Day 22: Embracing Different Identities
Today is Day 22 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn more about how intersecting identity works and take time to reflect on your own intersecting identities. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
A few months after I turned 13, my family moved from Panama to the United States seeking a better future in the promised land. Such a move meant significant changes—from learning a new language, to adjusting to a different culture, to reshaping my understanding of the world and my identity.
I grew up in a very diverse country in which one of my best friends had blue eyes, another was of Asian descent, and several were of Afro-Caribbean descent just like me. Such diversity under the umbrella of what it meant to be Panamanian or Hispanic seemed absolutely normal until I came to the United States and I realized that people did not expect me to speak Spanish because of my Afro-Caribbean ancestry. Understanding the intersectionality of my different identities, and learning to embrace them, are experiences that are becoming useful as I learn to navigate my time here on earth.
Because of faulty counsel by questionable immigration lawyers, my family became undocumented when I was in middle school. As the years passed, I felt like I truly belonged to the state and the community that I loved deeply, but something that I had no control over made me different, and it hindered my path towards higher education. Still, community members continued to believe in my potential and invest time and resources into ensuring I achieved such potential. So I began my own advocacy as a DREAMer to help people understand who we are, and to make a difference.
The ability of people to move past my lack of a 9-digit Social Security number and see who I am as a person served as a model for the conflicting internal journey I embarked on the day I decided I would no longer deny my sexuality in the name of my parents’ definition of what faith and God really means. Thanks to the love and support I receive from friends and spiritual leaders, and the strength to face adversity given by God, I am able to arrive at the conclusion that—yes!—I can be passionate about my love for God while embracing my identity as a gay man. Moreover, I can be an Afro-Latino Marylander who is completely proud of the many identities I’ve been blessed with, while fully embracing my sexual orientation and faith beliefs—because this is who God intends me to be.
Like many of us, my process of embracing overlapping identities is ongoing—part of the beautiful journey we call life. As we continue on our 30-day spiritual journey for social justice, please join me in exploring how we can all break down arbitrary barriers to achieve a more loving society. Click here for resources on intersectionality and ideas on how to embrace your own individual identities.
In love and solidarity,
Jonathan Jayes-Green is a junior at Goucher College in Maryland studying Sociology and Political Science.