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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nottingham chapter.

Before I begin, I want to take you back to 2009. Seven year old me has found themselves in a bit of a tight space with a best friend who has begun to despise me because her crush has confessed his feelings to little ol’ me. It honestly sounds like the beginning of every heteronormative romcom that has the box office in a chokehold. However, this story is far from hetero but very much normal.

My first ever experience with the word “gay” was after I turned prince charming down and asked the wicked witch to be my girlfriend instead. She basically laughed at me and said, “You’re the gay word for girls.” Sad, I know. First love and first heartbreak. Despite feeling shattered (or as much as a seven-year old’s heart could break), my love for girls and women never dwindled or shook even the slightest.

In this article, I want to explore our first encounter with the word “gay”. In 2020, I had a significant amount of my friends and family come out to me and have several discussions with how they concluded that the heteronormative life that they lived, mostly overshadowed how they really felt and how society and people who surrounded them force them to think and act a certain way. Despite these restrictions in place for most of them, they all agreed that a subconscious part of them always asked the same question. “Am I gay if I’m attracted to this?”

This question was always asked with the simplest things. Some of the epiphanies ranged from Shego in Kim Possible, Beck AND Jade from Victorious, Jensen Ackles from Supernatural, Peter Pan (Both live action and animation) and Danny Phantom. These thoughts may not have been normal to most but why shouldn’t it be?

The answer to that was heteronormativity. Boys like Girls and Girls like Boys. End of.

The funny thing about this is that I had multiple straight friends who agreed on the same thing and questioned their own sexuality too. The heteronormative standards have restricted us from appreciating the beauty of finding another person attractive. Allowing people to have the space to question their sexuality should be considered a normative.  A bromance should not be sexualized but appreciated. “That’s gay” and so what. The probability of you knowing a person that identifies with the LGBTQIA community is much higher than you think. It is a naturally occurring phenomenon that should be embraced.

In all honesty, I believe that we have all asked ourselves the big question. Some of us have even taken it further to ask the almighty BuzzFeed just to be sure. The beautiful thing about this is that we don’t all have to get the same conclusion. There is absolutely no reason as to why we can’t just appreciate the beauty in other. A stranger on the bus may make you lost in admiration and for a brief second you think “Do I want to be them or be with them?”

In media today, LGBTQ culture has revolutionized our outlook on the world we live in. Small changes to heteronormativity is almost unnoticed to most people but to the LGBTQ+ community, it is almost vivid and all appreciated. In kids shows, there are characters that have either expressed clearly that they identify with the community, or the creators have made the homosexuality of the character canon. Even in cinema, multiple homosexual characters have graced our screens and given stellar performances. It doesn’t just stop there. Videogames, books, social media, music and any other media consumption we can possibly get our hands on have shown that anyone could be gay and it should not be a taboo to question whether you feel certain emotions towards a person.

This article is not in any way saying that we should remove the ‘hetero’ and replace it with ‘homo’ in heteronormativity but should instead be as mundane as it is. Normal. It should be normal to ask the question “Am I gay?” without feeling the baggage that comes along with it. In fact, this baggage tends to weigh heavy on the mental health of majority of the LGBTQ+ community. This is where internalized homophobia comes into play. I personally found my attraction towards women normal at the age of seven until I was pumped with homophobia juice which caused me to question (till this day) my homosexuality.

It then moves from “Am I gay?” to “Am I gay enough?”. Certain morals are pumped into our subconscious which causes us to extinguish our pride instead of embracing it. I would watch other LGBTQ+ icons on screen and be awestruck with how bold and confident they were. In fact, for a period of time, I thought I had to look androgynous in order to be consider nonbinary. Clearly, I had this idea that if a person did not fall in line with what is expected from a heteronormative standard of a boy or a girl, they could fall out of the binary shackles that society had placed. The idea that I looked too ‘feminine’ to be identified as nonbinary is a form of internalized transphobia that goes hand in hand with internalized homophobia.

The idea that we as humans can express ourselves the way we want it misconstrued by homophobic rhetoric that pushes the community further back than we prefer. Despite the good press that the LGBTQ+ community pushes, we still have multiple forms of power that spill dangerous opinions that are disguised as facts. The people that suffer the most from these negative opinions are black, Trans women. In recognition of this, the most recent pride flag includes the trans flag along with black and brown stripes which represent trans women of colour. #protecttranswomen.

To sum it all up, we are human beings. Questioning our sexuality is part of life. There is nothing wrong with appreciating and showing love towards another or multiple people. Next time you question whether your friend has always been that attractive, just know…that they have. End of. It doesn’t matter who you find attractive from that point on because carrying an unnecessary baggage from then on would lead to a cycle of hate. Seven-year-old Nuri would probably be comfortable with the thought that being gay was just what it was, gay. No heteronormativity or internalized homophobia or fear of negative comments or life-threatening circumstances.

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Nuriat Oluwa

Nottingham '24

You can call me Nuri! My pronouns are They/Them. Law Student with the mind of a creative, spiritual, and accepting mindset. If you ever see me in real life, say Hi! Insta: @noorriioo Tiktok: @thekingspawn