Letter 2: Conceptualising Queerness – What does healing look like?

To those who look and feel the way I do.

What does healing look like to you?

December is referred to as a ‘festive’ season. However, for most black queers it’s the season of loss, being isolated, and feeling so alone. It’s the season when you go “home” if you’re “lucky” enough that is, to have a home to go to. It’s a space where you have to deny who you are, and parts of who you are; by performing happiness, heterosexuality, and cis-hetero-normativity, in order to navigate safety.

For me; it is also the season of loss, financial instability, academic failure and exclusion. December is a mess. We watch parts of ourselves be silenced, denied and tested; be it about gender and sexuality, the direction which our life is taking, or mental health denialism. Either way, what is supposed to be a month or two of rest and breathing; is essentially one of survival, re-lived traumas, and brokenness.

So, my question is; how do we heal from that? How do we begin to trust ourselves with finding and building homes with lovers and friends? When the very people who are biologically supposed to love us unconditionally, have failed to do so. How do we heal from the consequences of queerphobia; when it’s both literally and figuratively killing us every day? And why do we as the most oppressed people; have to be the ones who bear the burden of navigating spaces, and safety? Why are we the ones who are tasked with doing better? How do we heal and forgive our parents, lovers and families? How we accept the apologies we’ll never get? How do we forgive ourselves for putting up with less than what we deserve, because of love? How do we begin to trust ourselves to love and let people in, when we don’t even know what a healthy love is supposed to look like?

What is unconditional love? What is a love that chooses you every day? What is a love that stays? What does a healthy love look like? And even if we eventually find it, how can we focus on things like love and feelings; when our primary concern is survival? When do we get the privilege of operating from a place of contentment? How do we leave the space of trying to survive, and when do we get to feel like our lives have begun? So again, I ask; “What does healing look like?”

Can we as black queer people afford it?

For the longest time I imagined healing as crying for maybe two to three days, and completely letting go and accepting things that simply just “happened” to me. And then I would leave parts of my hurt behind, frozen in time forever. I’d move on and never look back until I did. Healing for me was linear.

Then I grew up. I was confronted with the reality of a different kind of pain; a different kind of heartbreak that happens over, and over again. I am confronted with a situation where my pain follows me, and looks at me in the face every day. It became December for me, every day. I have to look at my parents every day, and I find myself confronted with the fact that I disgust them by being myself.

By being queer.

The very people who taught me how to love unconditionally and accept all parts of people for who they are; couldn’t accept me. I was, and am, faced with both loving them and hating them every day, because I see them every day. But I guess that even the fact that they let me live in their house; being gay and all, is a privilege within itself. Maybe asking them to love me for who I am, is asking for too much. After all they are the ones who stayed the same. I’m the one who became who I am. I am the one who changed.

I don’t really have answers on how to be okay, but I’m learning that that’s okay.

Healing and being healthy is always portrayed as a change in diet, or a new lifestyle. It’s shown as cucumber face masks, and Instagram posts of the beach captioned; “choosing me”. But in my experience; healing and knowing better is laborious. It actually hurts.The journey of healing has been raw. It has been a rough road full of relapses, and disappointment. It’s been slow; full of grief, hangovers, and lashing out. It’s been hard, ugly, and beautiful. There is something about pain that demands to be felt. Pain and loss are the most consistent things in my life right now. In a way, they are the only things that I can count on.

I don’t really have answers on how to be okay, but I’m learning that that’s okay. I think rushing to heal and rushing to feel okay doesn’t work. Maybe we learn to be okay with the fact that we’ll never be okay.

But a big part of healing is acceptance and forgiveness. Ultimately, we need to forgive ourselves and forgive our families; not for them, but for us. Sometimes we must take the brokenness and make it into something we can live with, so that it does not destroy us. Being okay is not a conscious decision, but maybe a part of it is. Maybe we need to sit in pain for as long as we need to, until we feel ready to be okay again. Maybe we need to accept that we may never feel ready to move on. However; I think that it’s about time that we took all that energy that we put into loving other people and trying to make them love us in the way we need to be loved; and we put it to loving ourselves. The only way we can begin to learn a healthy love, is by trying it out on ourselves first. We owe ourselves that much. We are worth the try.

I hope that we all heal.

Yours in Queerness,

D

Find Dimakatso Nchodu on Twitter at @Adv_Nchodu and also check out @LettersToQueers

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