Be Not Afraid

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We learned a long time ago, us queer kids, how to live in fear. When the phone rang at home, when a friend started behaving weird, when a parent got angry with our choice of clothes, when a brother read our MSN chats, when we forgot to sign out from our email, when a stranger wondered out loud if we were male or female, when we went on first dates with someone we met in a chat room, when we walked into school in the morning, when we went to bed at night, every other moment of our lives, we learned to live in fear.

And when you live in fear, fear can only grow. It feeds on your nerves, multiplies, and once you’re an adult, it remains a part of your daily existence. Do they know I’m gay? Who found out? Is my sister going to tell my parents? What if my father finds out? Does my partner look too gay? Is that my co-worker at ACID? Are the comments on my wall too gay? Will my kid grow up miserable? Day in and day out.

And then, when we do encounter homophobia, the violence people so casually perpetuate terrifies us. If you are hit for being gay, you will never forget it. If your mother screams insults at your appearance, you will hate yourself for a really long time. If a friend stops talking to you for being queer, you will rarely trust a friend again. You will feel inferior, always, no matter how badly you try to hide it, as you try badly to hide your queerness, afraid someone will find out.

If you are hit for being gay, you will never forget it.

And you remain afraid.

If you’re lucky, you will feel stronger and more supported as you grow older and build your alternative families. But then you read a homophobic comment somewhere and that same old fear creeps in again. You wonder: I thought I was over this; why does a stupid, ignorant comment like that scare me?

It is ok to feel afraid, my friend. You are no less of an activist or a warrior if you are. It takes a long time for us to stop being afraid and part of me wonders if you ever really get there. Sometimes, I see queers who have been abused terribly when they were younger go out and do extremely brave things. Maybe it’s because they have nothing left to lose when they’ve lost the people closest to them. Maybe they’ve developed thicker skin.

I want to learn to be not afraid – not just say it to seem defiant, but to really, really feel it, to go through one entire day without a single sense of fear. I have never had a day like that in my life. And, yet, I find myself doing brave things, sometimes, not because I have nothing to lose, but because I love queer kids and I want them to be not afraid. Bashing queer kids is unforgivable. For queer kids to feel alright about themselves, I would face any fear – and I do. But I still study every move a million times for all the risks it carries because reckless bravery is just plain old stupidity. And it’s not going to help the queer kids.

We must learn to find strength in each other, because only together can we help one another be not afraid. We can give each other enough love to unlearn all the homophobia inside us. There is nothing more powerful we can do, as a queer community, than to love and be kind to each other. In each other, and in the queer kids we haven’t met yet, we will find reason and wisdom to do the right things. We will find motivation to get over ourselves and be brave for others. And being brave does not mean coming out. It means holding our movement accountable – in our choices and actions and words – to generations of queers to come.

Be not afraid, my friend. We are all counting on you.

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