Tag Archives: identity

Normalising Men In Makeup Is Important

When I was younger, I used to run a fashion blog. Nowadays one of my best friends is a beauty vlogger enthusiast, familiar with most parts of the culture around makeup and trends. While if you dig a bit into it you realize that both fashion and beauty are not only forms of expression but also forms of art, many people would undermine what me or my best friend were interested into as being “too girly” or taking our “lady duty” too seriously.

This is because most processes tied to beauty and dressing up are entangled in way too many double standards. Makeup for example is tied intensely to double standards for women, or people who are socialized as women.  Makeup in its traditional sense is not considered an art form by most people, especially not an art form that all genders can perform.

On the contrary, it’s limited to something that women are just supposed to do, something they are expected by society to do in all occasions in order to be deemed acceptable and considered as beautiful, therefore deemed as worthy of social respect: much like shaving your body hair. Some women don’t even want to put makeup on and they’re often shunned for not making an effort, or for not being feminine enough.

And yet there are double standards here, cause if you care too much for makeup, follow beauty vlogs and save up to buy a set of glam brushes, you are shunned for doing too much lady work; the work you are supposed to do anyway, but on a level that makes you appear as having intensely feminine interests, which is considered a social aspect that people use to undermine you as not worthy enough to do things men do.

Gender roles being so tightly knit in our social practices can make it extremely hard for men who put on makeup.  For reasons that seem absurd, certain arrangements of fabrics have long been thought to be “women’s clothes”, and slightly different arrangements of fabrics have long be thought to be “men’s clothes”, in the same way that makeup is considered to be a “woman’s work”.

Fortunately a massive twist is steadily being made in both the fashion and the beauty industry, following the redefinitions of the social conceptions of gender. Beauty outside the gender binary and cis/hetero-normativity standards is being redefined. There is a powerful community of extremely talented trans beauty vloggers, drag beauty vloggers, and a wonderful community of beauty bloggers who wish to normalize makeup for men.

The lists we can link to are endless: I wish I had the time to watch these imaginative tutorials all day! If someone watches their videos they’re gonna realize this is much more than just trying to look pretty in socially acceptable ways: it is art, and it is beautiful. Galaxies, stars, monsters and fauns, flowers, zombies, and anything you can imagine.

Last year, Refinery29’s beauty editor Phillip Picardi said, concerning his collection Men Wearing Lipstick: “when thinking about how to best showcase some of the season’s most exciting new lip shades, I was envisioning plenty of things: kisses on cocktail napkins, close-ups of pouts, animated GIFs of mouths moving, talking, kissing, eating, etc.

But, then I thought, Why not let boys show us the lipsticks? Women constantly appear in beauty editorials — why would it be weird to let boys do the same? Men wearing lipstick is not a novelty for me: In my world, as a beauty editor and a gay man, it’s a regular occurrence. But, I appreciate the men here taking time out from their jobs to sit down, pick out lipsticks that spoke to them, and try something new for the day. The lipsticks ended up enhancing their looks; making them cooler.

The work of makeup artists can be awestriking whether it is professional or not, and in the past few months history has been written in representing male makeup talents in the rise of this new era.

The first highlight was James Charles, a 17 year old student from New York whose Instagram account currently has 1.2 million subscribers, after becoming the first CoverBoy in CoverGirl’s 58-year history in October! He does his friends’ makeup and has a Youtube channel where he posts his unique tutorials about artistic makeup.

He took his senior yearbook photos twice because he didn’t like the way the highlighter on his cheekbones looked. His spot spread on Twitter and Zendaya tweeted to him: “You win.” Charles joined Katy Perry who is the current CoverGirl ambassador to promote its products, the first product being CoverGirl’s So Lashy Mascara.

Charles said, in his interview with the New York Times:

The fact that I am the first boy is so cool. It shows that this industry is actually becoming genderless, and we’re really making the push toward equal opportunities for everybody, regardless of race, sexuality, gender. I think it’s a huge steppingstone for such a big and iconic company.

