Personal Insights

I was 13 years old when I first understood I was queer

Whatever journey you take, finding your true identity is incredibly rewarding.

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As a disclaimer, throughout this story, the terms used by the author have been simplified for ease of explanation.

I was 13 years old when I first understood that I was queer. At 20, I assumed those days of questioning, confusion, and fear were behind me. Unbeknownst to me, the next couple of years would consist of a load of soul searching and self-discovery, ultimately altering my understanding of myself.

My initial queer revelation did not creep up on me, it wasn’t something I slowly realised. It felt a lot like a slap in the face. I was minding my business, observing the people around me. Then I noticed her, in a way I’d never noticed a girl before. I felt a seismic shift within me. I was terrified. Many months were spent shrouded in tears and denial, until I finally reached acceptance. I started to tell my friends, others finding out through rumours, but in the end, it was all okay. I came out of it accepting myself wholly.

‘I almost have to mourn the loss of a version of me, of an identity’

Throughout this first stage of questioning, I never once addressed my attraction to boys. I had always admired them, had my fair share of crushes. I took this attraction for granted; I was supposed to like boys, and so I did, even if I liked girls too.

For almost a decade, I lived my life truly believing that I was bisexual. I dated girls, had a few flings with guys. My identity was something I accepted in myself and that I was proud of. The people I loved knew, and if anyone asked, I was open and ready to tell them. It is difficult with hindsight to define this period of my life. I know now I was always a lesbian and that this was always present in the way I felt and went about my relationships, but at the time I had no idea. I almost have to mourn the loss of a version of me, of an identity, that despite not being ‘real’, felt so to me at the time.

In 2020 I had an experience with a man that, for the first time, thrust my identity into question. A date that went terribly wrong; a sinking feeling that maybe I did not like men ‘like that’ at all. The ensuing sexuality crisis was difficult and confusing.

I tentatively came out as a lesbian to my closest friends, only to go back on this shortly after. Truthfully, I don’t think I was ready to accept myself yet.

The thought that I’d been wrong about my identity all those years was terrifying. So, I buried it deep, laughed it off and tried to forget about it. Things that get buried will eventually come back to the surface.

Eighteen months later and a few ‘nice’ dates with lovely guys I “should’ve” liked just didn’t catch on. I finally sat myself down and thought things through. I assessed my experiences with men. I thought about how I liked to look at them, but never wanted them to touch me. How the moment things became more than a fantasy any attraction I had immediately ended. I knew I was a lesbian. I knew the way I had felt for women was impossible for me to feel for men.

The first emotion I felt was fear. I sat, cried and wrote some melodramatic poetry. I am in no way saying it is easier in society to be bisexual.

‘Queer journeys are complicated and personal, plenty of people make mistakes on their route to self-discovery’

All queer identities have their own struggles and face unique problems. However, in that moment, I felt as though I’d lost a safety net. I would never be able to have a heterosexual marriage or relationship.

My queerness would always be blatantly obvious whenever I fall in love. My relationships would never outwardly be viewed as “normal” or fit societal norms.

The next emotion was loss: the loss of an identity I felt deeply connected to for years. Furthermore, as I identified as bisexual for years, I was acutely aware of the biphobic rhetoric that tells people to “choose a side”. My confusion was not my fault nor is this stereotype my responsibility, but I felt like I had betrayed other bisexuals when I “re-came out” as a lesbian. Queer journeys are complicated and personal – plenty of people make mistakes on their route to self-discovery. Despite knowing this, the guilt still remained, as did the feeling of loss for the person I thought I was.

Telling people, again, that my identity had changed was slightly awkward. I let my closest friends know, but this time I decided to not make any big announcements. I decided to show my identity instead through the way I spoke about the future and love and through the content I engaged with online. My identity is mine, and everyone in my life does not need to know of every change to it. Removing this pressure from myself made the transition easier. It allowed me to grow comfortable with the ‘lesbian’ label without feeling like I had to perform to it to those around me.

After these emotions and this change was processed, what I was left with was joy. For the first time in my life, I felt like I truly knew who I was. Being a lesbian is such a beautiful thing, and I feel blessed every day that I was able to accept this about myself.

Whatever journey you take, no matter how many years, how many times you get it wrong, finding your true identity is so incredibly rewarding.

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