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Sex + Relationships

Think You’re Queer? Then You’re Queer (If You Wanna Be)

So I’m bisexual, and also queer, and also gay. I say all of those things about myself even though they don’t all mean the exact same thing because I’m a human being who changes and grows and learns more about myself every day. It’s a thing I’ve accepted about myself.

But it took a while to get here.

I first started wondering if maybe I wasn’t A Straight Girl when I graduated from high school. There was this friend I sort of really, really cared about. And then I got to college and there was another girl I really, really, really cared about. And then another. And then this girl I really, really cared about told me she was gay and dated girls and my entire mind was blown and I had to ask myself: wait, is this what I want?

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What followed was pretty much several months of really rough depression. I’d come back to my apartment after class, sidestep my roommates, crawl into my bed, and just sleep. Like, every single day. I literally didn’t know what to do with my own feelings or myself because I thought I was straight. And, if I wasn’t, what did that mean?

Eventually I got to the point where I realized I was probably queer, but then I had a new problem to face: what if I was wrong? I didn’t want to be That Girl who used a lesbian and broke her heart when I realized that, actually, I was straight. As a big, giant ally for pretty much my entire life, I was truly horrified with that possibility. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I didn’t want to hurt the community. I didn’t want to hurt that girl. But I also didn’t want to hurt myself. And more and more it felt like I was causing myself nothing but pain by forcing myself to push it all down and stay in the dark so I wouldn’t have to face who I maybe actually was, or was becoming. 

I’m not the only one who’s ever felt like that.

Now, I say I’m bisexual. Now, I say I’m queer. I tweet about being gay and post my (girl) partner all over my Instagram and decorate my house in gay art and spend a lot of time reading about queer issues. My friends are all pretty damn queer and we don’t apologize for it. My life and the way I’ve built it is queer.

But for a long time, I felt like I didn’t get to call myself that. For a lot of people, coming out whether to yourself or to other people feels hugely risky because it feels like there’s a way to do it right, and a way to do it wrong. Especially when you’re someone who wasn’t born knowing they were 100 percent gay, it can feel like your sexuality somehow doesn’t count. Especially when you’re bisexual or pansexual or asexual or another sexuality that gets pushed aside in favor of the L and the G, it feels like there’s so much at stake, and if you don’t Do Your Sexuality Right you’re going to ruin the community.

But I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit.

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As the queer community turned into the Gay Rights Movement, it often feels like there’s only one way to be gay — and that that way has to be palatable and easily understood by cis, straight people. We have to be “born this way.” We have to be 100 percent gay. We can’t risk confusing cishets (cisgender hetrosexuals, aka straight people who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth) and losing our rights. We end up policing each other and expecting each other to follow this guidebook that literally does not exist. And when you don’t, it feels like you’re breaking a rule.

But gatekeeping is bullshit and the rules of queerness are bullshit and however you do your own sexuality is yours and it’s real and it can change and it counts. You don’t owe anyone shit.

It’s not your job to make things easy for cis, straight people. Your only responsibility is to educate yourself, to uplift other marginalized folks, and to be kind to other people and to yourself. If for you that means fluidity in labels and experiences, give that to yourself. You deserve it.

Rachel is the Senior Editor at Her Campus. She graduated from Elon University in 2015 where she wrote for Her Campus's Elon chapter as well as the national LGBTQ+ section, and has since held editorial positions at Hello Giggles and Brit + Co along with running social media for several publishers. Her work has been published in Teen Vogue, Glamour, StyleCaster, and SELF, and she can be found in North Carolina smearing face masks on in the name of content. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @RachelCharleneL.
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