I’ve talked about my support of LGBTQ persons. Specifically, I’ve given my spiritual reasons for my views. Today, I’d like to talk about my person reasons.
There are videos and testimonies all over the internet where people who identify as a sexuality other than heterosexual describe hiding who they are. Their attempts to fit into what they’ve been taught is normal are futile. What does it matter if everyone thinks they are straight if they are lying to themselves? Can you imagine what that does to a person to pretend every day to be someone else, to hate who they are?
I’m not here to tell you that I know how it feels, because I don’t. There is no way I can fathom that kind of pain. Instead, I have my own experiences which I am sure pale in comparison to that of LGBTQ youth. I wouldn’t wish my childhood on my worst enemy, but I know there are plenty of people who’ve had worse experiences.
Let’s start at the beginning. The first thoughts I remember having about myself involve being broken, worthless and unimportant. It wasn’t until I spoke to a therapist during college in an attempt to get to the root of my insomnia that anyone every asked why. You may have the same question, but I don’t have an answer for you. My only theory involves a medical condition I had when I was around the age of three. I have no memory of this and didn’t even know about it until my mother told me a long time later. Still, I wonder if that’s where I first thought of myself as broken as a child. I didn’t make the connection at the time. I just was who I was and I was a horrible person because of that.
Throughout most of my childhood, even through years of bullying and subsequent years trying to discover who I was, I was trying to be perfect. In fact, I was obsessed with being the perfect everything: daughter, sister, student, friend. I dedicated so much time to being what everyone around me wanted me to be, that I lost myself. Towards the end of my middle school years, I finally started to discover a few things that were unique to me. Many of these characteristics did not fit into the perfect daughter, sister, student and friend the people around me wanted. They were exclusive to who I was and while the discovery of traits that were all my own thrilled me, they also brought about fear. There were many traits that did not fit into the box people wanted me to succumb to.
What could I do?
My strategy was to keep most of who I was to myself, letting only a few close friends and my journal all the way in. To people who I wanted to stay close to, like my family, I would expose my true self in fragments. Here or there I would talk about something that was unique to me, like my interest in other cultures in travel. It’s an innocent interest, really, but it made me different. In small towns, people regularly live their whole lives in the town they were born in. People’s entire family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, all live within a 30 minute drive from each other.
The very idea that I wanted to see other countries was a completely foreign concept. People asked why, when there was so much to see in the United States. They said I couldn’t afford it or that my dreams would change when I had a family (something I wasn’t super interested in as a kid). I even had a boyfriend in high school question why I would want anything more than playing video games in my mom’s basement.
There were other interests and opinions I held that marked me as different, but I was very careful with what I exposed. different cultures are just one example. If I talked about my interest in Japanese culture, I would face comments derogatory towards the Japanese from certain family members. If I expressed my dream of writing a book, I would receive comments about how unlikely such a dream was. God forbid if I expressed my accepting opinion of different sexuality or sexual activity (and I didn’t express those two because of the feared backlash).
It got to the point where only specific people, like certain teachers and friends, knew who I really was. I struggled trying to decided what to show and what to keep to myself. It wasn’t always smooth sailing. There was even a year of high school where I hardly spoke to my father. He’d say something that offended me and, when I expressed my offense, I would offend him. We literally talked to each other through my mom. She was our translator, who said what we both meant in a way that didn’t offend the other.
Living like that was agony. Here were the people I was supposed to be closest to and yet I was terrified to let them know who I really was. I’m still terrified. I’ve spoken openly about my search for a religion that speaks to me. Thinking about my parents reaction when I tell them I’m not Catholic is enough to raise my heart rate. What will my uncle, a Catholic priest, have to say? Will they even accept me anymore? Will they want me around?
What happens the day D and I decide to move in with each other? We probably won’t be married first. I’m not even sure my parents will want to talk to me anymore. Those things feel like such huge jumps. I haven’t let them know much about my religious views other than the fact I’m a democrat (which may as well be a religion. You’d understand if you met my father).
All this is getting away from the point. I know what it’s like to hide your true self. I know what it’s like to be consumed by terror at the very idea that one’s family might find out who they really are. I also know that the feelings I have pale in comparison to the feelings someone who feels compelled tot fit into a heteronormitive box and doesn’t.
My experiences crippled me as a child. They affected my self-worth and self-esteem. It took immense effort to come to terms with the idea that I could be whoever I was meant to be even if the people closest to me didn’t like it. In some ways, I’m still trying to overcome those experiences.
For these reasons, I understand the hardships of being different. Again, I am not trying to say that my experiences are equal. All I am trying to say is that I understand the pain of being different, on any level, and how if feels to fear the opinions of your family. These aren’t things I’d wish on my worst enemy.
If I could build a perfect world, I’d build one in which unique people were applauded. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in. Those who are different often have to fight for their right to be who they are or force themselves to change so they fit with everyone else.
I think everyone, regardless of their dreams, interests, sexuality and all other factors, should be able to be who they are. No one is worthless because of who they were born to be. No one deserves to hate who they are. Therefore, I support LGBTQ persons because many of them know what it’s like to be different on a deeper level than I do. They know a worser pain and it’s a pain none of them deserved. I fight for the rights of all sexualities because I don’t want any child to feel the way I did.
Differences should be celebrated, not condemned.