Q1: What is your earliest memory of realizing your sexuality/gender identity? What was that like?
A: My earliest memory of my sexuality goes back to first and second grade. In first grade, my best friend and I shared a few kisses in class. In second grade, I had a sexual dream about my friend, and I told her about it and she was completely freaked out by it (understandably so). I had a couple dreams about girls that, as an adult, I feel like were foreshadowing my adulthood. There was also a time that I blurted out to the whole class that I was a "pretty lesbian" which alarmed everyone and resulted in administration calling my mom for a meeting lol. None of those encounters ever really occurred to me as a big deal, but they obviously have been things that I've always remembered.
Q2: What is something you wish someone would’ve done for or said to you during your earlier years of finding/accepting yourself? What is something YOU would tell your younger self or others?
A: I really just wish someone would have accepted me instead of waiting for the end of a "phase". I wish someone would have told me that I'm not the only one that feels the way that I did/do, that I didn't have to change in order to be worthy of God's love. So, that's something I would tell my younger self. I would tell others that they don't have to feel pressured into "choosing" or knowing everything there is to know about their sexuality/gender identity (especially labels) because it is so fluid and, for some, everchanging. I would also tell others/my younger self that it can get easier and that their life is worth living regardless of their sexuality, they are not better off dead than alive and queer.
Q3: What was it like for you to accept yourself? Was acceptance of yourself contingent upon the acceptance from peers/loved ones?
A: Accepting myself was extremely hard and "extremely hard" is an understatement. Originally, my sexuality wasn't something I thought was a big deal, it really was just a part of me and I didn't get the big deal until people made it one. I felt comfortable enough to be myself and share that with people I loved and expected to support me all the time but it was the opposite. I immediately was met with bible verses that condemn homosexuality, prayer and an increased amount of supervision whenever I talked to or wanted to hang out with girls. It was really weird and obviously that took a toll on my self image. So, truthfully, I still struggle with accepting myself til this day because I have fought so hard to get to where I am now and that's 100% because acceptance of myself was contingent upon acceptance from others, especially my loved ones. Eventually, I got to a point of realizing that I cannot allow myself to live this life in misery by trying to fulfill someone else's expectations of me based on heteronormativity. It's gotten so much easier.
Q4: How did you come to understand your identity? Are there some things you do still don’t understand about yourself or others within the LGBTQ+ community?
A: I came to understand my identity the most in high school and I can say that social media and my peers had a big hand in that. Seeing people like Domo Wilson, Courntney Bennett and Bambii, along with a few others exposed me to a side of the world that I wouldn't have thought existed prior to. There are plenty of things I still don't understand about myself or others that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community so much so that I don't really know what exactly I don't understand.
Q5: Did you come out or did you just start living in your truth? Do you feel like coming out is necessary/required? Why or why not?
A: I only came out to my mom and aunts but none of them were really supportive like I expected them to be. I don't remember coming out to anybody else but them, all I can remember is that I started being more open about my interest in girls and started to entertain them more than I did boys. I started doing my thing and letting people do with that information as they pleased which usually wasn't the greatest stuff but nonetheless, I stuck to it. I used to feel like coming out was necessary but now, I understand that it is not especially since straight/cisgendered people never do. It is not mandatory that we make anybody "aware" of who we are, in fact, people just need not assume that someone is just straight or cisgendered, however, I find that it is important because we deserve to take up space as loudly as others can.
Q6: Do you feel like your sexuality/gender identity is apart of who you are or a part of you that you can grow “in and out of”?
A: Honestly, I feel like it's different for everybody. There are some people who are who they are and there are others who identify with different things as they go through their journey in life which is perfectly normal, in my opinion. We change in some many ways in life so why should it not be allowed when it involves something as fluid as sexuality and gender identity?
Q7: Has religion/spirituality had any kind of effect on your journey to accepting yourself (good or bad)? If so, how does that affect your view and/or practice of religion/spirituality today?
A: Religion has had a massive effect on my journey to accepting myself so much so that there have been one too many times where I felt like it would be better for me to be dead than be the worst thing that God created. I didn't start attending church regularly until middle school so by the time I started to come to terms with my sexuality, the homophobic rhetoric was already ingrained in me and affecting the way I saw myself and others like me. Every Sunday I would be at the altar, hoping that the pastor would pray the gay spirit out of me despite the failed attempts many times before lol. After years of being (in)directly chastised by the adults in the church and my peers, I eventually started to just do away with the idea of Christianity and God because I could not wrap my head around how an all knowing, always present, all loving God could create me the way He did just to send me to never-ending suffering when all the suffering on earth was over. Like that's insane. Today, I feel that my view is more centered around spirituality than religion and I have a much better sense of who God is for myself and although I pray, I don't believe I do much to necessarily practice a certain one. I'm still figuring that out.
Q8: What do you see for yourself in the future? Does the current state of the world have any affect on that vision?
