• Natalie Debrabandere


On the news today was a report about Kenya upholding anti-gay laws. Meanwhile, in the UK, a row over the inclusion of LGBT and transgender issues at primary schools is still raging on, unfortunately. Now, there was a time when I wasn’t out to everyone I know; or publicly on the internet for that matter! There was a time when I tried really hard to suppress who I was… But when I started to write seriously, I knew it all had to change.

At first, I thought about using a pseudonym; but I didn’t like the idea of looking at my own book covers and not seeing my real name on them, so I ditched that idea. Then, I told myself that as long as I didn’t talk about my writing, the people around me wouldn’t know anyway. So, I was fine… I was safe, and silent. Soon enough though, it became harder to stay quiet. I wanted to talk about my books and share the excitement! And I wanted to be me, regardless of what people would say. Up until that time, I had always thought that it was nobody’s business whether I was gay or not; and since I was single anyway, there was no need to share the news. I was lying to myself big time, and now, I wince at that way of thinking. I am grateful to all the women before me who had the courage to step out of the matrix and be themselves, because it matters.

When I was growing up, the only times I heard the words ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ mentioned in conversation were as insults. If you were a ‘dyke’, you were weird, dirty, and dangerous; end of story. When I discovered Melissa Etheridge CDs at the local library and fell in love with her voice and her music, something inside told me that she was different. I knew that what she meant by ‘an unusual kiss’ was far removed from what my mum and dad told me a kiss had to be. I was careful when I borrowed the CDs because I wondered… ‘If people see that I like her music, will they think I am like her?’ I suspected she had to be one of these dreaded lesbian characters I had been warned about… But she was so cool! I was thirteen years old, and listening to Melissa’s music felt like the riskiest, boldest, most thrilling thing in the entire universe!

Fast forward to 2013: I knew I was a writer, a lesbian, and if I wanted to be happy and successful, I had to be honest on all counts. I decided to stop living inside other people’s models, and their tiny boxes of fear and limitations. I stopped being quiet about my writing; I told everyone who I was and what I stood for. Some people in my own family didn’t want to hear it, and some told me that I was sick. Their reaction was no surprise, but having the conversation was necessary to flush every shadow out of my system. I had to be totally congruent and true, for my own sake. The lightness of being that I feel as a result is out of this world.

Despite the headlines, I think that the world is going in the right direction – we must continue to focus on what we want, and know that not only is it okay to be ourselves, but that we must, fully and completely. As Melissa Etheridge would say: ‘Be strong; Speak True; Spread the peace.’

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” Lao Tzu.

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