoccupation with perception of self has a lot to do with my own cultural upbringing as a QPOC (queer person of color). In my last meeting with QPOC (the group on campus, shout out!), we talked about the best way to find happiness with who you are at this campus.

Helpful in understanding the theoretical grounds of this trouble is W.E.B DuBois’ concept of “double-consciousness.” It originally referred to the challenge of someone reconciling their African-American heritage with European upbringing and education: “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.” It’s like The Looking Glass Self except for colored people, and this one comes with a lot of baggage.

In a way, though, this has become an advantage for people of color. Being hyper-aware of the stereotypes people hold against me has also made me sensitive to and dependent on my inner circle. They’re the ones who get it.

In a recent QPOC meeting, the subject diverged from how to navigate specifically our colored and queer identities to how we just handle ourselves on a day-to-day basis. How we crave emotional realness from people, how we feel about going out and getting drunk off our asses every weekend and how we deal with unexpected turns in life, like the death of loved ones.

We didn’t reach some essential universal truth about what it means to be queer, or the secret of how to be bad bitches (we got that part figured out). Instead, we got to the point that we felt safe sharing personal stories that didn’t boil our identities down to simply queer or colored.

We made a space where we could be ourselves. Our mutual understanding transcended simple categories that made up who we were; it brought us closer to what we believed or feared we could be, to a communal understanding of respect and dignity that allowed us to explore our own identities. It made us feel like we were more than what we thought of each other. In that space, in that hour, we belonged to each other.


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