“What have you done today to make you feel proud?” — Heather Small
When I think about all the amazing people I’ve known in my life who identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) I am awed and feel slightly ashamed. So many of these people—deemed as “other” by a large portion of mainstream society—are so open with who they are, so secure, so … proud. There really isn’t a better word to describe it.
And yet I ask myself—have I ever been proud of who I am, really? It seems like most of my life I’ve found things to be ashamed of; shortcomings, flaws, imperfections. Why has it always been so hard to embrace who I am?
When I think of times I have felt confident (proud), it’s usually related to work or performance of some kind. I never experienced the freedom, the rush of confidence, like when I used to do musical theatre. At those times, though off stage I was still riddled with insecurity, once I stepped out of the wings (coming out) and into the bright spotlights, I felt unstoppable. I lived in the skin of the characters I played, no longer the scared version of Jessica, but a hilarious wicked step-sister, a Grecian Queen, or a Cockney maid who robbed her boss blind and stole the show as well.
Looking back on those days still gives me a thrill from my fingers down to my toes.
Then as I moved into filmmaking, I had similar experiences. Though I can’t say directing my short films gave me the same exact rush as performing, it was still an intense confidence boost. The excitement of absolute power, artistic control, and making something out of nothing was enough to distract me from my inhibitions. So yes, I’ve experience pride—pride in my talents and for what I’ve been able to create. But has it ever been just for who I am? For my inner essence?
I don’t want to lessen the struggles each of us goes through by making it seem like my LGBTQ brothers and sisters are confident and secure, end of story. No, nothing is ever as simple as that. I know it took amazing strength to get to the point where they were not only ready to come out, but also ready to embrace themselves and their sexuality completely. Surely this is something many continue to struggle with.
But it doesn’t change the fact that these people I know—men, women, and some who prefer not to identify with one particular gender—have a palpable strength that practically exudes through their pores. I respect and envy that confidence.
It was my early exposure to the theatre that introduced me into the LGBTQ community, and then my foray into art school that solidified my presence there. I had always been drawn to this community and it was when I was in college, nearly 19, that I came out as queer to my friends and family. I choose that word because I’m somewhere on the rainbow spectrum (some have suggested bisexual, but even that doesn’t feel quite right).
But as I’ve gotten older, it’s been easier and easier not to discuss this part of myself. Though surely it’s been my choice, and technically my sexuality is no one’s business but mine and my partner’s (if I had a partner), it still feels a little like I’m hiding—playing up my queer-ness when I’m with my gay friends and playing it down with my straight ones. It seems inauthentic.
So here I am again, baring it all on this blog; but I have my reasons. I really believe that sharing our stories, being open about our lives and experiences, is the best way to bridge gaps and find understanding. So I am making the choice to pursue the truth and embrace my authentic self. With pride. Always with pride.