Outside Voices: Brittany Mackey
Welcome to the newest installment in my Outside Voices campaign.
As I continued to write about the LGBT community, I came to realize that I didn’t want to create the impression that my personal experiences as a white, gay man were representative of the experiences of the entire LGBT community. I could never, ever, begin to understand how different other queer people’s experiences have been from my own.
So, instead of speaking for them, I want to use my blog as a platform to give other people a voice. Every LGBT person has had different experiences, different challenges, different triumphs, and different lives. With the Outside Voices campaign, I hope to expose my readers to the endless facets of our community - those sometimes complicated, sometimes difficult differences that make this community so beautiful.
The name - Outside Voices - is an ode to being out. It’s an ode to being loud. And it’s an ode to letting others use this platform to share their own stories. I feature a new Outside Voice about once every month.
So. Without further ado, I’d like to pass the torch to Brittany.
Name: Brittany Mackey
From: Los Angeles, California
Identifies as: cisgender female, black, lesbian
Hi, Brittany. Can you explain your identity to those who may not know what it means?
I am a black woman who identifies as a lesbian, meaning that I am exclusively attracted to women. I often use lesbian interchangeably with gay. Either is fine, just do not call me queer.
Tell us about yourself.
I am your basic pop music junkie with a side interest in fashion. If I'm not at a concert or being visually creative, I'm probably not having fun. I studied fashion in college and would love to work in the industry some day. I won’t pretend that I have my life together. I’m still figuring it out.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face as a result of your identity?
The hardest part was realizing I’m gay, questioning myself, and not having the privacy and respect I needed to discover myself at my own pace. It was especially frustrating to deal with friends, family, and even people I barely knew inserting themselves into my dating life and trying to figure me out before I even had myself figured out.
I knew that I wasn’t interested in men before I ever started being interested in women. There was a period of time when I genuinely did not care to date anyone, but that was not being received as an acceptable answer. Once I admitted to myself that I wasn’t attracted to men, I realized how straight people think they’re entitled to information about everyone’s dating life. It’s assumed that everyone is straight. It’s expected that we all put the details of our love lives on display for the world.
I feel a lot of discomfort every time I have to make the choice to either come out, lie, or give a vague answer each time I’m asked why I don’t have a boyfriend (as if I’m supposed to). Those things make this hard no matter how proud I become of being a lesbian. Even though I’m proud, dealing with heteronormativity has made me a more secretive and closed off person overall than I ever intended to be.
What’s your favorite aspect of being a member of the LGBT community?
The LGBT community is honestly just funnier than everyone else. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. I find myself laughing a lot more with people whose humor isn’t rooted in homophobia and gender roles. Not that we’re all perfect. There are definitely issues in the community, but I find it so much easier to make friends in it than out of it.
Could you tell us a story about your experience as a member of the LGBT community?
We all have some cringeworthy phases in high school. One of my most embarrassing times to look back on was when I was suffering through compulsory heterosexuality and didn't realize it yet.
I was starting to get approached by boys and it was a brand new experience for me. But I wasn’t excited about it like the girls around me were. I never had interest in any of the boys who wanted me. Of course, most girls don’t usually like every guy that shows interest, but for me it didn't matter how polite or good looking or cool he was. It didn't matter if we were friends first - I had the urge to say no every time.
I didn't know that it was okay for me to not be interested in boys at all, so I had to find an excuse for why I wasn't. I noticed that I was only being approached by boys of color, so I decided the reason I didn't like any of them back is because I was only into white boys.
White boys didn't seem to be into me, so they were the safe option. I could “crush” on white boys and be “straight” and “normal” without ever having to date them because they weren't pursuing me anyway. It made perfect sense to 15-year-old me.
In hindsight, I realize how terrible that sounds. It seemed like I had a lot of internalized racism going on, but I swear that wasn't the case - I was just clutching onto heterosexuality the only way I knew how. It caught on so well that all my friends made lighthearted jokes about my preference. My best friend at the time even made me a pin that says “I love white boys”. I think I still have that pin somewhere, but I never want to see it again. It was such an embarrassing time.
What’s the most common misconception people seem to have about you?
I've never been the type to go out of my way to talk about my personal life as freely as others do. It’s a habit I've built up since I was young and navigating growing up without experiencing the kind of attraction that I was “supposed” to and feeling out of place.
Not being an open book usually leads people to think I'm uptight and cold, but I'm actually a really warm and caring person with a strong sense of humor. I'm shy and awkward, but once you get used to that, I swear I'm soft.
If you could say one thing to the world to help them understand you better, what would you say?
I'd say that I have a lot of love to give and I believe we all do, but it takes love to bring out more love. It takes light to create more light. I'm more open with whom I feel the safest. If you welcome the things and the people close to my heart with open arms and no judgments, I'll pretty much tell you anything you care to know. But if you're a critical person by nature, it's not likely that I'd be comfortable letting you get to know me.
This is a good vibes only zone. Be kind or be quiet.
Any last words?
I just want everyone to remind themselves that it is not your job to make people understand you as long as you understand yourself. You do not need permission or an explanation to exist the way that you are. As long as you strive to be someone you're proud of, that is all that matters. Apply this mindset to yourself and let it free you to view others in the same light.
Thanks for reading Brittany’s story, folks. And thank you to Brittany for sharing it with us.
If you identify as LGBT and you would like to be featured in a future Outside Voices profile, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d absolutely love to hear from you.
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