This essay started out as a letter to a past version of myself, a letter exploring the question of identity, acceptance, and letting the colours wash over the grey within.
But it is more.
This is a letter for you.
I hope this lends you light, aids you on that journey, and reassures you that you're not alone.
You never have been. Love - Pran"
I have lived my life in hues of grey.
The many gradients, the spectrum of colourless days bleeding from one to the other till nothing but a lifeless canvas presents itself.
I’ve spent many years soaked in grey, faking a vibrant palette for anyone caring to glance, yet my being nothing but smears of joyless grey.
A painting and I allow myself a smidge of vanity, intricate, complex, and beautiful in its own right and yet one devoid of any colour.
The more I live, the more years I add to my existence; the more certain I grow that a sense of self is paramount.
That while hues from others may rub off on us as we journey through the years, our own individual palette finds its vibrancy through knowledge and acceptance of the self.
This acceptance comes after years lived in ignorance of course.
This truth eluded me.
My friendships suffered for it.
Relationships left damaged.
My greys started washing out the colours of those around me.
The lack of self-awareness, of the hues seeking visibility within me draining the good that was around me.
There were gentle whispers of it, after all, a life lived unauthentically does start showing its cracks on the surface.
My desires, my wants, my need for self-expression and exploration, all consciously repressed for fear of judgement.
An existence devoid of joy.
I was raised by a straight monogamous couple.
Even within our wider circles, straight and monogamous relationships were all I knew.
The music I listened to, the books I read, and the movies and shows on display ever only highlighted straight monogamous relationships. It would be a fair assumption at this point, that perhaps you, as a reader grew up in a similar environment, surrounded by straight people practising monogamy and presented with an idealized and romanticized picture of it.
For much of my life until twenty-two, monogamy was all I knew, and whatever part of me started to question it, was silenced until there was nothing but a gentle whisper.
I was young, naive, and completely in love with an excellent partner and yet that wasn’t enough for me.
I knew it wasn’t.
That she wasn’t my all, and societal conditioning warned me of the perils of being in a relationship with someone that couldn’t be your one and everything.
I saw it as a red flag.
To complicate it even more, I was deeply in love with this woman and yet found myself attracted to another.
I felt shame.
I genuinely felt that there was something wrong with me.
Guilt for lying not just to my partner, but to myself.
And yet I felt desire.
Drawn to both.
If you ask me today, I would say there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
If past me could ask me for guidance on the state of his emotions that autumn of 2016 I would say, “Kid, don’t shame yourself! Everything you know of relationships needs to be questioned, and the moment you do, everything you know will be turned on its head.”
But that kid was aiming for an idealized romance, chasing a model of a relationship where any hint of 'Mayday' was the beginning of the end. Love was meant to be fantastical, and if it wasn't it was doomed.
Shame reared its ugly head.
My shades of grey wreaked havoc.
I couldn't communicate for shit and expected my partner to make sense of it all. I saw her failure to do so as a failure of our love, and we both found ourselves trapped in a cycle that took months too long before it finally broke down.
And yet, it was the break that allowed me the opportunity to see.
I gave light to the colour in me following the end of this drawn-out relationship.
There wasn’t much fanfare to it, it took me months to allow myself, but consciously, slowly. it all started to make sense.
Instead of shaming myself, I started an open dialogue with myself.
Therapy reinforced my confidence, offering me a safe space to explore these ‘wild’ and ‘radical’ concepts.
It started with a gentle yet conscious whisper, “I’m starting to think monogamy might not be it for me?” Months later I found myself surrounded by a wonderful and supportive community of ethically non-monogamous folks.
Often, when people think of Ethically Non-Monogamous relationships, they think of swingers and sexual fiends having orgies and threesomes every Friday after work.
Often you get to hear of how it’s all just an excuse to cheat or a desperate attempt to fix a broken relationship. And yes, I’m sure that there are couples who do open up relationships in an attempt to repair, just like I’m certain that there are couples out there who might be participating in group sex on the regular, possibly after a full day of work on a Friday; and yet I find a lot of these are told as cautionary tales, born either out of ignorance or out of fear of the unknown.
Fear, because perhaps a whisper of teal, coral, or mustard within us, that we’ve denied for years wants for that same exploration.
That was true of me.
Heck, I looked down on ENM relationships! For years! And it was all born out of shame and fear for wanting the same.
Some see ENM as an alien idea, a cautionary tale, or perhaps even unethical.
And yet honesty, open communication, and ethical exploration is the core of it.
I saw my hints of teal at the end of my twenty-two and yet the whispers had always been there, behind my canvas of grey.
Hearing the stories of ENM couples that were growing old together, or navigating this new uncharted space together, that managed to build entirely healthy families while being ethically non-monogamous gave me confidence in the viability of the model.
Hearing of others who had gone through their own journeys, their unique narratives of shedding their greys and finding the colour within, was powerful!
A moment of realization that relationships could both be healthy and non-monogamous!
Cleo and Fran (names changed for anonymity), a married couple that had opened up their relationship after 20 + years of marriage became a positive reminder, a healthy model of what ENM relationships looked like.
In one of my earliest support meetings I remember them saying, “We’ve raised two beautiful kids who’re now adults in their own right, so how tough can this really be if we’re both in this together?”
