I should have figured it out way before I actually did. I should have figured out that I was a queer.
All those times, all those signs, right in front of my eyes. I should have acknowledged and figured it out.
I probably would have, if I was not just otherwise occupied.
I wish I could have though. I wish I could have accepted the queer teen I was all those years ago. People have often asked me what advice I would give to my younger self. I think I would have told myself to hang in there, to be patient. But more importantly, I would tell myself that it’s okay to be different, just embrace it, it is fun.
Unfortunately, we learn most of the important things only when we grow up.
If Only Schools Were a Little More Considerate
As a kid I was quite lonely and socially awkward at my school. I was a silent kid, always kept it to myself, never disturbed others, and mostly sat in the back, alone. My parents being divorced added just a little bit more to it. That divorce caused me my depression and anxiety in the first place, at just the age of 6. As a result, I became a subject of discussion in my school.
Children can also be really, very mean. They would openly talk about my family life right in front of me. They would say mean things about my parents’ right in my face, and even laugh sometimes. And they would expect that I would not give a reaction. Well, children can also be really, very stupid.
Academic Quarrels and Challenges
The constant bullying from my classmates pushed me towards having repressed anger issues. It got to a point where I would simply lash out at anyone who would dare to talk about my family life. I always had a tendency to shut people out, walking away from anyone trying to bully me. However, people who would just keep pushing and pushing would end up being at the opposite end of my crushing anger. I had taken every hit and only lashed out when it was too much, and I have never initiated any fight in my life. Still, I am not very proud of this part of my life.
Teachers, on the other hand, could not care any less. It is not that they did not care about my absent father, because they did. The sheer curiosity of why my father’s signature was absent would always leave me nerve-wrecked. However, when it came to interfering in a bullying session, they could not care any less.
Home Sweet Home?
Divorces can be a very nasty business. Not all of them are bad though, some end up on good terms as well. Or so I was told at least. My experience with it was not good, not good at all.
My family life was not filled with sunshines and rainbows. If anything, it was quite the opposite. I loathed staying home, so much so that I preferred going to school every day to staying at home. In my young mind, I remember thinking at least there was even a 1% chance that I would be left alone. But staying at home was simply out of the question. Not going to lie, this actually caused me 100% attendance, so I guess it was not all bad.
That First Ever Instance That Raised So Many Questions
If I ever were to sit down and try to pin point the first ever official time I questioned my sexuality, I think I would fail to find it out. However, the earliest was probably my early teenage years.
A lot of people have asked me how exactly I figured out that I was queer. I replied to them that it was with great confusion. And it is 100% accurate.
Throughout my early teenage years, I remember being very little excited about boys. This, however, was not a very “normal” thing, if I considered my fellow classmates and peers. I was very comfortable around them though, whereas girls always left me weirdly flustered. There was a clear sign right there I ignored for years.
Further Questioning of My Identity
My awkwardness around girls obviously did not help me much with the fact that I studied in an all-girls school. However, with time, I started liking boys and developing feelings for them. At the time, it gave me a sense of normalcy I used to lack all the time. As I had no clue why I was so different from others, it gave me a tiny bit of hope that this time, I might actually fit in.
This, however, soon came crashing down all the way when I started developing feelings for one of the girls in school. At the time, it felt very unfamiliar, and very wrong. But it came crashing all at once and raised the million dollar question. Am I gay? Yup, and guess what? I was only 13 at the time. And trust me when I say this, at the time, nothing seemed more terrifying in the world than being a queer teen.
How Did I Handle the New Realization?
After this sudden realization hit me like a truck, I did what my teenage brain thought was the most logical thing to do. I repressed my sexuality in the deepest corner of my heart. I pushed myself inside the closet so hard that, at some point, it did not feel like a closet anymore, it felt like a coffin I had buried myself.
I would wake up in the morning, look at myself in the mirror, and just keep looking. For some reason, that seemed to help me hold everything inside. I would go to school and sit as far from that girl as I could. I would look around all of my classmates and wonder if anyone else was going through this same thing as I was. If yes, then I could really use some advice at the least.
Not long after that, I started dating guys whom I was not interested in at all. At the age of 15, I started dating this one guy who almost found out that I was a queer teen. However, we broke up before he could out me. My young mind had no idea how wrong it was on so many levels. I was just too busy concealing my sexuality.
The second time I tried to date a guy, it ended up in a disastrous way. It was such a disaster that I ended up taking a break from the entire dating scenario, shutting everyone out. It was the lowest point of my life in terms of mental health. I had hit rock bottom, and I could feel myself relapsing into depression. It felt like all the doors were shut and I had no way out of it. I did manage to find a way out though.
But Why Did I Repress My Sexuality in the First Place?
Now people have asked me why I did that. Why did I repress my sexuality so hard? Well, let me explain and defend my younger self.
Human society is very heteronormative in nature, especially if one lives in India. Here, from the very beginning, we are taught romantic love can only exist in a heterosexual relationship. If it is not heterosexual in nature, it cannot be romantic. Well, more specifically, it is not allowed to be romantic. This age-old, very practical rule has been embedded inside our heads so deep, that we do not even question it anymore. Or at least, we did not use to at the time.
