Editor's Picks, Community, LGBTQIA+, Gender & Identity, Life

At 25, I’m just starting to learn what being queer means to me

And why I still feel like I should be standing on the sidelines of this community.

This past June was San Francisco Pride. It was my first time attending pride as someone a part of the community and not solely as an ally. Even with all the acceptance and inclusivity being thrown my way, it still felt like I should’ve been standing on the sidelines as a cheerleader instead of in the game as a queer participant.

This past year has been a difficult, slightly unexpected and extremely refreshing year for me regarding my sexuality. I think I’ve always prided myself on how much I know myself and how in-tune I am with how I feel and why I feel that way. But this time around, I had to put my ego aside and get to know another part of myself and allow myself to simply….not know.

Less than a year ago I met my now partner, who is fully immersed in the queer community and so openly proud and comfortable with who they are as a non-binary queer individual (fuck yeah 100%). As we got to know each other better, we decided to share our coming out stories. It was my turn and I didn’t have one. I was physically shaking, I felt ashamed, embarrassed and thought they would think I was a fraud. Am I a fraud? I thought. I was so terrified to admit to them, let alone myself that I was not comfortable or sure of who I was, which was a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time.

I didn’t and still don’t fully feel a part of either the hetero or queer community. It’s that feeling like you don’t have a spot on the team, because before you get a spot you first have to choose which team.

When I’m around the queer community, there’s this feeling like I have to be fully queer, that I have to prove my “gayness” when I myself don’t even know what that looks like yet. Then there is this fear of if I express my attraction towards men that I no longer belong to this community because “I’m just going through a phase”.

But even through all the dark tunnels I go down, I come out of it every time reminding myself that this isn’t what the LGBTQ+ community is about, right? It’s about accepting the in-betweens, the unknowns and the exploration, whatever that may look like and down whichever road it may take you. It’s about remaining non-discriminative, even within your own community and allowing people to be who they are, no questions asked (unless they’re being assholes and rude, bye).

Going through the exploration of my own queer identity has created a whole other shelf of empathy for the LGBTQ+ community. It has also made me recognize my privilege that exists within my experience. I have both parents, my sister, my closest friends, my colleagues all telling me they love me no matter whom I love. I live in one of the most progressive regions of the country, and I have a partner that wants nothing more than for me to feel included. I am cis-gendered and can pass as a hetero femme.

So maybe this is not where I take center stage, where I do not stand in the spotlight, but learning that I can still be a part of the team as a whole. That I can still admit I feel lost and out of place.

I still don’t feel like I have my coming out story, and it’s a strange and unnerving experience when you feel like others are writing it for you. The best thing y’all can do, both people of the LGBTQ+ community and those outside of it, is to not assume or tell people who they are, who and what they must like. ASK. Create space for others to write their own story and allow them to read it aloud when and if they’re ready. Listen, be supportive and open to all the times they may change their mind. Believe them if they tell you they’re not sure, if they say they’re still figuring it out. Believe them if they say they like both men and women, believe bisexuality, show them that however they feel, is valid.

I am still learning myself, so say it with me: “My sexuality is real and valid wherever I fall on the spectrum.”

I thought that I had to be fully gay or fully straight. I thought I had to prove myself one way or the other. But learning that human sexuality can be SO fluid and that we must practice patience for ourselves and learn to love our process.

That is where we can truly understand ourselves.

So here I am, 25 years old, a baby queer, still learning my first steps, growing with each day, hearing my own voice, and being okay with admitting that I don’t know.