Am I really proud of who I am?
PRIDE. Please Roll In Dirt Evilhomophobicwhitepatriarchalsociety. (thank you, that took me all week...)
If you are part of the Queer community, you should feel proud. Whether you turned up openly to a local parade, or whether you spent it uncomfortably but safely closeted and watching from the outside. (By safely, I mean keeping yourself safe from potential threats caused by society or immediate family, not an implication that being closeted is an easy ride! I know it isn't and I love you for being strong and brave.)
Isn't it interesting though, that when I typed 'you should feel proud', I felt a little bit uncomfortable. I had immediate flashbacks of sitting in church and hearing the word 'pride' used with negative connotations. Not in the obvious anti-Queer propaganda battering around some churches. I'm referring to pride being one of the seven deadly sins. I mean, I get it. No one wants to hear someone sharing how phenomenal they are all hours of the day- (Trump you orange sack of shite.) But then again, shouldn't we be proud of ourselves for being who we are? For seeing how far we have come? For what we offer the world?
For me, it's incredibly difficult accepting praise or genuine compliments. I've been trained to think of myself as a speck of worthless dust, which has slowly improved over the years to the size of a snails shell. Let me take you on a journey...
It's a stormy July evening. I happily sit at the wedding reception party of one of my best mates. She looks like a princess (a tiny thumberlina powerhouse princess) and is basking in the love of her groom who is equally as smitten. They look magnificent and it fills my big gay heart with joy. After negotiating several Prosecco glasses, I start a conversation with a friend who has a soul of gold and an electric mind. Our discussion revolves around relationships and she looks me dead in the eyes and drops in a tonne of compliments followed by these words, 'come on Jen, you are so fit'. This is the first time I have heard this in. my. entire. life. It was a compliment I begged for as a teenager, that I craved as a young adult and even up until yesterday had been desperate to hear. Yet when I receive it, it doesn't fill the void that achingly stretches across my extroverted and sensitive personality. I feel shocked.
I feel like she's lying to me. She must be able to see in my eyes the self-loathing that still festers there. It must be a clever tactic to lift me up so I can forget I'm a monster. When I share this with her, I can see disbelief in her eyes. In her own brilliant way, she helps me reframe the self-talk. She starts saying the same things about herself to prove her point and I feel physically sick. Who would ever want to hear people they love ripping into themselves so unkindly? I see endless potential and love in that friend. Does she really see that in me?
It's not about the approval of others. That's what I've been searching for all these 25 (nearly 26) years. And when I get it, it flies through one ear and out of the other. It's about knowing it deep down. That I am beautiful in intent and appearance. That I am PROUD to be who I am. In all of my Queer glory. That YOU my Queer friend or ally are worth something. If you listen to a friend with disbelief when they say horrible BS about themselves, think about what your daiIy self-talk is too.
The wedding was so much fun, I danced all night without a care in the world and mentioned my Queerness to a lot of strangers. I had never felt more confident in what I wore. My outfit matched who I am inside; colourful and bright. I had yesterday evening to mull over the shock and this morning, as much as I wanted to throw myself out of a window rather than take in those words, I made a decision to let the compliment reach me by osmosis. Maybe it will land by August, who knows.
We HAVE to be kinder to ourselves and be there to rally for our friends too. This community can only thrive if we lift others up whilst also looking into how we can take time for self-care. If you see a friend suffering, be there for them. If a mate is feeling like crap and is rejecting any form of self-care, write them a letter and post it, whatsapp them memes or funny pictures, order their favourite takeaway or make them sandwiches and ask if you can go around to their house. Then think about how we can do these things for OURSELVES TOO! We need to support each other and this friend reminded me of that. Without her, I don't think the lightning would have struck so profoundly. She sees something I don't fully see yet, but I hope I will one day. And I hope you see the light inside of yourself too.
Anyway I thought I'd write a list of things that I am proud of. It's an awkward exercise so give it a go and see how you get on.
1) I can now freely move on a dance floor without being mortal (drunk). I let go and don't feel self conscious about my body. I am starting to love my body.
2) I created Queerious Podcast with good intentions, a heart full of gay and managed to have an impact on some strangers and mates.
3) My ability to fall down and get back up is great, even if I end up crawling back covered in snot and fear.
4) I have had difficult conversations with people in the last year that ripped my heart into a thousand pieces and I am still here plodding on.
5) I've started writing publicly about my experiences, even when they feel insignificant or cringeworthy.
Listen, I can see the beauty in you. In nearly everyone I come across. I may not know you personally, I may have met you briefly or been in your life for twenty years (you lucky buggers), but I truly believe you have something magic in you. You are beautifully existing here. And that is something to be proud of, isn't it?