“It’s not worth being a partial person or worth having an identity that’s incomplete.” — Sam Melo of Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Google will tell you identity is “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.” Deceptively simple? You bet. Identity is one of the most complicated concepts we face every day, especially if we consider ourselves to hold a hybrid identity, a mix of contradictory and diverse facets. If you’re looking for the living embodiment of multi-dimensionality, turn to Sam Melo, lead singer from the band Rainbow Kitten Surprise. As a son of missionary parents, Melo spent seven years of his childhood in the Dominican Republic before moving back to the United States, ultimately attending Appalachian State University in N.C. He grew up in a family who not only spread a Christian message in a foreign country, but preached strong Southern values. In his song “Hide,” released in Aug. of 2018, Melo details his emotions behind discovering that he was gay and subsequently feeling like he had to hide his sexuality.
“Hide” is a clear nod to the LGBTQ+ community, detailing the freedom that comes with being unapologetically yourself. But “Hide” doesn’t stop there — it pushes this unrestrained existence a step further. The magic of “Hide” resides in its ability to subvert how we approach the idea of identity and the communities that influence our existence. “Hide” provided affirmation when I needed it most, drastically altering how I view my own identity, and it did this for me in a three step process.
STEP #1: Conflict in Identity
Melo is masterful in his depiction of contradicting worlds. He makes a clear nod to the conflict between his sexuality and the religious community he grew up in with the lyrics, “The Son of Man held me in his clutches, the sons of men pulled me to the touch and I loved it.”
With these lines, Melo launched me into the intensity of his internal division — when the divine harshly conflicts with a dimension of who we inherently are. I could physically feel the sense of disapproval from the community he’d been bred in, held in the clutches of religion while drawn to the “sons of men.”
Although nowhere close to the difficulties Melo depicts of his sexuality conflicting with Southern values and religious upbringing, I instantaneously internalized “Hide,” feeling solace in its nod to my battle with the creative versus the practical, the most epic conflict of the 21st century. Constantly feeling torn between the pursuit of practicality and the pursuit of expressiveness. What is considered “artistically masterful” in one category of my life can easily be considered “impractical and uncanny” in another. Melo tugs on my heart in this way — he screams out about the dichotomy of identity and the utter helplessness it creates.
STEP #2: Community Influence on Identity
Melo sings over and over, “Hide your love, don’t let it slip away.”
We’ve all experienced it before — walking into a room and feeling like you have to hide a part of yourself, as it doesn’t quite “fit in” with the community at hand. In these lines, Melo speaks to the constant battle between feeling like you have to hide who you are in certain communities, yet not wanting this hidden part of yourself to “slip away.” The communities we reside in and draw comfort from provide us with the critical feeling of belongings; however, what happens when that community leans towards only one category, only one checkbox?
Melo speaks to wanting the support of the communities you are in, but not wanting the true parts of your identity to be stripped away from you. I began to ponder the trade-offs between embracing the support a community provides and conforming to the identity that community encourages “Hide” comments on feeling like certain worlds outcast and write-off the way you exist, but the “feeling of belongingness” that community provides is enough to make you stay: “Running from a place where they don’t make, people like me / I keep my bags packed, I keep my car running, I don’t wanna leave, just don’t wanna leave last.”
When you reveal a dimension of yourself and it doesn’t fit into the “traditional identity” that community holds, you repress it, for the support of those people is too valuable to lose. Melo keeps his bags packed, noting the second these repressed aspects of himself come to the surface, he has to be ready to leave. It’s scary to flee. Once again, in no way close to the intensity of Sam Melo’s situation, I lost the feeling of “wantedness” when I deviated from the mindsets my respective communities hold. When I conform to the identity my Business major provides, I feel comfort in those friendships, and vice versa with my English major. “Hide” speaks to that — “Hide” speaks to how my communities influence my existence.
STEP # 3: DO NOT Box Identity Into One Category!
Ultimately, “Hide” brings me to the realization that our identities shouldn’t, and don’t have to, fit into one box. Our communities today need to be increasingly aware of the realization that humans will never be one thing. Melo preaches against being limited to one identity — Melo has southern pride and he is also gay. Melo’s music is influenced by Schoolboy Q, Kings of Leon and Frank Ocean — a diverse set of influences from contemporary music. Melo contradicts himself, and that’s okay.
I, just like Melo, will never be one thing. I will walk through the halls of Ross all day long and preach about the latest novel I’m annotating. Simply put, that shouldn’t be a problem. We are all multifaceted humans, and the communities we reside in must learn not to back away or shame someone who deviates from what is “traditional” in that particular community, but rather to embrace the fact that our identities are never meant to be boxed into one category. I’m not a partial person, and I refuse to have an identity that is incomplete.
I’m done with consistently hiding facets of my life, and I’m done fitting into the easier parts of my identity. I’m done with the pursuit to “Hide” — and that’s thanks to you, Sam Melo.