I Am The Human Experience: Michele L. Rivera


I am a woman, a feminist, a lesbian, I suffer from OCD and anxiety, I am an epileptic, an eating disorder survivor, a fiction writer, a poet, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a lover, but first and foremost, I am a human being.

Moving through life in a world where people have an incessant need to put other people into boxes for their own comfort and/or lack of understanding, I have been given many labels. Most of the words that have somehow become my identifiers, I embrace, but the fact is that there is no one word or label that completely captures who I am.

I rock a short hairstyle, wear non-form fitting clothes (sometimes from the men’s section of the store), and write lesbian romance fiction novels. To people who put a lot of stock in stereotypes, I am gay in their eyes before they even meet me. They have already decided for themselves who I am simply based on the ways in which I present myself on the outside. They are not mistaken because I am a lesbian, but it’s just one small piece of who I am.

When I go for my follow-up appointments at the neurologist, I sit in the waiting room among many. My name is called. It’s my turn to meet with the doctor. The people around me look up and they know, that, like them, something is not quite right with my brain. I suffer from seizures. As I type this, the medical ID bracelet that I wear makes a constant clinking sound against the keyboard of my laptop and it reads: epileptic. In the healthcare system, that is who I am: another patient. They don’t really try to see beyond that.

Upon my initial visit with my nutritionist and therapist, I was someone who sought control in the arms of an eating disorder. They spoke slowly and carefully to me about food and nourishment and getting to the root cause of this disease that I no longer wanted to be a part of my life. To them, I was sick. And no matter how much my health improves, I think in their eyes, I will always be fragile on the verge of relapse. I hope they are wrong.

At the local coffee shop and restaurants I frequent, I’m a finicky customer. I can’t deny that as I ask the barista three times, “Are you sure this drink was prepared exactly how I ordered it?” They are slightly annoyed, but they are polite and reassure me. I’m not trying on purpose to aggravate them. I’m afraid. I have obsessive compulsive disorder coupled with a dose of anxiety. Do I want to be the person who inspects the labels of everything she buys to make sure that the ingredients haven’t changed? No. Do I want to be the person vigilantly inspecting every piece of produce before buying it? No. Do you know how much energy that takes? To be so incredibly terrified of change? Of things that are so miniscule in the larger scheme of life? It sucks you dry. It’s not fun for me. But to a bystander watching me place an order, to waitstaff personnel, to the person at the grocery store staring at me while s/he stocks the bananas, I’m a freak. But I’m not. I have mental health problems, yes. That doesn’t make me less than.

Please, get to know me before you judge me. Please don’t see me in fragments. Allow me the opportunity to tell you who I am as a whole.

Let’s try this again. Pay close attention because you might realize that you and I are a lot alike. Beyond color, age, gender, sex, ability, religion and a slew of other dividers, we probably have at least one thing in common; one thing that unites us.

I am a woman. I am proud to be a woman. Don’t assume that because I don’t wear dresses or make-up that I don’t want to be a woman. I wouldn’t change my sex for anything.

I am a feminist. So what? I believe in and stand up for women’s rights. My feminism is not linked to my womanhood and vice versa. Don’t assume that I don’t like men because I’m a feminist. And don’t assume that one has to have a vagina in order to be a feminist. There are plenty of male feminists out there. And really, we’re more humanist than anything.

I am a lesbian. Again, please don’t assume that I don’t like men. I actually really like men. I have a lot of male friends. Do I want to be romantically involved with them? No. Am I attracted to them? No, but I do find them attractive. There’s a difference. Does this make me bisexual? No. I love women and am sexually drawn to them. JUST WOMEN. This was not a choice that I made. It was a box I checked off when I was sixteen years old. I was born this way. Please don’t think that because I sometimes sport a necktie that I am butch or androgynous. There is nothing wrong with either of those things, but it’s not me. I am kind of feminine in a very natural way, and I wear the clothes that I’m comfortable in. So don’t you dare try to find out what “kind of lesbian” I am. I’m a lesbian. There’s nothing more to it. Also, don’t assume that I have a thing against bisexuals. There are some lesbians who are (for whatever reason) afraid of bisexual women. Listen, I’ve dated bisexual women so I know that when they’re with me it’s because they want to be. Friendly reminder: bisexuals don’t get to choose their sexuality either.

I have some health problems. Does that make me insane or weak? No. Actually, it means that I’m a strong. I chose to recover from my eating disorder and it’s a choice I make every single day. And whenever I feel like my anxiety or ocd are getting the best of me, I try to relax. I take a step back and a deep breath. It’s a work in progress, but I’m up for the challenge. This makes me a fighter. I could have a seizure at any moment, anywhere, but I still go out into the world and live. I can’t let the fear of having a seizure stop me. This makes me brave.

I am a writer and a poet. Am I a good writer and a good poet? Not to everyone, but will that fact stop me from doing the thing I love the most? No. I write from my heart and that’s all that matters to me. I put my writing out there in the world because I have stories to tell and messages that I want to be received. You can harshly criticize me, you can scoff at my self-published works, but you can’t shut me up.

To a small handful of people, I am seen for all that I am. These people, some of them friends, some of them family, some of them lovers, some of them ex-lovers, they have taken the time to get to know me. They don’t just look at me, they see me. They don’t refer to me or know me as a label, but simply as a person.

And now, here we are. You and I. Are we really that different? My tears are made of the same substance as yours. When I’m cut, I bleed the same color blood that you bleed. My heart is located beneath my chest in the same exact place in which your heart is located. I have experienced love, pain, victories and losses just like you. I have a name. It is not one of my labels. It is that name I was given at birth and it encompasses all that I am.

I am compassionate, loyal, creative, intense, funny, optimistic, courageous, and so much more.

My name is Michele. And I am part of the human experience.

What is The Human Experience? It is the validity in your story and the story of 7,000,000,000 other people in this world. How do you put a label on being human? You don’t. You open your heart and listen. This is the foundation of our publication, The Human Experience, and we want to hear your story. Join us in spreading the diversity of the human experience with the world by sharing your story.

  1. Find out how to share your story with the world.
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