Friday, 26 June 2015

There are no labels in ICU…

Before my father passed away he spent some time in the Intensive Care Unit. 
He was assigned Bed 2 of the 5 beds that were arranged in a semi circle. The other four beds were occupied but it was impossible to know who lay under the blankets their faces covered by oxygen masks – and it really did not matter if they were male, female, black, white, beautiful, ugly, old, young, gay, straight, trans, bi, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim or Jewish.

For the most part, all 5 lay very still, the only sign of life came from the constant beeping of the monitors. The night that death came for Bed 4, time seemed to freeze for a few seconds. The ICU went completely silent for a few seconds and life was suspended for a few seconds. Then life took over very quickly and the beeps immediately got louder, more insistent, more urgent, the monitor’s lights were flashing red and the medical team was at the bedside in seconds. It did not matter who lay in the bed. When you meet death, face to face, you are not a label... you are precious life.

The labelling starts when you are only 9 or 10 years old; sometimes your classmates see in you something which is ‘not normal’, and you are labeled and you feel ashamed for being different. Most times it gets worse in high school. Sometimes, most times, the labels are purposely offensive and belittling (gay, freak, fag, retard, douche, homo, loser). Sometimes you get beaten up. 

Sometimes you tell a teacher or an adult, and you get told its only banter, you need to man-up. You try to suppress who you are and pretend to be someone else. Sometimes it works. Mostly it doesn’t. 
Sometimes you hate yourself. Most times you don’t know who you are anymore. 

You feel marginalised, isolated, depressed, ashamed, you suffer from low self-esteem. You feel hopeless. 
Sometimes you find someone who is like you. Sometimes this is good, sometimes this is bad. 
You miss school to escape the bullying. Sometimes you give up on school altogether. 

Sometimes you give up on life. Sometimes the suicide attempts are a consequence of the depression that is brought on by the bullying that is started by a label.

You push through, hoping it will get better when you are 18. Sometimes it gets better.
You come ‘out’, now the world knows your secret. Sometimes there is more shame, more labels; this time from parents, siblings and grandparents. Sometimes you find yourself all alone because your family does not want you to be a part of the family.
As an adult, you can be who you want, live how you want, love who you want.  Sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes the shame follows you. The labels follow you.
Sometimes, most times, you are defined by your sexual identity, not by who you are. 
In the end, you are and always have been a precious life.


On UnCommon Ground is a Social Enterprise I started because of the frustration and helplessness I felt watching my son go through so much suffering during his teenage years. 

The labelling of anyone who is perceived to be different needs to be stopped. 

OnUCG's exists to support those whose lives have been affected by labelling, who are passionate about living life on their own terms and who are looking to change the status quo.

Twitter:     @OnUCG


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