Porque Yo Soy
I spent so much of my life being told how to speak. Being told how to use my voice.
Use your inside voice,
You’re all so quiet and well behaved,
If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,
Swearing makes you sound stupid.
Just say something nice,
I let other people tell me what to think and what to feel. I said what they said, I thought what they thought, I felt what they wanted me to. I let them tell me what to say and listened when they admonished me for how I said it.
But I have my own voice. And I get to use it.
I get to speak now.
I get to tell my own story.
Because my story matters. What happened to me matters, what happened to me was real. How I saw it matters, how I saw it was real. What I felt matters, what I thought, what I did.
And it might not be everything; it might not be the whole truth, but it's the truth as I saw it, the truth as I felt it, and that counts. That matters. That's real.
This is my story.
This is my story, and I get to tell it. With anger, with shame, with jokes, with fear. With grief, and whatever joy I find in it, in the people and the moments and the God I met there.
And with the joy I found in myself. In who I was. In who I became. In who I was revealed to be. Not just in the parts of me that aligned with who I was told to be.
I was told "Find your identity in Christ".
And I did. I tried, I tried my damnedest. And I succeeded.
And then I fell apart.
I fell apart, I am falling apart and I can feel it: whole strips of me flaking off like dried paint, crumbling in chunks like dried mud, my whole identity cracking and falling off and flaking like leprosy, like scabs.
Because what they really meant when they said "find your identity in Christ" was "find your identity in Us."
In our rules and our strictures and our music and our movies. Find yourself in the rhythms of our worship and the choruses when we all raise our hands and the way we shake hands in church and smile politely and turn away, and the way we say "the Bible says" with a capital B. In our clean jokes and our way of looking at the world and the way we vote and our righteous confusion at anything labeled "Sin" (with a capital S).
In the way we plot fences and the careful, simpering lines we draw in the sand that conveniently curve to enclose the places we are already comfortable
It was all I had to define me. And all of a sudden I was outside. The lines didn't curve around me. I was outside in way where there was no going back in.
And on the outside I met a God I didn't know before. I met fire and thunder and infinity. I stood barefoot on Mount Sinai and crouched in a cave on Mount Carmel and was terrified and afraid.
I met a God of awe and power and terror. I met a God who loved me. A God who truly loved me, in a way I had never imagined and never experienced. I met a God who spoke to me in a gentle voice, so I would not fall apart. I met a God who loved me as I was.
I can't be who they wanted me to be. Who I wanted me to be.
So now I'm going to be myself.
I'm going to be who I am.
And there is so much to be afraid of in that. I'm afraid I won't be able to do it, that I won't be able to be myself, really myself, that I'll always be a caricature, that I'll always craft masks to placate and entice the people around me. I'm afraid I'm not really what I think I am (Not actually Jewish, the Mexican part doesn't count, not really gay enough) and I'm already playing a part.
And I'm scared I'll do it—I'll actually do it, I'll actually succeed in being myself— and people won't like me. That everyone will want me to just put the mask back on, to put it back to the way it was before, and I'll be alone.
I'm afraid that underneath the shell, deep down inside, I'm seeping and gross and vile. And if I'm truly myself, everyone will know.
But I think God still loves me. I think that He looked under the shell, that He looked deep inside me. And He found something He cherished. He found something worthwhile. He found something to love.
So maybe I'll try too.
And it's complicated, it's messy, it hurts and I still don't know how to do it. But I am myself.
I'm Mexican, I'm Chicano, I'm white. I'm Jewish, I'm Christian, I'm gay. I was homeschooled for most of my life, I was evangelical and I don't know what I am now. I'm a writer of one kind or another. I'm me.
And none of it makes any sense. It doesn’t mesh and it doesn't fit together cleanly or simply, it's complex and full of contradictions. None of me makes sense.
But it doesn't have to make sense. I don't have to be simple.
I am who I am.
Because I am.
Porque Yo Soy.
I get to tell my story. I get to say who I am, in my own words and with my own feelings and my own fears and joys and rages. In my own voice.
I get to meet myself. As I really am, as I really was, as I really will be.
I'm coming out.
I'm going to be myself.