IN WHICH I TRY TO EXPLAIN TO MY FATHER WHY IT HURTS

335
Representation Alex Berman In Which I Try to Explain

he asks me, “why do you let characters hurt you so much? they are fiction”

and i feel like telling him,
“YOU HAVE NEVER HAD TO LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND WONDER IF THE WORLD ACCEPTED YOU.
YOU HAVE NEVER HAD TO WORRY THAT YOUR GRANDMOTHER WOULD NEVER BE OKAY WITH HOW YOU LOVE.
YOU LOOK EVERYWHERE AND SEE YOUR KIND OF RELATIONSHIP. YOU GET TO SEE YOURSELF IN EVERY CHARACTER. ”

he says, “i do not see myself in every character. in fact, there are very few i do.”

i want to say,
“YOU HAVE THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING PICKY. YOU GET TO SEE A MILLION RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN STRAIGHT PEOPLE, AND PICK THE FEW THAT YOU MOST RELATE TO.
I GET FIVE.
I CAN COUNT THE NUMBER OF TIMES I’VE BEEN REPRESENTED IN A POSITIVE LIGHT IN MAINSTREAM MEDIA ON MY FINGERS, AND YOU TELL ME YOU DO NOT SEE YOURSELF.
EVERY STREET I WALK DOWN I SEE YOU. EVERY TV SHOW, EVERY BOOK, YOU ARE IN IT.”

he asks me, “why can’t you imagine your own happy ending?”

and i wish i could scream,
“BECAUSE I AM SO TIRED.
I HAVE SPENT EVERY YEAR SINCE I WAS 10 IMAGINING MY OWN HAPPY ENDING, AND I AM SO EXHAUSTED BY IT.
I AM SO TIRED OF NOT BEING CATERED TO, OF NOT HAVING PEOPLE CARE TO SEE ME. I AM SO TIRED OF BEING ANGRY ABOUT NOT BEING SEEN.
I AM SO TIRED.”

he questions, “but what about your cousins? what about the YouTubers? why do you need to see a happy ending to imagine your own?”

i want to shout,
“BECAUSE IF THE ONLY PLACE I CAN FIND MYSELF IS IN A SMALL POCKET OF YOUTUBE,
THAT IS NOT ENOUGH.
BECAUSE I SEE MY COUSINS ONCE A YEAR,
AND THEY ARE NOT LIKE ME.
BECAUSE I’M AFRAID THAT YOU THINK THE ONLY THING I MEAN WHEN I SAY I WANT REPRESENTATION IS TO SEE TWO WOMEN TOGETHER.
BECAUSE I AM AFRAID THAT ALL ANYONE WILL SEE ME AS
IS GAY.
BECAUSE I AM AFRAID I WON’T BE REAL IF I LIKE A MAN OR A WOMAN, ONLY. BECAUSE ONE TIME I DARED TO ONLY HAVE A CRUSH ON A GUY, AND MY FRIEND LAUGHED AT ME.
BECAUSE IF YOU NEVER SEE YOURSELF HAPPY THROUGH OTHER PEOPLE’S EYES, HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO SEE IT THROUGH YOUR OWN.”

and he asks me, “why are you so afraid? why does this keep hurting you?”

and the only thing i can think is,
“BECAUSE THERE ARE STILL PLACES I CAN’T HOLD HER HAND.
BECAUSE I WILL NEVER FEEL AS SAFE AS YOU DO.
BECAUSE THIS IS JUST ANOTHER REASON I CANNOT WALK OUTSIDE AT NIGHT. BECAUSE I WANT TO ACTUALLY FEEL PROUD OF THIS PART OF ME DURING JUNE. BECAUSE I AM SCARED TO TELL YOUR MOTHER ABOUT ANY CRUSH I HAVE.
BECAUSE SHE IS DYING
AND I STILL RESENT HER.
BECAUSE I AM 15 AND I HAVE ALREADY LEARNT THAT THE WORLD DOES NOT LOVE ME AS MUCH AS IT LOVES YOU.
BECAUSE I DON’T WRITE POEMS ABOUT WOMEN. BECAUSE THAT IS THE PLACE I AM MOST VULNERABLE
AND EVEN THEN I WORRY THAT PEOPLE WILL HATE ME FOR IT. BECAUSE FOR YEARS I THOUGHT A BOY WOULD NEVER LOVE ME IF I TOLD HIM THIS. BECAUSE MY BEST FRIEND CAN ONLY NOT BE AFRAID OF HIS SEXUALITY WHEN HE IS HIGH.
BECAUSE I HAVE NEVER SEEN SOMEONE LIKE ME HOLD THE HAND OF A GIRL. BECAUSE I AM SO TIRED OF BEING UNSEEN.”

What do you think about this topic? We want to hear from you!
Join the conversation!
May Lafer-Kirtner is a member of the class of 2024 at South Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon. She has been writing all her life, and after graduating, hopes to become a reporter and a novelist. After having a hard time in middle school, she started writing poetry and stories as an outlet for all of her most intense emotions—about friends, death, her chronic illness, and mental health struggles. She started trying to get published after reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, because she hoped to remind other people they weren’t all alone.
Accompanying photo: “Representation” by Alex Berman