Belonging. Be longing. I have always struggled with both states of being (although they are aspects of the same core emotion), and I have many opportunities to reflect on what belonging means, and what I am longing for, at this point in my life. It may be a cliche, but it seems to be true, when you figure out one answer, another question pops up to bedevil you, and so the quest for a state of belonging, and the absence of longing, continues.
Some answers came. I was longing to be loved, not by duty, but by want, and that happened. I tend to be an over sharer on social media about my relationship, and a large part of why I do that is to reassure the phantom me from the past that, yes, love can happen to the oddest and misfit-est of us, too. I'll tell you I do this as an example to others, who may be struggling with finding loving relationships of their own (and such relationships come in so many different forms, not just the binary romantic 'couple' form), and that is true, too. I always thought I was too 'something' to ever have the kind of partnership I wanted, and needed: too needy, too cold, too fat, too queer, too unaccomplished, too immature, too poor, too awkward, too moody, and so on. I figure we all feel we're too 'something,' in different ways, and I hope that the fact that my 'too something' was somebody else's 'just right' might provide a speck of hope for others to know that they're 'just right' (yes, I know you're now probably thinking of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Thinking about bears, no matter what kind, is always a good thing).
This is a joy that can't be described, and I am thankful every day for this gift. However, there are other longings for belonging that tap into our roots as social creatures. I can't fight societal dynamics, no matter how hard I try, and so I also long for community. Honestly, when I see the word 'community' used in current discourse, it often annoys me, as it seems too insubstantial a word for what kinds of kinship organizations we create with others who share an intrinsic aspect of our being. I use it, too, reluctantly, because I haven't found a word that encapsulates what I need from the communities I find myself in.
Perhaps too, the problem is that I long for one magical place, filled with darling humans, who accept all aspects of myself. I don't mean that in some magical sense of perfect harmony, but a space where nobody thinks twice about whether I am 'allowed' to embody a particular identity. I don't think I'm unique in longing for this, and feeling that there isn't such an ideal waiting for them, but it often is a surprise and blow when I am made aware of how difficult this is to locate. I want to be among people who accept me for being fat and queer, not one or the other. I want to be in a space that accepts me for loving someone who self-identifies as a Fat Admirer, and accepts my partner, too. I want to be in a space where my voice is longed for, where people let me speak for me, and accept that I have valid things to say about my embodiments, and that recognize that there are very many different ways to live a life of value and integrity and wholeness. In fact, a place that recognizes that wholeness is an impossible goal anyway, and allows us to figure out what shape we want our lives to be. A location that thinks weirdly rule abiding and anti-authoritarian contradicting eccentric queer spheres are hunky dory and full of self agency.
I know, I'm asking for rainbow dolphins and super galactic kittens and rivers made of sweet, sweet chocolate here. I get that much of what guts me here is the dirty flip side of group dynamics-that what helps bond a certain community of people together creates other groups of people to be guarded against. We only know the borders of our own groups by knowing, and in many cases actively policing against, those who are not fit for 'our group.' No group is immune, no matter how 'progressive' or open-minded, particularly when they rarely have to interact with people who fit the definition of the 'other.' I'm not proud of my own prejudices, and I don't expect a pat on the back for my work to undue my prejudices; I do follow a live and let live position about other people's lives, and I often try to analyze my own reactions to people I recognize as my 'other,' lest I allow myself to wallow in lazy thinking or the need to feel superior, or threatened by, others. I hope I am doing the work I need to do to overcome these aspects of societal community building, but I suspect this is a lifetime work order.
What I can do, and what I know is probably not the best thing, is to stop associating with groups who refuse to hear my voice, or evaluate my lived experiences in mis-informed and stereotypical ways, when deciding what they think about people 'like me.' I have always been a 'you draw more folks with honey than vinegar' kind of person, but it is only recently that I've begun to re-evaluate that position. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but it is only recently that I have fully understood what I've heard people of color who are involved in social justice circles say, that it is not their job to educate whites about their privilege, and about racism. Previously, I accepted that this was true, and that this was a viable option for some, but for myself, I would need to be 'nice,' and not rock the boat. Now I get it, now I understand, and now I want the same for myself-if you aren't at least minimally responsive to ideas about gender privilege and straight privilege and thin privilege, then I have no time for you.
I think one of the absolute best slogans I've ever heard is from the disability rights movement: "Nothing about us without us." When you are hit with the realization that in fact the world doesn't hear us all equally, or allow us the latitude to live lives as rich with possibility as those taken for granted by so many US residents, it masticates reality and tosses you out of your own center. It sure makes the journey back to your center so much easier when you have allies, colleagues, friends, loved ones, who recognize you in all your complexity, allow you to speak your truth without denials and erasures, and recognize the joy, love, and worth of even your most stigmatized identities. I still long to belong in such a space, but do have hope that someday this sphere will exist, and I hope that for you, too.
In the meantime, I am hoping to adopt a dog. As I've told my partner, caring for dogs taught me how to care for, and love, humans. I try to model the acceptance, the unconditional love, the gratitude, the trust, and the subsuming joy for life that dogs show in my own relationship. Thank goodness I've learned so much from dogs, for I also, like many dogs, will follow you wherever you go if you have a treat in your hand.