*Written by Sharon Getsis*
On a regular day, if someone were to ask me how I feel about my sexuality, I would probably go off on an hour-long tangent about how happy and proud I am to be a gay woman in today’s blossoming society. However, when a friend approached me to write this piece, I had to stop myself and ask whether or not it was entirely true.
The truth is, being gay and out is not always rainbows and butterflies.
While there are certainly many “rainbow and butterfly” moments, my point is that it’s one of the most contradictory aspects of my life.
Being out and proud is difficult, yet rewarding. Terrifying, yet exhilarating. Uncomfortable, yet authentic. It isn’t something that just happens overnight, but is a process that many, if not all, gay people will likely struggle and succeed with throughout their entire lives.
Not only do we need to come out to almost every new person that enters our lives. Not only is there still an embarrassingly high amount of lingering homophobia in nearly every corner of the country. Not only is discovering who you really love probably one of the hardest, most terrifying things you’ll ever do. But until one decides to speak their truth to at least one person, he or she is likely going through all of this alone.
The way I make it sound, you would think I’ve found nothing positive in my experience toward self-acceptance. However, in my opinion, the difficulties that have made this path to self-realization so harrowing are the same exact things that make me proudest, that make the whole experience more empowering, that make you realize how special and incredible and absolutely normal it is to identify as queer.
It is for these very reasons I dress up in all rainbow colors and march around for the entire month of June every year. It is for these very reasons I will always urge my friends and acquaintances to be more inclusive in their everyday lives, even in instances that seem lighthearted and safe. It is for these very reasons I will never again be afraid to tell somebody who I really am, never again feel any lesser for the love I hold in me, never again try to change one of the most unique, most celebrated, strongest parts of me. Because being gay, with all its hardships, haters and hindrances, teaches you how to love yourself before anybody else even has the chance to.
In a sense, everything that has made being gay a negative experience in the slightest has also made me want to declare my love for it that much more. Because at the end of the day, it is worthy of love, and even more so because of all the people who say it isn’t. Being gay on a heteronormative campus is not always easy, but being gay and open about it is surely a heck of a lot easier than I thought it would be.
Though not every person in my personal life is entirely supportive (an unfortunate inevitability for most), college is precisely where I found a chosen family of people who never blinked once when I used the word ‘girlfriend’ and never made me feel like I needed to curb myself in order to be accepted.
The feeling of utter acceptance was not instantaneous, but instead came with time. It took understanding more about myself and, most of all, finding the confidence from within to be okay with who I was.
Looking back after all these years, the funny and truly beautiful thing is while I was spending my entire life worrying about who was going to accept me for who I was and who I loved, I didn’t realize that I, myself, had ended up being last in line for my own parade. Since realizing that, you can now bet your bottom dollar I’m not wasting a second on spending the rest of my life up on the front lines, cheering myself and all my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters on.