You Are Who Your Friends Are

My queerness used to be like dough. It was soft and easily manipulated. I didn’t have a name for it and the way I defined my sexuality kept changing as I tried to figure it out. When I sat in church, I prayed it would go away. When I met girls in middle school who wore rainbow belts and called themselves bi-sexual, I thought that’s what I was too. When I fell in love with a boy in high school, I thanked heavens for making me straight again.

Today, my queerness is like concrete. It is a part of my identity that is firm and secure and does not change based on circumstances or who I am with. It is a part of me the way my arms are a part of my upper body and my hips are a part of my legs. My queerness is a multi-colored disco ball and queer people are the reflecting lights. The only time I feel like I can almost touch my queerness is when I am surrounded by other queer people in spaces created for queer people. These spaces rain glitter, live for Whitney Houston’s best hits (I mean, all of her songs are hits, wouldn’t you agree?), and projects a feeling of safety that I am unlikely to feel anywhere else unless I am surrounded by queer people like me.

Community is defined as “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” I believe that we are the best versions of ourselves when we are surrounded by people who activate the parts of ourselves that make us who we are. When community is absent, that is, “people who have a particular characteristic in common” with us, that’s when I think we feel the loneliest. That’s why six years ago when I moved to Denver and had no queer friends, I felt unfulfilled and really sad. That’s why today that I am no longer going into work every day as an elementary school teacher, I am missing conversations and connection with fellow educators. And that’s why today and every day for a while now, I’ve been asking myself “what do I love about the community I’ve built and what am I missing?”

Growing up Mami would always say “you are who your friends are.” When I was thirteen, I rolled my eyes at this because she mostly used it to get me to stop hanging out with kids she didn’t want me to hang out with. At 28 though, I get it and it’s this saying that is helping me define and create my community. When I envision my intentional community, I see people who energize me, share common experiences and passions and people who make me feel the most in touch with myself, my values and my identity. My community loves and cares about other people just as much as I do. My community are people who share similar experiences and culture. My community are people that would treat my family well. My community are people who my grandmother and father would be proud of.

The path toward building community isn’t always easy and I am still figuring it out. If you are working and reflecting on the community you want in your life, consider asking yourself the following questions as a way to get started:

  1. What are the parts of my identity that make me who I am?
  2. What kind of people make me feel the safest?
  3. What are three of my non-negotiable values I need in a person I consider a friend?
  4. What does my community look like?
  5. What does my community sound like?
  6. What does my community feel like when I am with them?
  7. Who is already part of my community?
  8. What do I need to do to further develop my ideal community?

 

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