But first, love yourself

It is very hard for a homosexual to love himself or herself. The world demands otherwise. The world does not understand, and what it does not understand, it fears. What it fears, it hates. Your parents, your peers, the society you live in - they want nothing more than for you to share their hatred of homosexuality. They want to be vindicated in their hatred, justified. From the moment you crawl out of the womb, they have already begun to hate you.

Throughout childhood and youth, you are told so many times to hate yourself. Your friends make fun of homosexuals. Your parents ridicule and revile them. Your churches and mosques deem them perverted.

And you, like a flower trying to open its petals to the warmth of the sun, you spend all of your childhood years wrapped up tightly in yourself. You do not want to open your petals; you do not want others to see what they will see when you do.

Rightly so. Until you are older, until you have power, you are wise to keep your secret to yourself. Until you are ready to be abandoned, to put your own food on your own table, yes indeed, do keep quiet. That is how it must be for now.

But you do not have to fall into the trap they have set for you - you do not have to hate yourself. You can make a choice; you can make a decision. You can go one way, and not the other. You can choose this, and forego that. You can say, I am what I am, and that's okay. You can, in defiance of everything you have been taught, choose to love yourself.

Such a hard road is this. Be warned. If you are lucky you will find support and encouragement from your family and perhaps a few friends. But this is not to be counted on. What they say with their lips and what they feel in their hearts may be vastly different things. And you will know the truth of it. You will look into your father's eyes and see disappointment. You will look into your mother's eyes and see resignation, dreams crushed and broken. They may fool themselves into believing that you're going through a "phase" - and you'll see the light one day in the future. They may anguish endlessly over the fear that you will lose your soul, that you will be damned. They may feel they have failed as parents, that they have done something wrong, that you are their punishment. In so many subtle ways, these messages will be conveyed to you.

When you go out into the world, find employment, enroll for university classes, you will continue to find condemnation and hatred, social disapproval, loose tongues wagging behind your back. A hundred and one little deaths await you. Make no mistake: thousands of homosexuals are beaten, maimed and murdered every year. Many more are the objects of scorn and derision, the butt of jokes, slander and ineuendo.

When you are homosexual you will find that your employer may not promote you to higher positions, that certain doors will be closed to you, that advancement and opportunities may vanish before your eyes. You may not be wanted as a teacher in a small town - the parents may be fearful that you will molest their children. You may not be wanted as a nurse at the local hospital - the residents may fear you will pass on Aids to the patients just by your very presence. You will face a hundred and one bizarre situations as the fag-bashers and hate-mongerers around you do their work.

There will be so many reasons to hate yourself, but I say, don't do it. If you do, you will only make your situation much worse.

It may help you to know that so many have gone before you: people like Socrates, Michaelangelo, Oscar Wilde, Susan B. Anthony, Virginia Woolf, Alexander the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare - heroic people, geniuses, the gifted, the talented, the artistic. And there's no shortage of such greats in our own day and age: Elton John, Melissa Etheridge, Freddie Mercury, fashion designers like Versace, dancers like Rudolf Nureyev, novelists like Gore Vidal - in every field, in every endeavour, in every sphere of life.

You can be sure each one of these people came to the crossroads where you are now: to love oneself or not. To reject society's hatred; to accept what one is; to move on and live a life.

This is not an easy decision to make, but if you would live, if you would be happy, then you must choose. And whether you like it or not, and whether it's fair or not, you will suffer for your homosexuality. You can suffer silently in the closet; or you can suffer outside the closet. But suffer you will. Don't add to it by hating yourself.

I would like to be able to say that the world will embrace you, will enjoy the diversity you offer, will "live and let live". In a few societies this is true; but in most, it is not. It would be foolish to pretend otherwise. Still, by loving yourself, you will ease the burden a bit, and you will give yourself a chance at happiness and fulfillment. By not loving yourself, the battle will be lost before it's even begun.

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