The Price of Self

By Ernst J GroenewaldJune 1, 2021

As a closeted gay child, I learned quite early in life that I was different and if my difference was not accepted, I would be loved less. This created a deep desire within me to deny and discard my own uniqueness. I started watching people intently from an early age, studying them, trying my best to emulate their portrayal of heterosexual masculinity. My fear of rejection was so real that my heart could not handle being seen as unlovable and having no place where I belonged. So slowly, bit by bit, I conformed.

Day by day I made the choice to trade in pieces of myself for what I thought was love and acceptance. The funny thing is, that as much as I had used bits of my true self as a currency to purchase affection, I always came up a dollar short. The price was always higher than what I initially thought. I would think, ‘maybe if watch this movie with my friends or kiss this girl, I’ll be considered a man among men.’ In all of those instances, the price of rejection felt higher than the price of love, affection, and acceptance. I know now that being a “man” has nothing to do with my sexual orientation and in truth, it was the falsehood of toxic masculinity that reigned supreme.

People have asked me: “What made you come out? What was the straw that broke the camel’s back?” I had many answers then but thinking back to it now, I realize that I had finally gone bankrupt. I had nothing left to pay with but my life. I looked back and all I saw was a war-torn battlefield with one broken frail man left on it without an ounce of fight remaining in him. I had a choice to make, between killing him and restoring him.

Today, I am so grateful that I chose restoration.

Healing that same man has become a priority, helping him become strong once again, building him up like the bold and beautiful tower he was meant to be. Brick by brick I lay them down every day, affirming him in who he is and not what the world wants him to be—and if all else fails, he is still enough.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn, and my hope is that many won’t have to—that the world will be better one day and will celebrate differences and uniqueness, but until that day, we have to keep checking our account of self. We have to take the time and get to know the person in the mirror.

Tend to your heart, water your garden, for if you don’t, there will come a day when you will be left with nothing left to give but your life.

In honor of June being Pride Month, we’re sharing the voices and stories of people from the LGBTQ+ community on our blog and podcast. We know that the stigma and discrimination this community faces makes them almost three times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition. And, LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts or engage in self-harm. We believe the message that “hope is real and help is real” is for everyone. We want to be a part of making sure those who need life-saving support, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, have access to resources.

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Comments (1)

  1. Ally

    I am so grateful you’re still here. And thank you for sharing your story and message. My partner and I have been reading Man Enough by Justin Baldoni and I think it’s a really great book for all humans, but if you or someone you love are struggling to unlearn and escape the weight of toxic masculinity, you may like the book. Stay safe . X

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