For me, privacy has functioned as a form of survivalism, as a way to keep threats at bay. And I’ve used it as a way to protect not only me, but also my loved ones. In the last year, however, it turned out to be one of the most destructive conditions of my life.
A year and a half ago, I ended a 3 month stint of unemployment and started teaching at a Christian owned college, a place at which I’d learn after making mention of an ex-girlfriend, did not approve of my lifestyle. I remember the room suddenly hushing after clarification of a pronoun…Another faculty member walked in, and one of the instructors motioned for her to walk outside where she whispered something to her before they both reappeared.
As you can imagine, it being 2016 and all how awkward that was for me. My prior place of employment had plenty of open-minded individuals. I sometimes made jokes about being a lesbian at work, and people laughed, but for the most part, I was never really made to feel less than (except for that one time someone at work insisted that conversion therapy could change gay people – which I know from personal experience, it can’t, but that’s a whole other story). Suddenly, I felt like I was in an episode of…
Everyone was pretty polite and chatty with me up to that point, and everyone remains that way unless I bring up my personal life. So as a form of social preservation, I quickly and earnestly began drawing lines.
I drew lines around the relationships I had created. All of my relationships (romantic or otherwise) outside of work suddenly didn’t exist to the majority of faculty. The fact that I have a pseudo-stepdaughter became a lie of omission.
I drew lines around the the things I said and the times I shared them. I already felt that my opinions in the classroom were of little relevance. I always play devil’s advocate with students anyway. But suddenly, I realized that other faculty members had very little tolerance for different ideas and that they got pretty emotional about things. The impending presidential election was very telling of just how little they thought about other ideas.
I drew lines around rooms of my home. When I got home, I went upstairs and hid in the bathroom. I was so stressed from hiding myself all day. I was exhausted, and I didn’t really know how to verbalize any of it without making my family feel horrible, so I just hid and suffered in silence. I compulsively read religious materials in shame and further disconnected myself from the real world.
And after doing it all for so long, my brain just couldn’t take it any longer. When 2017 appeared, it screamed opportunity. It said, “You don’t have to do this anymore!” And I said, “Yes…I do, but it can be different.” So I started blogging, and it has been. It has been hugely different.
It’s been different knowing that my thoughts exist. It’s been different knowing that someone somewhere is reading them, and it’s been different knowing that that exchange has absolutely nothing to do with my livelihood.
Did I mention that all of this is somehow accomplished from the privacy of my home?