On the insufficiency of acceptance

The world has made it abundantly clear that I’m not meant to live a full life. Because I’m Indigenous, queer, non-binary, disabled, and for many other reasons don’t fit the “mythical norm” (Lorde), I’m incredibly othered. Othered in a way that weathers my soul until I go through days feeling hollow. In trying to find my place in the world, and in searching for my truest self — a self that is sovereign and full — I’ve long sought to find acceptance in others. For the most part, this search has been a farce.

Acceptance is not embrace is not liberation.

Acceptance is the Tylenol that lets us make it through the days without actually treating the causes of the pain. Acceptance is usually conditional at best, and comes with a plethora of asterisks. Acceptance is often only in name — a meager tolerance that can easily flip to intolerance the moment anyone ‘other’ is perceived as a threat or any way discomforting to the norm. Acceptance is a dependency on those deemed to be more ‘legitimate’ people to see us as worthwhile and valid. Acceptance will not save us.

This isn’t to say that acceptance is nothing. Acceptance can feel great and can provide some marginal degree of assurance of safety. When coming from someone with a shared identity, there’s a certain understood acceptance that can validate who we are by seeing ourselves in someone else — but given that this stems from shared identity and experience, it’s much closer to empathy and understanding than mere acceptance.

With time, I’m increasingly internalizing the shortcomings of searching for acceptance. I’m having to learn how to operate through the world in a way where I’m sure of myself, and can find the validation I need from within, especially the validation I’m deprived of by the outside world. I’m having to learn to find all the sustenance I need by accepting myself in full.

This has provided me considerable stability, regardless of the acceptance and validation, or rather lack thereof, I might get from others. This has allowed me to be fuller versions of myself without questioning how it might change how others perceive me, or whether it might shake the faulty grounds of acceptance I’ve received from others. Acceptance will never be enough, and learning how to operate without any need for acceptance has allowed me bloom in ways I’d never thought possible before.

And so, I encourage others — especially my LGBTQIA+ family — to abandon a doomed pursuit for acceptance by a world that doesn’t wish us to live let alone thrive and flourish. Learn to give and care fuller for ourselves and our communities, and be less concerned with how those who better fit the “mythical norm” might view us.

Learn to quit asking for our acceptance, and instead demand our liberation.

Boricua/Taíno via LBC | PhD student in NREM, UH Manoa | B.S. & M.S. in Earth Systems, Stanford ’17 | financially support at https://cash.me/$Fisky