Growing up in a small town, everyone was afraid of change. The “norm” of our town was to be a straight, cisgendered (identifying as the gender you were assigned at birth), white person. It didn't seem like it was okay to be different, and how the people in my life acted just confirmed that. The culture at my school was just as judgemental, with the word “faggot” and the "n-word" being thrown around as casually as the kickballs thrown at my face in gym class. Basically, the people in my town did not accept anyone who was different.
When I realized that I was different in about sixth grade, I tried pushing those feelings away. I didn't want to like girls. I didn’t want to accept that I wasn’t “normal”. It wasn’t until I started becoming a teenager and delving into the culture of the internet that I realized that, yeah, I liked girls. And I wasn’t alone, either. I turned to the internet when I wasn’t in school because it was the only place where I felt accepted. I struggled from middle school to college, trying to come to terms with my sexuality and accepting myself for who I am. I still struggle with that.
It’s hard to come to terms with your true self. Here are some of the things I wish someone would have told me when I was trying to figure out who I am.
1.) You didn’t have to know you were queer from your childhood to be a valid queer person.
I used to be under the impression that to be a valid gay person, you had to know you were gay since your young childhood. I thought that since I started realizing I liked girls when I was twelve that I couldn’t be on the gay spectrum; because "I had liked boys before! That must mean I'm straight!" That is not true at all. Some people don’t realize until their late twenties, thirties, forties- there is no right age to discover your sexuality.
2.) It’s okay not to have a definite answer.
You don’t need to have a label. I’m almost twenty and I still don’t have a label. All I know is that I could fall in love with anyone, no matter what their gender is, and that’s okay. You are valid no matter what you identify as or if you identify as anything at all.
3.) You don’t need to change who you are or conform to a stereotype.
I also used to think that to like women, I needed to identify as a lesbian and dress as a “stereotypical” lesbian. But here’s the thing: you are who you are. Just because you have a revelation that you’re gay doesn’t mean anything else about you or your personality needs to change.
4.) You didn’t choose to be attracted to who you’re attracted to, and neither did straight people.
If someone tells you that your sexuality is a choice, they are 100% wrong. Did straight people decide to be attracted to the opposite sex? Try asking a straight person to become gay for a minute if they believe that sexuality is a choice. The look on their face will be priceless.
5.) If someone doesn’t accept you for who you are, they don’t deserve to be in your life.
This is the one that hit home the most. Recently I have been all caught up in deciding if I should come out officially or not because of the backlash I might receive from my friends and family that didn’t know yet. A friend looked me in the eyes and said, “Haley, if they don’t accept you, they don’t deserve to have you.” If the people in your life can’t accept you for who you truly are, and won’t attempt to understand you, they don’t deserve you. So here I am, letting people know that I’m not straight and not worrying about the consequences because if the people around me truly love me, they won’t leave because of who I could fall in love with. And besides, love is a terrible thing to hate.
The moral of the story is this: be yourself. You will be so much happier, and whoever doesn’t accept you doesn’t deserve to be in your life. If you cultivate positivity about yourself, everything else will eventually fall into place.