Moving forward, accepting oneself and allowing others time to come to the same conclusion.
Shaqeil is a a 27-year-old Belizean who has been involved with EYBM for five years. When asked to elaborate on his life, he says he is single, has no children and calls it the time of his life. He lives with his mom, has 4 siblings and comes from Belize City. In this story he talks about his journey of self-acceptance and self-love.
I always wanted to get involved in something aside from being idle in the streets and doing crazy stuff. When I first joined the organization they were a bit hesitant because I was somewhat in the closet, so I didn’t want to be too much involved publicly with them, but eventually, I became more mature, and I’ve learned who I was and I embraced myself, and they embraced me as well. However, at first, I just needed an outlet to expose who I am. Somebody to embrace me, because I didn’t have the support fully from friends and family members. They were shunning me away and I was looking for an outlet for someone to accept me, to let me feel loved or feel that sense of family.
I wasn’t accepting myself at first. I felt like it was somewhat of a phase. I didn’t know that it would have been me. I didn’t feel comfortable with expressing that to anybody, or telling anybody without being ridiculed.
They helped me in sense of expressing how to come up to my family, how to let them know what’s going on and who I am. How to live with myself when I am a part of the LGBT community, and just to live a happier life, because I was very much depressed holding back all this information and all these, and they helped me through all of that, through counselling and working with me privately.
It started out as me going along and doing my work, but I wouldn’t necessarily be socializing them. If we did an event, I would do the event and I’d leave, or I’d stay for a little and then leave. Eventually, came to my home, they spoke to me at home and they took me to these events. We did the events together and they would say, “You need to come because you need to see how people receive your creation, and how people accept a gay person doing such events like decorations and catering and such.”
I became more comfortable with myself. I started to be more involved in activities, which felt like being more out. It’s something now that I look forward to. Whenever they have these workshops and stuff, it’s something that I look forward to every week or every other week that they do these workshops. Now, I could say I’m very comfortable.
I don’t get any rejection, my mother especially. She’s very supportive. She hasn’t fully come to terms with me being gay. She’s not comfortable enough to come out and say, “Okay, my son is gay,” but we’re working towards that. I try to speak to her differently now. I tried to bring up different conversations informing her that, “Okay, it’s not a phase,” because that what she believed at first. It was a phase.
Me, myself, I believed it was a phase. Now, I know 100% this is me. For her to accept me, I needed to accept myself first. Now, she does accept me. She never discriminates. She welcomes me in with open arms. I love it.
Before, I used to walk with my head held down. I used to walk in shame, I used to feel like why me? I used to question, why me? Why did this have to happen to me? I used to be so depressed. I would have friends come around and I’d seclude myself from them, because I didn’t know how to express myself, and if I did express myself, I was penalized for it.
Eventually, I just rose from that. I used that negativity to rise from the ashes. My past as a testimony to become who I am and of all the things that have helped me get to this point, I have myself to thank the most.