I’ve had several variations on the same conversation over the past few years.
IRL I have ‘passing privilege’. I ‘pass’ as straight. I ‘pass’ as cis. I ‘pass’ as monogamous’. Sometimes I even ‘pass’ as neurotypical. Except that for me, it doesn’t feel like a privilege, it feels like another version of being closeted. And this closet, I couldn’t get out of.
I’m not going to get into details. This is background stuff for what I want to talk about today. Suffice to say, that for a long time I couldn’t think of anything I could do that folks around me wouldn’t read as ‘normative, straight, cis, etc’ except, like, getting Pride pins and bumper stickers and such.
And the thing I said so many times over the last year “That’s not me.”
I’ve never liked pins and patches and such. Bumper stickers, I hate how they look. I mean, I’ve seen some good ones. I enjoy reading them driving down the highway. But not on my car please.
Jewelry? Well… no.
Flashback: Exploring Kabbalah
Nearly 20 years ago now, when I was getting comfortable claiming the identity of “Jew”, I dipped my toe into Kabbalah. One of the first books on kabbalah I read was God Is a Verb by David A Cooper. Highly recommend it just for the way it fucks with the Christian-hegemonic view of God so many folks grew up with.
God, Cooper says, is a verb. God is not a thing, not static, God is rightly God-ing. And when we explore spiritual things and try to follow the Tree of Life and just try to be good people in our day to day lives, we are practicing God-ing. God is an action, a process, a never-beginning-and-never-ending-always-doing.
In English, we are good at verbing our nouns. That’s why we can say we ‘googled’ something. And there are some nouns that can completely change our understanding why we verb them.
God is a verb.
Love is a verb.
Consent (as I said in Safer Sex for the Non-Monogamous) is a verb.
I Am a Verb
When I said, ‘that’s not me,’ I was treating myself, my identity as a static thing. Unchanging. Out of my control.
It’s true that there are somethings about me that are out of my control. I can’t decide not to be autistic, or white, or to not have bipolar. I can never learn how to not be an abuse survivor.
The past, and the experiences and actions it leaves us with, are unchanging.
But I am not. I am a verb. I am I-ing, Jess-ing. Me-ing, if you prefer. I don’t like it tying it to closely to my name, because names are only identifiers, not identities. And it is possible my name will change. And there may be people reading this who desperately want to change their names.
But whatever you want to call it, I am doing it, living it, being it.
I am a verb.
Out of the Box
I remember thinking, ‘maybe I can get a Pride pin to put on my teek. Stretch my comfort zone a bit, right?
Almost before I finished the thought, I was mentally face-palming.
I was already planning on getting a kippah, because I wanted at least one headcovering that would be ‘read’ as religious (unlike my more usual baseball-style caps or my ‘dressing up’ snood). I had just finished making myself a cowl. I was planning to make myself a shawl.
Why was I fretting over not having normative ways of signalling my anormativetly? Why was a thinking about maybe looking for a Pride pin — when I can wrap myself up in my hand-made Pride flag! (aka shawl)
And if I’m looking to get a kippah, surely there will be one somewhere with an infinity heart on it. Or someone on Etsy I can pay to make one with a rainbow infinity.
Oh, hey! Seek and ye shall find:
I already spent my birthday money for the month, so I can’t snatch this one up. But definitely going to be watching that seller in the future.
Or find a crochet pattern for a kippah. Something like that.
By believing that I am static and closing my mind to the possibility of doing something new, be-ing something new, I also closed my mind to all the possibilities of change and growth within the things I am already doing and being.
I don’t plan on forgetting that lesson anytime soon!
What About You? Are You You-ing?