Uncommon paths are subject to questioning. When we follow our gut and find ourselves straying from a prescribed path, the people who care about us sometimes ask questions. Too many questions. Anyone who has ever met a member of their extended family should know that. I started college as an education major, and none of my relatives ever once asked me what I planned to do with my degree. When I switched my course of study to creative writing, the questions came in as quickly and as predictably as tides: What are you going to do with that? How do you plan to support yourself? And so on, and so forth. Of course, they were trying to understand me and to express concern from a genuine place (mostly)--and in my case, the questioning ended when I landed a full-time job.
But what about those who find that a fundamental part of their identity doesn't match up with what society seems to expect or even demand? As I've gotten older and moved around a bit, I've met a wider [and increasingly wonderful] spectrum of people. But at different points, when I made friends who were questioning their sexuality, or who found themselves on any point of the spectrum other than "100% TOTALLY STRAIGHT, I SWEAR," other people wanted to know: Well, what is he? Or, What is she? The people they'd met who were like them--typically straight, or scared enough to pretend to be straight--easily tumbled into a box that they knew. And those people never have to answer the question What are you?
So yesterday, we decided to turn the question on its head. What if everyone had to think about What they are--to identify themselves on the spot? Maybe questioning isn't such a bad thing--it's a way that we come to learn and grow and bond with other people, as long as we do it respectfully. Maybe we should be questioning more, and maybe--actually, definitely--we should be open to a much wider range of answers.
Please enjoy this ongoing series between Punk Out and Colleen Stepanian Photography that engages the strangers we meet in our everyday travels. And ask yourself what you are, but don't limit yourself to any particular box. Ask yourself every morning, every season, every time you feel a shift or a new point of growth. But if anybody tries to tell you what you are, or what you should be, ask them. Start a conversation. Speak up. And know you're not the only voice.
Together we sing