I was lucky enough to be raised by open-minded parents. I appreciated the teachings where I learned to acknowledge and embrace differences in everyone – that diversity and change were an important part of life- where allowing human beings to evolve was natural. I was taught to embrace all walks of life, no matter our creed, colour or race. Prejudice was frowned upon and acceptance was paramount to my family. I believe everyone experiences some form of prejudice during their lifetime. We all have been talked down to, bullied, ignored or otherwise treated unkindly at some juncture of our lives.
A Friend that Shaped my Experience
For decades, I witnessed a dear friend struggle to be accepted as a new Australian, but more importantly, he fought a silent struggle within himself and against societal influence in respect to his sexual orientation. Dreading rejection from his family and friends he never revealed it to others.
Throughout our youth and school years he kept his sexuality a secret, living his life by the rules society expressed. Fear engulfed his whole being daily- fear of not being accepted, fear of harassment, bullying and even violence; these were all experiences he knew too well. These hidden demons consumed him and became the realities that confronted him throughout his entire youth and young adult life experience.
Over those adolescent years, my friend was comfortable in confiding solely in me. He shared his fears and hopes, and we laughed and cried together over the experiences. Having gay extended family members, I could relate to his experiences in many ways and could share his secret with acceptance and love. He felt safe visiting my home and being himself in those many, many times we spent chatting in my room. We spent hours talking about the isolation and loneliness in his life.
He desperately wanted to live his life in the open and without reservation but he could not see past the prejudice people expressed daily to others. He often shared with me the helplessness he felt and that thoughts of suicide would enter his mind. Knowing very well this was a sign of depression, I pleaded with him on many occasions to speak to the councilor at school. He assured me that just having a friend to talk to was comforting enough and would help him bluster his way through the years of schooling. Effectively, societal prejudice and family indoctrination and beliefs kept him in personal hiding.
A Day in an Open Life
At some point in life, we all must accept ourselves and allow others the opportunity to accept us as well. Not all do. This point eventually came for my friend, but at a cost of a lifetime of dealing with the angst and finally putting out the truth – for better or worse.
My beautiful friend eventually found wonderful love and acceptance – for him, it was much later in life and that saddened me, knowing that those years of concealment all in the name of refuge, were gone from his youth forever.
Although today, young people are coming out at earlier ages, as teenagers they still deal with many other issues, including peer pressure, poor body image, parental and social pressures, just to name a few. As teens sometimes stumble awkwardly through the so-called ‘best years of their life’, they face the tremendous weight of dealing with acceptance and the openness of their sexual orientation. This can be another added burden of the anxiety of being shunned or besieged, to a turbulent number of years before they reach adulthood.
As adults, the LGBTI people around the world experience perils of various hostilities displayed in a multitude of different ways from people and communities. As human beings, we ALL have the right to feel safe in every situationand in every setting. From our homes and family to our workplaces, schools, communities, and churches we need safe and non-judgmental places where we can thrive. This includes safe and acceptable access to health care services that help us overcome obstacles and provide a healthy future.
Still fighting for the rights of inclusion today, the beautiful people of the gay community all over the world are being recognized and uplifted as they should be. As a society, we are moving in a positive direction towards bridging the narrowing gap of segregation and binding together as one.
The Pride Collection
With these thoughts and experiences as part of my history, I have enveloped the love I learned into the products that I create. They tell a story. A personal journey which is close to my heart. VKY is passionate about making a difference in the world today, and so, the ‘Pride Collection’ was born.