27 and a PhD

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On gradually becoming an ally

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.

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Due to all the asshattery lately (not that I’m looking at you Chick-fil-A … nooooo, not at all) I am compelled to write about this. I’ve been silent (blog-wise) for a long time, and it’s time I write openly and proudly about it.

I was, at one point, a conservative (not fiscally, but morally). I was raised a Catholic (and I occasionally still go to church, but it has to be an inclusive one, which can be found in NYC, thank God). My dad is a self-defined atheist who is pissed at the Church, yet whenever I sneeze (or call home) he says God bless you. My mom is a very committed Catholic. I admire her dedication to the Church and to what she believes will bring her salvation. But I can acknowledge now that I had lots of issues with the Church growing up. I was baptized by the same priest that married my parents, I was in choirs growing up and even in grad school. I’ve participated in plays, prayers and everything under the sun. I know the prayers backwards and forwards, I’ve been there. But like I said, growing up I had many issues with the Church, which is partly why it doesn’t surprise me now that I rebelled.

I swallowed the Kool-aid that some “well meaning” old folks at Church made, mostly with their conservative interpretation of the Bible. I grew up believing that it was fantastic to get a job, but that it was an even greater honour to be a wife and a mother, and while my mother never professed submission to her husband, she did become submissive to her Church, something that’s still true to this day. Growing up I faced many challenges, particularly from a somewhat physically abusive father (he once punched me in the back so hard, my sister, a little girl at the time, had to beg him not to kill me … the next day I had black and blues all over my back). I excelled in school, was an obedient child, never had a boyfriend, never kissed anyone until I was in college. I saw things through the tinted lens of a very conservative interpretation of morality by the fellows at my local Church.

I grew up knowing that it was perfectly acceptable to believe that God created the Earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th, while also believing in evolution. There was never an issue there. I still don’t have much of an issue with it.

But growing up in that environment had a deep impact on me. The very first boyfriend I had, after so much prayer, so many confessions and so much Kool-aid, I slept with months into our relationship. I can see now that it was a natural reaction to all those years of having to hide my child-like curiosity about normal development and human relationships. I slept with him as a way of protesting my upbringing, but God-forbid I use a condom, that would have sent me straight to hell (and if I got a STD or a child, so be it, that’s my punishment for being a whore). I was submitting to my ex-boyfriend even when he wasn’t asking me to. In my mind I wanted to make things right. I thought that if I married him, even if I’d slept with him before, I’d still be able to “wash away” my sin and become a good Catholic girl once again.

That didn’t go as planned and I had to deal with feelings of insecurity and worthlessness once our relationship went kaput. In my culture and my family, many times, the value of a woman is attached to not having sex, being pure and chaste, not so much on the value of her heart and feelings, and accomplishments despite being perceived as a token latina by everyone. None of that matters, it’s the fact that you’re unblemished what is truly important. A man will sleep with many, but only choose a virgin … once you’re not a virgin, you’re a whore, worthy of nothing, especially love. I felt reduced to a membrane and whether it was present or not.

Little by little I started to wake up from the slumber. It was a tough path, I’m still walking it today. Eventually I began to accept a loving God that sees me as his daughter, as good enough, as long as I keep his commandment of treating others as I’d like to be treated. I believe that same God sent me a partner who understood what I was going through, and who challenged me (and still does) to do better, to be accepting, inclusive, to go beyond tolerance and help in the fight for equality, to combat the hate and rage that inevitably come from not conforming to the conservative lens we grew up under.

Honey can attest how stubborn I am, and how shocked I was with him when we first started dating and he wanted to discuss things like: how should pedophiles within the Church be dealt with (my old view: prayer; his view: prosecution, conviction, jail, restitution by the Church), with women preachers (me back then: hell to the no; him: why not? especially with the priest shortage!), equality, (me: AYFKM, haven’t we given those heathen enough! as it is, they’re going straight to hell, the Bible says so!!; him: we must fight to make sure EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE is equal, men and women, marriage (not “gay” marriage and “straight marriage”, just plain and simple marriage), and so on and so forth.

It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that the same oppression I’d experienced within certain communities in the Church and in society at large was one that people around me, because of their race, or who they love, were/are experiencing. I remember feeling sad, depressed (almost suicidal), by the fact that I was a woman, a horrible being, a whore within the Church for not being a virgin anymore. How much can one withsand when told “you’re not good enough, worthy enough, of love, respect, of basic rights and dignity because of who you are and choose to love?” I know not every Church or community is like that, I’m just pointing out how the conservatism of my old community influenced how I felt when I was in it. Once that  dawned on me, I realized that I was being the same kind of jerk to the rest of the world as the one I was running away from.

Honey says he’s proud of me for seeing the change in me, and in my capacity to accept and help defend the rights of those marginalized everywhere, but particularly by institutions with power, be it the Church, or a community of like-minded people controlling certain parts of government (or a school, a fast food joint, company, etc).

Little by little I realized and embraced that it doesn’t matter what colour you are, what faith you choose (or not) to profess, or who you love, but how you treat others, the kind person you are, to you and others, that is what matters. It was a long path, it’s still not done. I’d like to think there’s room to grow. But by becoming accepting of people with different backgrounds, faiths, beliefs, cultures and even who they chose to love, less hate, less anger, less anguish fill my life.

By becoming an ally of those oppressed, particularly in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transvestite, transsexual/transgender community, by not standing with the oppressor, in whatever form it comes, I become a better person, I’m able to love others as I’m supposed to love and treat and do to myself. By acknowledging that everyone, regardless of their gender, deserves the right to live in peace, to be respected, to demonstrate that love, to commit to their partners, to become loving parents and by standing up when I’m called to do so, I become a better person … not only that, I ensure that those in future generations, will have access to the same freedoms and responsibilities as I do today.

It is not fair … in fact, it is pure idiocy to try and use every Bible trick under the sun to try to justify hate, to try to deny what is fair and just and to belittle, betray and deny others the same freedom to love, to take care of and create loving partners and families that they all, and we all deserve.

What I’ve said may have been said more eloquently before, but I had to get it off my chest. I won’t, I can’t stand for hate, for marginalization, for not defending and ensuring that everyone around me, regardless of how and who they want to express their love to, can do so. A few years ago I read a book called ‘Pornografía y vestidos de novia‘ (pornography and wedding gows, small essays on the dichotomy of being a woman and expected to marry in white but act like a slut behind closed doors, if you can get your hands on it, please read it). In it, the author mentions that the so-called traditional family model (mom, dad, son(s), daughther) … the heteronormativity, has proven its failure over and over, then why on Earth (said much more eloquently by Gemma Lienas) are we so darn stubborn and deny that loving, same-sex families have their chance at love and marriage and creating a family. Not only same-sex couples, but fathers that can provide a better future for their kids, grandparents who provide a supportive net for the family, in essence, anyone that desires to form a family, regardless of how fair away it seems to be from the “traditional” family. That I think it’s what finally put the nail in the coffin of my conservatism.

I’m proud of who I am today. I know I need and have much more growing up to do. I’m proud to be an ally in the fight (and defense) of equality, gender, marriage, racial and even class. I hope you are too.

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2 Comments

  1. gerty-z says:

    Thanks for the post. I’m glad that you are one of the allies now!

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