In my mind, I adhere a new, elegantly powerful mask, a glittering façade, to my face. I’ve worn so many masks throughout my life to get through situations as a minoritized person in systems built to fail minoritized people. I’ve reflexively worn masks to keep myself safe, to help me survive, to become the person others needed me to become. This time, though, this is a mask I choose to wear. Not to defend, not to attack, but entirely to heal.
This time I make a conscious choice to become someone else – to become my true self in a way I haven’t been in nearly seven years – to help others know they are never alone.
I choose to wear a mask to hopefully help others dream of that better world we deserve.
I choose to be someone else because I want others to know we can make that world a reality.
In that moment, with that first tweet, I become K.C. Ardem.
With my veneer in place, I start to find myself again for the first time in seven years.
My colleague, my bosom bud, is my guide at the beginning as I find my way on Twitter. I learn my way of interacting online. The utilization of gifs becomes my signature. That I am outspoken about racism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, misogyny, and other forms of discrimination – good gods there’s too many – becomes my “brand,” according to friends. I form connections with other doctors, healthcare workers, people. Approximately three people online figure out my true identity (because how many Black, gay, unicorn-phoenix psychiatrists are there online? I also, I found out, have a distinctive way of talking and writing). None of those people ever “outed” me – they understand the need for this disguise, the repercussions outing me would bring – they ask me privately about my identity and let me share if I wanted, they hold my secret tight, and they support my voice and respect my privacy.
On Twitter, I am fortunate enough to see other physicians, other people, who look like me, who have shared similar struggles, who have similar dreams.