The high price we pay only to belong

The high price we pay only to belong

by Vista Kalipa

Can you think back to a time when you compromised your happiness and deprived yourself of your true identity just because you wanted to fit in?

Well, lots of college students have gone, and still go, through times of confusion and conformity. I can certainly concur with this.

That thought definitely brings out feelings of remorse and great regret that I, and many others like me, have fought so hard to annihilate. We have suppressed what is inside us because we wanted to belong and be accepted.

Growing up, we are conditioned to think that doing something or being someone totally different to what the culture considers “ideal” is absolutely taboo. Anyone who has a different lifestyle is considered a deviant. In order for anyone to live a healthy and discrimination-free life, one has to live according to what the culture “requires.”

Women who satisfy their sexual appetites in a manner they find satisfying to them are labeled with words that would make one cringe. I am talking about words such as slut, whore, bitch, etc. Whereas, if their counterparts-men-act in a similar manner, they get praise from all sorts of directions.

These types of women are forced to suppress their happiness because they fear condemnation or labeling by society. They are forced to become people that they are not because society won’t accept them for whom they are.

The same is true for the homosexual community. Statistics support the fact that young gay men and women have the highest suicide rates. One wonders why such a tragic thing happens. Well, let me enlighten you. A bigger part of this problem is caused by the condemnation and malevolence that they experience from a prejudiced society.

This prejudice stems from ignorance, which comes from a lack of knowledge about this particular group. I have also gone through some very rough times suppressing who I really am because I knew once the word was “out” my home and my community would not be a supportive environment for me.

In fear of that, I had to endure and listen to mean gay jokes. I had to painfully laugh at such pejorative words as faggot and homo that were uttered by people around me.

This reminds me of the period when my country, South Africa, was still highly prejudiced toward the homosexual community. This prejudice was even more ubiquitous in my culture because homosexuality was believed to be something that came with the westerners. Bear in mind that this was still during the apartheid regime; therefore, anything considered western was not well received.

As the years went by, conditions in my culture began to be more supportive. People started learning and realizing that homosexuality is only natural and normal. Today, South Africa is one of the few countries to recognize and protect the rights of those with a different sexual orientation.

A great friend of mine, who is also a Simpson alumnus, Olomo “Lolo” Mendouga once said, “How long can one impersonate others before losing one’s self?” Ever since then, those words stuck with me. I think of their depth and the change they can bring about to those who read or hear them. The difference they can make in the lives of those who have to lead false identities.

Think of this high price you have had to pay or are still paying to belong. Is it worth living your life like that?

I say that it is about time that we got out of those dark corners and places that we have exiled ourselves into and come out and embrace our true identities because we should not have to pay a high price to belong.