Society teaches us what is accepted and what is not. We dare not go against the grain, rather we shape ourselves to fit in because we long to feel loved, seen, and accepted. We try to fit the mold of what we believe is expected of us. When you’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community, your very existence is constantly up for debate, whether that debate is about trans rights, acceptance of pronouns, or numerous other issues specific to our community. Because of this, staying within the mold can seem safer than being who you truly are.
When I was younger, I desperately tried to fit the mold, but at 15 years old, I realized I no longer could. Coming out as openly queer in my teenage years in rural Colorado was challenging. I had very little support. I did not know anyone else who was “like me” or who looked like me, and this caused me to question the very essence of myself. I longed for a community that didn’t exist in my small area. “Why can’t I be normal? Why can’t I just be like the others?” I prayed and begged just to be “normal” more times than I can count. I attempted to keep this secret and to mirror how others looked and acted around me.
Clothes shopping was always filled with shame and self-hatred. My mom used to usher me into countless clothing store departments hoping to find women’s clothes that I would wear and feel comfortable with. My mom was kind and patient, she just didn’t fully understand that the clothes she was choosing weren’t for me. Every time we went into another clothing store, my stomach twisted into knots, my limbs grew heavier, my eyes stung from holding back tears, and I had to will my body to keep moving. On one particular shopping trip with my mom, I felt paralyzed. I looked down at the floor, feeling as though I was an embarrassment and a disappointment to her. My mom grabbed my hand and I looked up at her, no longer able to hold back the flood of emotions overcoming me. No words were spoken between us. My mom just swiftly glided us across the clothing department store floor. I did not want to look up, I did not want to see everyone staring at me. We weren’t leaving the store, my mom had other plans. She took me to the men’s department and started grabbing clothes that she thought were cute and began showing them to me. When someone actually sees you for you, and not just the pieces that they accept or want to see, it is an indescribable moment. In that moment I became more me, and unbecame less of what society expected of me.
The mold was not meant to hold us. It’s simply there until we are ready to break free from it. As I look back, I am not upset at the existence of the mold that I tried so desperately to be a part of, rather I’m grateful for it. I thank the mold for allowing me the space to grow in until I was ready to take on the art of unbecoming, and becoming who I truly am.
What is the art of unbecoming and becoming? Unbecoming is stripping away the expectations of society. It is ridding your heart of self-hatred and allowing yourself the room to explore. It is giving yourself compassion and space to identify who YOU truly are and how YOU wish to finally be seen. Becoming is putting your self-exploration into action. It can be something like finally finding the clothes that make you feel like you, feeling ready to love whomever you decide to love, or finally announcing your correct pronouns. The beauty in unbecoming and becoming is that there is no timeline, and there is no expectation. You can continue to explore who you are and who you want to be.
The art of unbecoming and becoming can feel overwhelming. Living in a world that forces the mold can be extremely stressful and hard on our mental health and well-being. Mental health support can play a pivotal role in breaking out of the mold and finding the confidence to live unapologetically as our authentic selves. I hope you find comfort and some direction within these resources if you are exploring who you are. If you feel you could benefit from additional support, I encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional. If you want to be an ally, I encourage you to use these resources to educate yourself in order to better understand and support LGBTQIA+ folx. No matter where you are or how you identify, you are welcome here.
Find an LGBTQIA+ Community. You do not have to be on this journey alone. Acceptance, love, and exploration are available to you. Join a Facebook group. Look into local colleges for open LGBTQIA+ groups. Explore gay bars or hang-outs. For me, growth came slowly, as I found others within the LGBTQIA+ community in college. When I met people who validated that I was not alone in my experience and that there was nothing “wrong” with me, it became easier to heal from my self-hatred. You deserve that validation. You deserve to be seen.
Come out when YOU are ready. There is no pressure, there is no timeline. You get to decide who has the honor of knowing you, and that is a privilege.
Seek out counseling and coaching. Life is hard, and even harder when you feel as though the foundation of who you are is unknown or unaccepted. Reach out for support. Find a space in which there are no expectations, where you are met with compassion, acceptance, and a safe place to explore. Even if you’re confident in your identity, finding an LGBTQIA+ knowledgeable counselor or coach can make a difference in life’s stressful moments.
Explore your sexuality and gender, whether with a coach, counselor, supportive friends or family. Sexuality and gender are a spectrum, not a destination. They can be fluid, and can change day to day. Some people may feel as though one identity fits them. That is okay. Everyone experiences gender and sexuality differently. Be gentle with yourself as you explore what fits with how you feel and be sure to take good care of your own mental health and well-being. Learn more about sexuality and gender here
Take care on your journey of unbecoming and becoming you. Remember, you are never alone. Happy PRIDE!