Hopefully other people will see this, and when they think, “Oh, this random 17-year-old kid just started doing makeup recently and is now the face of CoverGirl,” I hope that inspires them to really be themselves and feel comfortable and wear makeup and express themselves in a manner they haven’t been comfortable doing before.”

He also addresses the issue of online bullying, saying that there will always be people who will try to keep others from doing what they love. However, his followers are so loyal and supportive that they make hate comments matter much less. He’s always been a fan of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” but he makes it clear that what he does is not drag: he identifies as a boy, and he’s a boy in makeup.

CoverGirl’s competitor Maybelline recently made American Youtuber Manny Gutierrez their first male ambassador. Gutierrez has acquired more than two million Youtube subscriptions since he started posting makeup tutorials in 2014. Gutierrez has a Makeup Geek eye shadow palette and an Ofra lip set named after him. He’s friends with Patrick Simondac, who also has more than 2 million subscriptions on YouTube. This year Simondac was made a brand ambassador for the nail polish line Formula X.

Gutierrez too makes it clear that what he does is not drag. He explains to Marie Claire: “It’s an art form for me. I’m still confident as a boy and I will always be a boy. I can be confident with bare skin and with a full face.”

It’s time for makeup to be normalised for guys: people need yet to realize that it makes no sense to assign genders on liquids and pastes or pieces of fabric, for that matter. Thankfully in 2017 everyone is allowed to do art, to paint on a canvas or tattoo their bodies; it only makes sense that everyone should be allowed to paint galaxies on their faces.

The Post-Label World

Coming out and identifying as a specific sexual orientation has always been important to most LGBTQ people.

There is, without a doubt, a certain level of comfort knowing there are more people out there who, just like me, identify as lesbians. Lately, we have seen a shift in the way society sees labels and even on how some people choose not to label themselves. Is modern society starting to view labels as something outdated and unnecessary?

To label or not to label

In previous decades, there was almost an urgency to find a suitable label for our own sexual orientation. A way to tell the world who we are and who we love, proudly. And coming out was the last step of this whole process. This identity seeking journey was (and unfortunately in some places still is) often dangerous as LGBTQ people were seen as abnormal or unnatural.

 As generations grow older and so do views on sexual orientation, we are now experiencing an openness and acceptance like never before. It’s ok if you are gay, it’s ok if you are a lesbian, it’s ok if you are asexual. So why keep carrying the weight of a label on our shoulders?

I am not saying that 50 years from now no one will identify themselves with a specific label, I am however saying that there won’t be a necessity for that. Nor will there be the necessity to come out.

And why should we label ourselves? I can’t deny I have had crushes on men, but I still identify as a lesbian. Should I identify as bisexual or pansexual even though I no longer feel attracted to men? Am I less of a lesbian because of it? No! And I am sure there are a lot more people who have the same questions I do, and who decide not to label themselves.

Do you think we will ever live in a label-free world or are labels here to stay? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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How Leonard Cohen Helped Me Discover Myself And My Identity

Very often I have feared of losing an icon, a role model that seemed to make this utterly nonsensical world keep finding meaning in its turning. In high school I felt honestly threatened by the realization that Ringo and Paul, the remaining Beatles, were actually growing old, and I simply deny thinking about my queens, Maggie Smith and Julie Andrews, being anything but immortal.

I guess that’s what loss and the fear of it do to you, after all, and it is the reason so many poems and songs and prayers have been written in its name, but I’m probably gonna need many years of therapy to start sucking a bit less when it comes to loss, because I absolutely do: I suck.

I deny, I fear with almost every step I take, I have nightmares every other night, I’m horrible. Putting this all into words is way too much for me, and I really need to be over and done with this.

Yet, even though I always felt such close connections to my icons and role models to the point of staying at home faking sick from school because I read Lennon and McCartney’s fighting letters, it always seemed a bit off to me to talk about personal losses when these people who passed away actually had close friends and family to mourn for them and ache intolerably. I had never talked to them, known what they’d smelt like in the morning, whispered a drunken secret in their ears or shared a sleepy coffee with.

