In honour of Pride Month, I’d like to highly recommend people watch comedian Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix special “Nanette”. As a longtime comedian, she dives into the world of being an openly gay person and the challenges that tag along with it. More then just witty punchlines, she reflects on the hardships and realities of how mental health is a major part of the LGBTQ+ community. In a world where homophobia seems to often be an integral part of most people’s growing up due to religion or politics, homophobia still resides in many people’s hearts whether by choice or not.
It’s only recently been legalized in some parts of the world. Unfortunately though, legalization doesn’t mean society legally has to be nice to you. As Hannah mentions in her set, “being different is dangerous.” And nothing seems to seem more accurate than that. People will judge you, harass you, make assumptions about you and sometimes resort to physical violence for living a different lifestyle.
I was in grade 2 when I first kissed a girl. Of course we were young, it was innocent. But it didn’t leave me confused but rather happy. Her brother saw us, and told the entire elementary school the next day. I had pencil boxes thrown at me almost daily, called terrible names, people didn’t want to be friends with me. That’s when I learnt girls shouldn’t kiss other girls. I had my head smashed into the bus window 2 days later. The school suggested to my parents that I be tested for ADHD for my lack of focus. My parents transferred me schools after that incident, unknowing of the reason why because I was ashamed, and was moved into a Christian school due to their high anti-bullying rules where I learnt about Adam and Eve and that homosexuality is wrong.
Fast-forward many years later, and this past year has been a year of opening up to those around me about my sexuality. I told my parents, started seeing a lovely girl, and decided to be more accepting of my sexuality. I knew it was going to be hard. But I didn’t realize how hard. I just desperately wanted to just rip it off like a band-aid and be over with it. Just live my life how I want. But it’s not a one day thing. It’s every single day after that. Every time I feel it’s a different response. Many times though, it’s not on my terms. Those who don’t understand what it’s like coming out take it upon themselves to come out to others for me; as if this new knowledge would effect the situation. So they go ahead take away a right I have, and making the other person only see me as “that gay chick” who they can suddenly ask very personal questions about how I live my life. Or fight me about it because I don’t look gay. What hurts most is sometimes it’s people who have known me for years now only see me as being gay. They feel awkward around me as if I’m no longer the person they once knew. They’ve stripped away the fact that I am a human in their minds and start to distance themselves from me.
My mental health was truly challenged once I came out. I already lived with depression and anxiety and this “new life” made it all more complex. It’s exhausting when you lose friends and you feel abandoned. Talking to your family about love and future is no longer an easy conversation, it’s awkward. Or when you can’t hold your girlfriend’s hand in many public places because you’re too tired to deal with the stares, under the breath comments, and scrutiny from strangers. The questions, comments and reactions are endless.
So you may wonder if I feel all of these things, why would I want to broadcast it so widely.. but it’s about making myself vulnerable so people can understand how it is, and also for those like myself can see they are not alone. And honestly, it isn’t until you experience it first hand by coming out yourself or have someone very close to you come out that you can truly feel the pain. Because for years I didn’t think there was a single person like me or felt the way I did. Being open about who I am I hope will help those who feel the same way I do. To see they are not alone. I have a hard time identifying as something specific, because yes I’ve dated guys, and maybe still will, I just don’t identify with being straight. But I want to be able to date women with the same freedom. Because I love people for who they are and the soul that lives within them.
I think they call it Pride, because we are proud. Proud of who we are, and how far we’ve come. I may complain, but I am so incredibly privileged to not have to deal with the pain people have dealt with before my time and in different parts of the world that are not as accepting. It wouldn’t be without the support from the community and family and friends who have been accepting and loving who have made me able to stand proud today and tell part of my story.
I think Hannah’s set is amazing and powerful. Her passion ignited so many feelings inside me that were relatable but also made me realize, I am not alone. And yes, it may not be easier, but if I’m open about who I am, I can find more people who can hear me out. Her story deserves to be heard. My story deserves to be heard. And so does yours, no matter what you are. The world is a frightening place most times, but if we are able to stick together maybe we can get through it all together.
So, be kind. Listen. And maybe you’ll remember we’re all human too.
Feel free to read my blog post before this that I wrote about coming out but I didn’t post anywhere because I wasn’t ready for that: Authentic