About forty minutes into Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix standup special she addresses her difficult coming out story. Jokingly, Hannah recalls a visit with her grandmother who asks her if she is dating a special gentleman. Hannah admits the reason she hadn’t come out to her grandma all these years was because she still carried shame with her.
Hannah Gadsby grew up in Tasmania in the Bible belt even though her parents did not raise her with religion. In her teens a prickly national debate on the topic of homosexuality was a major news headline. About seventy percent of the public believed homosexuality was a sin and should be criminalized.
“When you soak a child in shame they cannot develop the neurological pathways that carry thoughts of self-worth”
By the time she was an adolescent, Hannah says, the damage was done, the homophobia from the outside had rooted itself within her.
At this point in the show Hannah captures the audience with her intense eyes, one cannot help but feel for the child in her. “When you soak a child in shame they cannot develop the neurological pathways that carry thoughts of self-worth.”
She speaks about the metaphorical closet, but I can see the young teenager in the closet so clearly; feel the shallow breaths, the small space it occupies, crouching down on the wooden planks – there is no place for her in this world.
“Self-hatred is only ever a seed planted from outside in”
Hannah continues “Self-hatred is only ever a seed planted from outside in.” I try to let the words sink in.
Hannah is on a roll and I swallow hard. “When you do that to a child, it becomes a weed so thick, and it grows so fast, the child doesn’t know any different. It becomes…as natural as gravity.”
The show continues, but I know I need to go back to this. Hannah makes the point that we need to rethink how we debate difficult topics. When I think back at my youth certain topics were immediately judged; same-sex relationships, masturbation, sex before marriage, bars, dancing, certain clothing, certain gender roles, racism. I can remember feeling shame very early on, as well as self judgement. The lasting impact of this has been detrimental.
“I need to tell my story properly"
I cried for Hannah Gadsby. I still do. I know parents are of the best intent. We, as a global society need to do better though for our children. Shaming and judging are not the way. What does it accomplish really?
Today it is Pride in Santa Fe. I am still not comfortable with the 'gay scene', so to speak. I want to be, but I am not. That is why I am not always at the dances. That is why I sometimes leave with a panic attack.
In Hannah Gadsby’s words “I need to tell my story properly.”
Pietje - say Peach-a!