I cannot always say that I have loved the person I am.
When I was a youngster, I never gave the idea of: “Loving oneself,” much thought. I only wanted to be accepted and fit in. I think most of us kids felt this way. When you’re a kid all you want is to be accepted and blend in. This isn’t easy when one has a physical disability. If you are new here, I have spastic diplegic Cerebral Palsy, which affects mainly my legs, but under stress I get the shakes too. In other words, I stood out; I couldn’t hide it.
I was lucky. I had plenty of people (friends and neighbours) who did not care. I was treated, for the most part, like anyone else. There were certain activities I couldn’t do, or I did my way, but I still participated in most of the games, or activities. On rare occasions, I had to sit on the side lines; however, this was few and far between; a “once in a blue moon” kind of thing. I was teased by some strangers, but even this was rare. I am not saying it didn’t hurt my feeling at the time, but my friends accepted me, and this was all that counted.
In my late teens and early twenties, things got a bit more complicated. I lacked confidence in myself even though my last name means confident in French. LOL. I bought into the specialists and teachers who wanted me to choose “more realistic career choices” as they believed I couldn’t achieve these. To be fair they were probably right; however, up to that point, I was always the kind of person who had to try things out before giving them up as undoable. I fell into a great depression which stemmed by a complete lack of confidence in myself and my abilities. It got so that I hated myself and my life. It didn’t help that I was attracted to other boys and men. My being gay and growing up Catholic didn’t help either. To me it was another jab against me. I even tried the “pray away the gay.” It’s obvious to me now that this never works, but at the time, I gave the praying thing a chance. One cannot change who they are. It is not like one chooses their sexuality. So as far as I was concern, I had two strikes against me. It didn’t help that I finished high school and unemployed.
I did hit my rock bottom. My family confronted me, and I sought help. It was gradual at first, but I went and got training, then a job. A few years later, I went back to school. I did great in school probably because I wanted to be there and not because I had to be there – this make all the difference really. With the success in school, I started gaining my confidence back. I began to accept my circumstances and my reality in life. I began to like my self.
It was after my mother died and I was at counselling that I first declared openly that I was gay. I was asked a few times before: once I denied it completely and the other time (in university) I stated that I was, “Bi.” But saying the words, “I’m gay,” to the counsellor was freeing. I would remain in the closet for another ten years, but I knew what I was.
Coming out, at forty, freed me to be who I was. It was the last hurdle in accepting myself. Now that I am older, I can honestly say that I like the person I have become. I am confident. I am caring. I am always striving to improve myself – either in smarts, or more recently in health. I guess this self-improving thing will always be a part of who I am. One can always strive to be better than they are, and I strive to live this way daily.
I like who I am. It took me until my forties to get there,
but it happened just as my father predicted that it would be.
—Robert Confiant 5 May 2019