During the portion of my life that I’ve been out of the closet, I’ve heard a lot of different things. I’ve had women I was interested in who decided – from information they’d inferred on their own – that I wasn’t as gay as I should be.
I’ve had other crushes who decided – again, based on assumptions – that I was too gay for them. It’s almost funny, when I think about the irony, but from my perspective, I am exactly gay enough. I might not fall into your narrow definitions, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not who I say I am.
Realistically, though, the most important thing is to identify in a way that feels comfortable to you – even if that means choosing not to identify.
In many ways, I choose to opt-out of identities, but that doesn’t mean that the ones I do opt into are any less real, just because I’m not 100% “in.”
You have your experiences, and I have mine.
Someone once told me that the only people who will ever really know what happened are the people who were involved. That might just be the most insightful thing I’ve ever heard (especially from the mouth of someone who eats hot dogs in yogurt… gross). Even in situations where the person defining your experience was there, though, it’s important to realize that no two people are going to react to the same experience in the same way. Our experiences are a complicated mix of physical, emotional, and inferred events – and just because someone infers something about your situation doesn’t mean that what they say is law. You are free to experience things in your own way, as am I.
Your identity is very personal.
When we think of the major identities, there are certain blanket definitions that are generally agreed to. For example, you can usually pick a stud out of a crowd – but what if she’s really just a tomboy (and straight)? The definitions we usually go by aren’t universal, and most people just pick the one that’s “closest” to the way they feel about themselves. If there was really a different term for every individual identity, we’d literally all go by our full names, all the time. (And, even then, statistically speaking there’s probably someone else with the same name who is nothing like you.)
Most people hold multiple identities.
For example, I am a writer, a sister, a daughter, a partner, an anxiety-manager, a survivor, a meditator, a pet owner, a lesbian… I am so many things, but most of these don’t come up in daily conversation. We pick a few pieces of our identity that we feel best represent us – “I am a lesbian writer”. Does that mean I only write about lesbians? Absolutely not! Most of my work falls into drastically different subjects (I’m writing about jewelry after I finish here today, and tomorrow I’ll be working on a fantasy novel). I get to decide which of my identities are important, and I get to decide which ones are public knowledge. You don’t get to apply a label to me without my consent.
Identities are complicated (and optional).
Since none of these identities is automatically more important than others, I get to define which ones I opt into. I don’t consider myself non-binary, even though I fall outside the traditional gender binary. I don’t consider myself a blogger, even though the large majority of my writing appears on the internet. I never considered myself a raver, even though I spent several years of my life going to a party every weekend. Only you get to decide which identities you “opt-into.”
We don’t always hang onto our identities, but that doesn’t mean it was “just a phase.”
People are constantly growing, changing, and developing. In fact, if we were ever to stop any of that, we’d die. Literally. Personally, I am proud of every change I have ever gone through, because they helped me become the person I am today – and, all minor insecurities aside, I like the person I am. I’ve learned, I’ve adapted, and I’ve gone through experiences that have changed me. But those experiences don’t define me. I define me.
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