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When you look at me, I can imagine that you see an American’s American. A (wo)man’s (wo)man. A white, middle class Midwesterner who’s had it good. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have all been mine. And, I suppose you’d be right.

I am the epitome of the American dream. Put me in the brochure. My parents are both college graduates. They’ve been married 15 years and are still going strong (knock on wood). I am, as you can see, Caucasian. Born and raised in Michigan with some of the friendliest, snow-loving folk around. I have a younger brother. We can fight like cats and dogs, but still love to watch Saturday morning cartoons together. We’ve got a dog and a cat and a tire swing in the backyard. It’s sketchy and only holds you off the ground if you’re five years old, but it’s there.

My parents own the house I grew up in. They are both employed. They keep a garden. My father hunts and fishes. My mom is a teacher and spends her summers watching my brother; hosting play-dates, hosting sleepovers, taking children and best friends and friends of friends to the fair. Both of my parents get home for dinner and they take turns cooking. My father coaches my brother’s soccer team and my mother brings cut up orange slices for halftime. They own a mini van.

We have television and cell phones and internet. I’ve had guinea pigs and bunny rabbits and cats and more than one labrador retriever: man’s best friend. I’m a college student. I went to a good public high school, one of the best in the state. I did sports, swam, played in the school band. I have had opportunity after opportunity.

When you look at me, you’d think I’m a girl who has never experienced hatred or racism or violence. You’d see a daddy’s girl, a suburban white woman who first experienced “diversity” in the dorms of a college campus. You’d see someone who doesn’t know what it means to be a 2nd class citizen, someone who is a proud American. You’d see what you wanted to see. And you’d approve of me.

But you would be wrong.

I like women. As in, I like women. Now what do you see?

Because I can tell you what thoughts I see flit across your face, fast as a bird before you take control again: Freak, gross, Abomination. Disgusting for “choosing” such a lifestyle. Impure, unclean, Hell-bound on the next train out. Unfit mother, wife, lover. Dirty. Wrong.

Would you take a moment, please, to listen to what I see? When I look in the mirror: hmm.. Brown eyes, blonde hair, Michigander born and raised. College sophomore. American. White. Female. Middle-class. A girl whose parents love her, love one another. An older sister. An avid reader. A lifeguard. A camp counselor. Hard worker. A determined individual.

I also see a second-class citizen. I see someone who did not choose the hard road, did not pick to be treated differently or looked down upon, but was simply handed that path by my god, your god, our god. I see a woman unable to marry, adopt children who simply need someone to love them. Someone who would be barred from visiting her lover in the hospital in the very state she called home for 19 years. A person who understands how the slurs “gay” and “faggot” feel on a personal level. Who empathizes with the 13 year old boy who hung himself last week because he was ‘different’ and teased in the hallways by his peers. Who understands how cruel children can be with words their parents and the media have taught them. Who can relate to the woman lying to herself simply to fit in.

I see a democrat and a liberal and a voter. A woman who joked about moving to Canada if a certain presidential candidate were elected, only to realize that would be running away. Who vowed to stay no matter what, to speak up, speak out, for those who couldn’t or were afraid. Who vowed to stop feeling ashamed or wrong. Who chooses to meet her own gaze in that mirror with strength and courage.

I see a person who simply wishes to love and be loved. To wake up next to who I choose, share good morning kisses and late afternoon kisses and sleepy kisses. I see someone who wants to spend time getting to know a beautiful woman, to learn the way she dreams and how they’re curves fit together and fill the spaces in each other’s hearts. Someone who will watch her children grow and laugh and get knocked down. Who will teach them to get back up again, to dust themselves off and trek forward. A girl who will teach them to fly a kite, to ski, to make balloon animals and the perfect s’more. I see a person whose love will not infringe upon your own or disrupt your life in any way. Whose love will be just as pure and just as true as that which her parents, her role models, share.

But do you see that? Or do you see a threat, someone who must be controlled? A woman created by God, liberated by the Constitution and old men who had dreams for a young nation, whose rights have been fought for by others time and time again. But who is now held down by the interpretation of a book written thousands of years ago. Is that what you see?

Because I see hope, and strength, and determination. I see a future. I see life and liberty and happiness away off in the distance and I see a route through the hate, the anger towards that place, towards freedom.

To you it may be a piece of paper, a meaningless document. To me, it is a promise. A symbol of equality and equal partnership. It is our names, signed together, signifying forever. And it leads to freedom. To a shared home and bed, to falling asleep in one another’s arms. To both of our names on the birth certificate of our perfect child with his ten perfect toes and ten perfect fingers. To shared last names and shared taxes. To shared hopes and dreams, burdens and fears. To a home full of love and laughter. To the possibility of divorce. To equality. To you, it is a paper, to me: it is a life.

So, who do you see? I am shaped by those around me, created by a higher power, I make certain decisions and choices. But I did not choose this. Would I change it? If the option were there, to take the easy road, the one where others do not frown down on me, would I take it? No. Because this is who I am. This is who I see. Your actions and opinions regarding who you see are a choice; my sexual preference is not. I like women. Like, like like women. And that is alright by me.

Do you see me? The responsible adult, studying hard, working to succeed. Do you see me? The girl who daydreams about weddings and babies. Do you see me? The girl who wanted to be a marine biologist and a ballerina and a firefighter and a teacher. Do you see me? A girl whose character, sometimes flawed, hasty, at times sarcastic and judgmental and rude, but also caring and honest, loyal and loud, shy and silly, and a character which is not determined by whom she loves. Simply a girl looking for love, as you once were. Who do you choose to see? Do you see me?



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