I want to be where the people are…

“I want to be where the people are…”

Do you remember the first time you went to the movie theatre? What did you see?

I remember the first time I went to the movie theatre. My mom brought me to see The Little Mermaid when I was 4-years-old. It was my first time seeing a movie on the big screen, and one of my first times seeing a movie with singing. 

My life was changed. 

From that time, I have watched The Little Mermaid more times than I can remember, and it gets better every time I watch it.

Many people love the movie because the music is excellent, the characters are loveable, and it features a girl going against what society wants her to do. The last part is the part for me. I have always related to Ariel. A person who is limited because of who they are and wants to break free and be their true authentic self. When I was younger, those are the parts of the movie that tugged at my heart. Those were the parts where I saw myself—in Ariel’s transformation. 

I came out of the closet when I was 23 (July 3, 2007). I remember this day like it was yesterday. Family—I am gay. Now, after spending nearly 14 years out, I still struggle with full acceptance from some of my family members. This is where The Little Mermaid changed for me. It is the end of the movie that gets me every single time I watch it now. 

It isn’t all of the self discover anymore; it is that magical part at the end where her father accepts her, grants her wish to be human, and supports her in her journey. The Little Mermaid is no longer about longing to be where the people are for me anymore; it is about needing to be where the people are and needing your family’s full support. I have a fantastic family and chosen family, but I still long for the day when I can set down with my dad, and he will raise his trident and tell me he fully supports who I am as a person and my journey that I am on.

Every single time I make it to the end of the movie, and this scene starts, I immediately start sobbing. 

If you are a parent, please know your child(ren) listens to every word you say. And, at 37, I still value everything that my parents think of me. 

Would you give up your voice to have your dream? Remember, it’s a metaphor; I gave up a lot more than my voice to be my true authentic self.

*If you have ever met my dad, you will know that he is very proud of me. Very proud of what I do and how talented I am. I get that, and I am grateful he is proud of me for what I do, but I still long for the day to hear that he is proud of me for who I am and who I have become. 

Westley Hodges (they/them)

© 2020, Westley Hodges (whodges@westleyhodges.com)

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