Or had I?

When you spend the biggest part of your life so afraid and so sad because you’re so afraid, when the first panicked fits you remember having were because you realize that your dad is a few years older than other dads, which, in your four year old mind means that you might lose him sooner, you need someone to verbalize all the fear that you’re afraid of phrasing for you, in your place. You don’t necessarily need someone to be wise. Sometimes all you need when you’re ten, is someone to say

I’m afraid. I’m sad. I’m lost. I’m a grown man, and yet I fuck up all the time, and I see beauty. And I’m terrified of losing it and so sad that I can make you sad for things you aren’t even close to grasping yet. And, in the end of the day, look here kid, you can turn it all into poetry, without even trying.”

Which, of course, it doesn’t work this way. It took Leonard Cohen five years to write Hallelujah, which I first heard when I was really tiny, in Jeff Buckley’s voice, at Shrek, and then sent creepy love letters to every actor or singer who covered it, thinking I was madly in love with them with their angelic voices when, really, I was unbearably enamored with a song that had a specific effect that no other had ever had: to assure a selfish angsty youth that it was written for me, to capture my thoughts and mine only. I thought that no one else in the world shared with me the religious experience of Hallelujah.

I thought that no one would ever – or had ever done – experience love to the depth that I would. And then I connected the dots: realized that the stunning Suzanne cover by the Greek Flery Ntantonaki, a singer for Manos Hadjidakis songs that my dad always played for me in the car, was originally written and sung by Cohen.

I bought his poetry book. Listened to all his songs from morning till night. Kept notes. Wrote fanpoems. Absolutely sucked at it. Still felt important only by touching his lyrics pasted on the Word Doc. I was there, the high school kid that had rejected poetry and Cavafy just because they were taught at school, was actually gonna become a poet writing fanpoems for Leonard Cohen who wrote fanpoems for Cavafy’s The God Abandons Anthony. Adolescence sometimes makes you selfish, as a coping mechanism for learning how to demand what is not freely given, as a reflex to learning, right after childhood, that the world doesn’t revolve around you. It makes you insistent in being special, chosen, while the world tells you that your voice doesn’t really matter, that others will eventually decide for you, without you, that being different is problematic, that you should conform.

David Remnick’s interview with an 82 year old Leonard Cohen was published in the New Yorker less than a month ago, focusing on the darker aspects of Cohen’s last album-to-be, You Want It Darker, an album “obsessed with mortality”, yet giving a vibe of decided, peaceful readiness for its idea. We can all count in this article for being reduced into tears.

It illustrates Cohen’s life quite masterfully, making you feel like you did know him after all, as if he’s not gone, like it is a potential thing that may happen, that he’ll invite you at his home in Hydra to treat you olives, sandwiches and scotch.

He was a Jew from Montreal who got a grant of three thousand dollars from the Canada Council for the Arts in 1960, and lived by it as he worked on his poetry. Already before he became famous, he specified the kind of audience that he wanted in a letter to his publisher: he wanted to grasp the attention of “inner-directed adolescents, lovers in all degrees of anguish, disappointed Platonists, pornography-peepers, hair-handed monks and Popists.”

He happened to find what he was looking for in Greece, and more specifically in the island of Hydra, where he met Marianne Ihlen, that was said to be his muse, his antique figure, and kept a warm, meaningful love affair with him for long. His song “So long, Marianne” was for her. She died of cancer earlier in 2016, and he wrote to her that he would soon meet her.

Sometimes I feel that, being Greek, I am deprived of seeing Greece the way Cohen seemed to see it, to of grasping that essence of the primitive, almost mystical effect that helped him work on his mind, concentrate and aim to discover by fasting or taking drugs. He said:

I took trip after trip, sitting on my terrace in Greece, waiting to see God. Generally, I ended up with a bad hangover.”

But how did it eventually make sense to me that Cohen’s passing away was a personal loss? As personal as it has been for thousands and thousands of people.

