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LGBTQ Voices

How I Don’t Let Others Define Me With Labels

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Author casually posing with one hand on her hip and other by her side, in a red dress, in front of a wall supporting P&G and #BFF2017
Greenville, NY

When I was a little kid, I always knew I was different. I didn’t know how to label it. So I just figured I was who I was and left it at that.

It wasn’t until fifth grade, when kids started to make fun of me and call me ‘gay’ that I realized just how much I stood out from the rest. The attribution those kids gave me during those early year forged my early ideas about what I thought I was.

Since everyone thought I was gay, and I acted effeminately and felt attracted to boys, I just assumed they were right. It wasn’t until college that I realized the ‘gay’ label just wasn’t right for me.

I met people that identified outside of the gay/straight, male/female system of constructs. People who called themselves ‘trans’ and ‘queer’ and other labels I had never heard of before. And, I realized that I fit better with those labels than the ones given to me by my fifth-grade peers.

Coming out to my family and friends was a fearful process. I was concerned with letting them down, and afraid of being rejected for who I am. But over time, I was able to tell people who I really am.

With the help of a supporting circle of friends and family—and an equally supporting LGBTQ community— I was able to accept being different. And, I even feel empowered to wear my identity on my sleeve.

Currently, I identify as a trans/queer individual. This label’s always subject to change as I learn more about myself and what kinds of labels best fit me.

Four years ago, Laverne Cox was featured on the cover of TIME magazine next to the words, ‘The Transgender Tipping Point.’ While the title was not entirely accurate, the trans community is better off than it was a couple years ago. Particularly, in terms of how our stories are being presented.

The media is increasingly allowing for trans people to tell their stories in their own words. Creating an authenticity that just isn’t there when we’re talked about through the lens of heteronormality. While I don’t think we’ve reached a tipping point just yet, I am proud that the LGBTQ community is on the right path to receiving the acceptance we deserve.

LGBTQ Voices

How I Gained Self-Acceptance Through Queer Straight Alliance

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Author, in a maroon sweater, and grey cap in the mountains and overlooking a vast canopy of trees
Rochester, NY

I’ve come out to friends who know me well. Not family. It’s mainly because they probably wouldn’t understand bisexuality. They would think that you have to be either straight or gay.

I feel like they would consider it ‘just a phase.’ I’m at a stage in my life where I’m fairly independent.

My personal life is something that my family becomes aware of on a need to know basis. I don’t know if I’ll ever come out to them. Maybe someday, but not now.

In high school, I was pretty repressed. I went to a Catholic middle school.

The message there was that being anything other than straight means that you’re going to burn in hell. Even though, at that point, I was starting to question that doctrine.

Moving into high school, subconsciously, I think I still carried it with me. I was pretty sexually repressed until around the start of junior year.

I helped a friend, who was out at the time, start the Gay-Straight Alliance, later the Queer-Straight Alliance, at my high school.

By changing who I was hanging out with, I began to develop self-acceptance.

I realized it was okay to question these things. It was in senior year of high school that I started saying to people, ‘I’m figuring myself out, but I know that I’m not completely straight.’

I’ve always felt sort of weird about being a late bloomer. I do feel privileged in that I did eventually have the space to explore my sexuality. I know that’s not always the case for everyone.

We had a honeymoon stage where it seemed like LGBTQ people were having a lot more freedom to be self-expressive. It felt like there was this social progression for acceptance.

I think the Trump era has definitely reinforced the fact that this maybe not have been true. Although it’s certainly not the 50s and 60s, I think that there is still a considerable amount of struggle when it comes to being out. Especially depending on where you are.

There are pockets where people are very accepting. However, we still have a long way to go.

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LGBTQ Voices

How I Overcame the Expectations of My Family to Conform to Societal Norms

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Author, in a black sweater and red pants, standing against a railing overlooking a canopy of trees
Long Island, NY

Growing up in a conservative household, there was no room to be different or to speak out against the norm.

My parents expected me to be very traditional in all aspects of my life. They even originally didn’t want me to go to college. Instead, they wanted me to just look for a spouse right out of high school.

However, I am not very traditional and I have come to the realization that I probably never will be. Most of my friends are single and in their late 20s.

They do not have typical office jobs and many of them are in the LGBTQ community. Actually, being a part of this friend group is the main reason why I had enough confidence to come out.

Once I graduated high school, I was pretty lost. I was hiding my sexuality from my family for years and even tried dating the opposite sex to please them.

However, once I started going online more frequently, I started to meet people who had similar struggles and stories. This is where I was really able to speak out and make connections in the LGBTQ community.

Eventually, I was able to come out as a lesbian to my family with my friends’ help and support. While I was not accepted right away, I was still so relieved that I was being open and honest with my loved ones.

Personally, I really hope that our community can keep staying strong and speaking out for what is right. In recent years, I have noticed many more LGBTQ characters and figures being publicized in pop culture. This is wonderful for younger audiences, specifically so that they can be introduced to our community at a young age.

I personally appreciate TV shows such as Glee and Riverdale for their ability to use LGBTQ characters. Also, seeing same-sex marriages being legalized and promoted is really a great thing for our community. This really gives our community the validation it needs to keep making a difference in the world.

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LGBTQ Voices

My Journey Testing Out Different Labels for Myself

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Two wrists wearing rainbow bracelets.
Queens, NY

Growing up in the internet age with things like Tumblr and Twitter in my life as a teenager really helped me see that I was bisexual. On the internet, you can be true to yourself.

You can explore and discover who you are relatively safely. You can be anonymous to people you know in real life. That gave me so much freedom.

Because of the internet, I was able to test out different labels and see what was right for me. I identified as aromantic, pansexual, and lesbian. I eventually settled on “bisexual” as the best label for me.

I don’t use Tumblr anymore because it has many toxic ideas on it. Still, it really helped me as a teen trying to find myself.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t grown up with the internet or if I hadn’t lived in a progressive city like New York. I think I could have lived my whole life repressing my sexuality and believing I was straight.

Being bisexual is so important to me. I’m so thankful for the environment I was raised in.

The LGBTQ community is incredibly important to me. Having a community like that helps me meet amazing new people.

I love going to LGBTQ+ events. This community is so strong, creative, and resilient. I’m very proud to be a part of that.

All of my close friends are LGBTQ+ too. Even people that I knew before coming out.

Having that in common brings us closer together. It’s something that we can talk about and bond over.

I’m not officially out to my parents but I think they know. They’re very open-minded so they wouldn’t care anyway. I’m out to my sister, she’s bisexual too.

With my friends, it was casual. Like I said, they’re all part of the LGBTQ+ community.

I knew they were LGBTQ+ before they knew about me. That made it really easy to just drop into conversation. Now we’re a big happy LGBTQ+ group, it’s great.

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