Through strong symbolism, Dr. Paul Taylor-Pitt takes us gently through the emotions and effects on our mindsets we can experience as a result of enduring minority stress.
Take a moment to feel your heart beat. You might do it in the conventional ‘two fingers on the wrist’ way, or the cinematic ‘finger on neck’ method which personally has never worked for me but looks very cool. If you can, see if you might still yourself to the point where you can sense your heart beating in your chest. Notice its rhythm. Its movement. Become aware of your heart’s determination to keep you alive. Your heart is both a muscle and a mentor. It is a barometer of your internal landscape. We talk about it in so many different ways to give words to emotions that otherwise have no language: heart felt, heart racing, heart breaking.
But why the attention on the heart I hear you ask. This is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) not Valentine’s Day. Well my mission today is to encourage you to listen to the language your heart is speaking when you consider your relationship with and experiences of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and other forms of aggression, pain or abuse that we may have been subjected to just for existing as ourselves. How is your heart feeling about this?
When I ask my heart, it seems like it’s initially too busy to reply. It’s on a treadmill (wearing a cute headband btw), while on the phone, signing documents and watching something on tv all at the same time. My heart is working hard. If I offer it the chance to come off the treadmill, sit down and breathe it initially resists it. There’s too much to do just to keep us alive! Slowing down feels counterproductive to all the productivity that I need to produce. After a little coaxing, it settles into a comfy chair, breathless and sweaty but starting to calm down.
I reassure my heart that it’s ok to slow down for a while so we can have a chat. I ask how it’s doing at the moment. It pauses, closes it’s little heart eyes and checks in with itself. It says “I’m tired”. The world we live in values speed and productivity and FOMO and saying yes to everything. It’s exhausting. Our attention spans get shorter which makes it more difficult to be truly curious about stuff that doesn’t need to be done right now. Often with so many competing demands, the small voice of our heart asking us to make time for ourselves, or to slow down, gets ignored in the various voices competing for our attention. This can be a path to burnout or compassion fatigue. To truly hear our heart we must show ourselves compassion by slowing down and offering ourselves the gift of quiet space. Only then can our heart be honest with us.
I tell my heart that I hear how tired it is. It gives a little sigh of relief. It tells me how it has had to build itself up so it doesn’t get hurt. It reminds me of the times someone called me a poof in the street, or I read a headline in the press that made me want to make myself smaller, or less. My heart gets a bit emotional when it talks about those lonely, quiet evenings as a child when I felt so alien in my own home and wondered if I would ever be happy as a queer person in a hostile world.
Once my heart has blown its nose and had a mouthful of tea, it starts to smile, remembering some of the adventures we’ve been on together - particularly the ones where I listened to it and followed it. When it puts the tea down, I notice that its arm has quite a bit of definition to it. Welcome to the gun show! I tell my heart that it’s looking pretty buff and it blushes a little. Then it notices that actually, it’s pretty beefy. It has stamina and strength. It could probably throw a car if it came to it.
All of those moments of stress, panic, doubt, fear, risk, trauma…they were like dumbbells for the heart. It picked them up, grunted, lifted them and became stronger even when it shook. My heart has never shrunk itself even when my head wanted it to. My weird, gay, unconventional heart has helped me grow despite - and sometimes thanks to - all of the potential pain that comes with living our authentic lives as queer folks. Growth through adversity is not only possible, it’s our right. Claiming the power that comes with realising this can liberate parts of ourselves that have wanted to break. Our hearts are strong. Our hearts can take it.
As my heart gets back on the treadmill, it looks over it’s (quite defined) shoulder and gives me a cheeky wink. “I’ve got you” it says, getting on with its job of keeping me alive, surviving, growing and thriving. I take a sly look at its peachy heart ass and it speeds up a little, not quite racing but definitely pounding harder. Take a moment to check in with your heart again now. Maybe give it a little thank you for making you who you are today. Tell it you’ll visit again soon and maybe compliment it on its power. It’ll heart that.
Dr Paul Taylor-Pitt (he/him)
Paul is an award-winning Organisation Development Specialist, Mentor, Coach and Facilitator with three decades of professional experience to draw from. He was named one of HR Magazine's Most Influential Thinkers in 2022.
You can find more information about Paul's work here.
If you would like to book Paul as a speaker for a workshop or panel event, please get in touch with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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