For many of us… coming to terms with who we truly are, accepting that and feeling pride is a long and tortuous journey. This is why Pride month is so important and why it’s important for people like me to be visible.
What is Pride Month?
“Pride Month” is a month-long celebration every June to honour the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement.
During Pride Month, people across the world come together to celebrate the progress that has been made in the fight for equality for the LGBTQI+ community, to recognise the ongoing struggles that these individuals face, and to advocate for the rights and acceptance of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
My Journey to Pride
It has taken me over 30 years to feel pride… on most days. Some days, in certain environments, my old friend, Shame, creeps back in.
As a gay middle eastern Muslim woman, pride isn’t a feeling I attain easily.
If I were to try and capture my path to pride over the past 30 years, I would break it into the following non-linear chapters of my life.
- Shame & Fear
- Defiance & Anger
A niggly, soft voice whispering to you the unthinkable. You are young, impressionable and scared. You firmly tell it to be quiet. This voice is whispering things you’ve been told never to think. Things firmly rejected by your culture, family and religion. Things that are openly denounced by those closest to you. A constant message that “those” people are not “normal”. You think I can’t be “those people”, so you firmly shut the voice down.
Days, weeks, months and years pass, but this voice won’t quit. It’s getting louder. It’s getting stronger. Where does it find its strength?
You say to yourself; I will explore, just to shut this voice down once and for all. To prove that I’m NOT “those people”.
This inner voice grows stronger through exploration, but you’re not convinced. This can’t be true. This has consequences that your brain can’t even comprehend.
Welcome to Denial.
This is just a phase. I will get through this without anyone noticing. I will dabble, but I will not give in to this voice. I’m in control, and this is a switch I can flick on and off.
Shame & Fear
Denial hasn’t worked, and you are drowning in shame.
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging and connection. Shame thrives on secrecy, silence and judgment” Brene Brown – Atlas of the heart.
Welcome to my closet. In my closet, shame was a constant companion. Alongside it lived fear, worry, and vulnerability with a healthy dose of deceit. Yeah, my closet was very crowded.
I felt shame for being “those people”. I felt my family’s shame for having one of “those people” in their tribe. I felt shame for simply existing.
I combated shame by overcompensating in areas of my life that I can control. Excelling in areas of my life that I knew made my family proud. Career success, financial independence…. All the shiny stuff. While inside, shame simply sat there in my closet, staring at me day and night.
My fear of what could happen if this secret came out. What I would lose? Who I would lose and the price I would pay kept me in that closet for a very long time. A 20-year sentence for the crime of being one of “those people”. The crime of being me.
Defiance & Anger
The thing about sitting in that closet, watching the world go by and people living their lives as you try to lead a double life filled with lies and broken relationships, is that you start to get angry. Angry at yourself. Angry at those around you who are supposed to love you unconditionally yet prefer to watch you wither away in that closet while firmly keeping its doors shut.
Defiance kicks in as you realise that you are the only one capable of busting yourself out of it. And you can now see that the love being drip fed through those closet doors is not enough. Never has been.
Through anger and defiance, you find much-needed bravery, having surrounded yourself by people who see you and love you for who you are. They will carry you through this wild ride, pick you up when you’re at your lowest point and be your unwavering cheer squad. They are your people, your chosen family.
You take a deep breath and kick those closet doors wide open, expecting them to put up a fight, but surprisingly fling open and crash too easily.
You step out of that closet, knowing that the only love you will accept from that moment on is unconditional love.
You watch as people closest to you disappear and ghost you. Shake your head at their loss and look ahead to the future you have been, at times, too scared to even dream about.
Only when you let go of the conditional toxic love will the universe deliver the unconditional and magical type. You are in awe at what you were prepared to give up by trying to appease the unappeasable. Grateful that the tiny little voice from so many years ago never let up.
You look around you… what a journey, what a path. You shake your head at what could have been. You look at the family that you have created out of this unconditional love and are proud that you were brave and defiant enough to have never given up on that dream.
Most of all, you are proud that you can now love yourself unconditionally.
I see you
For “those people”… reading this blog from their own dark closet…. I see you. I feel you. The path isn’t easy or straight… but the path has been paved. We are here for you.
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