Reflections on identity and otherness

A couple of months ago, I was in a training session where we were exploring diversity and difference in the context of the ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressed’.

In one of the exercises, we were asked by the facilitator to join one of the designated groups that we had collectively generated; the idea was for us to explore the potential issues faced by that oppressed group.

The groups included – Women, Jewish, Working class, LGBTI, Black and a couple of others that I forget.  We had to join a group that we self-identified with. As people moved around to join their chosen group, a guy from one of the other groups waved at me and said ‘come on, we are over here’. From the corner of my eye, I noticed that he was inviting me to join the Black group. ‘It’s okay, I’ll stay over here’, I said – ‘over here’, being the LGBTI group. The exchange lasted only a couple of seconds and yet it had a profound impact on me.

As I reflected on the exercise afterwards, I was conscious that whilst in the LGBTI group, I had left the part of me that would have loved to talk about race behind.  And I knew that in joining the Black group, I would have left my sexuality behind too.  There was also a part of me that wanted to talk about being a man; that, I was also conscious was lost in the midst of the LGBTI group.

I guess these are issues that we all face as we navigate the world in our daily lives; that ongoing internal dialogue about which part of ourselves do we leave behind, as we show up in the different aspects of our life.

For a long time, my sexuality was a part of me that was left behind as I navigated the world. I came to learn that it was not welcomed in family circles and other similar gatherings. How did I learn this? Well, I have not had heated conversations with family this year on what its like being a man or what its like being black. I have not had to face racism from my family this year, but I have had to face homophobia. I have had to face being told that being gay brings shame on the family and ‘what mother would wish that on her child’, that ‘what I do sexually is my own personal problem’ and that ‘my kind should keep what they do behind closed doors’. Harsh words, but I am so grateful for them, for out of those words I learnt to unleash the courage to live my own life and be comfortable with my otherness.

Ultimately, I believe that I am not defined by my gender, race or sexuality. Deep within me at my core, I know that I am defined by my values, character and how I live my life.

Nonetheless, I have come to understand that my gender, race and sexuality are part of me and do influence how I show up in the world, and how I am perceived. And so this year, I have come to embrace the fact that none of them will be left behind as I navigate the world, for I am proud to be a Black, Gay, Man.

Copyright © 2011 OutTales.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tony Patterson
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 22:06:24

    Very nicely said. 🙂


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