The letter below is the first letter in my sophomore work, Letters to My Sister. For me, it and some of the letters to follow, were and are deeply personal. They touch the core of who I am: my purpose, my existence and my identity. They share some of the hurts I’ve experienced as I’ve tried to navigate a world that can suddenly say, “You are not who you are” because of things totally out of my control: my personality, the way my body is built, or even mannerisms. At times the dissassociations came because of choices that I made: my clothing, my hairstyle, or my sense of fashion. But more often than not the very core of who I was, was challenged for matters that I simply cannot control.
I look forward to your feedback, your view points and beliefs, your experiences of similarity or your total inability to identify as over the next few weeks, I attempt to figure out “Identity” on God’s Terms.
As we begin this journey of swapping stories, experiences, triumphs, loves, dislikes, annoyances and hurts, I feel compelled to open with a letter weighted in transparency.
I have a beautiful younger sister. Growing up, my sister and I were always photographed together. We were often dressed in similar clothing and many people thought that we were twins. Today, we couldn’t be more different.
My sister is the epitome of grace and beauty and probably what most mothers want their daughters to look like. I, on the other hand, am edgy, breaking every rule, often times hard and stern, commanding and powerful. It’s clear. I defy traditionally what a woman is supposed to embody and often times behave like, through no fault of mine. I’ve always been this way.
But back to my story…
As we’ve gotten older my sister and I have shared less photographs of ourselves together for many reasons. Primarily I think it’s because I allowed myself to be photographed less. I lost my confidence. The constant comparison and pressure to look like a “normal” girl, to look and act more like my sister seemed to have gotten to me at some point. I just couldn’t measure up.
Most people know me as confident in my person but there were moments where I struggled with my identity; or rather struggled with my inability to get others to identify me as I identified myself or as God had identified me. I dressed the way I didn’t want to, so that I could appease society and oftentimes the church. When I made these compromises, there was a deep cry within myself. I felt like I was slowly killing everything that I was created to be. I wasn’t being the unique personality that God created me to be.
There were so many times I heard, “You look so much like a boy,” that at one point in time I wondered if something was wrong with me. I remember dedicating one year to simply looking at women to see if I’d have any sexual or physical reaction to their make up. I wanted to ascertain to myself that I really was into men and men alone.
I deal in strictly men.
*lifts eyes and hands to the sky*
Thank you, Jesus!
Physically, I can see when a woman is beautiful but nothing inside of me leaps when I see a beautiful woman. Something certainly leaps inside of me when I see a beautiful man. I am reminded of the existence of God. And shamefully, every now and then I have a bout of lust. I think that’s probably how a man feels towards a woman that he is attracted to.
So I wasn’t a lesbian. I ruled that out. *deep sigh of relief*
Still, I didn’t fit society’s definition of traditional womanhood in my looks or actions. I prayed to God to help me be more womanly; help make my hips wider, help make them sway more when I walk. But nothing changed.
Some things did change. But they changed through my own doing. I tried to change who I was.
I tried to become quiet and docile and I tried to dress as they said girls were to dress. The end result was a deep-seated dissatisfaction with self and a denial of purpose. Most days, I felt like Paul; like probably this was a thorn in my side. This was the thing that I would continually have to pray about to keep me humble.
What the hell was wrong with me?
The truth is nothing was wrong with me then and nothing is wrong with me today. I simply don’t fit traditional and societal constructs of womanhood. But I do fit the divine mould.
I do want to say that this letter is not me railing against tradition, culture or societal norms and values. Tradition and culture are valid. To be traditional or cultural is not to be anti-God. As a matter of fact many anti-God movements have used defiance of societal and cultural norms to state boldly that they have chosen to go down another path.
For example homosexuals have used and defied societal constructs such as the classification of clothing to state boldly to everyone that they are choosing to identify with an alternate gender by wearing what society deems the clothes of that gender.
Having said this, I’ve also seen in my own life and in the life of many that to not be traditional or cultural is not to be anti-God. In many cases, to carry the cross of going against the grain of tradition is to walk in purpose, is to bring freedom and liberation to many and it is to be who God has called one to be.
I think if I had the choice, my prayer to have the desire to behave just like every other girl would be answered and I wouldn’t be writing this letter. I would be accepted. I would never have shed a tear about my ostracization and rejection in my moments of aloneness. But it has yet to go away. My prayer has yet to be answered and I’ve come to grips with the fact that it may NEVER be answered.
The truth is that people will probably always question my sexuality and who I am because of my personal sense of style or until I have a ring on my finger stating that some man has “claimed” me. The truth is that cultural and societal expectations of me will always render me an oddity in the sphere that is womanhood. But it is also a blatant truth that there is no justification for my womanhood except that it is divine.
I am woman because God gave me the privilege of carrying the genetic makeup that is woman. I have fallopian tubes and a womb and from my monthly encounter with menstruation ever since I was 12 I’d say they function quite well.
I often jokingly say that if I ever made the decision to engage in premarital sex that I that I would be with child with immediacy. Yes, I think myself to be that fertile. I desire the half that is the other rib and I am equipped to receive and incubate his seed.
These are experiences that no man has EVER been equipped to partake of nor will they ever be able to partake of them as per divine design; as per natural design.
I will be and do things that a man cannot because I am woman. I am woman simply because I am and more importantly, I embrace it. I love being woman.
I gotta jet now or rather I’m choosing to jet now, but perhaps in a subsequent letter – or subsequent letters – I’ll share with you some of the things that have been impressed on my heart about woman and the state of being woman: womanhood. Till then, I endeavor to be everything that God has designed me to be: Godly Woman.