This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person or place is unintentional.
“I don’t know who I am” the young boy said.
“Why? Do you have amnesia? Do you remember your name?”
“You don’t understand. Nobody does. “
“Listen kid, I do understand. You might be making things more complicated than they need to be. You’re still a kid – you have lots of time to figure out who you are. Hell, some of us are still trying to figure it out in our seventies. There’s no deadline, no quiz at the end. You figure it out as you go along and until then, just be you.”
“That’s the point, I don’t know who I am, I’m different from other people.”
“That’s the beauty of the world – we’re all different. Yet we’re all the same. Just be yourself – focus on being who YOU want to be and never mind trying to fit other people’s idea of who you should be.”
“I get teased at school and called name. Once I got beat up on the way home. The girls understand – they treat me like I’m just one of their girlfriends, but I get picked on almost every day by bullies.”
“Bullies are bullies. They act that way because you threaten them – by being different. That’s where racism comes from and all those religious wars throughout history. Some people think different is bad. Bullies will pick on people for being too short, too fat, too black, too anything that isn’t like them. Heck, in some countries they have a vendetta against people with red hair.”
“You’re not like most people your age. Most of your generation is the worst.”
“I always thought racism and hatred was a learned behaviour. Can you believe I never saw a black person until I was 11? Tells you what kind of community I grew up in. I wasn’t racist though – mostly curious. I was the same way when I met my first gay person when I was 20. I was curious. I never understood why people got so upset at others being different. They always say put yourself in other people’s shoes. Well, how would we feel if we were white in a predominately black country and we were treated that way.
“Treat others as you would like to be treated. That’s what my mother taught me. She didn’t say only if they’re white, and tall, and thin, and blond, and straight.
“And let me share a little secret with you kid – the most famous or successful people are those who dare to be different, who embrace who they are 100%, that rise above the others. Those bullies at school? Most of them will end up being losers in life. Look at Gandhi, Mandela, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Howie Mandel, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ruth Bader-Ginsberg. And that’s just a few.”
“Yeah but they weren’t gay. I wish I wasn’t gay.”
“And I wish I wasn’t 72. Wish all you want but you are what you are. Sometimes you just don’t have a choice. I used to wonder about that; whether people were born gay or whether they chose to be gay, or even if something happened to make them gay.”
“What did you decide?”
“I decided it didn’t matter. I decided to accept people as they are. As long as it doesn’t affect me, why should I care? Live and let live and all that stuff.
“Besides, being gay isn’t the end of the world. Look at musicians like Elton John and Freddie Mercury, CEOs like Tim Cook, chef Ted Allen, and let’s not even start talking about designers like Giorgio Armani and Adolpho. Do you really want to be like everyone else? Or do you want to be happy to be completely yourself. Spend your time figuring out who you are and be that. Don’t waste time trying to be like everyone else.”
“I guess you do understand, sort of.”
“I don’t need to understand. I just need to accept people for who they are, like you should. And start by accepting yourself – as you are. And anytime you need reminding, here’s my name and number. Call me. I’ll listen.”