This piece was originally published as part of an editorial on VICE in collaboration with TRULY Seltzer and republished here with permission. Click here to read the full editorial, full of other inspirational voices from the LGBTQIA+ community.
It’s me. You, but from the future. How’s it going? That’s a rhetorical question…because I already know the answer.
Let’s face it, man, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Now that we’ve admitted it, you can pause your My Chemical Romance CD. There’s no doubt about it, kid, you are definitely queer.
Right now, it’s hard to focus on anything else: school, friends, family (you will always hate school, by the way). Your shame is understandable—I mean, you’ve heard the things your family and friends say about queer people. You’ve seen people on the news screaming about why queer folks shouldn’t be allowed to get married. You’ve seen your parents agree with them. And all of it has filled you with unbearable guilt. You keep on praying for answers to no avail.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but no one is going to answer you. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I know you pretty well, so I know you can take it. And I’m definitely not God, but I am from the future. So, let me tell you some of the things about yourself that your sadness doesn’t let you see.
You aren’t broken. The only thing that needs fixing is the world that you live in. You’re a smart kid, and you’ve had to learn how to hide your queerness. How to avoid labels. But, just between you and me, everyone labels everyone. And that is never going to change. Once you understand that, you can focus on the fact that people around you love your presence, labels aside. You make people laugh. You’re a funny kid—you always have been. Your friends’ parents adore you because you’re so polite. You get good grades (relatively), and you make sure everyone around you feels seen.
That last one is important. Don’t downplay your impact on people. You make people feel important. Even while you try to blend into the background. While you try to hide the scars on your arms. But what you don’t know yet is that years from now, you are going to look back at those same faint scars, and you’re going to smile at the journey that has brought you to this very moment, sitting here, writing a letter to the old you. The “you” that never thought he was going to make it. The “you” thought he was never going to have the strength to tell his parents that he was queer. The “you” that thought the entire world was against him.
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You—yes, you—will go on to live and speak for those who never got the chance to fully embrace all the beautiful parts of their identities. But right now, it’s hard. I know. You are constantly trying to defend your roots. You know what people think of you because of how your name sounds, the color of your skin, the country that you came from. Everyone says that “it gets better” after you come out. But every year, as the world around you gets more accepting of queerness, you’re still viewed as a danger because of the country you came from. But listen: You are going to get through it. I promise. You are going to have your ups and downs, but you are going to experience life and love like you never thought you ever would. You are going to learn to live your truth the best you can, year after year until you can scream “I’M QUEER” with all the pride in your heart, mind, and soul.
So, for now, take pride in your journey. Take pride in your resilience. Take pride in the warmth, and the kindness, and the love that you exude to everyone you meet. Take pride in the happiness and laughter that you bring to the people you surround yourself with. Be proud of the skin you are in. Be proud of all of the DNA that has been passed down to you from all of the generations before you. Be proud of the people that sacrificed everything to bring you to a strange new land.
Eventually, I promise you, you’ll be so damn proud of all the different parts of you. And you’ll inspire other kids, just like you, to do the same. But, in the meanwhile, be kinder to your mind, kid. You deserve everything good in this world and the next.
Can’t wait to see you thrive,
Usman “Uzzy” Khalid