The greatest challenge in an LGBTQI person’s life is dealing with the consequence of growing up ‘queer’ in a ‘straight’ world. Sadly this often results in feelings of shame, rejection and anger – a toxic cocktail that can lead to substance abuse, promiscuity, depression and suicide.
Despite all the progress we’ve made in recent years towards equality and breaking down of the queer stereotype, there are still many communities, and in some cases countries, where young people still suffer in fear.
I speak from experience having grown up in a rough part of town where being gay was considered wrong, dirty and abnormal. In the eyes of those around me, I grew up believing I was weak and undeserving.
So, as many do, I turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with the shame and guilt. What started out as an occasional indulgence soon became my regular means of escaping the social pressures of the world around me.
I believed I had it under control until I reached a turning point six years ago. I’d been partying non-stop for three days when I found myself in a stranger’s apartment surrounded by men I didn’t know. I had no idea how I got there and what I had been doing for many hours.
In a sobering moment, I realised if I continued down this path I’d end up dead, or in prison.
Having chosen to remove myself from this toxic cycle of substance abuse, I lost all my friends and was left feeling lonely and isolated. I turned to dating apps to fill the void, but I found people on there were also doing the things I was trying to get away from.
Just when I thought I had nowhere to turn, I found CrossFit. Not only did my mind, body and soul benefit from increased strength and fitness, I found a community who accepted me for who I was.
A community with the same common goal as I had – to live a wholesome, healthy lifestyle. I discovered things about myself I never knew were possible, and more importantly, I had so much fun in the process!
Fitness saved me. That’s what inspired me to become a coach and create WOD OUT – an organisation that brings Sydney’s LGBTQI community together to promote a healthier lifestyle through fun fitness events whilst raising money for charities that actively support our community.
My message to those who may find themselves in a similar situation to me when I was younger is to stop worrying about what others may think. Focus on what you value in yourself and what you want to achieve in life.
If you feel stuck in a destructive lifestyle, find your passion – be it art, music or fitness – and find your new tribe. You’ll be amazed how many people are willing to help.
My mission in life is to help those affected to dig deep and find the courage to make the change.
For more on Daniel and the other finalists of Mr. Gay Pride Australia visit the website www.mrgayprideaustralia.com