By Ouk Suntharoth
How have you been? Are you still hiding your true self from society? How long are you planning to do so? Before answering these questions, please bear in mind that life is too short to wait and love is too beautiful to be hidden in the closet!
Back in the old days, many of you (the LGBTQ community) around the world were judged, discriminated, and belittled by other people solely because of your sexuality. Some of you were even ashamed of yourself and your difference from others. There were days that you would lock yourself in the bedroom and cry yourself to sleep because of the many criticisms you received from other people, saying you were an embarrassment to your family or your “difference” was not OK in this society. As a result, you were forced by the society’s pressure to conceal your true nature and disguise yourself as someone else in the hope to be accepted and loved by others. The saddest part is some of you decided to keep your sexuality as a secret till the day you died.
As time passes by, the traditional norm of love — men must be attracted to women and vice versa— has been challenged by many of you who believe enough is enough. You started to openly reveal your sexuality to other people even though the responses were not always positive. Your collective efforts and persistence have made the world a better place for everyone!
In Cambodia, nevertheless, there are still some conservative people who reject the idea of having same-sex partners. Even so, for the past years, you have started to demand from this society to accept you for who you are and treat you fairly like others, by publicly and proudly participating in gay parades and so on. As a result, you have encouraged many people out there to embrace their differences, and especially, you are the reminder to those people that they are not alone in this journey.
Although I am straight, I support you because I believe in the freedom of love. Most importantly, growing up with many LGBTQ friends has made me realize that being gay, lesbian, bi, trans or queer is just another way to live your life. Your friendship with others is not determined by your sexuality. I totally understand that stepping out of the closet is very difficult, especially if you live in a conservative society. However, it does not mean that you should live your precious life pretending to be someone else you are not. At least be true to yourself because, at the end of the day, you are still human beings who deserve the same love and respect like anyone else in the society.
It is crucial to understand that love knows no boundaries, meaning that even when you are not straight, you are still able to love whoever you want. Remember to never apologize for who you love. You should never change who you are, just because society disapproves. Your worth and value are not determined by your sexuality!
Stop being ashamed and start embracing who you are! It’s time to get out of the closet and proudly tell the world you are not straight!
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.