As personal as Trump’s election and the ridiculous, the absurd irony of having to deal with all that, that our LGBT, POC, Muslim, Jewish, women siblings in America have to stay sane at this joke that history is playing, nostalgic youths that have grown up with all the terror underlying the happiness and the innocence of childhood, or the illusion of progress and ostensible equality, the youths that have grown up with the shudder and the flinch and the knot in the stomach that comes with the divinity of songs like Democracy and videos like the one of Dance me to the End of Love, with all its history and connotations.

That’s why even – especially – from the very privileged position of a white person living in Europe (with the ambiguity of that part of Europe being Greece), every fatal, racist or phobic attack of institutions and enforcement on innocent youths on the other side of the world hits me so fucking personally, even though I shouldn’t have the right to feel this way because I am so privileged, or maybe I should, even more, because I am so privileged.

But how different is that to the effects of ever growing rape culture in my city, how different is that to the horrifying news of trans youth committing suicide after Trump’s election, when the people I love the most in the world is trans, and I’m in the process of questioning my gender? What does old dear late – presumably – straight, male Leonard Cohen have to do with all this? Damned if even I know why I’m making connections where there shouldn’t be, damned me if I even knew where this was going when it started. I only know I’m desperate.

He was hope in his utter hopelessness. He was religion of the most material kind, he spoke of the flesh with such reverence, that I absurdly ended up feeling like it was irrelevant in all its warmth, in all its neediness. If you asked me at seventeen, when I first started questioning my prayers, drifting away from the mechanical understanding of religion that my family had endowed me with, I realize now that I should tell you I kind of saw him like a God, at that moment.

A flawed, broken, mortal prophet that I somehow deemed immortal just because he taught me poetry. And death is shite, and resurrection is shite, so I didn’t want my God to be all that human after all, did I? I think it hit me all that bad because I now realized how desperately I believed in him to say a big fuck you to all that.

That’s too far away from the way he probably viewed his life, how can I know? I’m intensely laughable right now, and pretentious, that I am aware of. But maybe I’m rambling because I need to put into words things I have no proof of. Isn’t religion like that, after all? You just believe things without asking for material proof. So Cohen hadn’t ever stood up, as far as my research let me know, at least, to raise bisexual visibility, or verbally support trans rights, but I just firmly believe that we could count on him for that.

In one interview, asked whether he’d ever had a gay relationship with a man, he replied:

No, not personally. I mean, I think [everybody] appreciates the sense of attraction between [the] sexes and I suppose I’ve been open to my [feelings for] both men and women, so it’s completely [natural for] me to have deep relationships with men. It [doesn’t] take much of a leap of the imagination to [project] deepness into physical terms. But I’ve never [been] deeply sexually attracted to a man. There [have been] moments, but not deeply. I think my deepest [sexual] emotions were towards women.”

In another interview, he replies that he doesn’t regret never having had a relationship with a man,

I have had intimate relationships with men all my life and I still do have. I’ve seen men as beautiful, I’ve felt sexual stirrings towards men so I don’t think I’ve missed out. Maybe I have, maybe it’s time to look into it. Maybe not, maybe I’ve left it too late. Maybe I’ll not be able to get anybody.”

Leonard was successful with women and probably heterosexual. Why is he still a revolutionary icon to my eyes, though? Why did “Take me to church” stir something so deep in me, mostly because I could see it as a child of “Hallelujah”? As a queer kid instead of looking into his personal life, I like to think about his lyrics, even his less explicit, and how they helped me through my journey of self-discovery, experimentation and acceptance.

It was the art of making love a universal thing in ways that other songs and poems didn’t. You don’t necessarily imagine of a conventional kind of coupling even when he explicitly talks about the mating of women and men. Somehow he makes it greater than that, he transcends embodiment even when you talk about the dew on your thighs, he transcends roles even when he gives Alexandra a female name and pictures her sleeping upon your satin and slipping away with a kiss. It’s about the following lyrics: Do not say the moment was imagined/Do not stoop to strategies like this.

