“Express Yourself, Don’t Repress Yourself” - Madonna
I read something this morning about gay and straight people that really got me thinking. I grew up in a very homophobic (and racist) household. My father, my grandfather and many of our family friends would always make the most derogatory comments about gay people. They would talk about those disgusting fucking faggots and literally wish death on them. They wanted all of them to burn in hell because abominations and freaks of nature like this didn't even deserve to walk the Earth. When I was really young, I would even laugh at their jokes and mimic their behavior. It didn’t phase me much because I didn’t understand it at all, but as I grew older and started discovering more things about myself, these comments really started to hurt. When I was 15, I can even remember my father saying, “If any one of my kids is ever one of those fucking fags, they can leave and never come back.”
I am an only child so I’m not sure why it was worded that way, but I wanted to run when I heard that; I wanted to hide and withdraw forever. I even went to bed crying every single night praying that I would wake up normal and no longer have these feelings. I needed to fit in because I truly believed I would never be accepted into my own family or anywhere else if they knew the truth about what was going on with me. I spent years screaming from inside the confines of my own little closet. I pretended to be someone I was not and walked around each day with a new mask on hoping the role I portrayed would help me feel more accepted. It didn’t. It turned me into a recluse of sorts. I was the wandering hermit and I quickly became socially inept. I hated myself because of these feelings, I didn’t want to wake up anymore if this wasn’t going to go away and I spent years lost in my own insecurity. To this day, I’m still hypercritical of my self image. I struggle with periods of insecurity and my confidence tends to waver, but I work on it a little bit each day.
Back then, Iowa epitomized the idea of old school thinking and conservative behavior. If you didn’t fit into the farmer-like hunting clan, gawk at girls and sport the newest John Deere hat while talking tractors, you were an outcast. I believe things are a bit better there these days, but the same mentality still exists and honestly this way of thinking in general still exists all over. There are counties out there who still put people to death for these feelings. I don’t understand how something that is such a small part of who we are can be such a big deal. It pains me when I see people who are brave enough to let others know only to be excommunicated, shunned, and in some instances brutally beaten down or killed. For those of you who came out at a younger age and walk tall each day, I commend your bravery.
I didn't come to terms with all of this until I was 30. On the positive side, had it not been for the comments made by my family, it’s doubtful I would have been graced with one of my own. It’s unlikely I would have stepped away from archaic belief systems and developed something I feel makes more sense. It’s also not probable I would have honed and evolved a strong emotional sense that helps me in the work I do today. There are benefits to it all, but the scars still remain. They say our wounds make us stronger and to an extent I believe that to be true, but we need to change our way of thinking. Sexuality doesn’t define who someone is. It’s a tiny part of who they are. We need to let go of judgment and stop spending our time slapping a label on people and then shoving them into a box so that our logical brains can process who they are. We need to see each other as people – not gay or straight or whatever, but just people walking along their own path trying to make a difference in their own unique way. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t desire any type of utopian environment, but in this day and age, it’s time to move past the bias, the hate, the discrimination, and start focusing in on something better.
If you are struggling, you don’t have to go tell the world in order to gain acceptance or feel better. If you believe it will help, you can, but first you need to come to terms with things yourself. You need to realize you are so much more than a label. March forward each day with dignity, vigor and determination. The judgments of others do not matter. Fuck them. You are you and there is never a reason to change a part of yourself in order to appease someone else. Don’t spend years of your life screaming from a closet. Stand tall, be proud, live your life, and express yourself rather than repressing yourself. There will always be certain things about yourself you don’t like, but these imperfections are what make you perfect. Your differences are what make you unique and your individualism has the capacity to set the example and pave the way for others.
Stock Photo By: Joyce Dias