Finding My Pride

I am the youngest of four.

I am a Y2K baby.

I am queer.

I am a woman genderfluid. 

Welcome to being so obviously gay you don’t need to come out. 

When I was 13, I developed a crush on a girl and I got scared. 

The first person I told was my brother. His response was simple but it was kind and it was what I needed to hear:

“You can’t choose who you love.” 

These words, spoken by an older brother trying to comfort his little sister, have stayed with me ever since. This ready acceptance from a loved one made me realise that it did not matter what anyone else thought so long as the people I cared about the most accepted me for who I was. But it did take me some time to come to this realisation.

When I was 14, I was outed in my ninth-grade drama class. What little confidence my brother had instilled in me the previous year had shattered. I was ashamed and very alone. For a kid like me who was just trying to remain anonymous in order to survive high school, this was devastating.

 I maintain that high school was invented purely to torture the maladjusted in their most vulnerable developmental years.

But the truth is, I had always been an anxious, self-conscious child. I was not comfortable in my own skin, and I was deeply insecure about how I looked. I didn't even know how to dress properly. small child with wide brimmed hat looking at cameraI tried to imitate what the girls at school wore but it never felt right. Everything was too tight or too short or not long enough. There were many times when picking out an outfit ended with me crying and wishing I could just wear what my brother wore. Some days I felt confident wearing my own clothes but other days I felt trapped in a body that did not reflect how I was feeling inside.

I didn’t think too much about these feelings for some time because I was still grappling with my sexuality. There was no positive representation of queer women in the shows I was watching at the time and definitely no representation of queer women questioning their gender. I was without a queer community to turn to.

When I was 15, I came out to the rest of my immediate family. They made me feel exactly like how my brother did; like I was normal, and this was completely natural. It was comforting to know that I was fully accepted by my family but, because of how relatively easy my “coming out” was,

 for a long time I did not believe that I was really a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. I thought that I was “practically straight” because I had not struggled for acceptance. 

I know this sounds silly, but I truly did not feel that I deserved to belong in the community. In reality, I was desperately (and still am) in need of a community to belong to. I struggled through the rest of high school without really connecting to anyone like me.

When I was 19 I started university and I was eager to meet other queer people. I was openly gay and I did not want to hide anymore but I still struggled to find a community to belong to 

 It felt like everyone had found their group in high school and I had been left behind.

When I was 20, I got my hair cut short. For the first time, I started to really feel like me and properly comfortable with myself. I had been developing my style over the years and this was the final piece in forming my identity.  girl with long hair and same girl with hair cut short

I am now 21 and I am very proud of who I have become. I am not defined by my sexuality — it is merely a natural extension of who I am. Defining my gender identity has been a new thing  —  so new in fact that this is the first time I am properly articulating it: I am gender fluid. It feels so obvious to me now that I am nowhere near as scared as I was back when I was 13 and questioning my sexuality. However, my nonchalance about my gender and sexuality has not been without its ups and downs. Some days you will catch me staring off into the distance wondering if I am even real. At least now I know it is completely reasonable to consider myself a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. There are many different versions of coming out, and one thing that I have learnt is that there will always be another person to come out to and it will always be a little bit daunting. 

I am so lucky to be surrounded by friends and family who accept me for me — unconditionally. 

I have yet to find a sense of community but the queer people I have met along the way have all helped to make me feel a little less alone. I hope to one day find belonging within the queer community but for now, I am content finding confidence and acceptance within myself.

For those of you who are struggling with your identity and do not have someone like my brother in your life, I want you to know that you can’t choose who you love. But you can begin with yourself. 

Courtney (she/they) is a third year UQ student. She studies a dual degree in communication and arts, majoring in English and Digital Media. She currently works as a Student Ambassador with the HASS Digital Comms team, helping to promote inclusivity within the HASS community with a focus on the @UQHassLife Instagram.