It’s not about cliché women becoming symbols. It’s about feelings and states and wanderlust occasionally acquiring gender – or not. Everything is important and yet it isn’t and yet it is, when in Democracy he speaks so specifically about “the fires of the homeless and the ashes of the gay”, and “the wells of disappointment where the women kneel to pray” and he looks for God in irony, yet when he talks about holding on to people as if they’re crucifixes, then it seems to me that he refers to embodied divinity and achieving the beauty of frailty, instead of depositing religion off its high bedroom wall and resting it condescendingly upon a humbly made human bed.

It was the love for love, the stoic, almost systematic, energetic meditation of letting it destroy you. It was the veneration found in the sarcasm, the informed passivity, the peaceful, even questionable resistance. It was a bohemian boy who bought a blue Burberry raincoat with his first money. It doesn’t make sense, and it does. He has been liberating, in the way that growing intimate with my sexuality, with my gender and with other, intimidating parts of my personality have been. He wasn’t explicitly there all along but he was. He might have been a clumsy fighter, I don’t know. Sometimes it seemed to me like he had given up. Puppet night comes out to say the epilogue to puppet day.[1]

Maybe he kind of taught me how I need to fight, though, like all these losses were personal. Like we’re already honest words as we are, that no one needs to fuckin sacrifice themselves for people’s foolishness and blindness to turn into poetry. That dark times are shit, dark times create dark art.

Spare us the dark art. Loving is dark anyway and they say it’s no victory march. We can’t have more dark times. Make it make sense. Be there for each other, thank people for the beauty they give you. Question, live authentically, be cynical, take your time with scrapbooks and moss and dead magazines and lilies and sweating moons, and romanticize the fuck out of wooden kitchen or Van Gogh bedroom chairs.

But be there for each other, now more than ever. Stop romanticizing walking in dark rooms alone. All the rest, you can romanticize. Now more than ever, talk loss and love and friendship in terms the mutuality of which you’re always surprised by. Share things you thought were made for you.

The chorus of the opening track “You Want It Darker” on Cohen’s new record, says Hineni Hineni, Abraham’s answer to God which means “I’m ready my Lord.”

In Remnick’s New Yorker interview, he says:

I know there’s a spiritual aspect to everybody’s life, whether they want to cop to it or not. It’s there, you can feel it in people—there’s some recognition that there is a reality that they cannot penetrate but which influences their mood and activity. So that’s operating. That activity at certain points of your day or night insists on a certain kind of response. Sometimes it’s just like: ‘You are losing too much weight, Leonard. You’re dying, but you don’t have to coperate enthusiastically with the process.’ Force yourself to have a sandwich. […] “You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time, and much of the time you can’t decipher it. Even when I was healthy, I was sensitive to the process. At this stage of the game, I hear it saying, ‘Leonard, just get on with the things you have to do.’ It’s very compassionate at this stage. More than at any time of my life, I no longer have that voice that says, ‘You’re fucking up.’ That’s a tremendous blessing, really.”

This is for you that kind of got closer to yourself through this by putting yourself in the center, for all of you that were the only person “Hallelujah” was written for when you discovered it.

And now the wars can start anew
The torture and the laughter
We cry aloud as humans do
Before the truth and after

The Great Divide

[1] Puppets, The book of longing.

My Identity Is Not Up for Debate

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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Why Some Women In The LGBTQ Community Struggle Finding A Term For Their Identity

There are many terms around that we in the LGBTQ community use to identify ourselves with – lesbian being the most common one.

But what exactly does lesbian even mean? Well, the specific definition of a lesbian is a female-identifying person who is attracted romantically or sexually to —primarily and usually only — other female-identifying people. And that doesn’t really apply to all women in same sex relationships.

The term lesbian assumes that both parties are female gender and are only attracted to the female sex. That simply doesn’t apply to everyone.

For example, a bisexual woman currently in a same sex relationship may not want to call herself a lesbian, but calling herself bisexual while with a woman can assume that she also has other relationships with men. Which is not always the case. Other women who call themselves lesbians and are only attracted to other women and identify as having a female gender identity sometimes don’t like bisexual or pansexual women calling themselves Lesbians.

