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My entire life has been swarmed with perplexity. What sports I should play, what college I should go to, and what I should study. Obviously being a Psych major at UTampa I have answered those questions, but there’s still one that sits in my mind 24/7. The stress of putting a label on my sexuality has been prevalent from my adolescent years to right now, as I write this. I understand for many people a label enables them to be their true self amidst the courage it takes to come out (especially in an unaccepting situation). However, I've dealt with so much uncertainty surrounding this topic that it is now not only stressful, but quite literally a burden. I came out as bisexual to my friends and family in my sophomore year of high school, but I now typically use “gay” as an umbrella term unless asked to be more “specific”. 

 

But, why do I have to be more specific? 

Why can’t I love who I love and date who I wanna date? 

Why do people need to know where I categorize myself? 

 

It’s absolutely none of their business. 

 

This conflict has brought an immense amount of stress upon myself and many people I know. I have no idea who I am yet: I’m only 18 years old.

I personally have never dated a boy, so how am I supposed to know if that is something I want.

Especially since I’ve found the girl I want to spend the rest of my life with. 

 

Not only do I struggle finding a label, but when I do classify myself under a certain sexuality based on self-examination (usually fluctuating between bisexual and lesbian) I’m discredited and told simply, no.

 

“How can you be bi if you haven’t dated a guy?” 

“Jules, be honest, you’re not bi you’re a lesbian. It’s obvious. Look at how you dress.” 

 

Look at how you dress.

 

Ah, now gender expression comes into play. I tend to dress more masculine because I’m most comfortable with myself that way (we won’t get into the body image issues and dysmorphia right now), but recently I have felt pressured to dress feminine. I’m not sure if it's the uncomfortable stares I experience, the unnecessary comments about my clothing, or the inability to compliment a girl without being accused of having a crush on them, but femininity has been swarming my mind an overwhelming amount.

Keep in mind I have never felt content dressing feminine (I have to deal with it sometimes especially coming from a conservative family), so the pressure to change my style is stemming from unhappiness with myself solely on the basis of other’s opinions. I have always been comfortable with the way I present… until recently. 

 

Does the way I dress constitute my sexuality?

 

Because I present masculine I must be a lesbian, right?

Now, more than ever, I feel invalidated. 

 

I don’t know myself. I don’t know who I want to be. I don’t know who society wants me to be. My conflict stems from people who I consider close friends, do they actually care about what I have to say? Or, do they believe what they want to based on what they think they know? Who are they to tell me how to dress, how I should act, and who I should love. Their opinion is irrelevant to my self expression and identification. 

 

Anyways, I’ve come to the conclusion that labels SUCK. I’m done worrying about what people have to say about me and how I identify. Until I figure it out I don’t owe it to anybody to have to explain myself. It’s not worth the stress. It will take time to grow and develop and that’s okay. I’m still a kid. I know myself better than anyone and as confused as I may be right now, that does not take away from this simple fact:

 

I. AM. VALID.

 

We all are, I promise.

Juliana is a sophomore at the University of Tampa studying Psychology with a double minor in Criminology and Journalism. She is originally from New York, but plans on leaving the United States when she finishes school. Juliana is a music and movie buff, dedicating a lot of her time to watching movies, finding new artists/music, and going to concerts (pre-COVID). Besides that, she also enjoys going to the beach, road trips, skateboarding, and painting!
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