This past week was National Coming Out Day. I am so happy and excited that there is an entire day that allows people to claim who they are, when it is challenging to begin with. I am also so happy that everyone I know is so receptive and kind when they find out another friend is queer.
Coming out is something I’ve done multiple times in my life. I first did so when I thought I was strictly attracted to girls. It wasn’t immediate. I had been attracted to girls for quite some time before I decided to tell people. I was scared. I was enrolled in a Catholic high school, and I was taught that being gay was wrong. That it was inherently evil. Before being enrolled in that high school, I was at a public middle school and the lesson was much the same. Anybody who was presumed as gay was bad-mouthed and shut-out from the rest of the school. Being gay was wrong.
I internalized those lessons. I told myself that I wasn’t allowed to like girls. I told myself that, if I just disappeared, nobody would have to know. The anxiety of this entire situation was the basis of my eating disorder. While it obviously was not the whole reason, and so many things have played into my eating disorder, it was a strong reason for me to make myself invisible.
When I eventually did come out to my family and immediate friends, I was in a treatment center. The people at the center were so loving and kind, they helped me work through my anxiety about who I was, and they encouraged me to ask my incredible friend on a date (she later became my first girlfriend). They made me feel like it was safe.
Coming out, the first time, was hard. Nobody really believed me. Everybody said I would eventually find a “good man,” and I’d just have to wait it out. That all people my age experienced this.
I, however, believed me. I adjusted to the new me. I was comfortable, and I knew that this is who I was and who I am.
Coming out, the second time, was even harder. I had gone through years of therapy at this point, and I had realized that this body just didn’t fit. This body didn’t feel as though it was a home. It wasn’t because of the eating disorder, but rather because of the incredible amount of gender dysphoria that I felt. I had queer friends at this point, and I had learned of the gender spectrum (rather than the incredibly over-sold and fake binary system). I didn’t want to be male, but I didn’t want to be female either. I told my mother this in family therapy at yet another treatment center. She did the best she could to understand, but unconditional acceptance came much later (though it did come, and I am very grateful for that).
I realized that this dysphoria was another strong reason I kept going back to my eating disorder. So, I did some things to change how this body felt to me. I started dressing differently, I cut off all of my hair, and I started going by the name of Ash. And it all felt like it fit. It felt comfortable.
Coming out, the third time?? That just felt ridiculous. But I had encountered this incredible man. This man that felt like home. That treated me with respect, cared for me, and made sure I was safe. He understood my pleas for his patience while I readjusted, and my need for his patience in terms of my past with men.
That is when I gave up. I decided to just call myself queer. I decided to stop labeling who I wanted to be with. I decided I would be with whoever made me happy, be they male, female, or anything in-between.
I now identify as “queer” and “genderqueer” because I no longer want the labels. I want to be free to date as I please and exist as I please. I want to be free to flirt with whoever and not feel like I’m being a bad representative of my so-called sexuality.
Fluidity is a gift. I have learned this in so many different aspects of my life. Whatever I am doing, if I am fluid, I will always move through it.