How Can I Ever Change Things that I Feel? Sexuality, Home and Change
Clara de Lataillade
I look down at the lapel of my coat. Fuck. The badges. I forgot to take them off. Frida Kahlo and a gay flag stare back at me. I take one off, slip on the cool gold christening medal. If they don’t want me to be gay, they’ll have to at least deal with my immaculate artistic taste. Small golden Mary and Jesus stare back at me.
When I go home, I switch lives. I take off the gay badge, and put on the Catholic medal. I feel torn apart between the me at university, and the person I have to be at home. Before, I couldn’t talk about getting wasted on a week night. Now, I can’t talk about who I fall in love with, who I date. It’s not that they don’t know – they don’t want to know.
I used to be the golden child. I never fought with them, never rebelled, rarely disagreed. The few times that I did, I would get an explanation for why I was wrong – and I’d accept it.
Adults are always right. It’s been drilled into my soul from birth.
When the teacher walks in, I stand up. I don’t sit until told to do so. I don’t question the rules, however absurd. I know that this is how things are, and always will be. I’m just a tiny speck in the grand scheme of things, and fighting is not worth it, because it won’t achieve anything. As a teenager, I don’t rebel, because there’s no point. The anger is there but I never voice it, because I fear that I won’t be listened to, that my voice will not have any impact. Nothing changes. Ever.
Then things change.
It’s my last year of high school, and I come out to my friends. I’m terrified, and wait until after exams are over. That way, if you don’t want to talk to me again, I won’t have to awkwardly sit next to you in class. When I tell you, you don’t all understand. Where I live, being gay isn’t a thing. I have to explain.
No, neither of us would be the man, the point is that there isn’t one.
Yes, I want to get married someday.
Please stop asking me how lesbian sex works.
But I don’t care about the questions, even the inappropriate ones, because you’re trying. You want to understand, you initiate the dialogue, you listen when I explain my perspective. You respect my opinion.
And you’re willing to change.
This continues at university. People are sometimes uncomfortable, awkward, uninformed, but you ask. You want to learn from my perspective as much as I want to learn from yours. Disagreements aren’t always resolved, but the dialogue is there.
Then I come out to them. Initially, all goes relatively well. I get the expected surprised look, the confusion, the wariness. They take it as a threat to who they are, what they believe in. This isn’t how things should be, for them. But I hope it will go away. I hope that they will get over their initial reluctance to discuss the subject, that they will listen to my thoughts, that they will share theirs.
Two years on, I’m at a loss. I’m torn between two countries, two cultures, two languages, two generations. At university, things change so fast. It takes little more than a spark to start a debate, a discussion, a dialogue. People talk, people listen, people change. At home, things are permanent, fixed.
We don’t talk about me being gay.
Initially, I tried. Too hard. I was open to being challenged, I wasn’t ready for indifference. How can I change their minds if they don’t let me speak? If they don’t want to listen?
It’s a different generation.
This is what they tell me. That nothing can change, because they are set in their ways, because this challenges the very way they see the world. But I don’t want to hide, I don’t want to show a pale shadow of who I am.
I need it to change. Now.
I don’t want to wait until they’re ready. When will that be? I can’t put my life on standby for them. Every time I have to twist and bend the truth to avoid the gay elephant in the room, it widens the rift between us.
I change every day I’m away from home.
And every time I go back, I have to wrestle my way back into a costume that doesn’t fit – the mask of someone I never really was.
I hide the change – I bide my time
This article was first published as part of LSESU Amnesty International Society’s annual human rights journal “A Climate of Change.”