I have learned a lot over the years. A lot about me, a lot about what I should and shouldn't do. A lot about what I can do, what I should do, what I should aim for – what I can aim for. I have learned about who I am, what that means and how I should interact with society. I have learned how I should expect to be treated, what I owe the world, how I should behave and what I should expect.
I've learned an enormous amount.
And it has been a long, ongoing work to unlearn it all. Because it's bullshit. No, it's great steaming elephant turds.
I had to unlearn that being gay was an affliction, that I need to apologise for it, that I need to protect other people from it and that if they were uncomfortable or angered by me, it was my fault.
I had to unlearn that I could actually live. That it's not written in stone that I would die young. I had to relearn hope.
I had to unlearn hatred. I had to learn not to hate myself, not to go to bed cursing what I was, raging at being cursed. I had to learn to be angry with the right people.
I had to unlearn that I was alone. That there were not only others like me – but people would care and would be on my side.
I had to unlearn that gay men can't have relationships. That took a lot of unlearning and in the process I rejected potential relationships, sabotaged others and no doubt enraged some very good men.
I had to unlearn that gay men's liaisons would be fraught, painful and unfulfilled. Before I unlearned this I tolerated treatment and 'relationships' that were toxic, painful and outright abusive knowing that I'd never have better – couldn't have better – and it was normal.
I had to unlearn that gay men would never ever know love. With that lesson in place, I clung to destructive, painful down right evil men because I didn't think I would ever have anything approaching love and this was as close as I could get.
I am still unlearning that my affection is not shameful. That I can touch Beloved, that the tutting and the glares are their problem, not my fault.
I am still unlearning that I shouldn't be grateful for condescension, that I shouldn't feel indebted for every minor acknowledgement of my humanity, that I deserve a basic level of respect.
I am still unlearning that nowhere is safe. That while violence and bigotry can happen anywhere, I can't let that rule me and I can't bow to that. I am still unlearning to stop being afraid.
I am still unlearning that gay men cannot be parents. I still cannot picture myself as a parent because I still can't fit gay men as father in my own mind. It's not that I think I'd be a poor father or even that I don't want to have children. But I simply cannot picture myself as a father, I cannot picture the possibility – I cannot picture this as being my reality. I haven't unlearned it yet.
I am still unlearning that I have successfully unlearned all the crap. That I'm free in my own mind. That I won't be ambushed by another carefully learned lump of bullshit embedded in my mind.
And this? This is why I care about our kids and what we teach in schools. And this is why I care about the media, portrayals, representations. Because they're teaching – again. And more kids are learning the same lessons that will then need to be painfully unlearned. Assuming they ever are. And it's why I harp on about this so much like a broken record. Because unlearning is hard – and just when you think you've torn it out, you find there's yet more embedded in you. I don't think you can ever get rid of it all, no matter how much you dig.
And until you do unlearn it – you're vulnerable. You can't defend against it if you believe it and it's damned easy to be an agent in your own oppression. All the hate and prejudice and general destructive badness society will throw at you ends up with an ally in your own skull.
And yes, this post is brought to you by Sparky having a Bad Day.