This Mother’s Day, while I am extremely grateful for my mother and how she has raised me, I would like to focus on the mentors in my life. I’ve been very lucky in my adult life, having mentors that have guided me through my journey in the LGBT* community and also the non-profit sector. I would not exist the way I do if it weren’t for these people, for which I am eternally grateful.
I would imagine that being out in any profession can prove difficult, but I know first hand what the repercussions of coming out in the international non-profit sector are. Honestly, I have felt like a unicorn at times, a mythical creature rarely seen. I know that other queer people work in non-profits, but unless they have worked in a LGBT* non-profit, I have never had a mutually ‘out’ interaction in my field with a peer.
Without my mentors, and specifically one of my former professors, I wouldn’t have anyone who truly understands what it’s like to travel to a different country as a gay humanitarian. Being closeted in some cases and being out in others has a lot of emotional and practical consequences. I’ve written previously about how toxic the closest can be, and it’s even more toxic when you have no one to talk to about being stuck in there.
My professor has let me voice my concerns and has legitimized my fears. She gets the complexities of weaving in an out of identities for the sake of doing something that you love, while being with someone who you love.
Some days it’s really hard reconciling my Lesbian identity with working in a country that is not LGBT* friendly. There are days that if I focus on it too much I become a big spiraling ball of anxiety heading towards a bout of panic attacks. Luckily I have people to pull me out of these funks. I have my girlfriend, my friends, family and mentors. Without these people, and specifically my former professor, I might be doomed to be rolling in my anxiety forever.
Just having someone who gets it allows my head to clear and it restores my passion and my faith in what I am doing. Even if we need to stay closeted for the sake of our work and passion, we need to find at least one person who can relate to and empathize with our struggles.
LGBT* non-profit workers aren’t unicorns and we aren’t islands. We need people who get the queer and the non-profit of us.