Acceptance comes in so many different forms | Opinion

State Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, speaks to LGBTQ advocates and their allies during a rally on the Capitol steps on Tuesday, 10/2/19 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

By Holly Evans

Acceptance is something that every individual seeks. Whether from your family, friends, coworkers or society in general.  As children we seek acceptance by our parents or our classmates in school. As adults we seek acceptance from coworkers, family, friends and society.

For most people seeking acceptance is stressful enough. For gay and transgender individuals this is even more difficult. We deal with the added layer of learning to first accept ourselves.  Figuring out why we feel different from that which society expects.

At first, we address this in silence, alone thinking that we are the only person experiencing such feelings, and for most we experience this as a young child or teen.

As we outwardly seek the acceptance by society as the individual for which we have been labeled, or identified as at birth, or as the person for whom we are expected to be, inwardly we are silently dealing with the accepting ourselves, with the fact that we are not the person that we outwardly project.

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For most, this struggle is done with the added fear that those whose acceptance we have garnished through life will now reject us should they ever learn of what we are silently dealing with inside.

As we get older, we continue this struggle. For all, this is a very personal battle on how best to address this inner conflict.  Many simply choose to live their lives dealing with this alone, in silence. Others, like myself, come to a point in our lives where we can no longer live in silence.

We come to a point where we must share our internal struggles with those whose acceptance and trust we have spent our entire lives cultivating knowing that their acceptance may now be lost coupled with the question of how those around us, society in whole, will accept us.

I have been fortunate, those most important to me, in my life, have let me know that they love me and accept me for who I am.

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However, for many gay or transgender individuals this is not the case. This lack of acceptance by family, friends, coworkers and society in general coupled with the internal struggles of understanding our gender identity, or gender preference can foster feelings of loneliness, depression, and even failure. The loss of this love and acceptance by those closest to us at a time of need can be devastating.

If you are reading this and experiencing these very emotions, if you are struggling with how best to discuss your very personal battle, don’t be afraid to seek help.

Start with finding a support group and speak with someone who has experienced and understands the very emotions you are struggling with. Find someone who has navigated the journey for which you are about to embark upon. I know, as this was so very helpful to me in my struggle with my self-acceptance. What is important is that you speak to someone who has successfully navigated their individual journey.

Don’t be afraid to talk and seek help.

If you are transgender it is important that you speak to a qualified therapist who specializes in gender identity disorders. It is so important to understand that there is nothing wrong with us and that we, as gay or transgender individuals, are part of a beautiful society and that we are here to add a little color to what would otherwise be an oh so boring black and white world.

We, as gay or transgender individuals, must also understand that part of acceptance is allowing those closest to us, the time they require to process this information once they learn. Acceptance by family members or close friends is just as personal for them.

They too need time to understand and comprehend what we have spent years dealing with in silence.  Affording those closest to us the time they need is so important to maintaining their love and support. Don’t rush them, be patient. As this love and support is so very important as we begin to express ourselves more openly.

If your family is not so supportive or accepting, it is important to then find a few close friends or a support group to be there with you and help you along your way. Having someone to talk to, to lean on is so very helpful.

Coming to accept yourself is such a freeing and powerful feeling. No longer worrying about what others say or think. Learning how not to waste emotional energy on the negative comments from those whose acceptance is unimportant allows us to focus on the more important and positive aspects of our lives.

For once we come to accept ourselves, it is so much easier to express our self-confidence and to focus on the positive productive aspects of our lives. This very self-confidence in turn projects one’s personal self-acceptance and the positive snowball effect only builds upon itself.

Go and take on the day. Smile feel good about yourself; you deserve it. Love yourself for who you really are inside.

Holly Evans wrote this piece for The Central Voice, the LGBTQ newspaper of central Pennsylvania, where it first appeared. She the is the president of TransCentralPA, an organization committed to providing advocacy and caring support for transgender individuals, their significant others, families, friends and allies.