Monday, December 3, 2012

Leadership Team Voices: Ellen

Growing Up Gender Blind
By Ellen Keyser, Leadership Team member

“Your Barbies can’t get married. They’re both girls!” my friend exclaimed, calling a halt to the proceedings in my bedroom. We were five and the Barbie wedding had been in the works for several hours. Dresses had been picked out, arrangements of dandelions made about the room, and my stuffed panda had been chosen to officiate the wedding. It was only when the brides themselves began down the aisle that we hit a snag. “Of course they can get married. They love each other.” I retorted and once again began to hum the processional. “But we have to have a Ken!” My friend stubbornly held onto her doll and crossed her arms. “No we don’t.” I huffed.
“Yes, we do.”
“No, we don’t.”
“Yes! We do!”
“No! We don’t!”
I won’t bore you with the rest of the argument, but suffice it to say that it went on that way for a good five more minutes before my friend hit me over the head with her Barbie and stormed out the door.
Growing up, the idea of “gender” never really bothered me. It was something that existed, but wasn’t necessarily relevant to my life. I was equally likely to wear striped overalls as a dress, and both were perfectly acceptable. My toy tractor and train collection was at least as extensive as my doll collection, and I never understood why boys and girls had to have different games on the playground.  When I was informed that I was a “girl” I was perfectly ok with that, but it was just like being assigned a random number. I knew the correct answer when asked by an adult, but it didn’t have any effect on my life.  Looking back at myself as a child I remember a lot of confusion. Why did it matter that I was a girl and he was a boy? Why was it important that two men were in love with each other? It just didn’t compute. It was like everyone else had some sort of rulebook that I didn’t. And it wasn’t really until middle school that I became aware just how different I was.
I first heard the word whispered as I walked down the hallway. In between giggles and curious stares the word “lesbian” followed me around like an ever-present shadow I just couldn’t shake. At first I was baffled. Why would anyone think that I liked girls? I obviously had a crush on the boy who sat next to me in band. And then, why would it matter if I liked girls? How was that different from liking a boy? My best friend attempted to explain to me that it just wasn’t “normal” for girls to like girls. I nodded and pretended to understand. My 7th and 8th grade years I decided I’d had enough of the bullying and began wearing bows in my hair, convinced my mother to buy me makeup, and attempted to fit in to the best of my ability.
It wasn’t until High School that I first heard the term “Gender Non-Conforming.” According to the “Sylvia Rivera Law Project” Gender Non-Conforming is defined as “people who do not follow other people’s ideas or stereotypes about how they should look or act based on the female or male sex they were assigned at birth.” The definition wasn’t perfect for me, but it was the closest I had come to finding a reason that I wasn’t accepted. Throughout my high school career it’s been a struggle to find my identity, and to discover that the same way that I couldn’t recognize labels, I don’t fit any.
I am what society would call a “straight female.” I was physically born a girl, who likes guys. But to me, those are just words, and always will be words. I am Ellen Keyser. I like the color orange, playing stupid card games, and laughing so hard I fall over. I’m not “straight,” I’m not a “tomboy” or a “girly-girl,” I’m just Ellen. And if it helps you, you can give my sexuality whatever labels you please. But ever since I was 3 years old, I’ve only seen people. And that’s all I will ever see.

Ellen Keyser is the president of the Indianola High School GSA and a member of Iowa Pride Network's Leadership Team. Ellen is actively involved in Drama, Theatre Crew, Speech Team, Debate, and Band. Ellen intends to go on to a four year college to study theatre and art. Ellen’s passion for equality came after witnessing the struggles of lgbtq friends and wanting to make a difference. Ellen’s Christian faith led her to fight for justice and safety for every one of her peers. To make a difference Ellen co-founded Indianola High School’s GSA. Ellen continues to be an outspoken individual not afraid to voice an opinion.

No comments: