Be you, not just one part of you….
So I’m gay, most people are never surprised when I confirm it or reveal it before they think it, we move on. Done. However……when I was growing up in Ireland that was not the case, most of all because I was lying to myself about who and all that I was.
In school I was bullied, constantly. In my school environment, my self expression was not acceptable. No argument possible. In the wider society this was also the case, with the communication of this being via a very different manner. It was accepted that I exist but who they identified me as was not “normal,” not accepted, not a subject that they wished to be confronted by. So for many there it begins. You commence to live a lie, adopt that lie, be that lie. You put on a mask every day, become a personality that is not you or in some cases over accentuate that unacceptable facet of your persona and become an “über” you. In short, you are no longer authentic to who you are inside, becoming lost in a whirlwind of societal bias and discriminative beliefs. Some simple questions can now no longer easily be answered: who are you, what are you all about?
Ashamedly this was me in my teenage years. The longer the bullying went on, the more I suppressed parts of my identity. This was not in an effort to deny them but rather to help conceal me from the eyes and opinions of others, to become an invisible part of society as I moved about it. To be excluded, be rejected, is a highly negative force resulting in damage and mental scaring that can take decades to overcome. However I am proud of one factor from those years. I refused to give up my individuality completely. I could have put on another mask, being the “jock,” copying what the other cool kids were doing, wear the same clothes, act the same way, like the same things…….I didn’t. While I may not have been authentic at least I did not fully surrender all of my identify so as to be instead drowned in a sea of everyone else’s preferences of who I ought to be.
Authentic. That word just booms its meaning at me. What is it, to be authentic?
So I left school, went to University, traveled and lived abroad, began my professional career. I was still not happy. I was still “playing a part.” Something just did not fit. It was obvious to people that I was “maybe” gay….and for those who were brave enough to ask me directly rather than consult the gossip mongers, I confirmed it. Still I felt a fake. It was like missing one piece of a jigsaw, that missing piece being in the possession of someone else entirely, that you did not know. That one piece symbolised completeness. Without it you could still see what the jigsaw could be. However without it the picture only spoke of its potential, potential yet unattainable.
This one missing piece for me equaled MY authenticity. Me being fully authentic first to myself and then to all of those around me. For years I had struggled with my homosexuality. How do I incorporate it into who I am, how do I express it, show it, be accepted in spite of it. I had wrongly considered my homosexuality as my outward identify for it was this identity that others saw in society. They saw the Gay first, the person second. It never until then dawned on me that my sexuality is an important part of my personality but not ALL of it. To express my authenticity to its full potential was first to accept all of those traits that comprised my personality and then to combine them into one powerful identity; my full identity, all jigsaw pieces included.
Once I began to incorporate, accept and express outwardly all of my identity in the world around me, positive changes resulted. I am not talking about career, wealth, materialism. No. I started to earn other riches that would work to sustain happiness, be able to make the right choices and learning from the bad ones, recognising who is your friend and who is not. I was learning how to be confident, to love and accept myself, to stand up for my beliefs, to stand up for me and others like me, in essence to become a visible and contributing part of society. I learned how to be me, to just be.
How many of us go to work everyday or into a store and never have to consider their identity or how it will be perceived by others? Many LGBT people need to continuously check themselves in every social situation they find themselves in. “Do I look gay, dress gay, acting too gay, sounding too gay………” This consistent need to check ourselves because some elements of society consider LGBT individuals as not equal, not equal JUST because of our sexual preference. How ridiculous! This is just one element of who we are not all of who we are.
Thankfully, the world is moving on postively in many regards. In my home country Ireland, we were the first Nation in the world to adopt gay marriage via a public referendum; it was the people who decided, who accepted that part of me as a welcome and loved facet of a complete Irish society. It makes me hugely proud.
However, other parts of the world are not so lucky and for this reason we must respond to social prejudice, not react. Not react in anger and with fists but respond with reasoning, education; to challenge those who do not currently accept our sexual expression via dialogue. In most cases they are simply afraid of what they do not know/understand which results in the will to exclude that which they fear. To challenge is to promote a conversation, promote growth. To not accept (from either side), is to promote division, exclusion.
So let us all be who we were born to be. Accept and love all that you are and fulfill your true potential. Be the best version of yourself and not a poor reproduction of someone else’s projection.