Ashley here :)
So we are nearly at the end of July which means our phase of gratitude focus will be coming to an end and in August we will have something new to focus on. However, we will still talk about gratitude frequently as it is something that needs to be practised regularly to have the desired effect of improving your mental wellbeing so still expect to hear about it in our SMASH classes!
Today I want to talk about something quite personal that I am especially grateful for…
This week marked the 50th anniversary that homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK. As a gay guy I sometimes take for granted just how lucky I am to live freely and be open and honest about who I am. In February 2000 I 'came out' when I was 17 and, luckily for me I had a supportive family who, although not quite sure how to react, accepted me for who I was and allowed me to be honest with myself. This has allowed me to grow in strength over the years and having accepting family and friends was a great foundation to start my adult life.
This doesn't mean it has all been smooth sailing though…
My first boyfriend I met at college had a family who were not accepting at all (to begin with) and for the first year of our relationship we faced daily struggles with his family trying to keep us apart and we both heard lots of unkind comments that came from ignorance at that time. Thankfully this improved but it was still hard for a young person to face. I have also had homophobic comments said about and to me and one of the worst experiences was on a night bus journey on the way home from a night out, when I was around 22. Awful words were said and there was even some violence. This experience was so bad that I had to get off the bus and wait for another and I guess that what hurt most at that time was that the perpetrator was allowed to stay on and continue their journey as normal. And this was in London, one of the most diverse and open cities in the world!
But, as we have mentioned, all of these experiences make us who we are today. They give us strength and help us to understand people and, most importantly, they help us to grow.
When I compare my experiences to those guys and girls from before 1967, when their love for each other was something they had to hide, I remind myself how truly lucky I am. Did you know that in 72 countries it is stillillegal to be gay? This completely baffles me but shows how much work still needs to be done so that every gay person the world over is able to live openly, honestly and happily.
I am grateful that I was born in this amazing country that is allowing me to marry my boyfriend Simon (at the end of this year in fact!). Someone I met in December 2002 who has inspired me and supported me and been there through the ups and the downs (he was with me on that night bus journey). When I was a boy in the 80's and early 90's I never dreamt I would get married, I knew I was gay and this was something that gay people couldn't do so I still have to pinch myself sometimes! I am so lucky. I am so fortunate. And for that, I am more than grateful.
What are you grateful for? We love hearing from you so please email back with whatever it is, no matter how simple it may sound :)
Have an amazing weekend guys. You are the best!
Sam and Ashley
For Body * For Mind * For Life