It’s taken me a long time to realize that I am a valid human being. My multiple minority identities are woven tightly together – a foreigner in my adopted homeland, a South African-born Canadian, a left-handed writer, an ambidextrous everything else, a survivor of mental illness, a female-to-male transsexual, a gender non-conforming man, a downwardly mobile free spirit, a wannabe artist, a pansexual (almost) celibate lover, an agnostic, a seeker of enlightenment.
In every space I enter, I feel my difference. I feel the struggles that come with being different. But I don’t talk about that much. Not an easy dinner conversation when you’re the kind of introvert that makes other introverts look like party animals. Besides, who wants to be a downer. So much of my journey has taken me through suffering, that ultimate human experience. It still hurts to talk about the loss that comes with some of my more primary identities. The family who stood by helplessly as I sank deeper into the darkness of clinical depression. The mother who disowned me for daring to turn my back on my “god-given” femininity. My lover who left me because I could no longer support her. The loss of jobs and friends. The inability to speak or write what lies closest to my heart. The confusion that comes with doubting yourself.
I accept that others experience belonging differently, in the sense that they experience it at all. I’ve learned to be OK with that, with being slightly out of step with the way others move. Not that I like it. But I guess I’ve finally realized that comparing myself to everyone else does me no good, and leaves me feeling miserable, envious, small. Why do that to myself?
Instead, I try to focus on the basics. I was born, I am here, I exist, I belong. I breathe, I walk, I talk, I grow. I belong on this earth as much as anyone – because I am human. Because every human has a place under the sun. My awkward steps are leading me somewhere even if I’m not always clear where that is. Even if it’s only in circles. Besides, everyone is different if you dig deep enough.
Despite the weirdness of my storied past I’ve survived this far. And along the way, I have managed to accumulate a collection of friends, memories, experiences that give my life some kind of meaning. They make this journey, this daily struggle I call life, worth it. I have done nothing to deserve this life. But maybe that’s OK. Life is not earned, it’s simply accepted. It’s the gift, the curse, the thing we all have in common. It’s what binds us together.
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/katieheartsphotography/5558352358/”>katieblench</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>