Zora Neale Hurston wrote in Their Eyes Were Watching God that “self-revelation is the oldest human longing.”  Every person, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, disability-status, sexuality, etc., longs to reveal oneself to the world, no matter how trivial that revelation may seem to others.  We show this in our speech, our dress, our career choices, familial, friendly, and romantic interactions, and, important for today’s culture, in our social networking.  We long to reveal.

 

In the heteronormative society in which we live, queerness remains largely “unusual” and “weird,” and queer people are considered the “other.”  There are people in American society that do not understand why lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer folks must be so visibly gay.  (I use queer as a catch-all term to describe members of the LGBTQI community.)  The rhetorical question becomes: why do you have to be so open about your queerness?

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Photo taken at the Chicago Pride Parade, 2012. (c) Takeia R. Johnson

 

I am open and highly visible about my queerness simply because I can be.  In a society, and also largely an African American community, where it would be preferable that I keep quiet about my sexuality and my gender presentation — lesbian, largely gender nonconforming, and maybe androgynous — I choose to speak out.

 

One method in which I choose to manifest my longing to self reveal is through taking and posting “selfies.”

 

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Duck face while working in the office.

When I first joined Instagram, my page was set to private.  I did this for similar reasons that most people keep their profiles private: because I did not want everybody and their mama to be in my business.  Later, however, I decided that I could use Instagram, and other social media, to reflect my passion for helping others achieve their personal success, my love of style and fashion, and my personal mission of identifying, teaching, and manifesting the power of self-revelation for marginalized persons.

 

As a result, selfies are my sociopolitical calls to action: they say that I have stepped forward to claim my place in this world, and it is an urging for you to do the same.  I deserve to affirm myself and I choose to champion other queer people of color.  My selfies show that I do not exist in the shadows.  I, and others that share similar identity markers, have historically existed at the margins, but I am stepping forward.

 

How do selfies relate to success?

 

Simple: I feel empowered, content, ambitious, and just plain old happy in my daily life.  Yes, I have moments of fragility.  Yes, I experience doubt.  Yes, I experience fear.  But, because I define myself for myself, because I show myself to the world for all the positivity, negativity, criticism, and praise that come with it, I always have a place to which I may return.  I have a basis upon which I evaluate my decisions.  I have a foundation.  With that knowledge, I can go anywhere and do anything.  My self-knowledge and self-acceptance give me the courage to move forward in the face of fear and doubt.  I know that I can and will overcome.  And I can feel secure and confident along my journey.  These feelings and this knowledge are invaluable in my career and in the opportunities that I pursue.

 

I have also learned that the more that you acknowledge and accept yourself, and the more genuinely confident you are, the stronger the possibility that others will acknowledge and accept you.

 

My selfies really are not about me.  Sure, I have my moments of vanity.  Yes, I believe that I am beautiful. But I don’t need a selfie to know that.  I see that when I look in the mirror, when I interact with friends and family, and when I help others.  My selfies, really, are about you.  I seek to be visible, to increase awareness, and to start a dialogue.  If you like it, that is a bonus.  If you don’t, however, I know that, at the very least, someone is looking, and that’s good enough for me.  For now, at least.  IMG_2017