It’s strange how people also set up unwritten rules that one has to fall under in order to use that specific term.

Some women call themselves gay. But this was always predominantly a term used to identify a man who is attracted to another man and some women feel that using the term gay is a cover-up for declaring themselves lesbians. It would be interesting to know what gay men feel about women using the term gay to identify themselves with. Do they think it is a term that belongs to them and women shouldn’t really use it?

And what about queer? The term queer held many negative connotations for a long time but recently it has become a very popular term that women who do not identify as heterosexual seem happy to use, especially if they don’t feel they fit under another specific term such as lesbian.

Recently some women have even taken to using the term Sapphic, which derives from Saphho, a poet from Ancient Greek times who lived on the island of Lesbos and wrote poetry about her love for other women. Lesbian became a term after the island of Lesbos where women had same sex relationships.

Another recent term is WLW – women loving women – and originally it was commonly used for women in the black lesbian community but now seems to be used by many, regardless of skin colour. These terms seem quite acceptable as they do not define women in any other way, accept that they have an attraction to other women.

So the great debate continues. Labels very rarely cover everyone or can be used universally. Personally I think that women should be able to use any term they are comfortable with and all women should accept other women from the LGBTQ community regardless of what term they wish to use to identify themselves with.

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16 Things Our LGBTQ Teenagers Need To Know

When I started to question my sexuality, I was lacking in any sort of guidance. I lived in a pretty conservative town – to this day I can still remember the poor girl who got chased out of our school after she came out.

I also remember my very first boyfriend who was pushed out of the closet… Unfortunately, I had a hand in that one.

It was a confusing time, and we all made some pretty bad choices, but if I can save the next generation from making the same mistakes, I’ll feel like I’ve done my part.

My hope for each and every LGBT teenager is that you’ll learn these things through my experience, instead of learning them the hard way. No one said it would be easy, but it doesn’t have to be so hard. Here are 16 things I’ve learned since I was a teenager.

1. Identity ≠ style.

Clothes are an incredible way to express what’s going on in your life – but your sexual identity doesn’t have to define the clothes you wear. For a really long time, I dressed super girly to “prove” that I was really straight. Then, once I started questioning, I dressed super masculine to “prove” that I was really a lesbian. Once I got out of high school, I realized that my actual style straddled the line a little bit. I didn’t feel the need to use my clothes to justify who I was. I allowed myself to wear what I wanted to wear, and I felt free to express the rest of my personality, too.

2. Style ≠ identity.

Somehow, it took me longer to realize that the same thing I’d figured out for myself was probably true for other people, as well. Even once I stopped defining my style by the trends for my label, I was subconsciously passing that same type of assumption off on others. It took a long time to realize that no one is defined by the clothes they wear – only from the way they define themselves.

3. You have nothing to prove.

I cannot stress this enough: You don’t have to “prove” your gay-ness to anyone. You don’t have to prove that you’re bisexual, or asexual, or transgender. You don’t need to legitimize the choices you make that affect your life, and you don’t have to answer to anyone else’s assumptions about you. If a stereotype happens to be true for you, you’re not bringing the community down by being yourself. Likewise, if a stereotype isn’t true for you, you have no obligation to perpetuate it. You do you, because after high school, no one cares about your hallway rep anymore. I promise.

4. Your sexual health is actually a really big deal.

I didn’t even realize that safer sex for lesbians was actually a thing until I was in my 20s. (Early 20s, but still.) We don’t have the luxury of learning about lesbian sex in school, so instead we rely on what we see in porn and what we hear from our friends. It’s probably no surprise that our friends aren’t getting their information from the most reliable sources, either. Thankfully, the information you need isn’t that hard to find, as long as you know you need to look for it. Read my lips, guys: Look for as much information about safer sex as you can. It might literally save your life.

5. Your sexual happiness is pretty important, too.

Once you’re sexually active, sexual compatibility is pretty important in your relationships. If one of you is really shy in the sack and the other requires a lot of communication, for example, things are going to get bumpy. You don’t necessarily need to leave your partner if the sex isn’t hot, but you will want to work out any issues in a way that makes you both happy. Bad sex can definitely be worse than no sex at all.

