In the spirit of Pride month, I am trying to be more proud of myself. This includes, but is not limited to, pride in my sexuality, my relationships, and my life choices.
I have always found Pride uncomfortable. It is too in-your-face. Too attention grabbing, too all-encompassing, too obnoxious. The topless, glittering, overtly sexualised parading. The garish, crass, flag. It all makes me very awkward. Maybe I am just British – slightly prudish, uncomfortable with drawing attention to myself in any way.
Until recently, I never really had any gay friends. I didn’t, and still don’t, frequent any place with “gay” in the title. Ostensibly, I didn’t want my post coming-out identity to revolve around this one aspect of me. I wanted to retain the same friends, the same experiences, the same interests. But I am coming to realise that a lot of this standoffishness was a result of living with a deep sense of shame, and an inability to accept myself. And this shame stemmed from the inevitable reaction of the two people I cared most about in the world.
It is now a little over 4 years since I came out to my parents. Prior to that conversation, pretty much everything I did in my life was geared towards making them proud of me. They lived through me from the moment I was born, outside identities eschewed, focus entirely on this formative tiny human they had created. I received an extreme, and unhealthy, amount of love and attention. My successes were their successes, and my failures theirs too, and boy did I know it.
My mother views my sexuality as a failure. A failure on her part to raise a “normal” child, and a failure of mine to conform to societal norms. I honestly believe that a part of her thinks I am doing this entirely to hurt her. She doesn’t know how to be authentic with me. She can only manage surface conversation, avoidance, and silence. To this day, she hasn’t spoken about it with any of her friends. For my mother, appearance is everything, and she is now so ashamed of her daughter that she cannot speak of her. I have been waiting for her to come to terms with it, to decide that her relationship with her daughter means more to her than other people’s opinions. To love me, unconditionally. But she is stuck, insular, betrayed.
My father is little more than a footnote to her feelings. Lacking extreme views himself, he validates hers. Chooses his wife over his daughter. Adds exponentially to the pain through silence and avoidance. Seeks absolution under the guise of passivity.
These people, the most important people in my life, the people who taught me what love is supposed to be, can’t bear to accept me. I am only just beginning to process what that means. It turns out that unconditional love does, indeed, have conditions.
And so, I must seek to make myself proud. Seek to validate my own decisions. Seek a new family. I don’t believe I will ever have the strength to sever ties with my parents, but I need to reach a place where I don’t need their approval to give me worth. Where their inability to love me for who I am no longer leaves me feeling betrayed. I have a lot of work to do. But it is important, and necessary. I am stuck in a world of ‘what if’s and ‘if only’s. Lamenting that things aren’t different, looking backwards and not forwards.
I will be turning 30 in October, and my goal is to be able to enter the next decade of my life confident, proud, and truthful. I now own a pair of rainbow Pride converse, so am considering that a reasonable start.