It took me a long time to come out. At first, I thought that coming out required being in a queer relationship so I just figured that I would come out if I ended up dating someone that made it obvious I wasn’t straight. But when you’re not openly queer, living in a suburb in the 00s, and it feels like everyone just assumes you are straight - that queer relationship is hard, if not impossible, to find.
In the absence of a relationship to confirm my identity, coming out was a long, awkward, process. I told people I was queer. I did a lot of things that I thought were pretty queer. And yet, it just seemed like I was forever in a closet I was starting to resent.
In my early 20s, I moved to Toronto. I cut my hair. I dyed my hair. I got a septum piercing. I sewed patches onto my clothes. I made sure that no one made the mistake of assuming I was straight. This process of coming out was a true delight. I loved finding myself and expressing myself. I couldn’t believe that I was becoming the cool queer person of my own dreams.
It’s a both/and situation. I’m very grateful for this coming out/coming into experience that I had. It helps me navigate the reality that I’m still always in the process of becoming and resisting. And I don’t think people should have to work so hard to come out. Not everyone expresses their queerness with DYI haircuts and let’s be honest: the real problem is a world where people are presumed to be straight until stated otherwise.
This is why community is so important. Finding queer community helped me claim my queerness because I was finally able to be in a space where I knew people wouldn’t assume I was straight. I was able to learn from elders.* I was able to learn about the history of queer and trans resistance that I was becoming a part of. I learned about queer culture, and with it, a lot of new words.
As I write this blog, I’m very mindful that not everyone is a quick learner who gets to live the immersive experiences of queer collective housing, queer theatre programs, 2SLGBTQ+ organizing and volunteering, and more. In fact, these are opportunities that very few get to experience. What does it mean for us to build community with people who have not had the privilege of accessing queer culture and community until very recently? How do we ensure that we make space for those who doubt they are “queer enough” to belong? How do we hold space for people who still hold so much internalized homophobia, who barely have the words to name themselves?
If you are 2S and/or LGBTQ+ and trying to find your place in queer and trans community, what I want you to know is that I feel deeply for the ways in which relationships, being built at the speed of trust, can sometimes seem not fast enough to break through the isolation and confusion you may be feeling. Becoming part of community involves learning: learning how to hold other people’s stories, exploring the words that speak to your heart, and understanding what safety looks like and how you can be part of creating it. It can be hard to stumble upon people who are quick to judge, build up walls, or be defensive.
Sometimes we assume that queer/trans community is a utopia of belonging. Please don’t be discouraged by the truth that we are all complicated humans navigating an oppressive and challenging world. There is still grace, love, and joy and you can be a part of creating it.
For those of us who have found belonging in queer and trans communities, I hope this may be a reminder for us to remain humble. Perhaps the person we find ourselves judging or wanting to exclude is the person who needs community the most.
May we all continue listening.
May we all continue learning.
May we all find each other and help one another hold onto all that is beautiful and liberating in this world.
*and by elders, I mean people decades older than me who came out in very different times and people younger than me who had been “out” in some shape or form much longer than I had been.