A struggle that most, if not all, members of the LGBTQA+ community end up facing is coming out. Not only coming out to their friends or their family, but coming out to themselves. Trust me, it's harder than it sounds at first.
Something I've always been very open about on the internet is my sexuality. The fact that I'm so confident with it online unfortunately doesn't translate into my real, everyday life, and I have spent about three years in the metaphorical closet with everyone except for my close friends and anyone that follows any of my social media.
My journey with sexuality began way back in 2012, when I developed a crush on a girl. I spent a few weeks worrying and fussing and writing obsessively in my ridiculous diary, and then I started to consider the possibility of bisexuality. For a while, I was ashamed and scared, because nobody had told me that it was okay to be inclined this way. I confirmed my sexuality to myself and about four of my very close friends some time in 2013, triggered by and in turn triggering a set of events that I won't go into right now.
Fast-forward to early 2014, when I got more into the internet and social media. I discovered this whole spectrum of genders and sexualities that I had never even heard of but was fascinated with learning more about. I became obsessed with the idea that my identity could only be validated by a label. I know now that this is completely not true, but at the time it was the only truth I knew. This was what introduced me to pansexuality - the romantic and/or sexual attraction to anyone regarding of gender identity. I decided that this was the label that fit me best and proceeded to tell my close friendship group that I no longer identified as bi, but as pan. They were all very supportive and open-minded about it, even though this was mostly the first they'd heard of the existence of pansexuality. I couldn't have been luckier.
Still, I was oddly terrified to tell my family, even though I knew they would have been fine with it.
On February 5th, 2016, I came out to my mum as pansexual.
I have no idea what triggered the sudden, intense need to just say it, but I was sat on the sofa next to her, my dad was asleep on the other sofa and I was thinking to myself: I'm gonna do it. I'm just going to say it. And I did. I said:
"Mom. I like boys. And I also like girls. And I like all of the other genders, like trans and things like that. It's called pansexual, and I am."
And long story short, my whole immediate family now knows and accepts my sexuality.
Coming out felt like taking all of this overwhelming, crushing pressure that had been building up for around three or four years, and setting it free. I was a shaky, sweaty mess and it was one of the scariest and biggest decisions of my entire life, but it was so, so worth it.
And afterwards? Afterwards is... it's like after all this time I can finally be as open as I want. I can comment on a female's appearance in an admirable way without feeling that little rush of 'That was bad. Maybe they know now.' And if one day, I ever have a girlfriend or a non-binary partner, I can introduce them with pride instead of fear. I can even enthuse about my current crush, who happens to be female. But other than this and the occasional teasing comment from my mother or sister, everything is exactly the same as it was before.
Since February, everything has settled and my immediate family is used to my rainbow-flag advocacy. I even came out to a lot of people in school around June time, and I'm very open with my sexuality now, which I wouldn't have even thought a possibility this time last year.
If you ever feel the urge to just say it as I did, then I honestly encourage you to do so. It doesn't have to be this whole big thing of sitting your loved ones down with an announcement. It's easier to do when you just treat it like normal conversation.
I should stress though, please do not come out if you have openly homophobic loved ones or if you think it would put you in danger. Of course it's important to be yourself, but your safety always comes first. If it seems likely that you would be hurt emotionally or physically, or even kicked out of your home, then you should bide your time until you are in a position to stay somewhere else or get out quickly. Please keep yourselves safe as well as happy.
There is a certain feeling that comes with being accepted, and it's one I find nearly impossible to describe. Relief doesn't really cover it. Imagine taking all of the feelings you've had towards yourself of disgust, doubt, loathing, and watching them just disappear in a split second. Now try and put a word to it. I'd like to think that I am a step closer to being completely and entirely happy with who I am.
I wanted to share this with anyone who may be struggling with the idea of coming out, because it is, hands down, one of the best things that has happened in my life. And for once, I was in control.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.