This rule was something I was very much exposed to from a very young age. In fact, it was one of the main rules in my family that was a must to follow. My family was, and still is, very conservative in nature. I have always known how important it was to be a heterosexual, or in other words, “normal”. Homosexuality was considered anything but normal. And what happens if one fails to come out as anything but normal?
I never had enough courage to seek answers to that question, nor did I ever want to push my luck. But what could I possibly do to protect myself from that outcome? Well, there is only one thing that I could do. I buried the queer teen deep inside the closet and replaced it with the perfectly “normal” teen, all in a desperate attempt to protect myself. Yes, my younger self was scared to come out and own up to her own sexuality.
The fear only got worse with time, as I would see my classmates react negatively to other queer individuals. I would see my classmates make fun of queer students, and of my openly queer tuition teacher. I would recoil in myself and simply stay silent, loathing every minute of the occurrence, hoping nothing but to stay away from it.
Hiding It Did Not Work as Well as I Thought It Would Though
By the time I was 17, I had mastered the art of masking my sexuality. I knew I was so deep inside the closet that no one could tell that I was hiding a queer teen inside me. Or at least that is what I thought.
Things started changing when I started noticing certain changes of behaviour from certain people. At first, it was my openly queer tuition teacher. The way he would look at me or treat me always made me nervous. It always felt like he knew something that I did not want anyone to know. It would always leave me a nervous-wreck. However, I always tried to ignore it and focused on hiding myself.
I even noticed some occurrences with my mother where I could almost understand that she knew I was not “normal”. I could also understand how deeply uncomfortable she felt towards it. At this point, I was more afraid of the disappointment I would see in her eyes than the actual results of me coming out as a queer teen.
The last straw dropped when I was approached by an openly lesbian individual about whether I was interested in them. In truth, this terrified me, as I felt like my disguise slipping little by little. But more so, I was utterly clueless and could not figure out how they found out about it.
Back then, I was unaware of the existence of gaydar. Oh, how I wish I had known. However, back then I was on the verge of a full-fledged panic attack.
Finally Gaining Courage to Find My way Out of the Tunnel to Chase the Light
Through such a roller-coaster ride, I managed to reach my 18th birthday. At this point, I became utterly confused about my own feelings. So far, I knew that I was a dumb queer teen and I had only allowed myself to date guys. However, I was also aware I really, really liked women. So was I gay? But I also liked men, well, at least some men. So was I straight? Or was I neither? Is it possible to be both at the same time? So many questions were there and yet no answers at all.
My confusion was at its peak when I found myself developing feelings for a guy from my tuition and a girl from my school. That was the moment I figured I needed to stop denying it and gain some courage to explore it. What could possibly go wrong with a little self-exploration, right?
With the help of a little research, I finally came to the conclusion that I am definitely a bisexual individual. And suddenly, a lot of things started to make sense. I also came to realise that I liked women more than men, which I read was nothing uncommon in the bisexuality spectrum.
However, figuring out was one thing, but coming out, that seemed something outside of the option. Now I was fully aware of who I was, but the fear of not being accepted still did not leave.
And After All These Years, When I Finally Reached the Light
Throughout my years in college, I remained inside the closet. Sure, I let a few people know, and some figured it out themselves. But I mostly stayed inside the safety of the closet. That was until I found myself at the first ever Pride Parade I attended in 2019.
And so there I was, standing there in the middle of a roaring crowd of the Pride Parade; I started feeling so many things at once. I felt overwhelmed, I felt relieved, I felt happy, I felt honoured, but more so, I felt like I belonged there. And so I cried. Right there, standing in the middle of all the laughter and joy, I cried as I looked at the Pride Flag up and high.
Reaching Hope Continued
I cried hard that day, as I let go all those years of shame and fear. And standing there, all of a sudden I felt two warm hands around me, of someone who had noticed that I was crying. I heard them say soothingly that it is alright, everyone gets a little overwhelmed at times. I also felt them leaving, saying the time to shed tears is gone, now it is time to smile brightly. This random act of kindness from a complete stranger struck me hard.
I enjoyed my day through the parade, and went home with a decision. I reached home, and officially came out of the closet as a bisexual woman to my friends. They accepted me with open arms. However, when I came out to my mother, I saw reminded why it took me so long to gather the courage to come out.
Today, I am a 24-year-old openly bisexual individual, out and proud. It has been almost 3 years since I have officially come out of the closet. And so far, I have been nothing but completely content with myself. My fear of not being accepted in my family has become a harsh reality though. However, I have not let myself dwell on that. In fact, if anything, I have been overcompensating a little bit, for all the years I have lost.
In the end, all I would say is that whoever finds it somewhat relatable, be patient. Finding out one’s sexuality and figuring things out can be messy and downright chaotic. Sit tight. Just hang in there. Good things do happen. Just keep prioritizing yourself and your mental health.