September 17, 2021 | OPINION | By Finn Mott | Photo by Emmaline Hawley

If I were to ask you, “what is a bench?” what would you say? 

Of course, this question is relative to whether I am asking what a bench means to you personally, or the world collectively. Would your answer change if I pointed to a bench you had never sat on? Would it matter if the bench was wooden or metal? 

If you were to tell me what a bench is, essentially, what would you say?

My initial answer to this question is inconclusive because to me, a bench is much more than the wood it was made of. What about the nails that are welded together, and the stain painted across the wood grain? What about the memories and associations that come with simply sitting on a bench? How does a wooden bench come to be something more than just a bench?

For most of my life people have treated my body and sexuality like a bench — something to sit on, something to discard as normal. Like benches, our bodies and our identities intersect but do not fully overlap. We are more than just a name to a place, or a seat to sit on. Our beings are complex pieces of art that are both practical and fragile. 

We have grown up watching movies, reading books, and being relentlessly reinforced with the idea that there is a certain path to success. The media reminds us daily that our bodies are broken because they do not look the same. Every story is about the same man and woman falling in love; the man swoops in and saves the woman. I want to assure you that this is not the only way to live your life. 

The media should tell us that we can love any way we feel is right, and that our bodies are perfect in their imperfectness. It is pivotal for our perspective to live untainted from the pressures and expectations of how we are prescribed to live our lives. A bench is not simply a bench, and you are not simply a person.

If you were to ask me again what a bench is, essentially; I would ask, what is your body, essentially? Is it just a capsule for your heart and brain? Is your identity just something to be sat on or is it much, much more? 

I would say a bench is not a thing. No one bench can be compared completely to another or fit into a place that it does not belong. A bench is its own, and that is all it needs to be. 

I hereby proclaim that both benches and our identities cannot be contained to one definition, one category, or one purpose. There is no right or wrong way to exist. 

I challenge you to go sit on a bench for a while and think about what it means to be you. As members of society, we are constantly reminded of categories that we are supposed to fit into. We are being taught to shut up, sit on the bench and listen.

I am here to tell you that you are so much more than a category that society may place you into. You are beautiful, and you do not have just one definition.

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