6. There’s a reason we use a rainbow to represent us.

Whether we’re talking about the original meaning of each color (see this article about the rainbow flag) or the recently popularized spectrum of sexuality, the symbolism runs really deep for us. In fact, sexuality is a broad spectrum of gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, and everything in between – or even nothing at all! Sexuality isn’t even a single definition to last for a lifetime.

7. You can’t change who you are, but who you are can change.

No matter how much you try to change your sexual identity, it won’t work. Trust me – I tried. You can force yourself into as many wrong relationships as you want, and that’s not going to make them any less wrong. The opposite is also true, though – your sexuality can change, against your conscious efforts, and there really isn’t anything you can do about it. Just go with the flow, and accept that things are different. That doesn’t mean your previous identity was wrong, it just means that you’re not the same person anymore – and that is okay.

8. Labels are 100% optional.

While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and cover the fact that you don’t have to define yourself in order to be who you are. Humans in general try way too hard to find somewhere they fit in, often sacrificing bits and pieces of themselves in order to make it work. But it doesn’t have to be like this! You can define yourself if you want, or opt out if you want. Most of all, don’t let anyone else label you – that’s not their job. Only you can say who you really are.

9. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

While there are so many good reasons to remain in the closet, shame should never be one of them. There is nothing wrong or perverted about being LGBT. It’s not a disease, and it’s not a weakness. It’s simply a small portion of what makes you who you are – no different than your eye color, your birthmarks, or your middle name. That doesn’t mean it has to be everyone’s business, but it’s worth being comfortable with it, for your own sake.

10. Everything we do, we do for you.

Every great civil rights advancement we’ve ever encountered was done for the future generation. Sometimes those things help the current generation, too, but often it’s too late to make a difference to the people who have already been wronged. With the dedication of everyone who cares, we can help make a better future, and save our youth from facing the same hardships.

11. This means you have responsibilities.

You have a responsibility to do your part to help the movement towards rights. We paved the way so that you could finish the work. Not everyone has to be an activist or a lawmaker, but you can speak up when you see someone else being mistreated. Even if you can’t be out, you can still be an ally – don’t work to undo all the good that’s been done.

12. You kinda need LGBT friends.

That conservative town I grew up in didn’t have too many other queer teenagers for me to hang out with, so I had to reach out in other ways. I talked to people online, I joined groups and events, and I sought out people I had things in common with. I found that I made a lot of really attractive friends, too, but you have to be comfortable with the idea of staying just friends.

13. You need straight allies, too.

You shouldn’t choose your friends just because of their sexualities. While you need the camaraderie of your queer friends, you also need to understand that your sexuality isn’t the most important thing about you – and your straight friends have just as much wisdom to share. Don’t stick yourself with a tight interest group, because your friends after high school are going to be a lot more diverse.

14. Don’t waste your time on unsupportive people.

There are going to be people in your life who go out of their way to tell you they don’t “approve of your lifestyle”. It’s perfectly fine to distance yourself from those people as soon as you’re able to. Your sexuality isn’t the most important thing about you, but it is a part of you, and no one should pressure you to hide who you really are.

15. Everything is temporary – especially high school.

Literally nothing lasts forever, at least as far as we can prove. (Maybe space, but I feel like there are some semantics involved there.) Even ancient slates of knowledge wear away over time, and in the grand scheme of things, the time you spend in high school is next to nothing. Enjoy yourself, and don’t get too hung up on the timelines. Things have a way of working out.

16. It gets better, but it doesn’t get better on its own.

For some people, high school is pretty rough. It was pretty rough for me. But things do get better – whether through things you do for yourself, or things other people do for you. It’s important to keep things in perspective and remember that change takes time, and sometimes a lot of effort. One of the greatest feelings you can get is the satisfaction of helping someone else, so don’t hesitate to be that person to someone else whenever you can. All it takes is a few kind words to turn someone’s whole day around – and isn’t that worth it?

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