I dealt with fear on a regular basis. It showed up in many different ways about many different things but ultimately it was fear that I grappled with. At one point I claimed that everything I feared had a valid reason behind it. As long as I had a reason to fear whatever it was then the fear became okay. After some much-needed soul searching I’d discovered a few things about fear.
One: At some point, I did not have fear. Growing up, I did what I wanted to do- not that I was a badass kid- but thoughts of harm and negativity were much more scarce. So I climbed that tree, not scared that I could fall out and break an arm- thank God that never happened, and I went swimming in the murky water without thinking that could get pulled under by a sea creature. I even made friends with the kid that looked different than me, unafraid that they would reject my friendship. I thought to myself, children have an uncanny ability to push past fear and then it hit me, they don’t push past anything because for them, it’s not there. Fear is something we learn from others, which brings me to my next point.
Two: Parents and others scare the shit out of me. It wasn’t until I was told not to climb that tree, because of the injury I could sustain, did it make me more wary about thrusting myself into the limbs of a nice pine tree and enjoying the prick of every needle. It wasn’t until my brother showed me Jaws-the mega-shark movie- that murky water became off limits to me. It wasn’t until seeing kids bully kids for being bullied by kids by watching adults bully kids that it scared me to make new friends. Somehow, I had let others’ experiences influence my ability to live fearlessly. I let others project their fears onto me. Furthermore, the people who cast their fears onto others, like my parents, did not do it on purpose. They’d had the same thing happen to them and nine times out ten believed that they were protecting the one they loved from the big bad world. It’s sad to say, but in the process of being protected, my fearless-self got lost.
Three: Media representation tricked me into thinking that my type of different did not exist. Everyone and I mean everyone, has something that makes their situation unique. Every story is different and even for people who fit into the status quo, the personal journey will always differ from that of the next person. Even if they look like you. However, the media has done a great job at solidifying what it means to be important or accepted or worshiped which introduced me to a new type of fear. It was no longer about bodily harm or things that went bump in the night or even making a new friend. It was about being adequate. The fear that I was so “different” that I would never be respected, accepted, or revered for more than what makes me different. That one part of me would become my whole identity to the world and for many people, that’s exactly what happened.
However, I had the pleasure of speaking with Lisa Cunningham, a producer/director and an all-around inspirational person who looks like me. Cunningham is a person of color and one that does not adhere to gender norms. It’s even more inspiring that they hold a position as one of the members of the Atlanta LGBT Advisory Board. Cunningham sat me down and gave me some advice that only someone with our experiences could offer. “Take the chip off of your shoulder”. Those words rang loud and clear. I was afraid that because I looked one way, identified another, and confused people when I walked into a room on any given day, that I would never be respected and taken seriously. Lisa Cunningham showed me differently. That it is simply another fear I have let others burden me with, but no more.
Non-gender conforming people have dealt with a lot, within ourselves, the world, and close circles and for many of us, adding business the mix added pressure. I did not conform to the norms that made others more comfortable to be around me. I thought that because others did not understand me, they were less willing to work with me, give me opportunities or respect me as a creative. That was not the case. I was convinced that it was until I met Lisa who showed me that non-binary people could be talented, nonconforming, and respected by their peers in their various fields. They could even be sought after by others for the unique perspective they possess. Ultimately, I was a person with much to offer and others comfortability had nothing to do with me. I decided that it would affect not longer.
I wanted my childlike fearlessness back. I wanted to climb every tree I could so I could scream “I’m the king and the queen of the world” from the depths of my soul for the world to hear. I wanted to swim in every body of water I could find and if it was a puddle, I’d splash in it just to say I did so. I wanted to make those friends that became lifelong family members and colleagues without being nervous that I’d be mocked for putting myself out there.
These fears I had never belonged to me. I simply acquired them along the way. Granted, some may have been given to me to keep me safe for a time, but at what point did they become a prison instead? When did I let them dictate who I was and what I could do? Enough was enough.
So now, I am not afraid to go for the things that I desire because it may not fit into what others think I should do, or be, or how I should look. I do not live in fear any longer. I am releasing that 5-year-old kid held prisoner inside of me to let them run free and be who and how they want to be! These are no longer fears of mine.