Drag Queen, talented businessman and my icon RuPaul once stated, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?”
In times of great hardships, I often struggled to see myself as being useful or even important to society. Being comfortable in your skin is easier said than done and many times you tend to mold yourself into what other people want you to be. For a long time, I struggled to feel secure in my body. Freshman year of high school I was 330 pounds and struggling to like myself. I thought that if I lost the weight, people would like me more. I believed they would unmask all the insecurities I had for myself and reveal something that I could not see for myself. One day, after a day of typical self-loathing, my mom called me to the table. For those who do not know about a Puerto Rican household, when a Puerto Rican mother sits you at the table it is usually serious. I clenched my teeth bracing for what my mother was going to say, trying to imagine what I could have done wrong and get in trouble for.
Instead, my mother took my hand and asked me, what was wrong. Her olive skin was bright and her eyes soft, curious and probing my heart. I tried to hide how I was feeling, but the armor cracked and my heart busted through the chinks. I told her how I was feeling about my body and myself in a fast-paced frenzy, for the first time I was acknowledging all these feelings to myself. After the word barrage, my mother’s eyes pointed at me un-breaking eye contact. She opened her mouth and what she told me changed my world forever. She told me: “You can be the most handsome man in the world but if you don’t love yourself, no one else will.” My mother’s wise words gave me the strength to push through and see a potential in myself that I never thought I would be able to notice.
My mother and RuPaul helped me to see the potential in myself, and now more than ever it is important for us as a global community to unite and show kindness to not only ourselves but to the people around us that are unique in their own way. Celina Biniaz, a Jewish Holocaust Survivor, sums up her understanding of tolerance when she states: “Don’t hate. Try to live with your neighbor. Accept people for what they are. Everybody has something to offer.”
We learn how a lack of tolerance can hurt different communities of people from the expansive history of the Visual History Archive. Stefan Kosinski, a Homosexual Survivor, explains how he was interrogated and beaten by the Gestapo in order for him to confess to being gay in 1940’s Germany. He states, “I was so tired, I was so ill. I prayed only I would sign everything (documents confirming he was homosexual). I will die, but I could not have this torture anymore.” It’s been several decades since the atrocities committed by Hitler and the Nazi regime, but perhaps the largest lesson we learn from the archive is that history has the potential to repeat itself. Right now, in Russia LGBTQ people are being tortured and ostracized from their community for being their authentic self by their own government. It hurts when a person is unable to truly be who they are, or feel comfortable in their skin. You can be the person that motivates someone to see the potential in themselves, or serve as a support for someone who may not have a strong community around them.
My mom, RuPaul and genocide survivors serve as an inspiration to me that self-love and appreciation is a crucial part of any person’s life. Do not be hesitant to let someone know just how much they mean to you, and if anyone reading this post is struggling to see the value in themselves please know that you are valuable. You are important. And most of all, you are your own special and unique person.
Stay True, Stay You!