Focus: Realising you’re different and embracing it

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DISCOVERING who you are can be a lengthy, exhausting and terrifying experience.
Some will never get the opportunity to unearth the truths of themselves in their lifetime, and some will struggle to come to terms with being different to a point where their only relief is to escape through self-medication or harm to themselves.

In a society that likes to categorise just about everything, it’s difficult to find out who you are when you don’t quite fit under a given label.

There was never a specific experience in my life that made me go, “Ohh, I’m definitely not straight”, but looking back on my childhood there were some moments where I should’ve realised sooner.

Coming home every day after school excited to watch ‘H2O: Just Add Water’ – a show about teenage girls who turn into mermaids and wear bikinis for most of the show – should’ve been the first hint.

Hearing the lines, “Girls love girls and boys // And love is not a choice” from Panic! At The Disco’s ‘Girls/Girls/Boys’ on the radio was an “Aha!” moment for little twelve-year-old me.

Once I discovered the term ‘bisexual’, I felt like everything fell into place in my mind.

If only the journey stopped at finding out who you are. Sooner or later, everyone else is going to find out, too.

I didn’t realise how scared I was at revealing myself to anyone until the night came when I had made up my mind to tell my father.

I called him, who lives in Australia – mainly out of ease of not having to face him in person.

I said hi, we chatted for a bit, and told him I had something to tell him. “I’m bisexual”, is all I said before I immediately started sobbing.

I found myself struck with genuine fear – fear that I would be seen differently by my father, fear that I wouldn’t be understood, fear that I wouldn’t be accepted.
“Sweetie, I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, alien – as long as you’re happy, I’m happy.”

“If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
– Maya Angelou

I cried even more. I was super lucky that my dad supported me – it’s hard enough discovering you’re different and dealing with that realisation on your own, let alone being shunned by the ones you love.

Some youth don’t have the luxury of having a supportive and accepting family, or even a group of people their age that share similar experiences. Some youth will never find a safe place or time to come out to loved ones, and that struck a chord in me.

We needed a space in our little town of Whakatane where youth that weren’t as lucky as me, could find safety and comfort with others just like them.

Four years after coming out, Trident’s first Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) group was founded by a group of friends and I – and although fairly new and still in the works – starting up the GSA with my friends this year at Trident has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

I’m learning more about myself, about other people, and the best part is that I get to help create a space where people my age and younger can discover parts of their identities they never knew existed – in a safe, tolerant and welcoming environment.

One thing that I hope will come out of the GSA is that the people in it build connections that last for years and that the GSA will help to alleviate the struggles that us Rainbow kids go through now and will continue to go through in the future.

Society has come a long way in regards to acknowledging and accepting the diversity in all forms, and we still have a long way to go. But in order for the rest of the world to accept who you are, you have to begin to discover and accept your true self.

Maia Alexandre
Trident High School

Contributed