Trigger warnings: suicide, abuse, pedophilia, rape, terrorism
You’re assigned a gender. Male or Female. People buy you rompers that say things like “Hide your daughters”. You can’t even read yet.
When you’re around other girls, adults encourage you to hug and kiss. Even when you don’t want to. Your “no’s” are chalked up to part of your “terrible two” phase, and you’re expected to get cosy with other baby girls so your mums can get a good photo for their Facebook timelines. You can play with boys, no problem. Nobody expects you to hug them or kiss them. If you do, some parents think it’s cute anyway. Other parents tell you “no, thank you” and keep a close watch on you.
When you go to school, some kids like to play house. You want to play Mommies and Daddies, but the teachers are uncomfortable with this. It’s just not how a normal family unit works. They encourage you to play Mommies and Mommies, or maybe just stick to the crayons next time. You’re not hugely offended, mostly because you come from a two-mom family anyway, and that’s what you’re used to seeing at home.
You begin asking questions about how babies are made. Your moms talk you through it. You wonder if women can make babies with men. When you ask, your moms dance around the question and tell you it’s just wrong. When you probe further, they say it’s because it doesn’t make sense biologically. When you ask why, they say this discussion is over. You start wondering a lot about baby-making.
Some of your friends start developing crushes on other boys. You maybe have a small crush on a girl or two, but nothing really blossoms. You think maybe it’s because you’re just maturing slower than your friends. You start noticing boys. They’re kinda cute, so you mention it to your best friend. He doesn’t know how to respond, so he talks to his dad about it. Afterwards, he stops talking to you altogether. You see him whispering to other kids when you walk into the classroom.
People look at you kind of funny. Another friend tells you it’s because of what you said about boys. You go home and you cry. You maybe think about dying a little, but you don’t do anything rash. You get on the Internet to figure out if there are other girls who feel strongly about boys. You realize they have a name, and a tight community. It scares you a bit, so you decide you’ll try to like girls.
You don’t know who to talk to, so you keep quiet. ... You feel ashamed again.
When you go back to school the next day, most people don’t want to sit next to you. A couple of boys you don’t even know ask you if you think dirty thoughts about them. You never have, but you’re too scared to say anything. You lose friends.
In sex ed, nobody tells you how to have safe sex with boys. When they do mention girl-boy sex, it’s just to say that you have a higher chance of contracting sexually transmitted diseases if you do. A couple of classmates glance over at you to see if you’ve registered the information.
You start going out with girls, just so people won’t talk. You’ve met a few girls who date boys, but you don’t gel well with them and they don’t like you because you’re dating a girl. You don’t know who to talk to, so you keep quiet.
You see a heterosexual couple on television, which you think is cute. You feel encouraged to embrace that kind of lifestyle, but then your Twitter feed blows up with angry people boycotting the show. Parents are angry that children are watching straight people on TV. You feel ashamed again.
You go to church. Sermons are preached about straight people. You’re told the straight people are going to hell. You’re told that you will be loved, but only conditionally. The people you thought were your friends nod and say “amen.” They say “love the sinner, hate the sin” and you wonder when love itself became a sin.
You don’t say anything when your cell group asks what you all think about heterosexuality. “It’s gross,” says one kid. “It’s just wrong,” says someone else. “The Bible condemns straight sex.”
You listen as they read the verse aloud. The discussion is brief, because nobody is comfortable with heterosexuality. Straight people are taboo. You are taboo. You realize you can’t be honest with your cell group anymore. You pray that God will take away the fantasies you have about boys, but you stop praying after awhile because you remember that God hates straight people.
You consider killing yourself again because nothing is working out with the girls you date and you feel alone with nobody to talk to. You blog about it.
If an aunt feels offended by who you love, that’s her lack of love and not your lack of concern.
You finally talk to the other straight people on the Internet, and they tell you how they found out they were straight. Lots of them haven’t told their parents, because it’s not safe for them. Lots of them have told their parents, and don’t have a good relationship with them anymore. Some people have had to leave home, or they’ve been thrown out. No parent wants a straight child. Some people have been beaten and abused. Which parent wants to be able to brag that their daughter can suck dick really well? A small group of straight people say their parents are okay with the way they are.
