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Celebrating Canada’s LGBTQ2+ Community

True Colours

Drop the mask, and step into the fullness of the life you were born to live…

By Jumol Royes

Queer people don’t grow up as ourselves; we grow up playing a version of ourselves that sacrifices authenticity to minimize humiliation and prejudice. The massive task of our adult lives is to unpick which parts of ourselves are truly us and which parts we’ve created to protect us.

I wish I could take credit for this quote, but I can’t.

It’s the first in a series of viral tweets sent out earlier this year by writer and activist Alexander Leon. The tweets had a lot of people talking and seemed to really resonate with the LGBTQ2+ community. They got me thinking about all the masks we wear as queer folk, as well as about my own personal journey of blossoming, blooming and becoming the person I was meant to be.

When I was about six or seven years old, I had a special white sweatshirt with a picture of Bart Simpson on the front (if you’re of a particular age, you’ll recall what a pop-culture phenomenon The Simpsons was back in the day). I wore it to school with pride, only to have it ruined when the class bully pushed me down into the mud one day at recess. I don’t know for sure why he enjoyed picking on me. Perhaps he was jealous, or maybe he could sense that I wasn’t like all the other boys. Regardless, the message I received came through loud and clear: being different puts a bull’s-eye on your back. Figure out a way to fit in at all costs. To this day, I sometimes still catch myself trying to “act macho,” and affect a deeper tone in my voice when I enter a barbershop to get a haircut. Old habits…

The costs associated with armouring up and putting on a mask don’t come cheap.

Data collected by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario shows that compared to heterosexual people, LGBTQ2+ people face higher rates of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and phobic disorders, suicidality, self-harm and substance use, as well as double the risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It’s massive and existential and difficult. But I’m convinced that being confronted with the need for profound self-discovery so explicitly (and often early in life!) is a gift in disguise. We come out on the other end wiser and truer to ourselves. Some cisgender/heterosexual people never get there.

Living an authentic life might sound like an amazing Instagram hashtag, but the work required to achieve it is almost always messy and fraught with land mines.

You’ve no doubt heard about quarter- or mid-life crises. If you haven’t experienced one yet, trust me, it’s coming. The process is marked by profound, philosophical questions like “Who am I, really?” and it feels as if the world as you know it has been turned upside down.

“It’s not a crisis; it’s a slow, brutal unravelling,” says researcher, storyteller and New York Times bestselling author Brené Brown. “This is where everything that we thought protected us keeps us from being the partners, the parents, the professionals, the people that we want to be.”

The thing about self-discovery and self-awareness is that once you start down the path towards seeing yourself as you truly are, you can’t unsee it. Think of it like crossing over a threshold from which there’s no turning back. You can either let fear keep you stuck and feeling paralyzed, or you can choose to be brave and step into the fullness of the life you were born to live.

All of this is to say – be kind to yourself. Discovering who you really are is an enormous task; it doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it happen without some hiccups along the way. Be patient, be compassionate, be vulnerable and exist loudly. And most of all – be proud!

I loved crayon etching or scratch art when I was a kid. I would draw pictures with vibrant colours, cover them over with black crayon and then scratch away until the colours revealed themselves again. It’s the perfect metaphor for my life and the lives of many of us in the LGBTQ2+ community. From an early age, we were taught that it wasn’t safe or normal or acceptable to be our authentic selves and let our true colours shine through. And so we learned to hide them.

Our collective soul assignment is to unlearn those lessons and to live our lives boldly, brightly and in full colour.

JUMOL ROYES is a Toronto-based storyteller and communications strategist with a keen interest in personal development and transformation and a love of all things Real Housewives. Follow him on Twitter at @Jumol and on Instagram at @jumolroyes.

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