Throughout my childhood, I always thought that if you were any letter of LGBTQ+, you somehow knew straight out of the womb. Most adults just told you it was okay to accept people for what they were, but anything other than cisgender heterosexuality was just that: “Other.” It was only at a homophobia reduction assembly (yes, that was the name of it) that I realized: no one tells you what to do if it’s you.
My journey starts at age 12, when my father told me it was okay for me to like boys or girls. Despite the toxic relationship I had with him, this was one of the sincerest things he said to me.
At age 14, I was in a dark place. I was numb. My memories from freshman year are cold, dark, devoid of the feelings or colors that I associate with the other times in my life. On top of this, I was struggling with my sexuality. I didn’t accept myself, and I didn’t think the new “friends” I had made who were so unlike me would either. So I tried to have feelings for boys (pretty hard when you can’t even feel happy or sad). Didn’t work. I became confused, desperate, taking out all of my pain on those around me. The venom that dripped from my lips at the words I said still burns my skin when I think about it. My sexuality was shoved down, in its place was a sword I wielded in hopes someone else’s pain would force me to feel my own.
At 15, I began having anxiety attacks over many things, including the things I had done the year before. I thought it would invalidate my ability to be authentically myself. To own my sexuality and be proud, I became friends with a group of girls who identified as LGBTQ+ and who also struggled with mental health. They were around for such a short time but they were incredible lights in my life. I “came out,” if you will, to them at a birthday party (honestly not the best situation to be crying about how not straight you are but that’s what happened). I still struggled with guilt and shame around who I was, but it got better slowly.
At 16, I forgot about sexuality for awhile. Let myself find me before worrying about who I’d love someday.
Now, I consider my sexuality to be bisexual, but I’d first describe myself as queer. In a community where identity is important (because we are in a society where that identity is politicized), a well-known label with a history can make the experience more empowering. I don’t fit everyone’s definition of bisexuality. But I fit my own. Even my definition may change. Sexuality is fluid. And that’s okay.
It’s okay to question their identity. It’s okay if it hurts for awhile. If you hurt others in the process, yes, you’ll feel even worse for awhile, but it will never invalidate who you are–you will learn and you will grow. It’s okay to be queer. It’s okay to hold your identity, let it take up space in the world.
To anyone who needs it as much as I once did: Stop being afraid. Live as you.