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LGBTQ Voices

How the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network Helped My Self-Acceptance

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A young man with dark brown hair wearing a green and black blended shirt, while sitting outside in the garden.
Long Island, NY

Unlike Macklemore, when I was in the third grade, I didn’t think that I was gay. Although he advocated the legalization of same-sex marriage in ‘Same Love,’ as a kindergartener, I didn’t believe my classmate when she told me that she could one day marry a woman.

She would marry a man, I said, and I would marry a woman. My two-and-a-half-year-long relationship with a girl in high school, my self-awareness aside, was more toxic than a Tide Pod.

But when we broke up, I was still unhappy with myself. I finally recognized that I had been repressing my sexuality. I came out to a few of my closest friends before telling my parents.

After that, I began telling more and more friends. On National Coming Out Day, the October of my freshman year of college, I came out to the world (via Instagram). This was a liberating moment because it symbolized my self-acceptance.

Coming out to people allowed me to express my authentic self, which often brought me and my friends closer. But some friends expected our relationship to change suddenly in a superficial manner.

As a token gay, I was now supposed to embody stereotypes fueled by queer representation in the media. But I don’t like shopping nor showtunes, and ‘yaaaaas queen’ isn’t a preferred catchphrase of mine.

Many young women idealize the notion of a gay best friend, but I’d rather not be their rainbow-colored arm candy. I may be your best gay friend, but I’m not your gay best friend.

Since the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, more and more people have come out of the closet. I am grateful that, for me, the most difficult part of being gay was pining after a manipulative, mixed-signal-sending, self-identifying straight male, but discrimination against queer individuals is rampant.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found in 2014 that only five percent of middle and high schoolers reported that their health classes included ‘positive discussions of LGBT-related topics.’

According to an article published by The Guardian in 2018, ‘almost half of trans young people have attempted suicide.’ Federal laws still fail to protect LGBTQ+ employees’ rights in the workplace.

We must be wary of officials in the Trump administration who have supported and spouted homophobic and transphobic policies and statements, and we must continue to promote the acceptance and tolerance of the LGBTQ+ community.

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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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