Orange by June Ong

 Once upon a time in a land not too distant, there was a girl named O. Yes, she was a girl as told by the doctors on the memorable day when she came to this world and that became the first certainty in the life of O. As she grew up, O began to feel that this certainty wasn’t as solid as it used to be. In fact, the sureness of this certainty began to blur at its boundaries, the firm grasp of this understanding was starting to fade away, bit by bit…

Sexuality began to erode her mind, leaving her in a confused and nearly distressed state. She was definitely every bit a girl but the problem was, what if she didn’t want to be one? What if she wanted to be a non-girl? Desperately, O started seeking for help, support and most importantly, acceptance by the ones she loved. Unfortunately, those doors were slammed shut and no one was giving her the keys to enter back in so long as she still would not accept what society expected from her.

On a fine morning where the orange sun was blazing radiantly in the sky, O jumped to her death. That was the final straw. She could no longer face the taunting, the bully, the pain and most of all, the worries and anxiety that came from a society would could not accept her. Because of this prejudice against her sexuality, O developed severe depression but no one realised the signs. O was stressed to the point she was breaking down from it but still no one reached out for her. Why? All because no one paid a little more attention to her or lend her a pair of ears to listen to her. The death of a cheerful girl was the sacrifice needed to send society this message of plea.

 Society has an odd way of dealing with stigmas and stereotypes. On one hand, we say we embrace your unique difference and readily accept whoever you want to be as long as you are comfortable in that skin. On the other hand, there is still this small nagging feeling inside of us, whispering and jeering slightly that these “different” people are odd, eccentric and challenging the ideas and norms that any religion forbids. We are a little bit more two-faced than we admit we really are.

When this happens to a stranger who comes out into the limelight and openly projects to the world his/her sexuality, we smile and applaud their courage. When it happens to someone close to us. However, we start developing this fake constrained smile and although you don’t voice your disapproval out loud, you might be secretly curling your lips in disgust. Hippocratic is it not?

 What do you associate to when you think of the colour orange? You link it to the sun, the fruit and etcetera but funnily enough, you never link it to either gender right? We have been drilled and instilled when it comes to gender preferences, boys = blue, girls = pink. My question for you is: What if I want to be orange?

  The colour orange reflects warmth, happiness and plain bliss but what if underneath that façade, that orange is actually replaced by red or even worse, black? Here’s my second question: Do you know anyone who might seem normal on the surface but he/she is actually suffering from mental illness? Mental illness takes on many forms. Most stem from work or academic stress, some comes from broken relationships and some comes from a society who is not willing or ever ready to accept who you want to be.

Lately, circumstances have shed some light on this serious matter but after a while, it blows away and we return back to our comforting normality. Does it really need to take constant deaths and blows to continuously remind us of this deteriorating social stigma? Isn’t one death enough to give us the wakeup call of our lives? Unfortunately, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life, we always forget.

 This is my pledge to you: Even if things are slightly different from what you were raised to believe in, do not shut that door, instead be open-minded and most importantly, listen. If you notice something amiss, a slight difference to any usual behavior, do not hesitate to reach out. I admit, sometimes it might be confusing especially on social media when people moan and complain about ending their lives and it is hard for us to distinguish between to those who truly need a crying shoulder and those who are just seeking for some attention. Problem is, we generalize all of them and disregard them all as being attention-seekers so we choose to ignore. Until it really happens.

 Tick. Everyone needs support in their lives. Tock. Problem is, what if they have no one to turn to when all the doors have already slammed shut? Tick. Reach out to people. Even if it’s a stranger on a subway who seems like they might be having the worst day of their lives, smile at them, share a joke or embrace them in a hug. Whatever you do, it might have a significant impact to prevent that fatal pivotal point.  Tock. Time is running out. Tick. Mental illness is not something to be cast aside and shun in the corner. It is a problem that we can help overcome even just by the smallest of all acts. Tick. Tock. Hurry. Before “orange” fades and becomes the dark colour of yesterday……

 

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