Since my last post, I’ve been thinking a lot about being visibly queer. Almost as soon as I knew I was queer, I felt the deep longing to come out. It wasn’t that I was confident about my sexuality, I was twelve years old and the most confused little creature; I spent much of my time (just like most twelve-year-olds) wondering how I could fit in. Underneath this desire was a greater urge: to be myself, honestly and unashamedly.
Aged thirteen or fourteen I told one of my friends, almost by accident, but with the subconscious desire for the news to spread. Around three days later I had told a few more friends and by the end of the week the whole school knew. I went to a working-class, underprivileged secondary school where the kids were rough and unforgiving. I had endured years of bullying for looking different (I had a severe skin condition and a hormone disorder, it was a tough ride) so I was pretty shocked when nobody had anything bad to say about my sexuality. It all felt like a wonderful dream. I was happy to be out, I was even happier to be supported by almost everyone around me. I had a lucky coming-out which I don’t take for granted. I feel privileged every day to have had friends who thought that I was someone to be celebrated. After this, a few other people in the school came out. I was surprised when I was told on a few occasions that I had inspired this. This gave me the first understanding I had of why it’s important to be visibly queer.
I didn’t see the negative side of being ‘out and proud’ until I reached sixth form college. In school, things had been simple, nobody had much understanding about sexuality so I was simply accepted. In college, I met some of the best people I have ever met, and some of the worst. I struggled desperately to cling onto my identity as other people vastly mislabelled me and relentlessly threw questions and comments at me. ‘Friends’ even introduced me to people as ‘the lesbian’ in the group (at this time I identified as bisexual and it felt awfully confusing to have people not only ‘out’ me to everyone we met but also mislabel me). I think labels can really make or break your experience of being ‘out’ (but that’s an entirely different topic which I will write a full blog post on someday.
Since college, I’ve been in a spiral of an identity crisis, never sure of how I should identify or how much I should talk about being queer. For a long time I didn’t even know if ‘queer’ was the right label for how I felt. I’ve met more people who wanted to try to put me into a box and undermine my identity; and I’ve continued to fight myself in the hope that I might just suddenly be ‘normal’. Only recently, I’ve found people who have inspired me once again to be visibly queer. I’ve met amazing young trans people who are proud and unashamed of their identity. I’ve met bisexuals who talk openly about bi-erasure and biphobia without fear or hesitation. I’ve met wonderful trans-inclusive lesbians who are speak about intersectionality and love. I’ve met academics and working-class-heroes, people who work tirelessly for the community and people who have the same values as me. I’ve looked up to people like Tegan and Sara, Cameron Esposito and her partner Rhea Butcher, Ellen Page and historical figures like Marsha P Johnson and the founders of LGSM.
Now it’s my turn to be visibly queer. I’m privileged enough to live in a country where it’s relatively safe for me to do so. I want to take the inspiration I’ve found in all of the wonderful people in our community and I want to channel it. I want to be the visibly queer person I needed to see as a lost, depressed teenager. I want to live the unashamed, joyous, gay (pun intended) life that all of us deserve to live.
Who were your queer icons when you were finding your identity? I’d love to continue this discussion in comments.- AB