Poetry On Odyssey: Who Am I

Poetry On Odyssey: Who Am I

Our Ancestors Live Within Us
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Who Am I?

I am Angelou's inspiration

That exceeded limitation

I am Gandhi's patience

Waiting for peace and cooperation

Yet I am X's passion

Violence only in reaction

I am Benjamin's hope

Fighting in a war that will never repay him

I am Bessie Coleman's vision

Saw what could be and wind it

I am Langston Hughes' creativity

Art filled with messages and life lessons

I am Rosa Parks' feet

Willing to stand for beliefs

I am Ray Charles' senses

Redefining magic touch

I am Ali's stamina

Fighting my way to victory

I am Huey and Angela's mindset

Ready to die for cause if necessary

And In Them I Am Born

I am History


Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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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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