How long will being who you are be more painful than a chronic illness? | Tom Bueno

Understanding and accepting one's sexuality helps to deal with chronic diseases
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Understanding and accepting one’s sexuality helps to deal with chronic diseases

Living with a chronic, incurable disease, such as diabetes, is difficult enough for anyone. Now, try to imagine all this demand for care that the disease requires in the lives of those who have to struggle daily to just exist or survive?

I had never thought about it, until one day, during the recording of the webseries “Yes, diabetic”, I heard from an interviewee the following sentence: “Diabetes would not bring me down because I am already in a much heavier fight than a chronic disease: homophobia”. The choked answer came shortly after I asked him how he felt when he was diagnosed with diabetes.

That touched me and for a few days I reflected on that line. This made me understand some of my past attitudes, right after my diagnosis.

I was only 22 years old and, for the first time, I had fallen in love with a person of the same sex. Despite the jokes I used to hear as a teenager about my sexuality, I confess that, until that moment, I didn’t understand who I really was. The feeling of that occasion confirmed something that scared me.

The process for me to have this answer and certainty took five years. During this period, I had to neglect part of my diabetes treatment, not because I wanted to, but because priority issues in life demanded my attention. Taking care of diabetes was not a priority for those who did not even exist. How to talk about self-care? I spent most of my time trying to conform to standards out of fear that people wouldn’t accept me. As if being gay is something wrong and unacceptable. If not even I had the ability to welcome myself, understand myself, how would I take care of a chronic illness that demands so much time in the day. Studies show that a person with type 1 diabetes, for example, spends up to 5 hours a day making diabetes-related decisions.


Tom Bueno with rainbow umbrella
Personal archive

long live the rainbow

As I said, it was a hard and difficult process, but when I accepted myself, I said: “ok, I’m gay and I need to live this life, even if it doesn’t please others. I have the right to exist as I am and not as my family or friends want.” I have to admit that this acceptance and self-confidence came at a time when I had already moved out of my parents’ house and was already financially independent. That was my time!

I told all this to report that, after that, diabetes self-care happened. I understood that it was not just the doctor who had the mission to treat. I had an important and essential role in not having more serious problems resulting from uncontrolled diabetes. But, this is only possible when basic issues are resolved. A person who can’t exist or needs to fight every day to survive in the country that kills the most LGBTQIAPN+ people, the challenge of also being diabetic, for example, ends up being even more difficult for most. Not everyone is as lucky or privileged as I am, for that matter.

That’s why I always say that prejudice kills and sickens people who just want to exist as they are, as they should be. That’s why Daniel’s speech in my interview is very strong and leaves a reflection: how long will the fact of being who they just are be more painful than the diagnosis of a chronic disease with no cure?

This is an issue for everyone. Love is love!



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