These are questions I have asked myself in the past many, many times. What it means to individuals and what it means for us as a community?
I attended a workshop last weekend and the topic was about ‘Endings’, the importance of facing loss, closure and engaging in the ‘work of mourning’. For me, endings were a taboo as I would’ve rather avoided them than dealing with them. Normally I just walk away without addressing and acknowledging other people’s needs to say goodbye and indeed neglecting my own feelings and fear around this. What I took away from the workshop was that where there is an ending of some sort there is also a beginning of something else. I have never been able to see that, therefore never acknowledged the beginning of something and have always been grieving (subconsciously) about the ending and the loss. This left me wondering why I couldn’t get excited about new beginnings.
This topic came into my mind when writing down the questions I asked myself at the beginning of this article. When we acknowledge ourselves as gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual, which means an end to the so called ‘straight period’ we have lived, then there is an ending process within us. This process is hard to face and to deal with. Some might never get to that point as they are scared for the fear this ‘ending’ brings. It is not only the process within ourselves we are worried about but it is mainly others’ reactions that we fear. The fear of being neglected, ignored, discriminated against and abandoned by the people we love, the people we thought we could trust. They are our close friends and family, who should love us no matter what or who we are. This fear can keep us in the closet and therefore we neglect our own thoughts and feelings and remain the person we think others want us to be. We are not free to live our own lives but we live in the shadow of somebody else’s. Above water- all seems calm, fine and business as usual. But below the surface, in the shadow, is where the danger lives and can haunt us if we don’t see or want to see ourselves. Living this unsatisfying life for others is not fulfilling our own needs and happiness that everybody deserves. In fact the people that love us surely don’t want that for us either.
Only when we overcome this process within ourselves can we feel proud of who we are and want to be. We want to be able to focus on the beginnings of a new life and a new identity. Feeling proud of ourselves is an important part of coming out that many people do not acknowledge. New beginnings can and should be exciting. When leading up to London Pride 2012, a few weeks ago, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. I thought “Great, just another day out in town with my friends”. Well, with a few more people around than normal of course, but didn’t think more of it. I didn’t want to see the importance of it and just thought “Why go through all the hassle?”. Then a week before Pride, City Hall decided that there wasn’t going to be enough funding for this year’s World Pride and cancelled the main events in and around the parade. This left me with a feeling of betrayal and being undermined, feelings I wouldn’t normally experience and certainly not around London Pride.
This made me think about my reaction to all of this and suddenly I felt part of the LGBT community and felt proud to be so. This part of the population felt discriminated against as it seemed the money had to go the Olympics and could not be spent on World Pride. Even after money was offered by large companies to save the day City Hall merely said “It is too late now to reverse the plan” and we were pushed aside. I felt like boycotting the whole thing as I was angry. On the day of Pride, I still felt resentful but wanted to be there as my husband was walking in the parade and I wanted to show my support. During the parade I saw how many people turned up for this ‘half cancelled’ event to show the world that they were not going to be pushed aside but made themselves seen and heard. They were proud to be there and we were proud to be part of the LGBT community. I felt proud to see my husband walking in the parade with his work colleagues who supported him and weren’t afraid to stand up, march, wave flags and hold up a banner that said “Celebrating Diversity & Equality.”
After the event I was glad I turned up to show my support and felt supported by others who are just like us. The papers were full of pictures and stories, the internet had many clips and videos were uploaded to show the world that we exist and that we count in this society. I was surprised that I had changed my view over these few weeks and was now able to answer the questions I had struggled with for many years. I am still the same person but perhaps took for granted the love and support I have received from friends and family who made being gay normal. After my little outburst over the partly cancelled World Pride I realised that there are many people out there that don’t feel supported by those who are closest to them or are afraid to lose that support should they come out. I understood why we had to stand up for Pride and help those who don’t feel supported and show the world that we are here for each other and here to help.
We all have the right to be Proud of who we are and want to be.