The Trapeze Artist
By Shereá Denise
I feel like a trapeze artist, like my toes are always strategically placed on the seam that is formed when each of the sections of my identity began to touch and blend within one another. There are few people in my professional world who know about my spiritual beliefs or my sexuality. I call them boundaries, but a part of me feels like there is more to this artform than pointing my toes at the strategically designed responses that I provide to personal questions. Let’s not even discuss how flexible I have to be to avoid the conversations that sometimes seem so necessary regarding my coworkers’ use of law enforcement in their interactions with Black and Brown people. Meanwhile, I rarely utilize law enforcement for my own personal safety. My Irish and French ancestors are not much of a match for the African and American Indian heritage that is more obvious when you see my skin complexion and the picture on my driver’s license.
As if maintaining the distinction between my personal and professional life is not difficult enough, I am practically performing acrobatics on the finely stitched line that exists between my Christian upbringing and the way that I live my life. Though I did not grow up with the traditional fire and brimstone pastor, I definitely grew up amongst the many fornicating Christians who thought that Adam marrying Steve was the worst sin of them all. Their disdain for homosexuality was almost as palpable as their clear failure to actually read the scriptures they were so loudly and incorrectly citing. I could not help but wonder how their kisses on the cheek and praise of me would be altered upon learning that I had yet to marry Adam because I was more romantically inclined towards Eve. Many Sunday afternoons were spent turning cartwheels around certain questions and looking down in an effort to ensure that the net beneath the tightrope was still available should today be the day that I just risk it all and depart from this trapeze routine altogether.
There are days when the fact that I am the only person who can actually see the tightrope that I am walking causes me far more agitation than it probably should. After all, I fully subscribe to the idea that your business ain’t everybody else’s business. At the same time, there is a discomfort that exists when you feel as if you are one person living multiple lives within various pockets of society that are unable to truly see or accept one another. I often wonder how my biracial ancestors handled their obligatory love and questionable disdain for their parents that must have arisen whenever their siblings of a darker or lighter complexion were treated worse or better than them.
I also am left wondering how the skilled trapeze artists handle walking amongst the rest of us. Do they ever catch themselves navigating the standard crosswalk as if it is a tightrope with no net? Or have they accepted the duality that is their existence? Are all of us walking a tightrope of some sort? And, if that is the case, what happens when we decide to just… fall?