Why I Stopped Hyphenating "Self Love"

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The use of hyphens in “self love” has been resonating on a strange level of irony for me, lately. Love is just as much an individual phenomenon as it is a universal one. Yet I feel we don’t create enough space for it inside. We don’t allow it to radiate independent of social acceptability and our desire to be loved by others, enough. We tend to be great at meeting others’ needs, thus neglecting ourselves and making it that much harder to return to the empowered place where we feel worthy (without validation).

Removing the hyphen, for me, represents the space required to actively honor new and old commitments to ourselves not attached to anyone or anything. space to be better to our hearts. Space to love our bodies. Space to learn to say “no” when too many “yes”s deprive us of ourselves. Space to not allow ourselves to be mistreated. Space to find our voices and to never lose them once we’ve found them. Space to tell our stories. Space to start over. Space to make our own choices. Space to sit with our real selves beyond our surface selves. Space to express. Space to redefine inner feelings of peace. Space to heal. Space to grow.

— An excerpt from my book ‘root’, available on Amazon here.

What Loving Women Has Taught Me About Being a Woman

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I once wrote,

“If you want to get to know me, leave your generalizations home. I don’t fit them.”

Minus being a well-established cat owner, an avid reader and watcher of those belovedly predictable coming-of-age girl meets girl stories, and a silent ambassador for all things awesomely androgynous, it’s a statement that still remains primarily true for me.

Contrary to what the voices in the spaces between fear and denial used to tell me, I’m a firm believer that being yourself is easier done than said. Though, it didn’t make the initial trepidation and self-sabotaging thoughts associated with living a life that felt authentic to me, any less real. With so few accessible lesbian role models growing up, my quest for identity was a withdrawn and isolating one. It wasn’t until Rosie O’Donnell’s “Born this way!” slice of lesbitude when she boldly and publicly revealed her sexual orientation in 2002 that I realized, “Hey, here’s someone who just came out and, like myself, doesn’t fit the standard feminine mold but isn’t waiting around for society to adjust to her brand of woman, either.” It was in that moment that she became the surrogate voice for everything I knew to be true within myself, but as a teenager, couldn’t articulate. I’ve never forgotten how powerful my connection to her story was, and the lasting impact it still has on me as a 31-year old gay woman standing in her truth with both feet planted firmly on the ground.

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I’m a woman first, a lesbian second. My sexuality doesn’t define me as a woman, nor does my expression of gender and my inclination to favor menswear over feminine clothing make me any less of a woman. I don’t “wear the pants” in some fantasy-based sense in a relationship. I don’t have any exclusive insights into how “bro code” is structured, nor is it my life’s mission to convert every attractive straight woman I encounter in the name of an imagined members-only point system. I’m not drawn to a certain type of (submissive) woman by default, either. In fact, it’s not my desire to live up to any of the ridiculously preconceived roles of “masculinity” that are commonly assigned to me.

One might also assume that my romantic encounters with women, as a woman, somehow make me an expert on the inner workings of a woman—they haven’t. Each woman’s heart has its own exclusive body of water — seas of longing, pain, secrets, revelations, and shifting waves of power I’m still learning to swim in. I’m still listening: for the loud crashes and the quiet tides in her mind when she doesn’t say a word. I’m still observing: the suns that set in her soul through a breathtaking smile. Her body, her own canvas. Watch her paint.

I’m still learning just as much about women as I am about myself and the woman I’ve become. The woman i’m still becoming.