I Love Being Unapologetically "Dark"

I Love Being Unapologetically "Dark"

Not everyone can have the melanin I have.
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Growing up as an African American female, I have learned that there are definitely challenges that no one can really prepare you for. There are some lessons you have to learn on your own, like when it comes to loving who you are, it comes from within, and not what other people think.

When I was born, I definitely didn’t look anything like I do now. I looked like some sort of Southeast Asian baby, which makes me question if those are really my baby pictures, or if there was a brief baby mix up that my parents never told me about. As I got older, I started to get my darker complexion. When I was younger, I would hear comments about my dark skin color, but that didn’t really matter to me. When you’re young, you somehow know and accept that everyone is made differently, so having darker skin wasn’t a big deal to me.

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized being dark had a negative connotation.

Going on family vacations was always a norm for my family. My brother and I were blessed enough to go on annual family vacations during the summer, in which we’d spend hours at the pool, beach, or anywhere outside. To say we got dark during the summer would be a huge understatement. I say this because the first thing people would say to us would be, “Wow, ya’ll got really dark” as if we didn’t already know.

During the winter we both look like dark chocolate Hershey bars so just imagine what we look like during the summer.

When people would comment on the shade of our skin, it wasn’t what they said that bothered me; it was the look of disgust that followed their words. I always got confused as to why it was such a horrific thing to be dark, but when you’re young you’d rather think more about how much fun you had while getting dark rather than people’s weird reactions.

Even though I received negative remarks about being dark when I was younger, I didn’t really think much of my skin color.

I didn’t think much of it until high school when there was some unknown consensus that how light or dark you were was the determining factor of how pretty people thought you were, which I always thought was crazy because I’m a daddy’s girl and I have always been pretty. In my high school, people would shame dark skinned girls for their complexion, but would admire the white girls who were spending legit money to try and say, “I’m almost as dark as you!”

As I got older, I finally understood the disgusted and confused look people gave me when they told me I was getting darker in the summer.

People were confused as to why I was out during the summer because they expected me to stay in the house so I wouldn’t get darker. Or, if I stayed in the house during summer people assumed that it was because I was trying not to get darker when it was actually because I'd rather stay inside with air conditioning by myself versus being surrounded by people I don't really care for in the heat.

Can you really fault me for that?

Anyway, being dark has never been something I have been ashamed of. Now, some people think differently about the shade of my skin, but that is their issue. I have always been happy about my skin color because...

1. It’s beautiful.

And 2. I can literally wear ANY color without having to worry about if it will clash or wash me out or whatever other issues people worry about.

As I enter my last year of college, I notice that some people don’t have the luxury of being secure with their skin tone. I witness people worried about getting darker, so they stay in the house. Or they believe that sunscreen will save them from being a shade darker (it doesn’t). It makes me sad that people think the only way to be beautiful is to be lighter, and it isn’t true. What makes me even more upset is that it isn’t their fault.

Actors and actresses with darker skin for some reason are always playing the stereotypical roles of black people that are less flattering, or they are playing supporting roles. I mean even in black films, it’s the same.

Think of Tyler Perry movies, the lead protagonist is always a stunning light skinned actor or actress, while the best friend or antagonist is always darker. Yeah, Tyler Perry may have an all black cast, but there is still discrimination within shades. There is still that bias that is sending a message that the lighter the skin, the prettier you’ll be or the more successful you’ll be. And although that message is being sent, it doesn’t mean that message is true.

College is the time that you get to meet all different types of people with different backgrounds, which is my favorite part. This past year I met an African American who lived in Europe for most of his life, and moved back to the states in high school. During our time of getting to know each other, I quickly learned his passion for tennis. It was something he always talked about and took so much pride in.

While sharing his passion with me, I learned that he had at one time been hesitant to play because he was worried about getting darker. Learning this I was completely caught off guard because someone legitimately considered giving up something they loved, in order to entertain the idea that being dark is a bad thing.

Thankfully, he realized how wrong that idea is because he continued to play tennis. His once insecurity is his most embraced feature because it doesn’t make him who he is, but is a part of his uniqueness. His decision to do what he loves has impacted many of his teammates; leading him to experiences and people that he’d otherwise never meet.

With skin you’re insecure with you have two choices: be the beautiful that you think other people want you to be or be the beautiful you already are.

You don’t need to shame yourself for being dark by staying in the house, bleaching your skin, or putting yourself down. Each color is unique, light or dark. It is important to show people why the color of your skin is alluring, why your shade is special. My darkness is glamorous, and if want to lay outside in the sun by the beach and get darker than I will, because that just means I will rock the colors I choose to wear even more gracefully.


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My Asexuality Is The Last Thing I Hate About Myself

Oh, by the way - mom and dad, I'm Ace!
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This week my fellow UCF Odyssey writer and asexual Chris Mari wrote an article explaining his asexuality and his complete detest for it. He goes into detail about how is sexual orientation developed, what it is, and how he feels about how it affects his relationships. It is a really insightful article about the accepting process of discovering your own sexuality.

However, I feel like Chris is taking this the wrong way. Being asexual, or any sexuality for that matter, is nothing to be ashamed of and you should never hate yourself for it. It took me a while to figure it out and it took me even longer to accept it. But once I did, my life, relationships, and my view on my asexuality got better. I don't see it as a curse or a disease. I see it as being a part of the awesome person I am (not to brag).

There are many things that I don't like about myself, but my sexuality is not one of them. I hate that I am messy, that I like to mix all of the fountain drinks into one cup, and that I am a terrible driver. I do not hate the fact that I am a five-foot-two asexual woman who eats a lot of pasta.

To be clear, like most sexualities asexuality has a spectrum with different attraction levels and variances between each individual. There are many types of asexuality and each type varies on sexual orientation, lack of sexual attraction, and romantic orientation, which is completely different from sexual orientation. At its core, being asexual means that you lack sexual attraction to others, have low sexual desire, and never initiate sexual activity.

Asexuality means many things to many different people. You can still be in a sexual relationship with someone and still consider yourself to be asexual. You can be attracted to others and still have romantic relationships and still be asexual. It does not have to confine you, your relationship, or you sex/non-sex life.

Unlike Chris, I figured out my asexuality as a teen. Around my senior year in high school, I noticed that I wasn't experiencing the same feelings towards sex and sexual desire as a lot of my friends. For a long time, I thought that there was something wrong with me. I blamed it on me being "too mature" for relationships in high school, and that "all the guys in my grade were unattractive." Which, by the way, was not true.

It wasn't until I started Googling these question I had that I found out what the issue was. I am asexual. And it wasn't until the first relationship I had that I realized I was more of a gray-asexual than strictly asexual. I sometimes feel sexual attraction to others, but only when a strong emotional connection is formed, and even then my sexual attraction is little to none.

Having sex does not mean having a relationship and having a relationship does not mean having sex. Trust me, I know. A romantic relationship is built on a strong emotional connection, respect, and intimacy, which does not necessarily mean sex. My past relationships were built on strong emotional connections and mutual respect. Sometimes there have been feeling of sexual attraction, but in a lot of cases, there weren't. If/when I am in a relationship, there is a lot of emotional intimacy, caring, and a lot more Netflix binging than in most non-asexual relationships.

Chris, it sounds like you are still dealing with the fact that you are asexual. And let me tell you, from my own experience, once you accept it your feelings towards it won't be so negative. There is an entire community of people like you and I that understand what you are going through. But this is something that you shouldn't hate yourself for.

Being asexual does not mean you are broken, have a disease, and are not capable of being in a relationship. If you surround yourself with accepting people, accept who you are as a person, and find that person who loves you for who you are and not your asexuality, then you will see how awesome it is to be who you are meant to be. Trust me, it's good to be part of the plus! We give it that extra credit!

Cover Image Credit: Jon Ly

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If You Want To Be A LGBTQIA Ally, Here's A Good Start

Here's how you *actually* support the LGBTQIA community.
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Let’s face it: It’s 2018. Times are changing, and the LGBTQIA community is becoming more and more accepted in societies around the world. However, we’re still a LOOOONG way from equality, and even further away from equity.

As these changes become part of contemporary culture, many people (including within the community) want to help and support their family members, friends, co-workers, etc.

But there’s not really a guide to alliance, and many well-meaning allies don’t understand how to properly support the community. Even with the best intentions, allies can offend, divide, or harm the community they’re trying to help.

So if you consider yourself an ally in any form – or even if you’re part of the community – here are some simple tips to support your LGBTQIA peers.

Labels, Terms, And Slurs

Queer and/or Gay (Or Neither)

Nobody in the community is exactly the same. Some people will use different terms to describe themselves, but that does not invalidate their perspectives and you should respect those terms. You also should not assume what terms to use when referring to someone.

There’s no catch-all term for the LGBTQIA community. Many people do not feel comfortable being labeled as “gay” because it does not describe their identity.

For example, intersex and transgender people who identify as heterosexual may be offended by the linkage of gender identity and sexuality.

Some people have begun to use the term “queer” instead which used to be (and can still be) considered a slur against the community. However, there are many folks who are uncomfortable with this term as well and have had negative experiences with it, and you should never automatically assume that someone is fine with this identity. Long story short: just ask!

Reclaiming Slurs: Complex, Yet Simple

That being said, I must re-emphasize: it is SOLELY up to someone in a respective community to what terms they must use. Do not use slurs unless you are reclaiming them. Reclaiming is a process where LGBTQIA people use the words of their oppressors in order to “reclaim” their power.

It is somewhat controversial and people may not believe in reclaiming slurs. That being said: If you are not in that community, you should never reclaim a slur that’s not yours.

