This summer, I told my parents I am bisexual. At 19 years old, my journey into my sexuality has just taken flight. I never even asked myself the question of my sexuality until I was 17 when things slowly started to reveal themselves from the depths of my psyche. Actually, the first person I came out to was my high school boyfriend at the time when I super casually mentioned that, “Yeah, I like girls too.” I was testing out the waters on him, seeing how saying these words out loud to someone would feel, how unimportant I could make it, and how I would be received. The experiment was successful — I had nonchalantly revealed my secret without stirring up any conflict or conversation. Then I went back to living the classic hetero life, letting other thoughts and events occupy the more accessible parts in my mind and pushing bisexuality into the back corner from which I had only temporarily dug it out. 

The thing is, it doesn’t go away. As I stayed in my comfortable social circles, the conversation was not prompted, so it didn’t come up and I stayed pretty confused. These seemingly small moments of ignoring your identity weigh on you. 

It’s not like I grew up in a homophobic home, where queerness is penalized. When I finally came out to my parents, they were nothing but supportive, if not a teensy bit awkward. And I don’t blame them for that. Just as I don’t blame myself for not ever questioning my own sexuality when practically every image of love and relationships I grew up with was a hetero model. Who was I to think that my story was any different?

So, when your soul knows it isn’t fully accepted but your mind hasn’t yet connected why,there comes hardship. There comes standing in front of a mirror, looking at your naked body, making weird facial expressions, then falling back on your bed and clutching where your heart would land if it popped out, wondering what is wrong with you and how it could be possible to feel stranger to your own self. In other terms, there comes mental distress. Confusion to the highest degree. Anxiety, dissociation, self-criticism, low self-esteem, and the likes. Devastatingly, problems with mental health run rampant amongst the LGBTQ community. Results from The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health in 2021 stated that “72% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the past two weeks,” and “42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.”

But god, howimportantit is to know that these symptoms are not your own fault, and they are not indicative of any brokenness within yourself, but rather the brokenness of the current societal structure. Until this framework is changed, though, the burden can not fall on the individual to thrive against adversity, to rise above the shame and helplessness that comes with marginalization. Instead, we must encourage a culture of interdependence and normalize the need for a sense of belonging. There is an unparalleled comfort in having a community that not only sees the truest parts of you but shares them, giving youth the faith that there is a positive future ahead of them, and giving everyone the knowledge that they are not alone.

Queerness is not something to passively dismiss, much less actively ignore, and it is a damn shame that our country has tried to teach us differently. At 17, I wanted to speak the word “bisexual” once and be done with it. It’s sad; as much heteronormativity promotes the hetero model as “correct,” we fail to understand how beautiful and inspiring the queer world is. When one has to push against the standardized molds set unto them, the default is creativity. Deeper, colorful communication is an inevitable byproduct as together we explore ourselves and our relationships according to what feels best — not what roles are already prescribed.

There is hope in learning, and there is joy in sharing. I still have a ways to go, but I am excited to endeavor deeper into this new place, and I am filled with love by every story I hear and new friend I make along the way.