Can You Really See Me?

Picture #1:

In this selfie of me and my best friend, others can get a sense of my sexuality. The fact that he is male and I am female should not necessarily depict that I am a heterosexual. However, this is usually the assumption people tend to make. We’re almost always together, which is why people probably always think we’re dating. Growing up, I always found myself having more male friends than I did female friends. I never was really able to pin point why this was, until in high school when I went to an all-girls school. Attending an all-girls school made me realize that I didn’t like drama. I didn’t enjoy sitting around and gossiping as other girls sometimes did. My mom didn’t always understand this, and she always expressed that she didn’t like me hanging out with my guy friends often. This is because my mother is very traditional (in some areas), but especially when it comes to guys and dating. She explained that as a teenager living in El Salvador, she was never able to hang out with guys, even if they were just friends. She lived in a small town and people would create rumors if they simply saw a guy and girl talking. My grandmother did not want my mother to be talked about, as this would bring shame to the family name, and therefore was very strict with my mother. My mother brought some of these beliefs with her from El Salvador, but has slowly warmed up to be more accepting of the culture in America. Now that I am in college, my mother doesn’t mind me having guy friends, as she is confident in my ability to make mature decisions.

Picture #2:

In this selfie of myself, my gender, and physical features are very visible. I am female with brown eyes, and fair skin. I consider myself to be a “girly girl”, as I enjoy doing my hair and putting on make-up. I haven’t always been super feminine, as growing up my mom says I was usually referred to as a tomboy. I wore whatever I knew I’d be comfortable in, not what was cute or in style. I’m not sure where the transition really happened. I think my pictures display a confident, outgoing girl, who is comfortable in her own skin. There are some things you cannot necessarily tell from a selfie though, such as that I am often shy or insecure, and that I often find myself seeking approval from others. I almost always have a huge smile in my selfies, which allows outsiders to believe that I am always happy, or that I have no struggles. This is not always true; I sometimes mask my pain with a smile and keep to myself as I am not always comfortable talking about my problems with others. I find that sometimes when I “act” or try and tell myself that I am happy or okay, it often makes me feel better.

Picture #3:

The third selfie in the collage is a picture of me on a cruise in Hawaii. It was my first time in Hawaii and it was one of the most amazing vacations I have ever been on. In some ways, this selfie displays social economic status. My family isn’t rich, but we live a comfortable life and have the means to travel. Growing up as an only child, I was always pretty spoiled by my parents, which always lead to my classmates making comments about my family being rich. Even at a young age this really bothered me, because I knew it wasn’t true. Then when I’d express my anger, or try and correct people, they would say, “you act like being rich is a bad thing”. It bothered me when people used this term to describe my family’s situation because at one point, my parents were poor, extremely poor actually. The only reason my parents were able to give me luxuries they didn’t have as kids was because they’re extremely hard working. I remember at one point both of my parents working 16 hour shifts every day. When I picture a “rich” person, I picture someone who doesn’t work early mornings and long nights.

Picture #4:

The third selfie is a photo taken of me on the day of my quinceañera. A quinceañera is the Hispanic tradition of celebrating a girl’s coming of age on her fifteenth birthday. I think my mother was more excited for my party than I was, maybe it was because she didn’t have one growing up, as her family didn’t have the money for one. I didn’t understand why people spent so much money on one night, but my mom insisted we have one. Although initially I wasn’t enthusiastic about all of the planning and preparation, my quinceañera has to be one of the most memorable nights of my life. My favorite part was the father daughter dance. This night was one of the few times that I’ve ever seen my father cry. I hope that if I have a daughter, she too can have a quinceañera.

I believe my identity and personal stereotypes I have lived through can help me engage and bond with the students I am working with in our community. Working at Canal Alliance, it is evident that the majority (if not all) of the population is Hispanic/Latino. In the past, I have been judged and categorized for being Hispanic. There have been instances where people assume that I will speak broken English, and even times where my English teachers have said, “your spoken and written English is very good for being a Spanish speaker”. I don’t think my teachers realized that this comment was degrading. Was I not good enough to be able to proficiently navigate two languages? Other times, counselors asked me, “which junior college will you be going to next year?” I went to a college preparatory high school, and clearly had good enough grades. Why was I constantly having to prove myself as being “smart enough” or “good enough” to be there? Being from similar backgrounds, I am sure many of the high school students at Canal Alliance have unfortunately received similar comments or treatment from teachers. I believe that these similar experiences, as well as circumstances will allow me to reassure the students I will be working with that they are as good enough as anyone else, and that they can reach their goals if they simply put in the work.