From the moment we are born we are defined – boy or girl. There is an overwhelming expectation that our sexuality will be heterosexual – that is the default label, the norm – the strait-jacket.
Emerciana had a strict Catholic upbringing with very traditional views about gender and sexuality. These were the tram lines that she was forced to follow . But from an early age she realised that she was getting feelings that did not conform with the orthodoxy. She struggled to identify with the nature of mainstream relationships that were reflected in films and songs. This caused her great stress as she was, internally, judgemental of herself, as to why she didn’t comply with the cultural models , and could only conclude that there was something wrong with her.
Such a dissonance has the capacity to create mental health issues simply as a consequence of trying to accommodate the less tolerant position of others, and being shoe-horned into a label, or a pre-defined identity construct.
Fortunately for Emerciana, she had the confidence, the environment, the support structure, and presence to “come out” which, for her, was a liberating experience. This was 3 years ago.
She realised that she was not alone.
For many it isn’t easily solved by adopting the definitions of gay or lesbian. For some, they are on a different part of the continuum, for some, they experience a changing position, for others, they really just don’t know how to explain how they feel. Because of this , they can’t easily go to the nearest support group – such groups often require definition to become members.
In order to try and help this hidden situation, Emerciana started a group called “Undefined”. It was set up with the specific intention of not being formal, or routine. Its primary objective is to be a safe space, for people to meet in a non-judgemental environment, to hold conversations, and explore subjects, or just to socialise. It is not closed to “straight” people – no one is considered to be defined. There is an associated facebook page for people to “meet” as well.
There is something that feels particularly liberating about a forum where, individually, people can be themselves, flex, and perhaps be inconsistent in their thoughts without feeling “on edge” or threatened. It struck me when discussing this with Emerciana that there was an analogy with politics. The constant obsession with pigeon-holing people into different camps stifles debate; the labelling can breed hate, and resentment – “the only good tory is a dead tory”. It drives an over-simplified “football club” mentality – either United or City. People are afraid to express their true views in case they are “branded” by someone else’s standards. Perhaps we need an “Undefined” group to discuss politics for people who genuinely have an undefined view; but, as with Emerciana’s group, it would depend on a high level of maturity and breadth of thinking from the participants. Are we ready for that?
If reading this, you, or someone you know, might benefit from being involved in this group then please contact Emerciana on firstname.lastname@example.org