Read our stories
Growing up in Indiana, people always referred to me as the Mexican. I am not from Mexico. I am from the Dominican Republic. I’m proud of my roots and where I come from; therefore, this assumption hit a nerve for me. In high school, I remember a conversation with a fellow student who told me that speaking Spanish meant I was Mexican. This, in no way, means I think less of Mexicans. My issue is the generalizing of culture. Latin America is made up of 33 countries with different culture, slang, accents, gastronomy, and looks. I found myself having to explain my identity to people who chose to create their own false truth. I wonder if the American education system fails students with the lack of effort spent expanding their mind in regards to what is outside of the United States of America. In time, it has been apparent to me that in other countries the idea of being multilingual and of diverse cultures is thought to be of intelligence. Meanwhile, in the USA, it has a negative connotation when referring to the Latinx population. I am hoping to see a future where the United States of America is greatly educated on other countries and other cultures because I am Dominican…
Being a part of a military family, I got to see the world from many different highs and lows. As a 5th grader, I had just moved to Charleston, South Carolina after completing four years in one of the most northern cities in the world: Fairbanks, Alaska. I can remember the trips going onto the military bases waiting for housing; but this deployment was a little different - we were able live off base. My father, being a very strategic planner, wanted to ensure that all of his children received the best education possible. Therefore, we settled in a middle class established neighborhood with great schools. The first day of school is always the most important to children as they want to “dress to impress” everyone. I can remember that even though we were 'in' the neighborhood, we were not really a part of it. Near the pristine green lawns, boats, new cars, and the latest upgrades to the neighborhood houses, lied a modern, yet simple, home, which is where we lived. With three other siblings, an enlisted father and mother working as an attendant for a dry-cleaner, we made just enough money to make ends meet. Our yard was maintained by my brother and I weekly, the driveway contained a 1989 Chevrolet conversion van and any upgrades we wanted to do with the house was merely a dream. Trying to fit in with the students at my school was a struggle as well. Not only were you categorized by how you talk; what you wore was just as important. I took upon a clean, neat appearance from watching my father daily put on his BDU’s before going to work. Most of the clothes I owned were not name brand, but I felt as long as I ironed my clothes, it would welcome me into social status of Tommy Hilfiger, Polo, and other expensive name brands students wore daily. I found out the second week of school that ironing your clothes doesn’t get you into the “club”. The students began picking on me for wearing the same outfit the previous week. As I approached the time for entering high school, JROTC was one of the classes I knew I wanted to be a part of. First, following in the footsteps of my father, I knew I wanted to be a soldier. Secondly, being able to wear a uniform once a week would hopefully shield me from the rants of wearing the same clothes all the time. Being in JROTC taught me a lot about leadership and the value of character. While some students baulked at wearing their uniform weekly, I wore it with pride. It was the one time a week when low, middle, and upper-class students could be equals and breakthrough the barrier of classism that separated us the other four days. My school journey is one aspect of the ways in which society minimalizes and castigates people based on belonging to particular identity groups. What is your story around class/socio-economic status?
What is true for me is true for a great many African American men as it relates to racial discrimination. From onlookers acting suspicious of me, to being told I’m so articulate--thereby sending the not-so-subtle message that I’m a part of a group not expected to be in leadership or have a seat at the table. From fearing for my own personal safety simply because of my race and a presumption of danger that’s been circulated to audiences for ages—the list of discriminatory responses goes on. It’s clear we still have significant work to do if we’re to fight against racism and intolerance in our communities, institutions, and the world over. We must overcome racism everywhere it’s at, inclusive of bias inside of us. For it isn’t our differences that continue to separate and divide us, but rather our refusal to acknowledge, accept, and celebrate these differences.
I understand complicated family dynamics. I’ve been in a non-traditional marriage that ultimately ended in divorce. I’ve chosen to make my career a priority over having kids and have not been valued in my family as a result. My immediate family dynamics have been complicated, tricky, and difficult since I was a child. I appreciate that a pet can actually be someone’s child to them because my cat, Snuggy, certainly is to me.
I remember my weight in 3rd grade. I toppled the scale at close to 100 pounds. As a child, we didn't have much and I hardly remember seeing fresh fruits and vegetables in the house. I used to hide snacks (candy bars and individually wrapped snack cakes) in my bedroom so that I could enjoy them without sharing. My nickname throughout school was 'Food and Deli', which somewhat rhymed with my last name of Fuciarelli. Having the first name Megan didn't help much, either, being called Mega (large) Megan pretty consistently. I wanted so badly to ride roller coasters and experience fair rides, but I couldn't because I was too large to fit in the seat comfortably. I was ridiculed and made fun of consistently for my weight. I dieted consistently throughout my life: I'd drop a few pounds and gain them all back plus some... During college, both of my parents underwent gastric bypass surgery (the weight struggles were evident throughout my entire family). At the age of 19, I was diagnosed with lupus and told that my life expectancy was shortened. At the age of 21, I was told that my weight, in addition to my lupus, would make it nearly impossible for me to have children. I was crushed - the one thing I wanted for my life more than anything else was to be a mother. At that moment, I decided that I was going to undergo the same surgery my parents had undergone. I went through a year of pre-counseling to ensure that I was ready for the procedure and addressing the underlying causes of my overeating. During that year, I was forced to understand the trauma I endured throughout my life - it was painful and necessary to ensure that I wouldn't go back to my old habits once having the surgery. On the night before my surgery, my mom had come to visit me. She had brought herself a sandwich to eat and hadn't finished it - throwing it away in my hospital bathroom trash can. I was not able to eat for 24 hours before the procedure and I remember sneaking into the bathroom after she left and eating what was left of her sandwich - out of the garbage can. I sat and cried in the bathroom after doing this. I was, and still am, addicted to food. It was, and still is, my comfort. The surgery and recovery were not easy. I was pronounced dead on the operating table - obviously they were able to resuscitate me. I was in and out of the hospital for nearly three months and when I was finally sent home, I had a shunt and had to connect myself to an IV for an additional six months every day at home. I lost weight pretty quickly and went from being morbidly obese to underweight. I went from hearing things like "Should you really be eating that?" to "You are so lucky - you can eat anything you want!" I now ride on roller coasters as much as I can and I don't hide food out of embarrassment. I am living the life I live today, with a wonderful son, because of my weight loss. I am living the life I live today, full of self-doubt, because of society's reaction to my weight. I was treated horribly for being large and I was minimized as not important for being small. My story about my weight is one aspect of the ways society minimalizes, and damages, people based on belonging to particular identity groups. What is your story around size/height/weight?
When I disclosed my non-religious status to a new friend, he was shocked. “But you’re a good person?!” In his mind belonging to a church and being a person with moral character were linked - you could not have one without the other. At this point, I had known him for two years. He had assumed I was like him. Being a white woman of European descent in America, my privilege is being a blank canvas for other white individuals in positions of power to project their own world views upon. I do not need to work hard to be accepted – the work is to prevent rejection. In my role as a fundraiser and as a non-profit leader, I have seen and felt a shift in demeanor when I out myself as non-religious, for having different political beliefs than the privileged white individuals who make large gifts, when they find out I am not really of their class. To continue to be that blank canvas, the work isn’t hard – it’s smiling, nodding, and saying thank you – but not much else. In my own life, I have learned that smiling and nodding maintains the status quo of power imbalance, white privilege, and male privilege. Encouraging everyone to find the shared humanity within those who might be different. I look forward to finding trusted partners to fund the work of US² in order to foster courageous conversations so that we may “understand ourselves so that we may unite society.”