My name is M. I’m 20 and I’m gay. I still recall how good it felt to kiss the boy I used to play with when I was about 5-6 years old. In my elementary school, I was quite girly and my playmates were girls. I got bullied for that, and I think it made me quite introverted. I was always wondering, “Why am I like this?” But until puberty, I did not really know how I was exactly. My effeminate looks also didn’t last long: from 12-13 onwards, either because I made effort, or because it just happened, I became quite masculine. In the 7th grade, I really liked the boy I used to sit with during classes, but I would become sullen, push him away all while pining away inside. Surely, it must have been confusing for him as he stopped being friends with me. Since then, like all the other adolescent boys, I tried to have girlfriends, but it was empty and meaningless.

I think the societal prejudice pushes people like us to negate ourselves, doesn’t give us space to be ourselves, and makes us want to conform to the predominant norm. Like the time I was so in love with my best friend in high school, but when I simply hid it and suffered for many months. I now think that my inability to accept my sexual orientation, my inability to love myself negatively affected my mental health and my life overall.

I realise now that as long as people are able to respect themselves, accept themselves as they are, they no longer carry a heavy burden. Since I accepted myself, I began telling people who matter that I was gay, and it was ok because I had already gone through the hardest stage. Dear reader, you, too, accept, respect and love yourself.