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The Zebra: Therapy, Queerness and Acceptance of Stripes

I asked the zebra, Are you black with white stripes? Or white with black stripes? And the zebra asked me, Are you good with bad habits? Or are you bad with good habits? Are you noisy with quiet times? Or quiet with noisy times? Are you happy with some sad days? Or are you sad with some happy days? Are you neat with some sloppy ways? Or are you sloppy with some neat ways? And on and on and on and on And on and on he went. I'll never ask a zebra About stripes Again.

-Shel Silverstein

I love this poem! Not only is Shel Silverstein one of my favorite writers, but I really think the zebra poem has a lot to say about therapy. And about queerness. And the process of self-discovery and all that good stuff.

DBT is one form of therapy that teaches that we need to accept ourselves as good enough. And that we all have the capacity to change. Take that in: you are enough. I accept you. And you can change and reach your goals.

Also, we are not one thing or another. Most often, we are both/and. We are becoming.

Behavior change is not about an either/or. It is about striving, step by step, to make small changes that add up to big ones. It is about setting goals for the hour, the day, that become new habits over weeks and years. Recycling or relapsing is seen as part of the stages of behavior change.

And then there is how this poem speaks to queer identity. For me, the zebra here is bisexual, pansexual, or queer identified. Ze isn't heterosexual with homosexual tendencies-- ze is bisexual! and proud! Ze isn't into men or women. Ze loves and is attracted to, people who fall on several different, or a variety of points on the gender spectrum.

Or maybe our zebra is bi- or multi-racial. Ze is not exactly black with white stripes or white with black stripes. Ze is Zebra, our complex friend with a multicultural identity all hir own.

Dear reader, what do you make of the zebra? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

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