Being queer is one of the best aspects of my life. I love being part of a diverse and loving community, who stand in solidarity with one another and celebrate individuality. But that wasn’t always the case, and being proud of my sexuality is something that I have only recently come to terms with.
I came out when I was 13 through a letter that I wrote to my best friend. I waited by the letter box in anguish every day, fearing the first person I confided in would condemn me for trying to be honest with who I was. Her letter finally arrived, and along with her acceptance she asked if that’s why I admired Britney Spears more than most girls did.
I always found comfort in knowing who I was attracted to at such a young age, but with every homophobic remark whether it be direct or indirect, hatred for myself fostered deep inside, manifesting into an internal wish to be heterosexual so I could be viewed as an equal member of society.
I grew up with a complex about my sexuality and began to loathe being attracted to the same-sex due to a large number of religious schools I attended, my family not accepting who I was, friends who disowned me after I came out and the way I was made to feel inferior.
After I left school and moved out of home, I felt a sense of freedom and contentment in my own skin and began to break away from some of the negative sentiments. I felt a sense of pride attending Mardi Gras, going out to a gay club or anywhere that celebrated queer identity, but as soon as I stepped outside that bubble I would begin to feel ashamed and embarrassed again.
Over the past few years, those struggles subsided and I began to see things in another light. I had spent so much time being ashamed of who I was, and wasted years letting others dictate how I felt, that I grew tired of caring about other people’s opinions. I am now 27, and not only have I found solace in my sexuality but I celebrate it, because it means that I am part of something far greater.
It means that I am part of a community that thrives off love for one another, free from social convention and celebrates what is on the inside, rather than the exterior. Sure, there are a lot of hardships that come along with being queer, but there are also many positive factors to be grateful for and through discrimination, bigotry and prejudice, the good will always outweigh the bad.
Realising that there are two sides to every coin, and that you just have to choose the more sparkly side; the one with glitter in the indents, with each rally I attend, for every queer party I go to, for every pride march I am a part of, I am honoured to be a member of the LGBTIQA community.
In the face of oppression, we have developed resilience and being queer has taught me to be an activist and stand up for what I believe in; not only for the community, but in all aspects of my life. I understand the importance of being an active voice, no matter if I’m swimming against the current, and know that if you believe in something, then you fight for it.
I appreciate how past generations have made life easier for us. With every attack on the community, whether it be in our backyard or on the other side of the world, we stand together to show that love will always outweigh hate, we will not be silenced and that our love is universal.
It means we can dissolve myths around what someone should look like or how they should act and be open minded and accepting of others. It has taught me compassion, that words have value and not to judge. Being built with an open mind has created opportunities and has allowed me to meet people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Whenever I meet another LGBTIQA person, I feel an instant bond and connection. I recognise they have endured many of the same adversities I have, whether it be bullying, marginalisation or being made to feel less than, but because of that I know they carry great fortitude.
I admire the strength and courage I see within the community. Anyone who has come out to friends or family, walked down the street holding hands with a loved one, kissed in public, or worn something that doesn’t fit a gender stereotype, has shown bravery.
When I travel overseas, I can be a million miles from my comfort zone, but the moment I feel home sick I can step inside a queer club and find not only a safe space, but a sense of belonging. That is what being part of a minority creates; it creates bonds. Bonds with complete strangers that feel like lifelong friends.
Although we are not able to legally get married yet, and it is more difficult if we want to have children, I don’t feel the societal pressures like my heterosexual counterparts might, and that can be quite liberating. I am free to take things at my own pace and don’t feel like I have to conform to society or a heteronormative world.
It means I can reject stereotypes and I focus my energy into setting up my life the way I want and don’t have to freak out if I’m 30, single and don’t have kids. In saying that, it means I have learnt to develop patience and persistence to continue to fight for our rights to get married.
It is not only the people in the community that make me proud, but the allies who adopt a public stance and stand in solidarity with us. Without them we would not be where we are today and I hold so much gratitude in my heart knowing there are people out there who will help fight for our rights.
On top of all that, we are part of a historical political movement. Each one of us is literally changing the world, just by being who we are. We are fighting against oppression, changing laws and creating equality for humankind, making us all a part of history.
I no longer hold onto a yearning of acceptance from others, because my family is the entire LGBTIQA community. It is a family that accepts everyone, and it is a love surpasses sexuality, identity, gender and race.
Other than being proud of who I am, I am happy that I have adopted everything that my sexuality has provided me, which is the true meaning of the term “gay”. I have learnt that being queer is a gift and more importantly, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Carolyn Cage is a freelance journalist and a proud member of the LGBTQIA community.