[Content Warning: this post discusses outsider syndrome in-depth, touching on intersectionalities of cisnormativity, fatphobia, ableism, heteronormativity and mononormativity. There’s an easier-to-read prelude of sorts that I storified from my twitter here: http://storify.com/FluffySama/diary-of-an-introvert-episode-3 if after reading that it doesn’t seem triggery/problematic you should be good. I’ve also included links to an MP3/podcast type version of this post which is essentially me reading it to you. This is split up in easy sections no bigger than 3 minutes long. Hooray?]
I’ve never really wanted to belong.
This is an idea that seems to be foreign to other people. Everyone is looking for a community, for a family, for a group to call theirs. I’m looking for comfort and the ability to create and expect my own boundaries to be respected. It’s not that I want to be alone, it’s that I don’t want to be identified with my membership within a group.
Of course, I’m not sure if that’s because I’m rebelling against the constant othering from being trans*, queer, poly, fat, neuroatypical or if it’s really because I’m introverted or if maybe they’re interacting with each other. I’m assuming that it’s a “both/and” for the purposes of this essay, but this fundamental root is something that I’m still ferreting out (and may never find).
When I was in Israel on my birthright trip it was clearer to me than it’s been in a while exactly how atypical this is. Clearly everyone else in my group was not only looking to explore the country with others, but to create a community that was doing so. Indeed, this was even the goal and purpose of our madrichim, which they did relatively well. Contrary me, however, wouldn’t have any of it.
I was in Israel for my experience; the fact that I was there with a group was incidental, a means to an end. In fact the most frustrating parts of the experience were those group-building and bonding moments. Not only because they were patronizing and childish (though goodness knows…) but because they were forced interaction with people regardless of my boundaries. I would belong to the group or so help me goodness…
…so of course I fought against that. I resented it. I hated it.
It felt like every single time I’ve had to deal with “well you’re queer so you…” or “you transgenders” or “fat people are” or or or or OR. There was no choice, there was no gray area. Either I was part of the group or I wasn’t (and would probably get sent home on my own dime which I couldn’t afford). Not only was I being forced into a narrow definition that someone else created for an experience that I was having, I wasn’t even being given the option of identifying myself with that experience or without in the context of the world. I must blend in and work as a part of that group. It was thrust upon me and required of me in order to survive.
Of course, in this case “survive” may be a strong word (especially because it was an elective trip). But that’s what it felt like. I need to be “cis-enough” in my everyday life in order to survive. I need to “sane-enough” in my everyday life in order to survive. I need to be “mono-enough” in my every day life in order to survive. If I identify too strongly and positively as trans*, neuro-atypical, poly, fat, queer I may very well find myself destroyed by society. Unless I do so with the support of a group.
Which I must belong to.
I’ve never really wanted to belong.
A large portion of my introversion isn’t just “recharging” and being rejuvenated by alone time and similar, it’s also the desire/need/drive to be identified as a singular entity, separate from others. This, I think, is a direct reaction to the constant representative bias that I’m put under by our cishet fatphobic monosupremacist ableist culture. Hooray Kyriarchy. By being forced to be a representative of an entire group (simply by behavior/reality that fits under the label), suddenly the duty is upon me to represent that group well, be a supportive person for everyone else in the group and to toe the “party line.” Suddenly, I’ve become part of a hierarchy where I’m the lowest of the low on the inside and the diplomat to the outside. Never mind my boundaries. Never mind whether or not I wanted this responsibility. Never mind the fact that I never asked for it.
That is exhausting.
I want an existence where my identity, no matter what it is, isn’t a basis to judge other people on their worth as human beings (let alone one where my worth isn’t judged on others). I want an existence where, even if I DO identify or belong to a group willingly, that doesn’t make me a derivative of that group. I want an existence where every person that I involve myself with on any level navigates and co-creates boundaries with me, understanding that we’re individuals and that, unless we identify as representatives of a group… we are not (and even if we do we can only represent a small part of that group, not the whole thing).
I don’t want to be a team player. Why do I even need a team in the first place? Why do I even have to play?
In case you haven’t been paying attention I’ve talked in the previous Diary of an Introvert entries about being socialized to value extroversion, to value co-dependency and about how difficult it was to even accept that I’m introverted in the first place. I mourned that discovery, just like I mourned the acceptance that I’m trans*, that I’m not monogamous, that I’m fat, that I’m queer, that I’m pretty damned neuro-atypical. I mourned them all because they were an abject loss of privilege that I never even had in the first place but was only bequeathed because I fit in “enough” to be allowed them.
To those that say introversion isn’t underprivileged in American society I have nothing to say that will convince them. Every facet of my interaction with the world disproves that so thoroughly that all I can really say is “you’re wrong” and walk away.
I have been expected not only to interact with others every moment of every day, but also to delight in it, to be pleased and happy to interact with them, to show no discomfort and, of course, to never ever seem like that’s not what I want to do. I’ve been shown time and again through TV, media, personal experience, even science that interpersonal relationships are pretty much the only way for someone to get ahead and improve their situation. I must operate (aka pass) as an extrovert to be successful.
If this isn’t clear privilege toward extroverts then I really, really don’t know what is.
In its first iteration this entry was a more cathartic experience, an open adventure into the painful situations in my past that I’m still processing and developing closure around. About jobs won and lost because I’m introverted, about scholarships and programs and performance opportunities that I missed because I’m introverted. About how kyriarchal oppressions all intersected with my introversion to intensify and amplify it.
But I didn’t feel like that served a useful function here. Indeed, it made my introversion seem almost reactionary and morbid, like a condition inflamed by other factors.
Let me be perfectly clear: my introversion is a strength. It allows me the ability to be remarkably self-reliant and to heal quickly from trauma without the need to seek out support from others. My introversion helps me set my boundaries and not get lost in a sea of oppression. My introversion means that even without positive mentors and role models I still persevere and can unapologetically be myself, providing that for future people like me if they need it. My introversion means that I am not beholden to other people simply by nature of being who I am because I don’t feel connected to other people simply by nature of being who I am.
I never really wanted to belong.
And that’s a strength, too.