"My Pride, My Skin" - Bennie Saldana

Coming out can be extremely difficult but becoming comfortable in your skin doesn’t have to be. Confidence is built, and who we surround ourselves with makes a world of a difference in that.

I remember as far back as being in the 3rd grade when I would sit in a class full of young people discovering themselves and wondering why I felt an attraction to the other boys in class, when surely that wasn’t normal because I never heard anyone else discuss feeling the same way. 4th grade was the first time someone used a derogatory term to describe me, and I remember feeling so defeated and confused about why the other young men in class would ridicule me and make me feel like I was less than. I didn’t have an explanation for it, but I stuck it out and continued getting my education. I’d come home, and routinely retreat to my bedroom for an afternoon cry session after a long day of being bullied. Being followed home by bullies most days, the faint whispers, and giggles as they’d judge me in class were haunting. I steadily questioned “why me?” There were days my mom and dad would notice a lack of energy in me, which was unusual because my character was always lively and comedic. I never told them anything that was happening. Why would I? If I didn’t understand it, how could they?

Time went on, and I slowly but surely became more in tune with how I was feeling and started to yearn for an explanation. The bullying didn’t stop, but my patience for it sure did. I began fighting back and demanding the respect I deserved. The bullies had no idea that one day I was going to show up better than ever. I was in the 8th grade when I finally met someone willing to open a dialogue about “feeling different.” This classmate word for word said, “Ben, I heard you liked boys. That’s okay, I feel the same way you do!” I recall the sigh of relief I let go of in that very moment. For the first time in my entire journey, someone validated that my feelings weren’t weird or unusual, and there were folks out there who felt the same way I do. That moment defined the tone of the journey ahead. I debated for nights on end how I’d explain to my parents that I wasn’t their version of “a perfect son.” Considering my love for writing, I decided to write a letter detailing everything I felt, the confusion, the bullying, the fact that I just wanted to be accepted and move forward without fear of repercussions. My mom got home and found the letter. Her footsteps drew close to me as I hid under my sheets. To my surprise, I felt a tap on my leg, and heard my mother say, “Ben, come out from under those sheets,” as she let out a giggle. I drew them away from my face and looked her way. Her response was simple, “You really thought I didn’t know?” She pulled a photo out of her purse and handed it to me. I was in pre-school, wearing heels, in a play kitchen, holding a doll like I was its momma. I giggled right back and knew that she was patiently waiting for this moment to tell me that she always knew. My mother was my biggest advocate since I was born, but she became my full-on bodyguard after that moment we shared.

It’s safe to say I hit the ground running after my mom told me she’d love me wholeheartedly regardless of my sexual orientation. I went into high school fully confident and aware of who I was, and what I wanted. I never tolerated bullying again! I share this snippet into my life to further prove that we are responsible for being authentic and proud of ourselves. One of my grandest luxuries in life is being a part of such a profound, inviting, and supportive network of people, such as the LGBTQ+ community. Fast forward to this very moment, I am a fully realized and confident adult who loves unconditionally and wears their skin proudly. This is the skin we are born in, the skin that makes us special, the skin that we cannot take for granted at any point. Confidence radiates from the inside, but it is sustained by the world around us. You have the capacity to influence and change that world in any way you’re passionate about! My ambition moving forth is that people can read stories like mine and feel confident and proud in the skin they’re in too! I’m elated that Callyssee Skin Care has provided me with a platform to showcase love, unity, inclusion, and of course skin care, because if you look good, you feel good!

Happy Pride beautiful people! 🏳️‍🌈

Pronouns: He/Him

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