Discovering and Accepting Queerness

When I hear others tell their stories of discovering they were queer, most of them start similarly. “I guess I always knew I was different,” they say with a shrug. Unfortunately for me, I can’t say the same.

My very first crush was in first grade. He had curly brown hair, and once gave me a prairie dog stuffed animal as a gift—so of course I liked him! He moved away at the end of the first grade, and I cried the whole way home on his last day of school.

Since then though, I don’t think I’ve ever had another crush on a boy. As I grew up, my friends had dozens of crushes, and I would listen to them as they swooned over the newest target of their affections, nodding along like I understood their feelings. “Well,” the would ask me,  “Who do you like?” Usually I would shrug and mutter something about not having a crush, but sometimes I decided it would be better to lie to fit in. “Oh, he’s a grade older than us, you guys probably don’t know him,” I would say before quickly changing the subject.

Still, I did sometimes find boys attractive. I’ve always loved Captain von Trapp from the movie The Sound of Music, and who didn’t love 90s Johnny Depp? I had no problem admitting that I appreciated their looks, and even sometimes the looks of boys my own age—I just found the word “crush” too intense to describe the way I felt about them. I liked their personalities, I liked how they looked, I liked their brains—I just never felt interested in them romantically. This had always been my reality, and I had no way to know that this wasn’t how other little “straight” girls felt about the opposite sex. I thought I was “normal.”

Then, I discovered girls.

I had always been friends with girls, of course, and it had never really crossed my mind that I could like them as anything more than a friend. I thought all girls had crushes on other girls, and I assumed they just hid it like I did. I found girls attractive in the same ways that I found boys attractive, but with girls there was something more. Where my interest in boys stopped after their appearances, my interest in girls went deeper. For the first time I was actually interested in the possibility of romantic relationships. I had never wanted a relationship with a boy, yet when I thought about girls I could actually imagine being with them—actually loving them.

Finally, I realized what I had been trying to repress for so long—like it or not, according to society I was not “normal.” There’s nothing abnormal about not being straight, of course, but younger me didn’t realize that. I was terrified of being different, and I was willing to ignore the way I felt to conform to what I, and most of those around me, considered to be the norm. Even once realizing that the way I felt meant that I wasn’t straight, I was still reluctant to make that statement out loud—I was afraid to firmly and permanently throw away the safety that I had known in hiding my true feelings from the world, and from myself.

Despite my worries and fears, being true to my feelings and myself has felt infinitely better than hiding and fitting in ever did—it feels better than I ever could have imagined.

Now, finally, I am able to say that I am able and willing to love whomever I choose—and I love myself all the more for finally accepting that.

 

Image Credit: Erica Rabito