I will not claim to be the torchbearer of the entire ENM community. There are far too many of us, with unique relational dynamics and subjective experiences and histories to ever be that, but what I can offer, is my honest understanding and experience of it.
Imagine being accepted,
in all your being, with all your wants, quirks, desires, and failures; accepted in full for all you are and encouraged to explore all that you hope to be, without judgement, and without reservation, in a relationship built on the foundation of hard as nails but beautiful as fuck open and honest communication, vulnerability, and love. A partner that you can explore not just yourself, but the world with.
One who acknowledges that your desire for others does not diminish your desire for them.
Perhaps even fantastical?
A fool’s dream?
And yet I have known of love like that.
I have held it in my hands, on a cold November afternoon, and I have kissed it goodbye before a flight that would take me oceans away.
I find myself at peace.
Dare I say, settled.
In my brief time as a young lover on this blue sphere, I have swung from extreme monogamy to extreme non-monogamy, only to find myself somewhere in the middle.
Regardless of the shape and form my next partnership takes I know that I bring into it intentionality, a whole new set of emotional skills and experiences, but perhaps more importantly, I arrive as someone that chooses the person first and collaboratively creates a relationship from a place of being informed and a space of intention.
Whether that's monogamous, non-monogamous or some version in between, a relationship that is the creation of the people at the heart of it. One that doesn't subscribe to a pre-fabricated plan. I know not when and where that happens, but I know it'll be a relationship of equals. One that meets in the middle.
While my acceptance of my non-monogamous self opened me to happiness unparalleled, there were hues within that lacked expression on account of the shame that I had buried them under.
I’m learning to finally express those parts of myself.
I've always been someone who wears their identity, their heart, their weird and odd self on the sleeve. When I don't, every time I shy away or deny the truth of who I am, I feel anxious and I can't really function.
I've learned over the years that when I'm me, when I act in alignment with who I am, I feel great and have the capacity to navigate every shitstorm that life throws my way.
Not to say that certain high-level stuff doesn't rattle me, but my truth and my knowledge of the self enables me to sail through it.
I recognize at 25, I don't need to justify myself or even share everything about myself. However, in embracing my creativity, in writing with vulnerability, and hoping to build a career with that same spirit, I want to share all of these parts of myself with the public and to be able to talk about all of myself. To be able to lend a light to anyone walking through a similar dark in confusion.
My intimate circles have known of my expression, and my colour every step of the way, and yet I want my community of readers, anyone that gets a chance to read this to know about it as well.
I hope by accepting myself, showcasing my journey, and embracing my vulnerability, I can give you a voice to do the same.
This essay is a teaser for a lot of vulnerable content and conversations on this platform down the road, but more importantly, this is also an open invitation for you to start exploring the colours within.
To start a conversation.
To engage in dialogue with yourself.
To empower yourself by acknowledging your truth.
To let go of the shame, the expectations, the grey within, and be more of who you are.
There are others like you.
You are not alone on this journey.
I am learning to finally express those parts of me. Learning to let go of the shame by understanding and then unpacking where it comes from.
By showing light to the greys.
By giving permission to the colour within, I am learning to be more of myself and less of who I’m expected to be.
I come from a culture where queerness is seen as a disease.
Where people believe in a boundless soul and yet find it incomprehensible for two souls of the same gender to be in love.
I have sat in rooms where queerness has been referred to as a phase and nothing more.
I have sat in silence, while an ignorant cousin and my own father argued against the merits of non-monogamy and debated the ‘naturalness’ of same-sex relationships.
And as painfully uncomfortable as those rooms can be, they only embolden my conviction; my belief in sharing our stories.
I am a brown queer man, and the thought of it all at one point sent a shiver down my spine.
Fear that I may not be loved, accepted and believed for who I was.
Isolated, in my grey, believing that there weren’t others like me.
And yet there are.
It’s proof that there are others like us.
Those that do not conform to the models that we grew up with.
We’re in every room,
In every conversation.
We walk the streets, breathe, and drink just like everyone else.
Not alien, not other, not sick…. Just different.
And that scares some people.
For them, it threatens the lie that they’ve been sold.
The lie that there is but one way to be.
But there isn’t.
There never was.
People like us,
People like you and I have always existed.
We’re in the pages of history.
Yet we’re on those pages.
We always have been.
Our existence isn’t a source of shame, if anything it is one of joy, of love! The diversity of our experiences only adds more colour to a world that would succumb to the comfort of its grey; a colourless, joyless palette of monotony breeding conformity to antiquated beliefs.
I have known that palette.
I have believed and confirmed.
I have lived along those lines.
Denied myself the truth of my being.
But I have seen Teal now.
An honest expression of who I am.
I hope that in embracing some of my truth I can offer you the faith to find your own.
I hope that wherever you may lie on that spectrum, that you find your colour.
I have lived my life in hues of grey and known nothing close to happiness.
My years have changed that.
The acceptance of the self opened me to new colours within. The many gradients, lend light to the colourless days bleeding from one to the other.
I no longer see grey, but a shade of Teal.
The colour brings me joy.
It is more of who I am and less of who I am expected to be.