Growing Into My Own Skin

A Reflection on Personal Growth, Well-being, and Acceptance

Sharema is a 33-year old Belizean who has been a member of PETAL for the past four years and has participated in several activities leading from conversations to life-skill training, to wellness days. She has been an educator for the past 15 years, and has been living with her partner for the past five years. Sharema says her sole focus is her children, and her concern is that they are well taken care of, placed in settings where they can understand divergences from the norms, and are able to grow.

Being a part of a homophobic nation, it’s rare when you actually get out and you can be yourself in a space.

This organization created that space – I looked forward to every event that they had because I was sure at that point, I could enter a room where everybody would be welcoming and I enjoyed it very much, people there were respectable and non-judgmental.

I wanted the knowledge, I wanted the background, I wanted to be equipped that in the event that I would have to face whatever judgment given that I work at a Catholic institution. I wanted to have that information that would support me so I would know which road to go, what are some of the things that would protect me, how am I governed. Basically, to be in good standing so that I can be myself but not have to sacrifice the job that I had.

I wanted to have that information so I would know how to collaborate my personal life and my job. It was like a struggle between my day job and my gay job.

A really important aspect of being involved with this organization was that they provided me and others with psychosocial support. It helped me to not only help others but it gave me an opportunity to sit with the mental health therapist so that I was able to put my information out there and to get a little bit of guidance. To
work from a day-to-day basis and know that at the end of the day or the day of a week, I can vent to someone who will actually listen to me and will give a little advice here and there or just put things on the table so that you can look at it from a different perspective.

I don’t want to be overwhelmed that I cannot take care of me. Wellness is important, I do believe the mental health therapies speak volumes when it comes to wellness.

I was told in the beginning that I had little things bother me. Going and seeing the therapists, it helped me to understand, it helped me to cope. I can see now I’m more patient, I can understand
the comments. They can be passed and I’m not bothered. I am better, well-rounded, I’m more knowledgeable on different LGBT issues. I am able to assist or speak to other LB-women who are going through their own phase, I am able to refer them to the necessary places that they need to go.

My own personal growth, however, came with the acceptance that I gained and coaxed in different people in my life. My personal well-being would come with acceptance. Coming from family, my mother goes to church so she speaks the Bible. My children went to church-based
school. My daughter would look at my partner with disgust and she wouldn’t understand why. Now I can see them playing around, throwing a ball, having conversations. I must say it is beautiful now, acceptance is a wonderful thing.

Sometimes, the other women bring their children to activities. Some of them are older teenagers, they’re not a part of the community but they do grow. They’re informed. They share that safe space and it allows them to better understand what is taking place within the homes.

My child she has new friends and she has friends who say, “Oh, I have two mothers too her or I have two fathers and they can communicate.” She’s not concerned about what anybody has to say in regards, “Your mother is a lesbian or anything like that.” It has built her self-esteem
as an individual too.

This kind of personal growth, its important and needed now more than ever that we start to become more and more visible.