I an appropriate world, you're not there.
These are the words that Rebecca Sugar said on the Queery podcast, which I listened to tonight. They are words that immediately jumped out at me, and I'd like to keep this post short to take advantage of the clarifying powers of brevity. Not usually my strong suit. Here goes.
Rebecca Sugar, in making her statement, refers to what the world looks like for queer people -- in this specific case, bisexual people -- as a child, learning from the media. It's a statement that I identified a lot with growing up, maybe more than any other identifying marker I had.
I was a writer. I was an "old soul." I was a musician (though I didn't know it), a dedicated student, and even an "opinionated mouth," but whatever I was, I was an oddball. I loved watching the Simpsons because it turned the world on its head. I loved literally turning myself on my head, propping myself upside down on the couch and churning my feet above me. I imagined spending my days travelling the ceiling. I think I liked the idea so much because, up there, I would be the only ceiling-walker. I would be defining normal as me; as weird, and also okay. I think I always wanted desperately to get to be weird, and also OK.
Rebecca Sugar is the creator of Steven Universe. It is a children's show, but I wonder how many adults have stories like I do, of finding myself in her creation more surely than I ever had in the plethora of media I consumed as a child. Many of us weirdos took in media as though gasping at air. We needed it to find our footing in the world, to gather our strength, to plot our schemes and desires. We needed some kind of ether, some gummy soup, in order to wade into the world safely. I needed a chance to observe who I was in what others imagined. But, often, I couldn't.
Sure, I identified with the Simpsons's Lisa. With Hey Arnold's Helga. With countless creatures of television, books, radio, plays, pictures, movies, none of whom were a perfect fit. In high school, I was the oddball who couldn't name a personal idol to list in the "about us" section. I felt like there were small pieces of people I wanted to emulate, but I couldn't imagine emulating a whole person. Every famous celebrity, character, and persona was an ill fit for me. I was simply me. No one else. I wanted so badly to feel connected to the players of the world. I wanted to understand empathy. But media told me that I was on my own. The questions I had were wrong. The beliefs I held were uncomfortable. An appropriate world was one without me in it, I learned. And I internalized. And, eventually, I grew. And I am still growing.
I'm grateful for the conversations Rebecca Sugar and others like her start in the world. In this podcast, she notes that bisexual people were rarely (*cough* never *cough*) represented as people in media growing up. They represented a sexual excess, or a "free spirit." No one cared about the idea of a shy bisexual person.
We're here, though. And I hope, slowly, together, overcoming our shyness enough to break the mold of the appropriate. Of what's talked about. Of what symbols our media shares and spreads.
I am perfectly appropriate, dammit. I have the right to learn that. I have the right to exist, in my old mold or those of someone else's. I get to choose.
In promoting that message, in voicing our experiences, let's change what's appropriate, eh? Let's make an appropriate world with room for all of us.