A: As far as being queer, I see a beautiful and fulfilling life with my current girlfriend and our dawgter. I hope to continue to take up space and gain more community that is reflective of who I am as a queer individual. The current state of the world definitely has an affect on that because things have already begun to regress in spite of how bigoted and dangerous; it's scary but I have every intention to remain.
Q9: As someone who identifies as ____, what do you wish heterosexual/cisgendered people were more considerate of/knowledgeable about?
As someone who identifies as queer, I wish heterosexual/cisgendered people were more considerate about the fact that people's sexuality/gender identity is as involuntary as theirs; nobody is just choosing a life that will be filled with hatred and a constant threat on their lives for the fun of it. I also wish they were more considerate of the ways that they enable misogyny, toxic masculinity and homophobia/biphobia/transphobia in ways that are more subtle especially through the ways in which they participate in socialization especially with youth.
Q10: When people say they accept you, what are some green flags that indicate that they do? What are red flags that indicate that they don’t? When it comes to people showing support, what is your biggest pet peeve(s)?
A: For me some green flags would include showing genuine support/love/admiration for my relationship, taking the initiative to ask questions so they can understand and gain knowledge and being just as passionate about being anti-homophobia. Some red flags would be finding ways to mention my girlfriend without explicitly calling her my girlfriend, displaying evident signs of being uncomfortable with me showing my girlfriend or them affection, reducing homophobia to an opinion and willfully being ignorant.
Two of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to people "showing support" is when they refer to my sexuality as a "lifestyle" or a "choice" and when they make my sexuality the center of our conversations as if it's a spectacle.
Q11: How important do you think it is for people who “accept” you to be knowledgeable about your identity? Do you feel like language is important?
A: I think it is very important because I feel like being knowledgeable about my identity is a real reflection of love and support and how could someone do that if they know nothing. I feel like language is important also because in this society, it is easy to adopt certain terminologies and phrases that are offensive, derogatory or dismissive and if people are not careful, they can and will enable certain rhetoric and propaganda that is harmful even if it is not their intent.
Q12: On a scale of 1-10, how difficult has it been to navigate (platonic, familial, etc) relationships with heterosexual/cisgendered individuals? How do you hold space for those around you?
A: I'd say it's a six (6) especially as I get older and realize how rare it is to actually have an ally or someone who just genuinely support me as I am and create/nurture a space for me to be safe. I like to believe that I hold space by creating space for real conversations (not debates or "opinions") that will allow them to be educated about the experiences of people like me and just existing as I am is a statement in itself.
Q13: On a scale of 1-10, how difficult has it been to navigate (platonic, familial, etc) relationships with individuals of the LGBTQ+ community? How do you hold space for those around you?
A: I actually don't have many relationships with people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community so it's not really difficult at all. However, the relationships I do have I find to be very smooth sailing so like a three (3). I try to hold space for those around me by just being myself and accepting people as they come without making it a big deal when they finally come to terms with who/what they are.
Q14: What does living in your truth mean to you? Do you feel like it’s important? Why or why not?
A: Living in my truth means just taking up space and existing as I am with no remorse or care for other people's comfortability or thoughts surrounding what that looks like. I definitely feel like living in my truth is important especially because of all the things I've had to go through in order to get to this point and I cannot afford to allow anybody to force me to live a life of shame. I also think that living in my truth is important because I have seen the ways that living in my truth has helped other people feel safe and comfortable enough to make strides to begin living in their truth, too. That is the main reason why I find it to be important -- creating space and inspiring others.
Q15: What do you identify as? Have you always identified as ___? What led you to identify in that way?
A: I identify as a queer cisgendered woman. I haven't always identified as queer. In high school, I originally just started to say that "I like what I like when I like it" and after feeling more pressured to give a name to that, I started to try out the label "bisexual", but I hated that, too. I have never felt that I was a lesbian or gay because that felt too restrictive, and I didn't much like bisexual because it didn't feel accurate to explain the way I am mainly attracted to women. Another thing for me is that I know so many people think of labels as a permanent thing, and I have never wanted to allow anybody to stick me in a box and completely reject the fluidity of sexuality. It wasn't until the end of 2022 that I looked into the word "queer" and decided that that is what I have always aligned with.
Q16: What do you think your younger self would have to say/think about who you are today?
A: I've gone through so many changes with my sexuality that I could say different versions of my younger self would have thoughts that were complete opposites of each other lol. My elementary/middle school self would probably admire me and probably idolize the woman I am now. My high school self would have very mixed thoughts as I was very interested in everything gay while still going to the alter every Sunday to pray the gay away and condemning others like me to hell. Overall, though, I think each one of those versions of me would look up to me and say "thank you" for pushing through all those lows that we had to face in order to be where we are today.
"..I have seen the ways that living in my truth has helped other people feel safe and comfortable enough to make strides to begin living in their truth, too. That is the main reason why I find it to be important -- creating space and inspiring others." - Alysse, She/Her/Hers, Queer, Cis Woman