You've heard of LGBTQ+ - Well I am the Plus
It’s hard to come out. The institutionalised shame and guilt we feel around our true identities often stops us from showing them to the world. But coming out becomes harder when you don’t have a word for who you are and how you feel. Louise Blake shares her own journey of discovery.
Being from a rural area of Kilkenny, I never assumed that I was anything other than straight. Especially after being in a hetero-relationship for a very long time, as well as feeling attraction to the opposite sex. Then coming to Dublin for college opened my eyes to the possibility that perhaps I wasn’t as straight as I thought.
In my first few years of college I was in denial when it came to my sexuality. And then after a few years of internal struggle, I drunkenly came out to my friends as bi. While everyone was very supportive of me, I still felt like I was lying; not just to them, but to myself as well.
Labelling myself as bisexual was personally too restrictive for how I felt. After expressing this sentiment to a friend, he said: “You know pansexual is a thing, right?”
This was a brand new word for me.
Pansexual felt a lot more ‘me’ than bisexual ever did. That being said, if I ever refer to my sexuality I just go with queer. From my own experience people seem to accept queer a lot quicker than pansexual.
The easiest way for me to describe pansexuality is that I am attracted to whoever I am attracted to, regardless of that person’s gender. Gender identity just does not play a part in my attraction to people.
It was such a liberating experience to finally be able to put words on how I was feeling.
Once I knew how I could label myself, I turned to Google to find out what I could on pansexuality. I learned that my favourite artist, Christine and the Queens, identifies as pansexual. I felt so incredibly valid learning about other folks and their stories.
Google is the most amazing resource for people who struggle with their identity. There are endless articles on the definitions of every gender identity and sexual orientation. But instead of searching ‘am I gay’ try something like ‘queer identities’ or ‘LGBTQ+’.
If you don’t feel like reading any of the articles, YouTube also has very informative videos from real people sharing their experiences and stories from their journey.
And when you find whatever ‘label’ best suits you, you can find your community. Whether it be online or in person. Tumblr and Reddit have huge LGBTQ+ communities, sharing experiences, stories, and memes. There are thousands of Instagram and Twitter pages dedicated to individual sexual identities. Most of these online communities have their own Discord servers for people to connect in a more personal way.
Universities around the country have LGBTQ+ societies that are also great resources for students who are unsure or struggling with their identities.
Even if you don’t find a community who are of the same sexual orientation or gender identity as you, surrounding yourself with other queer folk can seriously help on the journey to self acceptance. Queer folk know the struggle of acceptance, and I have found them to be incredibly compassionate as well as excellent listeners.
Unfortunately a lot of queer folk know the struggle of coming out and finding those words to identify how they feel; this is what makes the queer community so welcoming and non-judgemental of everyone. Being able to talk with other queer people, and finding out I wasn’t alone, was a bittersweet experience. I felt valid and accepted in who I was, but at the same time sad that so many people have gone through a battle for self acceptance.
And for anyone who is struggling, whether you want to label yourself or not; you are valid. You are not alone.