By SERENA RYAN
May 17 is a really important day for me.
No, it’s not my birthday (but thanks for asking) and no, it’s not the day I won lotto (I wish).
It’s the day that confirmed that I no longer have a disease or am abnormal in some way.
You see, May 17 commemorates the day that homosexuality was removed from the International Classification for Diseases (ICD). This happened in 1990 and it meant that people like me, were no longer considered diseased or disordered.
That probably sounds a bit weird, right? Maybe. But it’s something that we, the gays, have battled for a really long time and in some countries, it remains a battle even today.
So I’d like to explain what this day means to me and so many others but first, let’s back up a bit and set the scene to where it all began for me.
I grew up in a small beach town in WA. It’s now a bustling city but that’s by-the-by. My town was a little pocket of paradise and was very kid’s childhood dream in so many ways, a real family town. This place was a beautiful, sunny stretch of land with pristine beaches and endless sunshine.
I’m the youngest of four kids born to Irish catholic parents who chose a bohemian life when they came to Australia but they also remained very Irish, so religion was always a bit of a burden for me. I knew from an early age that God wouldn’t be my thing and I felt pretty sure I wasn’t going to be God’s thing either so it was a mutual understanding.
I knew I was different from an early age but I couldn’t really put my finger on what that meant. I knew that I wasn’t like my brothers and my sister. I just never felt like I fitted in with them. For me, it was like I was always on the outside looking in, not belonging. Kids have a remarkable way of being able to sense when someone’s different so I grew up feeling like they didn’t like me at all. I seemed to see the world a bit differently and always felt like I was out of step with everyone around me.
I grew up being told that homosexuality was abnormal so when things started to bubble away homo-wise, I became petrified. I had panic attacks about being gay. I built this invisible shield around me where I excelled at everything. I developed wings of steel just to survive. I developed my comedic side. Ever wondered why most gay people you meet are laugh-out-loud funny? It’s a way of deflection – the frontline weapon in the dance of avoidance. I would make you laugh so you saw the funny me and not the gay me. If I could make you laugh, you could overlook my deficits. My bolshiness and bravado always saved me: I was one of those kids who would laugh hollowly at the jokes about ‘poofs’ and ‘lezzos’.