27 August 2002

My Cultural and Sexual Identity

Équipe -Pose ta question!-

‘'Blah-blah-blah…!''  –  Myths and Rumours

The fact is that men who love other men exist everywhere in the world.  In every country, from the North American continent and Europe to Africa and Asia, and among all races and colours, human sexuality has taken on many different forms, including homosexuality and bisexuality.

And more than that, these different sexualities are not exclusive to recent history.  Researchers and scholars have proven as fact that relationships between men have existed for centuries, among cultures all over the world.

So no one race or ethnicity can claim homosexuality as their own, or blame it on any specific other.

It is undeniable that there are those who have personal problems with homosexual relationships.  This mindset is actually quite recent, with same-sex partnerships often having been accepted as simply another facet of life in many cultures, mostly outside the West, for centuries.

However, in more modern times, there is a high level of denial amongst certain cultures about the existence of homosexuality in their numbers.  It is often spoken of as if it was some sort of genetic weakness or anomaly, passed from family in less intelligent or less masculine races.

Yet it is a simple fact, becoming more and more obvious,
that variety in sexuality exists everywhere, no matter how masculine or feminine
the image and reputation of one ethnicity or another.

Am I a man or not?

The models of masculinity and femininity are often very rigid according to the traditions and upbringing of each respective culture.  Traditionally, men are strong, dominant, and competitive – the ‘‘hunter-gatherer'' of his family unit, and as such, naturally attracted to women.  Conversely, women are traditionally more delicate, soft, often subservient and submissive, who are naturally expected to be attracted to men.

These ideals are extremes to the point of stereotyping, and few people have any hope of reaching them.  More realistic are points somewhere in between, with men attaining one or more of the traits, while developing others that don't necessarily correspond with the traditional models of masculinity.  This doesn't make them any less a man, no matter how the opinion of others differs. 


If my father finds out, he'll kill me.  If my mother finds out, she'll have a heart attack!

It's not uncommon for parents to keep pestering their children to marry and raise a family.  Most parents, in fact, harbour dreams from when a child is very young about the kind of person her will be, what kind of woman he will marry, and what kind of family he will raise.  These dreams are often difficult to let go, which can cause misunderstandings, anger, and severe disappointment when a child grows into his sexuality.

The most important thing to remember is that sexuality is a permanent part of one's character and cannot be changed, even by force.  They are natural developments, unmovable and bestowed arbitrarily.  As such, they should not be a source of regret, self-loathing or guilt.  Internalizing the pain and taking responsibility for other people's disappointment does little more than cause needless depression.

Everyone has the right to live their life honestly, without shame or the need to hide.  It is not a betrayal to one's culture or home community to be gay, no matter what other people say.  The only betrayal possible is to betray one's self by denying what makes him or her happy.

Each individual's personal reality is unique, and need not conform to anyone else's ideas of what it should be.  It is important to be aware of, and comfortable with that reality, even though it might be difficult to openly express it.


Becoming comfortable with your sexuality, and finding your voice

Everyone has their own way of handling their personal and cultural conflicts.  What works for one person may not work for another, but it is often helpful to talk to other men who have been through – or are going through – the same transition.  Seeing the incredible diversity in solutions, as well as cultures from which they originate, can be encouraging to someone who is searching for his own way of dealing with his sexuality.

As hard as it might be, it is important to identify certain attitudes and concepts that can damage your self-esteem.  Many people have internalized a certain amount of self-hatred and shame surrounding their sexual identity, putting themselves into a metaphorical straightjacket, weighing themselves down with emotional baggage that prevents personal growth.

It is inevitable that when certain basic elements of a certain culture are called into question by someone different from the norm, conflicts will arise, especially if certain traditions and codes of conduct are expected of an individual.  It is up to you to decide if and when conflicts between your heritage and your sexuality compromise your personal integrity.

It should now be apparent that cultural origin in and of itself is not the problem.  Reconciling cultural identity with sexual identity is not only possible, but it may even be desirable for a diverse and fulfilling lifestyle.

Adapted from ‘I Am Of Many Colors.  Have Pride in Them All’  published by Séro Zéro.