My self and I

I suppose it is strange that I’ve been working through my feelings about this condition in front of complete strangers, instead of family.

Indeed, what prompted all this introspection was writing to a fellow I had once considered a bitter foe. Penning that letter, I had merely been trying to describe myself to one who would almost certainly have forgotten me.

Instead, a single sentence has caused all these feelings to come flowing out of me, challenging notions long held. Notably, what is it that most defines me?

My family would probably say religious fundamentalism, or ethnic religion, as some condescendingly think of it. But me?

I am clear what has most defined me: a once undiagnosed chromosome disorder and its psychological impact on my developing self. Its impact has been far-reaching.

In the religious milieu I have occupied for the past twenty-four years, a personality like mine is largely frowned upon. The Alt-Bro movement pushing its hyper masculine concept of a Real Man writes off my entire being as inimical to our faith. In their conception, to be a real man is to be arrogant, brutish and tough.

Of course that is a common conception. I suspect the reason I was bullied and often rejected by others in my youth was because I was shy, passive and softly spoken. In most cultures, those traits are not embraced, but are frowned upon.

But it is what I am. I am what I am. And I have come to accept this, regardless of the propaganda of our vocal activists and scholars. I’m not going to be what I’m not. I’m not going to overcome myself as they believe I must. I’m just going to cut myself off from that rendition of religion.

Naturally, my faith in the One defines much of my life. It defines my interactions with others and my cultural experience. So too does my marriage to a woman from a village three thousand miles from here. As does my upbringing in the most religious home, with all our wealth, privilege and educational capital.

All of the above colour my character, but none define me more than what is beyond my control: a physiology and psychology caused by a random error in cell division at conception. Perhaps none of those have a significant direct impact on me today, but their legacy certainly does, most noticeably in my sense of self.

Those formative years when it affected me so profoundly have had a lifelong lasting impact on my psyche. My faith became my refuge as a coping mechanism in response to a decade of difficult experiences. It has helped immensely, as has the support of a loving and caring wife. But there is no getting away from the self-esteem issues caused by those formative experiences.

I feel the time has come to broach these considerations with my family. To at last discuss this diagnosis, eighteen years on. To raise the possibility that my religious journey was not the problem but a solution. That most of the assumptions about the route I took were way off the mark. Perhaps the time has come to let others see me as I truly am.

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