Whether you’re out, closeted, or questioning, Pride is for you.

Pride is usually shown in the form of parades or parties outwardly celebrating queerness, but it’s more than understandable if you are unable to celebrate out loud, or just don’t feel comfortable doing so. There is no one way to celebrate Pride.

I grew up in a heteronormative, homophobic family and society. I was told I talk funny, that I act like a “girl,” and that I’m just “different.” This was especially disheartening because I wasn’t trying to be any certain way; I was just being me.

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Growing up, I felt there was no one I could talk to about my queer identity, and there was definitely no one to reassure me that being queer is completely normal and okay. I know this experience unfortunately isn’t unique, as a lot of our community feels or has felt this way, but my hope is that I can reassure anyone struggling with coming out and let you know you’re not alone.

So, here’s what I wish I knew before coming out as queer.

Your experience is valid.

Though my family is not accepting of my sexuality, I am well aware that others are in worse situations than me. I would dismiss any pain or disappointment I felt related to being queer and tell myself that it’s not that bad. That there are people who have it far worse than me, and that I should be thankful my situation isn’t worse. This mindset prevented me from expressing the pain and disappointment I truly felt inside with anyone, and also prevented me from getting professional help. I held it in until I found myself in a depressive state that affected my schooling.

You can both recognize others have it worse than you and know the pain and disappointment you feel is valid. Acknowledging someone has it worse doesn’t have to come at the expense of invalidating your own experience. Pain, disappointment, and oppression are never a competition. Any amount of pain is valid, and it’s unnecessary to compare it to others.

This is especially true if you feel like you want to ask for help, whether that’s from friends, family, or professional help. People who truly love you are willing to hear you out and acknowledge your feelings. If you feel like you need to ask for help, I encourage you to do so in whatever way you think is the safest and best.

It’s not you, it’s them.

I have been told the oppression I’ve faced is my own fault. That as a gay man who wears makeup, I only have myself to blame for any negative comments or stares I’ve received. That it’s understandable for me to be gay, but why do I choose to ostracize myself further by wearing makeup?

I knew others said things about me or would stare at me, but it didn’t bother me until it was presented to me as an issue that I brought upon myself. I became self-conscious and thought everyone was staring at me. I became afraid that someone would say something. But I continued to be my authentic self because I knew there’s nothing wrong with me or what I’m doing.

I wish I could say you won’t face consequences for being your authentic self, but that’s just not true. What I can confidently say is that you are not the issue. They are. Society is.

There’s nothing wrong with queer and expresssing yourself. Being your authentic self should pose no issue to someone else. The way people choose to view or judge you is their problem, not yours. And we can’t control how others feel. You are perfectly fine the way you are, and you have just as much right to identity and express yourself however you feel fit – just like anyone else does.

Come out when you’re ready.

Growing up, everyone at my school assumed I was gay; maybe even before I fully realized it myself. But I didn’t come out until I met someone I felt would truly support me and understand my queer identity. It wasn’t even that I felt my other friends would judge me for being gay, but I guess the conversation never got to a point where I felt I could bring it up, or felt comfortable doing so. I came out to my friend because it felt safe.

There is no rush in coming out. Coming out is your choice, and it’s also your choice who you come out to. It can feel like you’re not being your authentic self or that you’re hiding something, but you are protecting yourself. Whether you’re protecting yourself for a big or small reason, it’s valid to not come out  – especially if it could possibly affect your wellbeing. You don’t owe anyone coming out. It’s your right to decide if and who you come out to, and that is a personal decision.

If or when you do come out, I hope you are met with love and support. You deserve it.

You are loved.

I don’t personally know you or your story, but I bet I can relate to your experience or the way you’ve felt before. Because of that, I do care about you and your well-being. I want you to know you are loved and supported by me and this community. We are here for you, we know your feelings and experience are valid, and we believe in the change you want to see and are trying to make.

Even if it feels the whole world is against us, I know we can find solidarity and comfort in each other. Happy Pride.

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