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Posts Tagged ‘self-determination’

Coming out is firstly about bestowing ownership of ourselves to ourselves.

During the American Civil War, the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This document lead to the end of legal slavery in that country. It is now considered basic morality that no person can own another person, but do we really own ourselves?
From the moment we are born, we are labeled, categorized, pigeonholed in one way or another, and we become both slave to and defender of categories and labels. Such labels and categories carry with them not only dictionary definitions, but can be defined in many ways, and such labels can often have confining expectations placed upon them.
As children we taught what everything is called, for example, the names of colours, and things that are associated with that colour. We are made aware of the differences between boys and girls, and words that are used to describe each. As we get older we are socialized into what is expected of ourselves and other people as far as behaviour, dress lifestyles. As children we are expected to become slaves to society’s expectations, by convention, by religion. We become owned, lock, stock and barrel, by the demand that we fit in to the straight-jacket labels imposed upon us, and that no matter what, you must fit in, and difference to the norms is not to be accepted…
Differences to what is considered ‘normal’ are often ridiculed, vilified, and sometimes condemned. From a young age many people learn derogitory words that are used against people who are perceived as different, many learn to pour scorn on those that are not considered ‘one of us’ in whatever way.
For those who are perceived as different, and are the target of hostility of those around them and the society in general, the upset, shame and internalised pain is felt deeply and can be carried for a lifetime. The constant struggle for acceptance, the inability to fit in to a patriarchal heterosexist society can rob a person of their self worth, or of a sense of belonging in their family, community, or even themselves.
Coming out – to ourselves
Coming out is a term generally used to describe an act of disclosure, a finishing point, but there does not seem to be a term for the journey taken to reach that point. I define coming out as both the journey and the disclosure. To me, the journey begins when a person first recognizes that they are different to the societal norm, in this illustration, the heterosexist norm; lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans (or whatever term applies). This recognition can be an extremely scary experience for some, and my cause them to fight against it and do things to show that they are not what they may be (in a sense trying to ‘cure’ themselves), a homosexual person marries heterosexually, the trans person may do extremely stereotypical activities corresponding to their sex designation at birth (in the case of MTF – sometimes dangerous activities). This is done in an attempt to fit in… both internally, dealing with their socialization and expectations imposed upon them by the society they live in, and externally to give the appearance of fitting in. We are slaves to perceptions..
But there comes a time when the ‘act’ wears thin and not even the actor can believe it anymore, and the person must at last join those who didn’t fight, and accept who they are and learn to own themselves.
Coming out is firstly about bestowing ownership of ourselves to ourselves. Recognising that we have a right to define ourselves as we are, live our lives as we decide, and deserve the same dignity as anyone else, is knowing you own yourself and you belong as you. The journey may be smooth, the journey may be difficult and painful, but we are freed by the transitive journey from trying to fit in to belonging.

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