If you do not identify as a lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, sapphic, queer, etc. femme or woman, you should not use the word dike to refer to yourself, and especially not to refer to others. If you are cis, you should absolutely never use the word “tr*nny” because that is ABSOLUTELY NOT your word to reclaim.

Invalidating Identities: A No-No!

There are a few identities in the LGBTQIA community that face unique struggles including bisexuality, pansexuality, and many identities under the transgender umbrella. While the concepts of identities may appear similar, and someone may identify with several, it does not make them the same identity, and it does not invalidate the existence of any.

A big example: Bisexuality is NOT “outdated pansexuality”, and pansexuality is NOT “special-snowflake bisexuality.” I am personally comfortable using both terms to describe myself but typically introduce myself as bi. You need to respect the terms people use even if it “doesn’t make sense” to you.

Microaggressions, Stereotypes, And More!

Please Stop With The Attack Helicopters

Listen, I get it. It appears that many new genders and sexualities are “popping up” everywhere and it’s hard to understand sometimes. But those jokes you make, or that you let your friends make, are invalidating as HELL. When you make those jokes or allow them to happen, you are actively harming the LGBTQIA community.

"But I like these jokes!" You may say. Imagine this: you spent your whole life in the closet feeling different, weird, and morally wrong. You’ve been threatened, attacked, or abused for your identity.

Finally, you gain the courage to be yourself among your friends. Your friends then make jokes along the lines of “I don’t get your identity, therefore it is wrong.” You’re back in that closet again. There’s a difference between a good joke and thinly veiled transphobia.

I’m Not Your Gay Best Friend (Or Your Fetish)

Here’s a newsflash: LGBTQIA people are STILL people. We are more than just a stereotype or a toy for you to use. You cannot simplify us to our sexuality or gender, and you can DEFINITELY leave me alone if you’re going to treat me like an object.

Do not ever ask a gay man to be your gay best friend. Do not make inappropriate comments towards your lesbian friends regarding lesbian porn. Do not ask bisexuals or pansexuals for a threesome.

Do not call trans people traps. Do not say “omg this trans person looks better than me!” because that implies they’re supposed to be lesser than you.

I Am Also Not Your Teacher (Or Experiment)

People who don’t know much about the community naturally have questions about it. Many of us are willing to educate you and help you out – but respect the ones that don’t want to.

Also consider this: if you wouldn’t ask a straight or cis person that question, why would you ask them?

It’s not my job to explain to you how cis women have sex together, so please stop asking me that. It’s weird.

It is also not my job to have sex with you because you’re “unsure” and “experimenting.” I completely understand the curiosity, but not everyone is comfortable talking about these things, and not everyone has interest in sex to begin with.

Identity, Inclusion, and Intersectionality

I’d Prefer If You Didn’t Prefix With “Preferred”

“Preferred pronouns” are just someone’s “pronouns” unless stated otherwise. The preferred is not necessary unless someone is not completely “out” yet. Pronouns can be confusing, but many people understand if you mess up because people are only human.

Not only that but please respect your friend’s entire journey of their gender identity. If your friend is still unsure of their identity or simply uses multiple pronouns, you can always ask which they would like to use that day. If your friend is out in some spaces but not all, you can ask how to refer to them in safe and non-safe spaces.

And especially: if your friend is completely out and only uses she/hers (or he/his), do not say they/them instead to “skate around” the subject. This is especially common with trans women – don’t avoid their identity!

All Or Nothing

You cannot support only parts of the LGBTQIA community and call yourself an ally. There is more than the L and G. Trans people are often excluded from false allies definitions. You must support all individuals in the community or you do not support the community. You also must support “all-the-way” – not halfheartedly or when you feel like it.

This also applies in another way that many people do not realize. It doesn’t matter if someone is a terrible person, you respect their identity. Many people misgender Caitlyn Jenner because she’s “problematic” – and that’s not okay.

You also cannot call gay people “f*ggots” because they seem like the "stereotypical gay" to you. And if you are in the community, you should NOT call other people “special snowflakes” because their personality differs from yours.

There Is More To LGBTQIA Than LGBTQIA

People in this community often have other identities that intersect with their LGBTQIA identity. Racism, sexism, classism, and xenophobia are unfortunately problems that are part of this community. I am not *just* a bisexual person, I am also a low-income Hispanic female.

If someone brings up their identity in another aspect, you should respect it. Often these identities are tied in life experiences and identity formation.

My experience as a low-income LGBTQIA person will probably be different than the experience of an upper-class LGBTQIA person. Both of our perspectives matter.

Okay, TLDR TIME: I'm Tired Of Reading

TLDR: Be respectful. If someone calls you out, do not get defensive. And if someone approaches you with a new perspective, do not shut them down immediately.

In order to be an ally, you have to be TRULY open-minded and willing to learn; from your friends, and from your mistakes.

Cover Image Credit: Julie Missbutterflies on Flickr

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