Different in Some Way
Whether people accept you or not, it is imperative you embrace yourself completely. With anti-LGBTQIA+ laws flourishing in various states in the U.S, accepting who you are is just as imperative as it was in 1977, when Anita Bryant began her anti-LGBT campaign in Dade County, Florida.
There is a rainbow sea of coming out stories on the web. Narratives of people courageously declaring to their loved ones that they love in curved ramps and forked roads. We’re still surrounded by heteronormativity despite the small increase of societal acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community (pandering and monetizing the community, not included). Realizing that you’re different in some way can be hard to swallow, especially if that kind of different has 65 hate groups against its unique flair. However, the importance of coming out to yourself and accepting who you are is pivotal. Leaving internalized homophobia to run rampant in you can potentially lead to anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicide ideation. Life is a beautiful journey with inevitable trials. With all of the challenges we’re up against, hiding who you are only adds to the conflict.
Looking back, I realized that I was one of the people who struggled with sexuality because of self-denial and unneeded strife. The root cause for my internalized homophobia was based on the denomination I was indoctrinated in and my surroundings. I am still unraveling and unpacking years of grooming and “straight fixing”. Nonetheless, I am also aware of the paucity of sexual orientation discourse and representation resources available to me.
Growing up and into early adolescence, coming out or sexual orientation for that matter wasn’t a conversation, just dismissive statements and bypassed lines. “It’s a phase.” “Take your time, you’re still young.” “It’s disgusting.” “My parents won’t let me hang out with f*ggot*.”
Releasing the Weight
A few years after deconverting from Christianity, I came out to myself in 2018. First thing in the morning, on January 26th, I accepted that I was a woman who loves women, and I felt lighter. I finally dropped the load of self-hate, the homophobic rhetoric told to me, and the actions I’ve seen with my own eyes that threatened my very existence for being authentic. At that moment I realized just how much I deprived myself of living freely in my skin. I realized how exhausted I was from carrying an identity that was somewhat me but not actually me. It was as though seven weighted blankets were gently lifted off my shoulders. Although it took me a long time to embrace myself as a lesbian, I am grateful that I was able to do it during my lifetime. My self-esteem was no longer hampered by a brick ceiling, and I felt more confident in myself. I felt more authentic in my encounters with myself and others.
Yes, I dated other women before that moment, but internalized homophobia blanketed my being even as I advocated for others within the LGBTQIA+ community. I was able to love and accept them. However, accepting myself—that wasn’t a default response. Coming out to others while still harboring self-denigration will not bring you any closer to peace. In addition, this goes beyond a political agenda or attack on any religion. David Matheson, a former practitioner of “ex-gay therapy”, came out as gay in 2019— hold the self-hate and gay conversion therapy. He is still a Mormon from what the media is aware of. No matter what you believe or don’t believe: accept yourself.
Accept You, Love You, Fight for You
Accepting that you’re attracted to someone in a non-heteronormative fashion is a big step and a courageous one. It is, however, simply the beginning. Remember that once you’ve come out to yourself and your loved ones, and begun living your life more authentically, some may not accept you. Even to the point of creating laws that dehumanize, belittle, and discriminate against you. Accept you, love you, and fight for you and others like you. Although this journey does not end at self-acceptance, it is one of the biggest.
Now, go be real with yourself.