Proud to Be - Tracy

This month Tracy, Data and Information Officer, shares her Proud to Be story, celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month.

I am a cisgender (the gender I was assigned at birth) woman living in Eastbourne with my youngest daughter (my eldest is at university), my dog and two cats.

My whole outlook on life changed when I encountered Buddhism in 2018. My trust in the Three Jewels of Buddhism provides the courage to be myself and to live in the present moment (as far as I am able). It has shown me how powerful my mind is in determining my happiness or otherwise; painful events occur but the suffering I feel is largely determined by how I react to them. I have always been aware of the interconnectedness of all beings and the need for compassion to all (hence being vegan) and the Buddhist concept of Loving Kindness inspires me to act from a position of love and compassion as much as possible.

I fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella and am proud to do so. I find labels problematic as it suggests that everyone needs to find their box and stick with it, life is much more fluid than that. But labels can be helpful. For many years I saw myself as bisexual (albeit in hiding) but lately that has failed to fit my experience with its connotations of the (false) male-female dichotomy. In a lightbulb moment I found the term omnisexual which, for now, fits me perfectly. I can be attracted to all genders like the better-known pansexual but, unlike people who identify as pansexual, I do notice gender and this plays a part in the attraction.

So now to my appearance! Colourful. I think that is the first impression many people have of me; they see my hair, my ink, my clothes and maybe then notice my piercings. For some people, many who will (thankfully) remain strangers, that is enough to make them dislike me on the spot. Thankfully most people are more accepting. My appearance is part of me. Being colourful makes me feel much more confident and alive. People often ask me the meaning of my tattoos. Some have great meaning, for example 3 seahorses (symbolising myself and my girls) and the text of the salutation to the shrine. Others I just like but are true to me.

Until very recently, I would not have been as open in describing myself. Even when I started getting tattoos etc (from 2010), I always hoped that people would look past my appearance and see me as normal. My upbringing and the consequent desire to conform led to hiding who I am for far too long. In retrospect a lot of the pain and struggle I have experienced came through not acknowledging who I am. I have spent far too much of my life trying to conform, getting into situations and then having to extract myself from them. If you need an example, try 3 marriages!

For most of my life I have felt that I haven’t fitted anywhere, not at work and not even within groups of my closest friends. Even now, outside of my home, I often feel separated from others, not really knowing how to act, what to say. Thankfully, there are now at least two spaces in which I feel totally comfortable being me and interacting in an authentic way. One of these is a Buddhist Gender, Sexuality & Relationship Diversity Group and the other is here at the Hospice where I feel appreciated and valued for who I am and the contribution that I make. At the Hospice, when people comment on any perceived difference, it is always in a positive way talking about colour etc. Here I feel valued for being me.

I am now proud to be me not because I am perfect (far from it!) but because l (mostly) like who I am now and because of the grit and determination that I needed to get to where I am today. My Dad used to call me stubborn (not in a good way) but that stubbornness has meant I did not give up and stayed in the fight. Hiding in the shadows affected my mental health; constantly monitoring what I said and did was exhausting although I did not realise this at the time. I also no longer make poor decisions based on a skewed desire to conform.

For the first time in my life, I am bringing my whole self to my work and personal life which enables me to contribute in an authentic way. Coming from a place of doing my job well and being responsive to people’s needs so that practitioners can do their job and concentrate on patient care.