Equality, Diversity, Acceptance and Inclusion
Equality, Diversity, Acceptance and Inclusion- A personal gay and diverse journey, So far…by Mario Frendo
‘’Some Queer people don’t grow up as themselves, we grow up playing a version of what we are fed as being acceptable, even if it causes trauma and suicide, we sacrifice authenticity to minimise humiliation and prejudice wanting desperately to fit in and be part of something that feels right within’’.
When I was asked if I would write a piece for Gay Pride month, I panicked! was I up to date with all the terms and conditions of what was acceptable? what was new? what was woke and what was in consciousness currently, would I be able to articulate my thoughts and feelings accurately? Was I a proper gay man? whatever that was?
I then began to do, what many do in situations of gathering or searching information…I entered the search world of “Google”, my trusted reference tool. I also reached out to friends on social media for anecdotal views, I became informed with a huge amount, at times of conflicting Information, which left me with a dilemma, how do I transfer this war and peace novel into to a bite sized appetiser, without misrepresenting others or myself?
The answer came to me like a bolt of lightning, tell my own story of my journey so far…whatever that was, it was my story and as authentic as I could be.
So, are you sitting comfortably?
Back in the day.
I began to be conscious of my difference and issues of equality from the age of three. I remember being attracted to another boy at play school, I was drawn to him. I was soon made aware that this behaviour I was displaying, was not something that was acceptable from the subtle reflection of others reaction to our mutual affection.
Showing affection to another boy, from the reaction of members of adults around me, at that time was clearly not acceptable and shaped my social construct well into my adulthood.
I instinctively knew, like all ‘’bad behaviour’’ whatever was happening within me and my displayed behaviour, was not socially acceptable.
The young are like sponges and learn so fast from looks, passive aggressive behaviour and just a plane old telling off.
I learned very quickly that this sort of ‘’abnormal’’ self-expression was not encouraged, if it didn’t fit into the perceived general norm of society of the day and still unacceptable in many countries around the world as I write this.
I am after all, speaking of a time before we learned what we now know today, that exploration of normalised behaviour in children’s exploration of sexuality and self (ego) is just that, Normal.
I also began my lonely exploration into dealing with feelings and thoughts that felt very negative and shameful, only becoming conscious of a secret subculture in my teens which led to the conclusion that I was connected to something far bigger than myself.
I began to affect my behaviour consciously and hide my feelings, to avoid being viewed in a negative light, which continued into my mid-thirties, when I came out to my family.
Living a life according to other’s judgments and bias was something I became very practised in.
At six years of age my mother passed away and became a member of single parent family with an immigrant father that spoke with an ‘’accent’’. He had a strong accent and experienced a very strict catholic upbringing, which also compounded the hell, fury abomination brigade and shaped his views on homosexuality.
In Hindsight, I can say the things I experienced in terms of Racism, mostly Focused on seeing my father dealing with racist behaviour, aimed at him and my mother, of Irish heritage, for marrying an Immigrant and for having a darker skin. I was very conscious of comments made about him by my friends at school about his difference, which is the last thing I wanted to hear, because I wanted to be part of a normal family just like my British friends at school. I was ashamed of my father and didn’t want him to interact with my friends at that time.
life would also have further important lessons to come in my exploration of I my own identity.
Something that was to shape my thoughts and feeling from the early part of my life was not only my family’s culture (both the Maltese and Irish) but also The Jamaican Culture which is very similar in many ways to my Parents.
I attended a boarding School in London for several years. I was befriended by the school cook called Rita, a Strong, Funny, Black Jamaican women. She took me under her wing, probably seeing me as a vulnerable child in need of a mother’s love.
I was made to feel special, important and loved. Rita was the first Black women I actually loved. She taught me my first lessons in Racism, equality and Boxing. We would watch the boxing together and eat, home cooked Jamaican, food we bonded, I was her little favourite and repaired my grief.
Rita would tell me about her Children, family and her home back in Jamaica, it sounded amazing and somewhere I was later to work and live for a short time.
Rita gave me something more precious than she realised, through her unconditional love, reconnected me to a mother’s nurturing that I desperately, having just lost my mother. Rita allowed me to Identify with someone different to what I was used to and although I was not aware at the time, Rita informed me of the beauty of difference and the thirst to seek out cultures and people around the world.
Life’s journey leads us to many lessons one of the most important of which is learning to love and be loved in return, it’s that simple to state but the most difficult to allow. We can spend a lifetime to unpick and explore what parts of us are our true authentic self and which parts are from others we have constructed to protect ourselves
A moment which resonates with me in terms of being part of something incredible, was the first time I truly felt part of something much bigger than myself, in terms of belonging.
It was the first time I ever felt pride at being gay, it was being in the stadium at the Gay games in Sydney Australia, seeing thousands of others from around the world, like me celebrating their culture and heritage, seeing thousands of candles in a huge stadium was monumental for me personally and reflected good and banished the negativity I was fed, growing up.
Acceptance, Diversity, Inclusion and Love, reminds me of a song I have sung in church many times.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m found
Was Blind but now I see….
Life is a journey be accepting, be passionate, be compassionate, be grateful, listen to learn, explore, Live Life to the full, spread your blessings and above all be yourself and love yourself.