My Story: My Decision to Confront Oppression

by: Devin Burgoyne


Learning has always been accompanied with struggles and setbacks in my educational career. In my early development as a child, I had a difficult and traumatic experience I feel is relevant to who I have become today. I, unlike most children, had no means of communication as a child and had difficulty finding an individual way to personal expression. My mother and I communicated through distinguishable grunts I made that resembled needs and desires I had. This was due to a birth problem where I had the umbilical cord wrapped around my throat and had no means of oxygen. I was faced with numerous problems as I was rushed to several machines and undoubtedly a completely different hospital in the search to receive oxygen. I was resuscitated and hospitalized in time able to return home with my two loving parents. Without the ability to self-express and actively communicate I was presented with an intrapersonal conflict.

When I was only two years old, I was admitted into a specialized speech therapy school to teach children how to manually form their mouth and tongue to pronounce each letter leading to accurately vocalized words. The frustration I endured with my inability to communicate felt unbearable. I would release my anger with physical and emotional strikes towards myself. I believed that my hardships and pessimistic feelings were a product of my personal faults and actions. I began to see differences in myself from the qualities in my fellow peers when I was in middle school. The peers noticed our differences and subjected me to harassment and bullying. The bullying was due to my lack of onset of puberty and my relatively high voice. Students believed these differences were based at the core of sexuality, my identity as a homosexual. I was constantly taught from my father to perceive homosexuality as socially unacceptable and therefore repeatedly internalized these negative sanctions of my true self to the repression of the homosexual behaviors that I undoubtedly wanted to express, this was the beginning of a conflict. The paradigm that I experienced at home and school led me to have no control over my expression of acts or self and forced me into a state of confusion and self-hatred.

I felt hopeless in the fact that I knew that I had to face these conflicts and colliding identities on my own. With this decision as a young child, I took on the personal responsibility to subject myself to the effects of harassment and humiliation on any given day if not every day. In trying to fight my oppression, my tormentors used physical violence to insert their power and dominance over me as they punched and hit repeatedly. The most difficult task to manage was the perception of having two identities: the public version of me, competing with other individuals, and the private self, avoiding and repressing my intrapersonal conflict.

After coming out, analyzing and understanding my childhood I have made positive advancement towards self-acceptance and working for social justice. I feel these experiences are relevant to me today because of how I perceive the world and what I am passion about to change for the future. I am able to see the invisible systems of privilege and power that overlie on marginalized groups due to race, gender and sexuality as well as a variety of other forms. Looking back today, I realize those children influenced me positively in the large scheme of my life. They forced me into a state of emotion where I feel comfortable addressing and speaking with almost any individual about a tear-jerking story, experience or memory. I am now able to understand and receive satisfaction from helping others, feeling empowered as I change someone’s attitude with how I present my own.

I truly began to actively and constructively breakdown my walls to acceptance and happiness when I began my second term of college and was enrolled in Conflict Resolution. Through this course I came to several realizations about how I viewed myself, my sexuality, and dealt with individuals involved. I had held the belief that my self-esteem and social insecurities controlled my decisions and actions. This affected my personal and social lives as I inevitably led myself down a path of conflict, avoiding and competing uncooperatively. I came to peace in understanding myself and that everyone embodies innate characteristics that society uses to categorize and separate us and this realization was the point of transformation. I deeply desired others’ acceptance without first my own acceptance. I have made positive advancement to successful relationships and constructive conflicts through identifying the root of my personal conflict.

Through getting connected with other individuals facing crisis, LGBTQ resources and volunteer experience I am addressing the oppression and discrimination in Portland in the ways I believe I can make a difference. By continuing to have constructive communication about my past and future aspirations I make the conscious decision to address my own form of internalized oppression in overcoming the sanctions and stigmas placed on homosexuality. I am receiving 60 hours of trying to have the ability to be a crisis representative in Line for Life substance abuse and suicide prevention. In speaking with those feeling alienated, isolated and repressed from their identity I will further my passion through my experiences in working with the public because I feel I am making positive differences in the lives of others.

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