It’s not easy.
Especially if you’re an LGBTQ+ teenager; especially if your identities are constantly invalidated not only outside of the LGBTQ+ community but inside it as well.
I am 17 years old and have identified as bisexual for approximately three years. About one month ago, I started identifying as nonbinary as well. It is a challenging life. My struggles with self-acceptance are different for both parts of my identity, so I will discuss them separately.
Many of us bisexual folk are encouraged to ‘pick a side’ and told that we are simply going through a phase and will probably end up either straight or gay, or that we will become straight or gay once we enter into a relationship. These are examples of bisexual erasure: the invalidation of our identity by affirming that it does not actually exist. Bisexual people are, in fact, real, and I have no doubt in my mind about that, but all of the negativity surrounding bisexual people really set back my acceptance of my own identity at a very crucial time in my life. Those nasty voices in everyone’s heads that thrive on self-doubt told me that maybe I was lying to myself (while I simultaneously had a crush on a girl for almost a year). It has taken me quite some time to be confident in and proud of my identity, which is really sad because I would have skipped a lot of pain and suffering if bisexual people (especially youth) were represented and viewed more positively in the media and within the community.
You might be thinking, “It isn’t that hard to accept that there are people out there who are attracted to 2+ genders.” Alas, we bi+ people still get a lot of denial that our identities exist, or are valid. Much of it is due to lack of education. For example, people claim they ‘wouldn’t want to date a bisexual person’ because they fear lack of loyalty or are bothered by the fact that the person is attracted to multiple genders. In fact, our being in a relationship doesn’t erase our bisexuality, but our bisexuality doesn’t erase the fact that we’re in a relationship. We’re just as loyal as everyone else. Also, there are probably many parents and family members who believe that their relative’s bisexuality is a phase may be influenced by the media’s portrayal of bisexual people. We are often only implied or dismissed as ‘experimenting’ in popular movies and TV shows. Positive bisexual representation will change that, and there must be a push for more of it in pop culture. Where are my bisexual role models?
Over the years, I have become confident and outspoken in my identity as a bi person. Now, my gender identity is a whole different stack of salami. I don’t know exactly when I really started questioning it intensely, but it was this year. I’m AFAB; I’m a feminine person, but I do look a little androgynous. I suppose my experience with gender identity isn’t the most common, because I felt like my femininity and the label ‘girl’ weren’t necessarily a negative, there was just something MORE. Another piece of the puzzle. I don’t mind female pronouns or female-gendered words, but I was feeling increasingly ‘stuck’ in one label and knew somehow that I couldn’t call myself just a girl.
You may have heard of the label ‘demigender’ (specifically ‘demigirl’/’demiwoman’). The generally accepted definition of this is: an umbrella term for nonbinary gender identities that have a partial connection to a certain gender. This includes the partly female identity demigirl, and the partly male identity demiboy. There are other partial genders using the “demi-” prefix for the same reasons (Nonbinary Wiki). Yeah, I still feel a connection to the female gender, but it’s not my WHOLE identity. It’s a slice of the pie. At first I was very uncomfortable with that term, even though it’s 110% accurate for me, and found it far easier to just say I was nonbinary (I’m now a little bit more comfortable with it). Then my dear friend Mr. Self-Doubt kicked in (I don’t know why I gendered self-doubt in a paragraph about my nonbinary identity, but sometimes it just be like that).
What if I am lying to myself: The Sequel? Maybe I’m just a girl and need to come to terms with that? Is my identity less valid because I still feel a partial attachment to my birth gender? Is it wrong to feel a partial attachment to my birth gender? Will guys still like me? Will girls still like me? Will I still be accepted in spaces for women? Will I be taken seriously or will I be seen as a joke or an inconvenience to people? Will I still feel this way when I’m older?
These are questions that go through my mind EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It’s painful. It’s difficult. I feel like my case is so specific there just aren’t a lot of resources and support for people like me. I always appreciate the love and validation I receive from my friends, but what about from the world? What about from myself?
I wish there was a “Love Yourself” wand I could wave and expecto patronum all these problems away. They have a deep impact on my mental health, worsening my depression and anxiety. While I know the whole world isn’t gonna take me seriously (namely, homophobes, transphobes, ‘enbyphobes,’ etc), I just want the LGBTQ+ community and the liberal community and the educational world and the scientific world to do so. I stress about that every day.
Self-acceptance hinges a lot on your acceptance by others, more than we’d like to believe sometimes. It’s something us LGBTQ+ kids struggle with every waking moment of our lives. We strive for it every day, but it’s hard. This is partly why LGBTQ+ people are almost three times more likely to have a mental health issue. There’s a LOT of stigma around THAT, too.
One thing you could do to help us LGBTQ+ folk with our self-acceptance is show us that you accept us. That is SO reassuring to us. Whether it be through reaching out to us when we are having a hard day, posting us towards positive representations of our identity, or literally just telling us “I accept you for your sexuality/gender,” it helps. We are all on a journey of self-acceptance, and it’s filled with stuff you can trip on and fiery pits of lava and things like that, but if we all work together, maybe we can love ourselves a little more.