By Anonymous

I identify as a lesbian woman. I think cisgender? I’m not really positive. Maybe questioning in terms of gender, or just queer in general. I haven’t found any term that seems entirely right. But I think “queer woman” works pretty well.

I feel like being queer in general changes how you experience the world – you start to see things differently, maybe not fitting into the media you’re given, and that kind of thing. I feel like that definitely influenced me a lot in terms of coming to this identity and to places that I did fit. I don’t know, I had a hard time finding places that I felt represented in – in media and books and all that stuff. I experience this identity as a community, of other people who also feel misplaced or out of place or not represented coming together to create a new place. And being part of that community means there’s those people with you – so if you don’t see yourself represented, or because of something that happened, you do have those people with you.

There was the club at my high school, called the Gay-Straight Alliance, but you only went there if you were either an ally because your friend was LGBTQ+, or because you were like, super gay. And at the time I didn’t feel like I could be super gay – which is a really broad term, but I mean like, people who are super comfortable with their identity, and very outspoken about it, and at that point that wasn’t me. So I was like, maybe I won’t go to the GSA, otherwise people are going to know. So I didn’t get involved with the community in high school a lot – or at all, really. I had a couple of friends who were in the club, but that was it.

It was all mostly online for me: the internet was a really big help, because I could look at community stuff – not just resources for gay teenagers, but community news and things. There was this thing that I found really early on, The Advocate, that posted news and things about the LGBTQ+ community, and I’d go on there every day and be like wow – I mean, I was really dramatic at the time, so I was like wow, this is my future. Really, this is where I belong. I found a lot of online resources, found other people through social media, a lot of blogs.

And then I got more involved in college. I went to the Pride Club. It was about, you know, come here and be prideful. I think a lot of people went there because they needed an outside source for that pride. It wasn’t necessarily the point of the club but was still a good thing to have. I went there at first when I did need that, but I stopped once I got more comfortable with it by myself.

I think I also got more comfortable with it because I was dating somebody at the time, and it made me more open about it. I was so proud of that relationship that it made me stop feeling so self-conscious about it. But as for the community, just knowing they were there being so visible, and things were happening on campus, or in the wider community of my school or my state was a great help, even if I didn’t get personally that involved.

It also helped that at home, in Albany, there’s – not necessarily a huge population, but there’s resources – places to go, youth groups and stuff. They also used to have an Alternative Prom at one point for the whole Albany area, which was for students who couldn’t go to their school’s prom with same-sex partners, which was really great – that was actually the one thing I did go to with the GSA. But yeah, knowing that I was coming from a place where it’s such a big deal for the community, and that’s made available, having that community was really neat too. And knowing that I was coming from there gave me a lot of pride and comfort.

It’s also cool that at university everyone is a lot more open about their identities. So, it wasn’t so much that you had to go seek out the other gay people, but LGBTQ+ people were just casually there. It’s more of a casual community, which also helps to make other people feel comfortable in their identity. Like, seeking out other gay people is great and can be really powerful, but also when a lot of people in the broader community around you openly identify as LGBTQ+ in some way, it makes it easier to feel safe as a part of that community.

I think overall having those pride organisations in place – knowing they and other online things existed, websites like The Advocate or AfterEllen, was really important in making me feel like I could be more open about who I was. So even though I didn’t take as much advantage of them as I could have, they still meant a lot.

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