Giving Shame the Finger!

Growing Pains, Louise Clare Dalton, Queer

An ‘At What Point do I Qualify? My Queer Experience’ Post

By Louise Clare Dalton

Let’s talk about shame baby, let’s talk about it and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the – oh wait. Hon, let’s not kid ourselves, there isn’t much ‘good’ to speak of when it comes to the shame surrounding sexuality and queerness.

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Shame is something that routinely appears in my writing, whether it be poetry, playwriting or as a part of this blog. For me, it’s really important to unpick both the conscious and unconscious shame I feel surrounding my sexuality in order to move on from it. The hope? If we can learn to feel shame, it’s possible to unlearn it too.

Since I came out to my mum around a year ago, she’s taken proactive steps towards becoming the best ally she can be. To give her an insight into my world (and because she’s great at correcting my spelling mistakes. Ta, Mum!) I send her a link to my blog every month. After last month’s piece in particular, it was interesting to hear her shock over the repeated mention of shame.

See, most of the time straight folks don’t have to deal with any shame surrounding their sexuality, so it’s never really been something for her to consider in regards to her own life. It’s likely that she’s never felt othered because of who she’s attracted to.

When people tell me that it took them longer than they would have liked to be comfortably open with their sexuality, it doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s no shock to hear that for many people, this shit still ain’t easy. But for some people I’ve spoken to (particularly straight, cis folk) this can come asa surprise. There’s a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about what could cause someone to feel ashamed of their queerness.

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So let’s dive into this a little more…

Like many others, before I knew what the word ‘gay’ actually meant I had heard it on the playground. From my earliest memories of primary school, until I left academia at the age of sixteen, I remember hearing the word gay thrown around as an insult. And although it pains me to say, I used it myself as a kid, before I really understood the gravity of what using the word in this way meant. But the worst part? None of us were pulled up on it by the adults around us that should have known better. Nobody sat us down and explained, so by the time we knew what the word gay actually meant, the damage was already done. The seeds of shame and self-hate were already planted.

And in case you think times have changed since I was at school, as recently as a couple of years ago, I had to have a difficult conversation with a thirty-year-old, straight, cis friend about why they shouldn’t use the word gay in this way. So, yeah … unfortunately we’re not out of the woods with that one.

This is just one example of how so many children will have their first introduction to gay and queer culture. They will falsely learn that ‘gay’ means lame, rubbish or bad before they learn the truth of it, and although it may seem small to some, things like this are massive. They slowly chip away at our sense of pride before we’re old enough to tie our shoelaces.

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Now, times are definitely changing and we’ve come a long way, but, honeys, we just ain’t there yet. Sadly, I still hear people speaking this way now. I still hear the slurs I heard as a kid, and a lot of ignorance among adults when it comes to queer people, queer sex, culture and expression.

I think it’s important for allies of the queer community (hello and welcome, you wonderful hons) to understand the shame that is thrust upon us queer folk, often from a very young age. To understand that although you may not feel you’re being overtly homophobic, the things you say can still have an effect. It’s important to understand that this shame surrounding sexuality hasn’t come out of thin air, or even just from the monumental things – the historical mistreatment of queer people, the injustice or the overt homophobia. It comes from the seemingly smaller things we see, hear and experience too.

For queer allies, it’s important to understand that these ‘small’ things can have a huge impact on how safe we feel to be ourselves, and how we understand ourselves within the wider context of the world. This is particularly important for those influencing the next generation, so let’s make this change now, and ensure that teachers, parents and guardians have the right tools, enabling them to deal with these situations effectively, with kindness, compassion and knowledge.

And, in the interest of healing, it’s important (for me at least) to name the demon. To understand some of the shit that induced shame within me, and to understand that it’s the fault of a homophobic world, and not of me or any other queer person.

And then, most importantly… TO LET IT ALL THE FUCK GO! Love yourself, hon. That shame ain’t for you, because you are bloody wonderful.

Peace and rainbow love,

Lou x

Louise Clare Dalton is a feminist, queer writer and poet interested in sharing her personal experience. She aims to open up the dialogue about common misconceptions and the queer-phobic narratives they perpetuate. Louise writes her own blog at www.louiseclaredalton.com, which focuses on ethical consumerism and healthy life hacks. Finalist in the Roundhouse Poetry Slam 19, her spoken-word poetry focuses on introspection and understanding how societal pressure affects human behaviour.

Lou was our featured poet in September 2020. Check out her performance of What They Told You

Read all of Lou’s At What Point Do I Qualify? posts

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