This year’s Pride month marked the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots – when transgender people, gay people, and drag queens protested against police brutality for six days after a brutal raid at NYC’s Stonewall Inn. Because this year’s celebration overlays with a global human rights movement, we should continue to liberate, educate, and celebrate voices of the queer community – stand in solidarity and, become better allies.
Pride isn’t a one-off event and NERD Productions are proud all year round. They are committed to amplifying the voices of those who are underrepresented and produce work that reflects today’s society. In this heartfelt read, live-action director, Brett de Vos, discusses the best ways to support friends and family coming out to you.
What is love? What is Truth?
Don’t worry, you haven’t clicked on the wrong link – this is about supporting friends and family in coming out to others about their specific gender/sexual identifications. We will dive into the nuts and bolts of how best to support this process, however, beforehand, I think it’s important to contextualise it properly.
I come from a very conservative background – when I was ‘coming into my own’, not only was queerness frowned upon in my community, but furthermore, it was completely unspoken and taboo to discuss it in any social situation. I remember having an attraction to someone of the same gender, at a very young age. At that time, I completely pushed those feelings under the carpet, because I didn’t want to face the part of me, that I knew was considered ‘bad’ and ‘wrong’. This reaction to a naturally occurring inquisitiveness and exploration of self, can be incredibly destructive and infuse wrongly through so many aspects of one’s life. Self-rejection and its impact compounds overtime.
So, if you’re reading this, wanting to help and create conversations around sexuality, gender preferences and identification - you are already making a difference. This brings me back to my opening line: What is truth….
Truth, like most things, can be subjective - (please bear with me for a very rudimentary metaphor). To me, it is true that grapes are very delicious, whereas Mark’s truth, my friend, find grapes disgusting. My truth is no more or less true than Mark’s, even though they express juxtaposing viewpoints. No matter how much I pretend to dislike grapes to gain favour with, or not upset Mark, my truth remains. In all likelihood, my denial and suppression of my ‘grape truth’ will only lead to feelings of guilt, confusion and of course, me binge eating grapes late at night by myself in a pool of my own tears.
My point is that the truth will always come out. This is why it is so important to be true to yourself and create an environment where others feel like they can also be true to themselves. Denial of one’s inner truth only leads to distortions and sometimes, even more extreme reactions and actions.
What about love?
Love works in the same way as truth: love is love regardless of who experiences it or who or what the object of love is. Yes, the intensity or hue of love can differ – the way I love peanut butter (mmmmmm…. peanut butter) is certainly different from the way I love my partner or parents. With such a large range of love, how does one conceptualise it? The truth is that only you, can answer what love is - because it is different for each one of us.
This may seem contradictory to my previous statement ‘… love is love regardless…’, but in fact, it is a complementary view. Love is something that is cultivated inside of us, not a reaction to something outside of ourselves – who/what we choose to make the object of our love and how we choose to express that love is unique, but where it comes from – the internal spark – is the same.
Many people still believe that being queer is a choice – that is their truth. While many others believe that you are born that way (re: Lady Gaga song). What I am saying is that it really doesn’t matter what is ‘true’. When you realise the subjective and contrastingly the objective nature of love and truth, it becomes apparent that both exist simultaneously. What is truly important is allowing others to explore their own truth instead of suppressing or oppressing it as that will lead to more distortion.
It would be great to have a simple ‘do's and don't's’ list to help guide you through the process of how best to be supportive, but the truth is that what could be supportive to one person could be dismissive to another. I’ll give you an example: one of my closest friends I grew up with was (and is) gay. Everyone knew it, especially me, but he only ‘came out’ to me in his early ’20s. When he came out I responded saying ‘yeah, of course – I knew that - everybody knows’. I thought my response would affirm his inner truth, but in fact, he found it to be dismissive of his journey and this
huge step of coming out. For some, my reaction could exactly be what they wanted, for others it could be borderline offensive. Each individual will require a different approach… so what to do?
Well, it’s a complex issue, but my advice is simple: be open, receptive and communicate. Ask the individual how you can best support them – just that question and the sentiment behind it will make them feel supported and assure them that they can talk to you without judgment. And of course, tell them you love them – that’s always nice to hear.
In case none of that was very helpful at all, I will leave you with this quote I found on IG (author unknown) that resonated with me and I think will be helpful: