February 13th is Self-Love Day. After recording a podcast documenting my coming out story with sapphic duo at Qu.ear, I’ve been reflecting a lot on a version of myself that existed half a decade ago. Terrified of what I was about to discover, unable to truly believe I was gay, incapable of self-love. It all landed a little too close to the new discoveries about my gender just last year and having to learn about self-love all over again to get me through it. So for that, this post goes out to the old me, the older me, and everyone struggling to navigate and accept queer identities within themselves.
It’s okay to be scared
Fear drowned me in the days of questioned identity. Terrified to be gay, terrified that I might be “faking” being gay, I breathed and shuddered from the heavy weight of fear. But, I never found my fear justifiable.
My parents weren’t homophobic. In fact, I had every reason to believe they would love me unconditionally; coming out wouldn’t break that unspoken promise of bringing a child into the world. I knew that. But, in an isolated world of torn and questioning identity—something so deeply, soulfully lonely at the time—any seed a doubt bloomed into a suffocating, unbearable jungle of terror. It took me two years to come out to my parents.
- Fear is a normal part of the process.
- All of your fear is justified, no matter how irrational it seems or how irrational others might make you feel about it.
- You are not faking it.
It’s okay to be confused
The first step of my queer identity crisis rested in simply realizing I wasn’t straight. After 18 years, I began concluding my interest in girls fell out of step with the norm. Those thoughts leaked into consciousness slowly, trickling in drip by drip, before the damn broke and opened the gates of fear.
I settled into queer identities by first talking myself into accepting “not straight” as the likelihood of my existence—something I certainly wasn’t happy with at the time. I probably wasn’t straight, and I hated it. But it wasn’t the end of my life. I could still end up with a boy and everything would carry on as it always had.
The following three years came with a label of “bisexual” even while I navigated other possibilities—asexual? Demisexual? Biromantic? Queer? Demi-homosexual biromantic? Lesbian?—The options overwhelmed me, confused me, hurt me, even. I settled on bisexual because it made sense at the time. It kept me safe when I was scared. It kept possibilities open even though I think I knew, even then, that I would never date a man. But carrying forward meant accepting that my truth as I knew it was in that moment. If it changed, it changed. If it didn’t, it didn’t. Just as my life existed while I thought I was straight, I will carry on existing with a different label that pulled me closer to center, closer to safety, even if it wasn’t mine forever.
I re-learned all this last year during my gender identity crisis. Gender felt off after not performing it in lockdown—a flurry of accidental gender euphoria and sheer confusion disrupted an affirmation of my past: that I didn’t mind having “masculine” features as woman. Trying out “nonbinary” terrified me—what if my final identity was a trans man? What if nonbinary is just a stepping stone to that point? While the fear of being wrong again interjected itself into gender identity navigation, this seed of doubt had little to work with. I’ve done this before, and I survived it. Nonbinary is my truth now, could be my truth next year, could be my truth forever. If it’s not, I might be disappointed, but I will survive, and I will learn to love myself again.
- What you feel now is real. It is true for you right now and that is enough.
- Labels can change.
- Sexuality can be fluid for some people.
- Gender can be fluid for some people.
- Queer identities can change, but it doesn’t mean they will. What you feel now right now is real.
- So many queer people are confused in the beginning and get confused all over again before loving themselves. Feeling lost right now does not mean you won’t feel as sure as others do at a certain point in your life.
It’s okay to lose yourself
When I first realized my queer identity, I felt totally and completely alone and lost. I’d been wrong about myself my whole life. I had no idea who I was. In the space of a month, my new identity swept away my childhood and adolescences as experience that happened to me, never something I actively participated in. I never lived, I discovered each night, staring at the dark ceiling.
Life up to the point of coming out unraveled like I had a script to stick to. I spoke only according to the script, interacted with even my closest friends and family according to the script, and responded to others based on what the script said. Realizing my queer identity unlocked my mystery of life; I discovered that I’d been playing a character since the day I was born. Nothing about who I was felt real, and I lost myself entirely.
Self-love came with learning who I actually was. After years of work, I found new people I would feel comfortable with, I re-established old relationships after coming out, and I threw my script away. Terrifying and rewarding, rebuilding my identity relieved the pain and humiliation of everyday life of years’ worth of work.
- You are not being dramatic.
- Feeling the loss of a childhood/adolescence/etc. can be debilitating and feeling this way is not an overreaction. You acted and shifted an identity to match what society expected from you without even noticing, and that is a hard reality to confront.
- Don’t be ashamed of what you did to protect yourself.
- You will find yourself again.
Leave more self-love tips you have for people while they navigate new and changing identities!
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