Be Yourself

By Rathana Puth

© Rathana Puth

This blog was developed as part of the Voices of Youth blogging internship assignment requirement. Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.

Although in Cambodia it is not a crime to be a person of the LGBT community, some people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender continue to face abuse and discrimination at home, at school, in the workplace and in the media everyday. Being gay is not a choice but it is a challenge. You have to face so many problems in your life. Today you might be facing bullies; tomorrow you might be facing violence. But all of these dangers do not stop me from being who I am. I am gay.

I have known that I was different since I was a kid, but I didn’t know what ‘a gay’ was back then. As I got older, I started to figure it out but kept it hidden. My father is such a manly guy and he doesn’t really like gay people. He used to tell me not to be one of them, saying he would kill himself if I was gay. Those words deeply affected me. It made me become a person who lived ‘in the closet’. He did notice that I was kind of girly but he wouldn’t ever call me gay because he believed that I would change. His hope made me lie to myself and everyone else by pretending that I was straight.

In school, I tried to date so many girls to make everyone think I wasn’t gay. I used to lie to my best friends that I really liked this one girl and they all believed it. So many years I’d been in the closet. It wasn’t that I cared about what people would think of me but I was afraid to lose all the people I loved. I was terrified that my dad really would kill himself if he found out. There were so many things that I was worried about, but I decided to get over my fears.

I started opening up step by step. First I told my closest friends that I am gay, and they were totally fine with it. They said we would still be friends, and that they were so happy I was finally being who I am. After I told them, my high school life completely changed. I was happier and gained a lot more confidence. Soon after, I opened myself up to everyone I knew. Finally I’ve become someone who has a lot of friends and so many people supporting me. I always look out for every gay kid in school to make sure that they won’t be bullied. I share my thoughts with them, encouraging them to believe in and be proud of who they are.

People who have come out have different stories. For some people, their parents are accepting of their sexuality, giving them a sense of relief and helping to solidify their identities as a gay man or lesbian woman. This acceptance also makes their families closer and stronger than ever before. On the other hand, some parents throw their children out from their homes and cease all financial support, and might even react with violence. Other parents may feel as if their children had died as they no longer recognize the person they raised from infancy. Although your fears about what will happen may be exaggerated, it is worth considering carefully the circumstance that you are in and who you can come out to.

Nevertheless, I think it’s so important for people to learn to love themselves as much as they can. Even though some of us are different, it doesn’t mean that’s something to be ashamed of. When you cross out all the bad things, there are bright daylights ahead, rainbows, and beautiful skies. Do what makes you happy- be you, be wild, be out of control because life is short.

I hope my story will inspire you to speak out and be yourself. We are all humans, and at the end of the day, which gender we are attracted to doesn’t matter. We’re all just trying to live a fulfilling life.

Just be true to who you are.

Originally posted on Tuesday, September 6, 2016

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