If you're reading this, then you may be wondering about loving and embracing your sexuality.
I've been there.
And it isn't easy.
But it can be done.
I realised I was "different" when I was around 9 years old, but at the time I had no idea what was "different", but I also didn't necessarily care. It was only in secondary school when it started to become an issue that took up a lot of space in my mind, and it kept me up at night.
I was 12 when I connected the dots between my feelings and a word: Gay. I felt like I always knew, but actually using that word as an identifier for myself immediately made me feel terrified. Looking back, I'm not 100% sure why. I knew my mum wasn't going to have a problem with it. I vividly remember a conversation with her when I was around 7 years old where she was angry because a record company had made a gay male artist change the pronouns in his songs from male to female to make it more "accessible". My mother brought me up to be open-minded, and respectful towards every other human being, no matter our differences. So, with her being the most important person in my life, and knowing she wouldn't care about my sexuality, why was I so scared?
Initially, I was scared about what the people at school would say, because I'd heard the words "gay", "faggot" and "lesbo" used as gun shots in a verbal battle between children in the playground. Looking back now, I don't think that many of those children who used those words are anti-LGBTQ+ as mature adults, but I definitely think there was a lack of education and information for young people at that time, and "gay" was the first insult that they could think of, so a word that originally meant "happy" had become an incredibly derogatory term for those with a same-sex attraction. This, to younger me, became something I was scared of. I didn't want to be called names, period, but especially not something as powerful and hurtful as "lesbo".
Then other factors such as culture and religion came into play, and I became even more terrified. I was never bought up in any religion, but as a closeted, struggling teen, I turned to YouTube and documentaries and such for advice because I had nobody in real life to talk to. I remember watching one video where a girl had come out to her family, been rejected, got pushed out of her own family unit, and then when her father killed himself years later, he left a note for her, claiming it to be her fault. I'd guess that I was maybe 14 when I watched that video, and from then on, every single day I was retreating further and further back into the closet, and into the darkness of my own mind. I didn't want something like that to be my fault.
For 5 years after watching that video, I only came out to friends. None of my family knew. I never wanted them to know, it would change everything.
Then one day, I went out for coffee with the girl who was later to become my girlfriend (plot twist), and we were talking about me coming out. I was so scared that I couldn't even look her in the eye through fear of crying. She held on to my hand from across the table, and she just looked at me and said "it's time for you to just...be. You have nothing to lose."
As soon as she said that, something clicked.
She was right.
I had nothing to lose. Anything or anyone I was to lose over something as fragile as my happiness wouldn't even be a loss.
That same day, I went home and told my mum I was gay. She shrugged and said "yeah... So what?" And that was it. From then, it was a domino effect of family finding out, and they all just accepted me with open arms.
I'm not claiming to know everything about your experience, but I know what it's like to hate yourself, and what it feels like to be stuck inside a body and a mind that you want to kill. I'm sorry you feel that way. But you won't always.
The main lesson I took away from my coming out experience is that the only person you ever need to live with is you. Everyone around you is temporary if they don't give you the love and respect you deserve as a human being. Never, ever settle. Always strive for more, and if that means leaving everything you ever thought you knew, then do it.
Family/parents bring you into this world and they make a promise to love you forever, and they will always do that. I know that if parents don't get it straight away, it can break you. You feel like more of an outcast than you did before. But sometimes the people who love you the most take more time to adjust, and that is okay as long as they give you the love and respect you deserve throughout this process. If they never grow as people and never respect who you are, there is nothing wrong with spreading your wings and taking off. There are resources available if you are in a situation you need to get out of.
Do not feel as though you are stuck. You are free to be whoever you want. Times are changing, but we still have a long way to go. There are school services, counselling services, and online services you can turn to if you need that bit more help. The LGBTQ+ community is ever-growing, and it is stronger than it's ever been in all of history. We are here for you. There is always, always another option. You don't need to be alone.
You are beautiful.
You are not a mistake.
You are whoever you want to be.
And that is okay.