In your own skin
Marvin is learning more and more about sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). The more he learns, the more he thinks back to someone from his past.
No big deal
In primary, I shared a class with a kid called Michael. He was well-mannered, always shared his break, was thoughtful: a good lad.
The thing was, he hated hanging out with the other boys. He’d sit with the girls at lunch, always pick the girl’s teams during sports; he even went swimming with the girls when it was the boy’s day to play football. The one time we insisted he play for the boy’s team, he cried. We left him alone after that.
I never really thought much about it. He wasn’t hurting anybody, and he was allowed to hang out with whomever he wanted to. It wasn’t like there weren’t girls who hung out with the boys more, either.
As I grew up and learned a lot more, I realized that this might have been a much bigger thing than I understood at the time. The more I read about and learn about sexual orientation and gender identity, the more I think about Michael.
Was he uncomfortable in his own skin, as seemingly so many are now? Did he feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body? How much did the teasing that we thought was harmless affect him? How did his parents react to his ‘different’ behavior? Did they try to understand him, and were they hard on him for not ‘outgrowing his strange phase’?
And now, is he attracted to women or men? Or both? How is he faring in this society that claims that we should all love each other despite our differences but savagely attacks anyone who is different to them?
It must be the hardest thing, to be uncomfortable in your own skin.
All around you, the idea that boys should act like boys and girls should act like girls is drilled into you. All your family and friends conform to it, your religion says that it is divine law, and yet… There you are. Shunned for exhibiting traits associated with the ‘other side’. Standing by yourself when, just like everyone else, you just want to fit in and be accepted.
Like everyone else.
Different isn’t bad
I realize now that Michael’s normal isn’t my normal.
I also know now that it’s unfair in a world of such vastly different people to insist that your “normal” be everyone’s normal.
We expect that your body will determine your gender identity. From there, it’s pretty straight forward how your sexual orientation will turn out. For Michael, it wasn’t like that. Why, I’ll probably never know.
What I do know is that he was a good-natured person then, and he probably is now. I know that he was dealing with something adults were ill-equipped to handle, much less a child.
I know that he lives in a country where people fear what they don’t understand, and would rather ignore or resort to force to ‘correct a mistake’ than try to understand where he’s coming from.
To Michael, I say I’m sorry for any harm I may have caused you. I hope that you’re surrounded by people who understand you and do right by you. And I hope you found a way to be comfortable in your own skin, whatever that entails.
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