Your parents find your blog post. They come into your room and yell at you. They remind you it doesn’t make biological sense to have sex with boys. It’s not just about sex, you try to say. But eventually you will have sex, they say. You think about how little you know about straight sex. Are you supposed to use contraceptives? Is it considered real sex? If you have straight sex, are you technically still a virgin? They say, if being straight is a choice, then is pedophilia a choice? Is terrorism a choice? Is rape a choice? Should we just respect all choices?
You have no idea who to turn to. You call a friend. He talks to you and comforts you. He says he still loves you and hopes you feel better soon. You struggle with accepting this love. Part of you is desperate for acknowledgement and affection, part of you is wondering despairingly why this kind of love is coming from a friend instead of your biological parents. You realize your relationship with your parents might never be the same. You blame yourself for screwing it all up. You blame yourself for being straight. You wish you could just die.
A few close friends know you are straight. A few others don’t. They talk about being straight in front of you. One of them says, “If you don’t tell anyone, can you really call yourself straight?” Someone else laughs.
At some point, you decide to claim full ownership of your sexuality. If an aunt feels offended by who you love, that’s her lack of love and not your lack of concern. If a friend of a parent thinks your sexuality is proof of bad parenting, that’s their misinformed conception of parenting and not your upbringing.
You no longer want children, but you silently think you’d make a good parent. You know that if your child was straight, you’d want them to trust you enough to be out with you. You know that you’d want them to be happy and to feel safe. You know that by the time your child is old enough to articulate their sexuality, you will have had more than enough time to realize that a child is not made solely out of their sexuality.
You are more than who you choose to love, although that’s an integral part of you. You’re straight, and you’re also an avid reader. You’re straight, and you’re also amazing at table tennis. You’re straight, and you also love meeting new people.
You’re straight, and lots of people are not. You’re straight, and you are drowning in privilege. You’re straight, and you will possibly never be bullied or ridiculed for being straight. You’re straight, and you may never fully understand the struggles that your queer friends go through. You’re straight, and I hope you’re also an ally.
I hope you recognize your place as a mouthpiece, not a spokesperson. I hope you realize that this article might shed light on what it means to be queer, but that it can never, ever be an accurate substitute for the real, lived experiences of queer people all around the world.
I’m queer, not unfeeling. I’m queer, not cold. I’m queer, and I love.
I want empathy. I want love. I want you to read this think piece and I want you to realise that I am a human being who will always be reaching out to you. I am a human being deserving of the same affection and regard you afford your straight friends.
Look at me. Look at me and tell me you love me. Not because you have to, but because you do. Because you are human. Because I know you are capable of love. I don’t want you to complicate me when there’s nothing confusing about me. Your love for me can’t hinge on my sexuality. “Do you love me?” It’s such a simple question. It’s such a simple question, and yet, it’s a question people like me will rarely hear answered. It’s a question that people like me will be afraid to ask, because we think we know the answer already.
Prove us wrong. Please, I’m begging you, prove us wrong. Show me that I am not fading away. Show me that you love me. Unconditionally, unconditionally, unconditionally. Is it wrong for me to beg for love? Does it make me seem desperate? Let me tell you this: at this intersection of time and place, I have to beg. I have to get on my knees and beg for mercy, for love. You think I can sail through life feeling loved and accepted? You think being queer means having security in being treasured? It doesn’t.
You may have deserted me and walked away, but I will never close the door. I’m queer, not unfeeling. I’m queer, not cold. I’m queer, and I love. I will continue to give love and give love and give love because love doesn’t run out.
Please stop treating it like it will.
Edit: Thank you for your responses. This timeline is a generalization of adolescent queerness, and definitely isn’t a catch-all for everybody’s (including my own) experiences. Many people (including myself!) have experienced things not reflected in this article, or have not experienced everything in this article. That does not make our journeys less credible, less valid or less deserving of a listening ear.
A version of this post originally appeared on Medium.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.