Throughout our lives we grow and change, sometimes on a day to day basis. The experiences we have impact how we see the world, how we feel safe in the world and sometimes how we identify. Our identities are diverse; how we identify ourselves can range from personality traits, roles in relationships and parts of us that define our behavior. Depending on how you were raised, you may have had support as a child to explore your unique self and identify different aspects of who you are. For many, that process may start automatically when we reach puberty and can continue throughout our time on Earth.
I was supported by my family early in life. That support created a space for me to learn about myself and feel comfortable being authentically me. However, even with that support, I found it difficult to understand parts of myself on a deeper level. My peers made decisions about who I was and what it meant for me to be “different” before I had even realized I was “different.” I found myself denying my gender and sexual identity from ages 14 to 19 because of how I felt perceived by people around me. Looking back, it was undeniable that I was attracted to women more than men and preferred dressing outside the gender binary norm. In 2003, that meant I was a lesbian and that was how I was seen by my peers. I was bullied about being gay, mostly name calling and put-downs, and that made me want to hide that part of myself. I denied my sexuality, as I experimented with women. It was confusing. It was harmful. It has lasting effects.
We are pushed to identify ourselves with labels at many ages. It sometimes helps other people understand more about us, and sometimes it creates a barrier or rift because those other people might make assumptions about our character based on a label. I work with many kids, teens and adults who are trying to discover or connect to their identity as non-binary, gender non-conforming , queer and beyond. The people I work with are trying desperately to understand where they fit in the world and what that means about them. The truth is that they will always be changing. Old labels may die out and new labels will replace them. The labels aren’t what’s important. Accepting yourself as you are, in any given moment, is what’s important.
I now understand myself to be a person who is attracted to any type of person. I identify as female, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, homoromantic and pansexual… and that may change as I continue to learn about myself. The door is always open to understanding more about yourself. There is always room to grow and change or stay the same. You can identify one way today and a different way tomorrow. The more you explore yourself and your mind, the more diversity you will find within.