I want to take a moment to talk about pride. Pride is, by definition, a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements. It is confidence and self-respect in one’s self, or in one’s community. June is Pride month, and as it comes to a close I want to reflect on what that means to me. To do so, I want to talk about what I believe to be the opposite of pride: shame.
I remember a girl coming out as bisexual when I was in secondary school. I grew up in a small town with even smaller minds. My own friends and family weren’t excluded from this. I remember thinking to myself, she is only doing this for attention, and I stood idly by as people told her this to her face and called her a slut. There were boys who erred from the typically masculine, who were kicked and taunted and regularly called homophobic slurs. I remember thinking to myself, well they probably are gay.
It’s easy to call it the ignorance of youth. It’s easy to blame it on the fear of being ridiculed more than I already was for simply being myself. But I remember thinking those thoughts and I feel ashamed.
Looking back, it’s easy to see the seeds of realisation in my own mind. At the time when I looked at girls, it was hard to distinguish between wanting to be like them and just wanting them. But seeing how someone who had had the courage to deviate from the norm was treated, I kept it to myself. I was a weird kid. Why make things harder for myself by thinking I might not be straight too?
By the time college came around I knew that it would be wrong to call myself hetrosexual, but I was too afraid to call myself anything else. I did like guys after all, why complicate things? It wasn’t as if I was jumping into bed with anyone at the time- boys or girls. I pushed it to the back of my mind. I probably wouldn’t have to deal with this unless I caught feelings for a girl, right?
Throughout my life, I have constantly suppressed parts of myself. I have kept interests of mine to myself, I have kept quiet in groups of people, I have refused to admit feelings to myself, I have pulled hard on the reigns of who I am.
Because I am ashamed.
Even writing this, I feel I have no right to do so. Who am I, to feel I have been wronged so, when so many others out there who have it so much worse? Believe me I am very much aware of imposter syndrome, but knowing that you are falling into these behaviours doesn’t make it easier to stop.
I look at the people posting about pride and they know who they are. They have their flag and they fly it high. I remember the first time I ever told someone- my best friend whom I met at university- that I was bisexual. I said it and I felt sick. To this day it still feels wrong to say it sometimes. Not because I am ashamed to say I am bisexual, but because I feel as though I have no claim to the word. Even when attending pride last year, I worried that I was not queer enough. That someone would see me for the fraud I am.
This is internalised biphobia. I am aware that it is there, just as I’m aware of all the others reasons why I suppress parts of myself. It’s hard to unlearn something you have spent your whole life believing.
Shame is, by definition, the feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour. I am slowly convincing myself that less and less about me is wrong, despite the protests of others. I feel such a deep sense of shame in everyday life for multiple reasons. Though it isn’t solely regarding my sexuality, Pride still encourages me to open myself up to positivity, and let that shame out bit by bit.
For me, Pride has always about other people. It has never been something I have associated with myself. I have always been proud of the achievements of my friends and how they grow year by year. But Pride is a time where we are reminded to feel those things for ourselves too. I am incredibly lucky to have people in my life to support me in all avenues, and I will forever be grateful to them.
Year after year, pride encourages me to be more open and honest about who I am. I look to the people in the queer community for hope and encouragement. For solidarity and for inspiration in my journey towards accepting all parts of myself.
I want to change the narrative of telling myself I am not enough. I want to be comfortable in my own skin. I want to be proud.