The following message popped up in my inbox a few days ago:
I think I just figured out that I’m gay or maybe bi? I’m not sure what I am. I don’t really expect you to figure it out for me. I was just wondering though if you had some advice for a girl just starting out in the gay world? Anything would be helpful!
Mostly I wanted to reach through the screen and hug this person. I wish there was some sort of Welcome Package.
I’m iffy about giving advice, because advice is usually just an opinion and an opinion is entirely shaped by a person’s personal experiences. And my experiences may not be your experiences and what has worked for me may not work for you. That’s my longwinded way of saying I don’t really feel comfortable offering advice. At least not in the “this is what you should do” kind of way.
But I’d recommend sites like Autostraddle, and Lesbicanarias as good starting places to find information, like-minded people, articles of interest, and things that may lead you to other great and wonderful things. That’d be my “Too Long, Didn’t Read” answer to the question.
The long answer is that I’m always happy to share whatever nuggets of wisdom I’ve acquired while fumbling my way through life these past 31 years. And I shall share these insights with you now at no extra charge.
We’ll call them“Ing-sights.”
Ing-sight #1: You define the label – the label doesn’t define you
The first question we tend to ask ourselves is: What does it all mean? What are we? Are we gay? Are we straight? Are we bisexual? Are we transgender? Queer? Where do these feelings of mine fit in?
I think that labels are beneficial insofar as they help us find each other and help us find relevant material and information out there in the world. They help us create movements and communities and unite and march and fight and protest and ignite change. They give us common ground. All of that is incredibly important and should not be overlooked.
But I think that labeling ourselves and each other is problematic. These labels are meant to describe our sexuality, not define the entirety of who we are. That’s asking too much of a simple word. We’re not static objects. We change constantly. We are not all the same. And to expect each other to choose a label and shape our lives to match whatever expectations fall under that label is counterproductive to our entire cause. We shouldn’t be trying to make our lives harder.
We spend our whole lives collecting labels. We’re slapped with a label the second we’re born: “It’s a girl!” Then the rest start piling up: race labels and skin color labels and hair-color labels and family labels and religious labels and financial status labels and nationality labels and labels based on what school we go to and what grade we’re in and what social group we fall into and so on and so forth. Each label comes complete with its own list of expectations.
By the time we notice that we just checked out a girl and thought she was hot, we’ve already gathered three tons of pre-determined labels that are dragging behind us, slowing us down and keeping us from self-awareness. No wonder we’re all so confused.
I think that we, as people who don’t fit into the pre-cut societal mold (regardless of the individual label that you assign yourself) should work on making things easier on each other. We’re a community that struggles daily to express and convince others of the boundlessness of love. That love should start with ourselves and each other.
The truth (as I see it) is that labels are unimportant in the grand scheme of our lives. You are not the label. The label doesn’t define or control how you feel. If you are a girl who likes a girl then you’re a girl who likes a girl and that won’t change whether you call yourself a lesbian or bisexual or queer or whether you call yourself a chicken or a hippopotamus or a gnome.
We’re all born wonderfully, beautifully different. That’s the greatest of gifts and it should be celebrated, not contained. Dare to be embrace your differences. Be forever proud that you dance outside the lines.
Ing-sight #2: People will always find reasons to hate you
If the Internet has taught me anything at all is that people really want to dislike other people and they feel a desperate need to vocalize this dislike in public using CAPITAL LETTERS and poor grammar and lots of exclamations points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111111ONE
Your sexuality is but one of the many, many reasons people may dislike you. I am sure there are people out there that hate me because my name is Ingrid and it reminds them of this other girl named Ingrid who spit on them when they were five and that led to a traumatizing experience involving the cops and maybe public urination.
I read an article the other day where a commenter used six long, rambling paragraphs to express their hatred for the article’s author because the author was not concise enough. And they, as a published author of many authorly things, felt offended that anyone giving writing advice should use more words than necessary to express a point.
There is a lot of unhappiness out there in the world. People will want to share this unhappiness with you. No one wants you to be happier than them or be perceived as superior to them in any shape, way or form.
My point is that worrying about people hating you for your sexuality is pretty useless. If they don’t hate you for your sexuality they will find some other reason.
You can’t control how other people will react to anything you do or say. All you can do is speak and live your truth. Some people may resent you for it, but it’s my experience that more people will respect you than hate you.
Plus, really, it’s the best way to make a difference. And making a difference feels really good.
Ing-sight #3: Only you can decide what’s right for you
Here’s the #1 thing I’ve learned over time, which I think can be applied to basically everything in life:
There is no one way to be anything.
For every person telling you to do it this way, there’s another fifty telling you not to do it that way.
The thing about life is this: you have to find your own path. Time is always going to push you forward whether you want it to or not. Only you can decide which way to steer it.
You can be silent. You can be loud. You can listen to other people’s advice or you can make things up as you go along. You can be closeted or you can be “out.” You can wear your hair short or you can wear it long. You can shave it all off. You can have an army of gay friends or an army of straight ones or a mixture of everything under the rainbow. You can blend in or you can stand out. You can make logical choices or follow your heart. You can change your mind a thousand times or make a choice and stick to it.
There’s no one way to live your life. There’s no right way. There’s just your way. Your mere existence makes a difference in the world. And you shouldn’t forget that. Decide what’s right for you. Be happy with you. Go forth into the world and be a person who’s proud to be a person. Be proud to love.