It's funny how I can easily write about the stories of others but as it pertains to me, I feel hesitant - not in terms of unwillingness but hesitant in terms of what should I say? My name is Kenloy Smith and for the 18 years that I have lived, my journey has had some #topshelf moments and some not so top-shelf moments.
I am a Christian, and also a nurturing individual. I think I'm one of the few guys who tried to save a frog from being squashed by vehicles simply because I hate seeing pain, no matter how small or how great. At first I didn't like myself because of how "un-cool" everyone else made me feel. Coming from a church family where manners and happiness is a norm and, having both parents present and just being spoiled by love - I had (and still have) a very optimistic approach to life and school in general. However our society seems to shun that in males.
All of my strengths seem useless when compared to the expected reality or perception of "MEN". I'm emotionally stronger, more in tune with nature, prefer female company, prefer a pet over a vehicle, etc. But it seemed to me growing up that you had to be forceful, loud, demanding, dominant, egotistical and prideful to “BE A MAN”.
I guess Jamaica on a whole, has this stigma against guys. I've seen parents raise their male child "rougher" or "with less care" than their female children. That shouldn't be the case because not everyone is the same. There are girls out there who aren't as "girly-girly" out there in the world, and they are treated fine or with less disrespect, but you look at a guy who is gentler and is effeminate and immediately there's a riot.
I struggled for so many years, TRYING to be a "MAN" that in the midst of all the confusion, I questioned what a “MAN?” is. I had to hide my goals and interests in the presence of these guys because they wouldn’t think it was "straight". Dealing with that by myself was my worst struggle. I felt unloved, hurt, lonely, unwanted and depressed inside. I remember one day while I was inside my house alone I heard cheers and laughter, and when I peeped through the window there was this group of guys just playing football. I watched them for minutes like a caged bird looking at those in the open. "Why can't I be like them?"
In my senior years of high school, I learned that I am special and just as important as everyone else. I've made some friends who helped me so much, just by even talking to me or walking with me in public. It was almost like there were two different sides of society, the one I knew was only the negative side, but there’s the positive side, the educated, the ones who have fears but face them or equip themselves to handle them, the ones who knew the different types of LOVE, the ones who cared about emotions, goals, aspirations and most importantly the ones who didn't care about others’ opinion once they knew who they were and that they have a strong foundation.
That's my vision for Jamaica, that we have more of those persons in society who learn the essence of words like "TOLERANCE, ACCEPTANCE, PATIENCE, LOVE, TRUTH, OPTIONS and UNITY." If we are "Out of Many One People" then we need to cater to the different needs of everyone rather than trying to force ideals on them. Yes! Rules are important and without some level of ideas and force, people will stray and do whatever they want but ultimately; just like God, let's give our youth FREE-WILL. Of course you are going to teach them bad from good but leave them up to their own self-respect and consciousness. I wish that no one or no child has to argue and say that "You made me to this! I was so unhappy! etc".
I could have been told "You're gay, so just be yourself." but that just didn't feel right to me, my personality isn’t sexual, (and that's what everyone or most saw it as,) but being spiritually inclined. And then meeting males (MY DAD for e.g) who shows me love and acceptance (not saying that I don't get dirty, or perform my duties as a male but that he knows that I am better at other things) and then friends and fans who supported me and just looking myself in the mirror and saying that "I love you!" You are Handsome! You are Special" made everything tranquil.
In closing, as I move from Rural to Urban and as I sit around this laptop at U.W.I as a freshman / freshers, I realize the importance of a solid foundation. Things will get shaky but if you are truly rooted and grounded (can't over emphasize the importance of spirituality) then you'll be great. Talk up Yout is important because "TALKING UP" allows you to release stress, to express yourself, to be heard and most importantly to be responded to. After meeting this team (Season 6) I realized how blessed I was and how my problems were not rare. But if you never try, you'll never know. If we want to reach that 2030 goal then "TALKING UP!” And “TALKING AGAINST!” negative and unproductive behaviors must be a rule. Don't sweep it under the broom! EXPOSE IT! BRING IT TO THE LIGHT! I can only imagine the youths who WISHED they had our privileges, those who died, and those who suffer from rape, drug abuse, mental problems, and even those who just want to feel loved. That's why I am being the best me, so that when others hear my story it can inspire positive change and hope.
#Talkupyout #youthstories #Givingtheyouthavoice
Youth, ages 14 - 26, from all over the world, talking up. #TalkUpYout