I post pictures of myself on the Internet because it is part and parcel of blogging about my life, but also for a more political reason. It’s for the same reason that I swallow my nerves and speak about my life in public. I do it to be visible, and to therefore expand ideas of what a person in my identity groups can look like.
I believe in pursuing justice quite as much for myself as for anybody else. I post pictures of myself in order to practice what I preach.
When I say that identity is not in the eye of the beholder, I mean it.
When I say that however a woman looks is okay, and she shouldn’t have to change anything about herself to be okay, I mean it.
When I say that passing isn’t something the passer can control – when I say that characterising people through “essential” characteristics is the stuff of bigotry – when I say that I love myself, I mean it.
I believe that one shouldn’t have to signpost all of one’s identity components – and I don’t signpost all of them – to satisfy others’ curiosity, and I believe that one should be met with respect when one does signpost. I should be able to document and talk about my life without being scared of being thought of as less legitimate because I look a certain way. It was brave to put that first picture up, and it was brave to let myself be photographed, and it is brave to keep posting those pictures. It’s hard every time because I know that they can be seen by someone who has missed the context of my writing and has missed the boat on human compassion and the anti-essentialist nature of social justice. And I know my face, the colour of my skin, can be manipulated for someone else’s disgusting pleasure. Though pleasure at what I’m not sure: catching someone out at being atypical? I post those pictures anyway, because there are matters more important at stake. There are people who’ve told me that I’ve helped them to rethink visual essentialism against others, or have made them more comfortable existing in their own bodies, and that’s more precious than anything else I could have achieved.
I’ve got blue eyes, and curly dark blonde/light brown hair, and freckles. I have no idea how tall I am or what I weigh. I have long fingers, and moles, and fascinating knees, and nails that never quite get cut. I wear rainbow stockings and cool hats and glasses. I don’t look like a white woman, or a non-disabled woman, I look like me. I am what non-white and disabled women look like, because I am part of those groups.
I have needs, and history, and a life. My being disabled has a huge role in my daily life. Being light doesn’t take who I am away; I’m not just a little bit oppressed, I’m not merely kind of a non-white person. I’m not mourning loved ones who are only sort of dead. And it’s really fucking appalling to listen to sniggering from people on the Internet who think my pain is less than. My racial background is inscribed on my body, even if in ways that malicious or casual bystanders on the Internet or on the street don’t pick up on. I carry my family and community and heavy history in my heart.
Minimising a whole life – an amazing and terrible life – on account on what I look like is all too easy to do, and it shouldn’t be. So I post pictures of myself alongside pieces on belonging, and invisible identities, and being chronically ill, and the trauma of racism. This is who I am, words and experience and body, and I am proud, as are my family and friends. They don’t reject me because I do not fit many of the physical norms for those groups, and anyone who minimises a human life because of how the person looks cannot justly claim to pursue social justice. I do my ancestors no less honour because of the way their genes were passed down to me. I am a proud woman of my heritage. Behaviour that delegitimises a person’s identity does no honour at all.
I believe in being visible, and that means documenting my life in ways that are comfortable and right to me. If my light skinned existence blows a few minds and ruffles a few feathers, I cannot care less. I’m going to have no part in perpetuating racism, which has as its foundation the idea that there are essential physical characteristics common to given racial groups. I’m going to have no part in perpetuating ableism, which relies on essentialist ideas about identifying and relating to disabled people. I am visible, and the only shame is in hiding what I look like or who I am because I’m worried about what people will think.
I am more than my visual presentation, as interpreted by whoever is reading it at a given moment. And as hard as it can be to live with when I cop cruel comments for it, how I look is a part of how I go through the world. I am who I am, and no one can take that away.
All else is snow and static. Fuck. That. Noise.