From my work with International Law and Human Rights I was well aware of the figures around suicide, depression and mental health issues around gay men and LGBTQ+ people. But it was not until recently that I started to study our identities and how it was shaped by particular aspects of life.
Our perception of time, for instance, the time we count and the time we feel … is different than it is experienced by straight people. I like to call it queer temporalities. Growing up gay, in this sense, can lead to adults that harbour trauma, shame and a feeling of being out of place. If we have signs coming from every direction making us believe that it is not right to be who we are, it will surely affect our mental health.
Finding Our Tribe
For those of us who are in their 30’s, it was not until being young adults that the realisation came: that we were part of a bigger community. With the new generation, I like to believe that we paved the way for them. More recently, the percentage of teenagers that identified as LGBTQ+ is more than double in comparison to the early 00’s.
On the other hand, this new generation is the first one that cannot remember life before the internet. And having social media at the distance of a click can be another challenge, reminding us that there is always another big thing to aim for. If, for a lot of us, growing up we had to be the best possible version of ourselves, sometimes the aim to be better can be blurred with the need to keep proving ourselves. “Gay, but the best in class”; “Gay, but with the best body”; “And yes gay, but we know how to party”.
Own The Beauty of Our Difference
While we still associate our identity with a but, we will not be able to completely embrace who we are, own the beauty of our difference. At the same time, it is our duty to own our choices and to understand where they come from. The duality that comes with breaking the rules for the right reasons. To crave for knowledge, but not to compensate for something. Aim to be fit, but for us, not to prove a point. To party as much as we want, but not to fill a void.
It is most certainly difficult to take a moment to reflect and understand who we are. The reasons why we behave in certain ways and the trauma we carry from the young years when we did not comprehend how to deal with our identities.
Celebrate Our Identities
The challenge, therefore, is to remember that we are whole, that our experiences of time are not only unique, but special. I hope we can continue to work on ourselves to live the best version of us, but it can only be achieved if we associate this work in progress with the positives of not being defined in the straight-way-of-life box. In the end of the day, owning and celebrating our choices will lead us to celebrate our LGBTQ+ identities too – and that is the most beautiful way of living.
Written by Gus Bussman
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