Why My Mental Health Means I Am Not Celebrating LGBTQA+ Pride This Year
Pride started as a way for LGBTQA+ folks to step up and fight for their rights. Today, modern LGBTQA+ pride festivals and parades consist of vendors marketing to a marginalized population. It is also filled with straight allies getting drunk and taking over our space. The political nature of Pride is barely there. Now that “gay marriage” (note: it is “same-sex marriage”) is legal in the U.S., many Americans seem to believe LGBTQA+ issues are resolved. We have many other serious issues, including high rates of suicide and murder, which still need to be addressed. Those are some of the issues I have with LGBTQA+ pride in general, but this year there is a more personal reason for why I’m not going.
Simply put, I’m not proud. I’m gay and I am comfortable with that. However, this year I also came out as gender-fluid and non-binary. I’m told I was “born this way” or that “all gender is fluid,” but I don’t feel that way. Instead of feeling proud to be a part of the LGBTQA+ community, I feel shame and depression for being who I am. I want to reject this identity. I don’t want to accept who I am. I want to be wrong, but I know this identity is real and I need to accept it. Some days are more difficult than others. The slightest comment can trigger overwhelming gender dysphoria and anxiety that will leave me feeling suicidal for days if not longer. The truth is, society doesn’t accept people like me. Even some people within the LGBTQA+ community don’t accept non-binary folks (people who don’t identify as either man or woman). We are told this is our family, but I hear the same invalidating messages from this new family as I hear from the outside world. I know I’m not supposed to compare myself to others or care what other people think, but it’s hard to accept myself when I’m hearing hateful remarks inside and outside of our community. Many people in the LGBTQA+ community still think in binary terms. They equate male and female with man and women, when in reality these are distinct concepts. LGBTQA+ issues are discussed as “gay and lesbian issues,” ignoring the wide spectrum of sexual and gender identities encompassed within this community. All of this stems from an antiquated, generational mindset that will hopefully evolve soon. I know all of this, yet I still can’t ignore these voices and feel proud of my gender identity. It’s hard enough to accept myself, and it’s even harder when people who are supposed to support people like me are shutting us out.
I want to be like LGBQ people who are cisgender (the sex assigned at birth matches their gender identity). I wish I didn’t have to think about whether my gender identity matched the gender I was assigned at birth. I wish I didn’t feel a constant state of fear and gender dysphoria simply for existing. I wish I didn’t have to question whether I was “just confused.” I wish I didn’t have to hear from both people within and outside my community that my gender identity wasn’t real or it was “just a phase.” I heard these same sentiments when I came out with my sexual identity. It is so triggering and re-traumatizing to have to experience all these emotions again as an adult. Now I have the coping skills and support to process them better, but I honestly do fall apart at times. I feel weak for not being out and confident about who I am to everyone I know. I feel like a freak and I wish I wasn’t this way. I want to be “normal” and cisgender. I feel embarrassed, thinking what if it is just a phase or just due to my mental illness.
So, this year, I’m not going to celebrate LGBTQA+ pride with a community that doesn’t fully accept me and reinforces my own negative feelings about my gender identity. I can’t pretend to be proud of something I am secretly ashamed of and wish desperately I could change about myself. Pride is so heavily focused on corporate sponsorship, alcohol and partying to the point that it becomes full of repression. We all ignore the pain we’re going through. We drink and dance it away. I can’t drink my gender dysphoria away. I wish my medications would even let me drink at all. I don’t know what I need to finally accept myself and feel proud, but I am not there yet and I am done pretending everything is OK for a weekend while there is so much suffering on a daily basis. I pretended I was OK for too long and I have had enough of hiding how I feel. I am working hard at finding ways to affirm my identity, but my pride will come from within myself and not from celebrating in superficial LGBTQA+ pride celebrations.
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