To see and be seen- Dani Smith

To be able to see

“We are changed by what we see, just as we are changed when we are seen.”

Trevor Mcdonald

The above quotation encapsulates why a diverse curriculum needs to be taught in all schools. All children, whatever race, gender or culture they are from need to see a mirror of their future selves within the curriculum and also be seen for who they are! Without this they will never truly accept themselves or feel accepted within society.

I consider myself very fortunate in that as a child I was seen for who I was. I don’t mean I was known as being gay from a young age but that my parents were supportive of all my interests and views.

As I got older though I found it harder to just be me because I couldn’t see myself represented anywhere. Homosexuality was used as a derogatory term. Personally this is what made it hard for me to come out. I could not see a version of myself in society and so I deemed my feelings to be wrong and felt ashamed and as a result I kept most of my feelings hidden from people apart from very close friends.

Hiding who you are is an art form in its own right. You become a master at controlling and suppressing your emotions. They implode rather than explode for everyone to see. Some people may see you as cold or heartless, that isn’t the case at all. To expose your feelings is to show you are different and there is a fear of stepping into the unknown as you don’t know what reaction you will get. You become a very private person only sharing information with those you truly trust and with others sharing information you think they want to hear.  Your emotional intelligence develops more because by default you put other people’s feelings first before your own and are constantly thinking about what people’s reactions will be to everything!

I didn’t just wake up one morning, jump out of bed and decide to ‘come out’, it happened over a long period of time and not just from one bold statement. Coming out isn’t just about expressing who you are to people. It is also about accepting yourself and for me this was the hardest part and on occasions still is.

My mum approached me about my sexuality when I was a teenager but because I didn’t recognise it in myself yet I didn’t say anything. My parents didn’t find out until my mid-twenties. It was more me confirming it for them really based on my childhood antics and then reserved manner in my teenage years. Even when I’d made the decision to tell them, I communicated it through a text message because I was afraid of their reaction which sounds daft really as they had let me be myself growing up.  My mum’s reaction was to reassure me and let me know that she could totally see why I liked women in that way. My dad on the other hand blamed himself for encouraging my behaviour as a child and it was hard for him to understand that he had done the right thing letting me express myself in whatever way I needed. I am lucky in that both my parents and my sisters were supportive and made me feel like it wasn’t an issue.

Throughout the years I have been the one who has made it a problem. This, I believe is because growing up I didn’t see examples of my future life scenarios. An example of this is when I got engaged to my then partner and we had an engagement party. Female relationships and marriage were not portrayed in any of the quality texts we learnt or anywhere else in the curriculum when I was at school. On the one hand I wanted to be part of a ‘normal’ key moment in life but on the other hand it didn’t feel ‘normal’. I couldn’t find the courage to send my parents an invitation so I just got my sisters to tell them and bring them. In one of my last conversations with my dad before he died he told me how upset he was that I hadn’t given him an invitation and also that I seemed to confide in strangers rather than him. Often though being gay made me feel I was stripped of my voice, I wanted to speak but I couldn’t for fear of not being accepted even when I knew I would have the support.

If I’d have been exposed to a diverse curriculum growing up where I felt represented as well as being allowed to be me would I have felt differently? Would it have given me a voice? Yes!

It’s only in recent years that I have come to accept who I am, although I still have issues with being labelled. I’m just me and I’m happy being me!

This is why I am passionate about providing children with a diverse curriculum. To educate children so that they can see is to empower them to be the true version of themselves. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give them!

“I think that the best day will be when we no longer talk about being gay or straight … It’s not a black man or a white woman, it’s just a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’ or ‘a human’ and ‘a human’. I’d just like to get to that.” Pink

I could not agree more!

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