How shame diminishes when we dare to share our stories

Aug 23 / Rene Luisman
'Hope will never be silent.'
The sentence touches me deeply. It is Saturday morning when this sentence greets me as soon as I exit the metro in the Castro district. Because how well I know how to keep quiet. Not to speak up, for fear of what others might think. And maybe you recognize this as well. You keep your mouth shut, when so much is going on inside you. That's what shame does.
American politician Harvey Milk spoke the words 'Hope will never be silent' on June 25, 1978, a few months before he was shot dead. And I know of few places in the world where our LGBTI history is as tangible as here in San Francisco.
For example, there is the monument to all gay men who were persecuted during the holocaust. A pink triangle, filled with rose quartz as a symbol of hope and healing. The building where Harvey ran his photo shop and from which he campaigned as the first openly gay politician. Or the mural commemorating the AIDS epidemic. The memories of our painful history are so tangible that they overwhelm me with an intense sense of sadness, connection and hope.
More than forty years after Harvey gave his inspiring speech, gay men worldwide are still experiencing the consequences of stigmatization. Mainly in the form of shame. A theme that I hear again and again in the many conversations I have with gay men.
Shame is silent. Shame overwhelms. Shame is paralyzing. Shame makes you lose yourself. Shame makes you cross your own boundaries. Shame makes you want to hide yourself. 
But that same shame decreases if you dare to share your story in a safe setting. And that's why I believe so much in men's groups. Again and again I see how liberating it is to hear each other's stories. To share what it's like to be gay. To hear how other men deal with shame and insecurity, with intimacy and sexuality and with all the other challenges you encounter.
Hope must never be silent. It took me years to find my own voice. To dare to speak up for what I think is important. Keep in mind that you are part of a rich history of brave men. May this give you the strength to break free from shame.

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