My Navel Ring Does Not Define Me

Navel Ring

Why yes, this is a picture of my navel ring. Just be glad it was not still in my bellybutton when I took the picture. It’s not in my navel anymore because, after years of gripping so tightly to it as part of a carefully constructed identity, I have found that I no longer have any use for it. I unwisely kept it in when I got a huge staph infection in the piercing. I did that because I felt like it was an important part of who I was, or at least, who I wanted people to see.

Of course, navel rings aren’t wrong, and neither are any of the other piercings I have sported such as my septum, tongue, industrial and others. I still wear my nose ring and industrial bar. But the navel ring was something I wanted to keep, because I felt like it was part of who I wanted to be. I was trying to create and maintain a particular image, to keep people at arm’s length. I wanted to be unapproachable and keep people out, because I felt safer that way.

I have always valued honesty and authenticity, but I have not always lived honestly or authentically. A carefully constructed identity was a coping skill that I have utilized since I was a little girl, and it kept me alive during my teens and 20’s. If I did not adhere to what the cult taught me, I would risk being locked up in my room or at least confined to the house unable to speak to anybody except my immediate family. If I did not present myself in an acceptable manner, I would pay for it. With as suicidal as I was in those years, if I had been confined to the house and only allowed to speak to my family, I would be dead by now. I would not have been able to cope. I barely survived as it was.

My teenage journals are filled with badly thought out plans to run away or to end it all. They are full of me trying to construct my life in a manner I was told was acceptable to God. There are so many entries where I berate and condemn myself, blaming myself for the abuse inflicted upon me, telling myself I deserved it because I was rebellious.

So when I started to try to heal from the hurt, I constructed another identity, and portrayed myself as weird, unapproachable and tough. I thought if I built my walls carefully, that the light could not get in. If I looked tough with my piercings and gauges and tattoos and brightly colored hair, then people would leave me the hell alone and I would never be hurt again.

Apparently there are some people out there who could see through the bullshit to see that I was not who I portrayed myself to be. In the last year, I have been growing and changing, and while I still think brightly colored hair is cool, and I love my tattoos, I’m learning that those things do not define me. I do not need these things to represent who I am, I need to let my personality shine. Pulling out my navel ring was huge, it was a resignation to the fact that I am fine just the way I am, and that I don’t need to try to push people away.

On Being Affirming

csd-2735009_1280There is a lot of discussion surrounding people being affirming of LGBT people, especially for Pride month. It’s an important concept to discuss, and yet I think that I may have a different take on what affirming means than a lot of LGBT people do. I know some LGBT people who, when a person asks them a question for their own knowledge, responds that the person needs to educate themselves instead of asking the LGBT person to do it for them. I fundamentally disagree with this, as I believe that our personal stories play the biggest part in people’s journey to becoming affirming. Stories change lives, and if someone has genuine questions for us, it’s a great way to tell our stories. If people are trying to learn for their own knowledge as a way to become more affirming, we should help them in any way that we can.

But what constitutes being affirming? Again, I disagree with many LGBT people on what affirming truly is. Some LGBT people conclude that affirming means the straight, cisgender person be totally on board with their sexuality and gender, that they believe the science surrounding diversity. It’s always awesome when this happens, but the thing is that societal change takes time. Many people genuinely believe, whether they are right or not, that being LGBT is a sin. Many people genuinely believe that a person is not born LGBT, that they become LGBT through things that have happened to them in life. I do not believe either of those things, but I know good and beautiful people that do.

The thing about the good people I know who are not thrilled or completely on board about the fact that I’m a lesbian, treat me with love, and dignity, and respect, and to me, that right there is affirmation. Out of the people I am closest too, I don’t think any of them are thrilled, but they love me for who I am. I respect that we do not see eye to eye on issues surrounding my sexuality, but I am loved and to me, that is affirmation enough. To all the amazing people in my life: thank-you for loving me for who I am and showing Christ to me.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I will, with God’s help. (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 305).