Valerie – “Dear Younger Queer Self” Contest Finalist Story

Being queer is not a choice, but it does involve many choices. 

Here’s how yours turned out…

When you were 9 and demanded “a boy’s haircut”, and everyone made fun of you, including your teachers at school, and you decided not to care, you were right. You went home from a day of being ridiculed, still walking on clouds, because for the first time in your life you felt like yourself.

When you were 10 and insisted to adults who didn’t understand that you were not a “tomboy”, that you were just a boy, you were the same as a boy, you wanted to be treated like a boy, you wanted a boy’s name and boy’s clothes, when you fought every Sunday against being put in a dress, you were right.

You were told to stop being difficult, to stop being “defiant”, but you kept fighting, and you were right. You knew intrinsically who you were, no matter who tried to tell you otherwise.

Until you didn’t. Sometime between now and high school, you give up on being loved. You realize it’s important to hide your gender identity, because people hate what you are. By age 12, you’re exhausted just trying to be yourself. You wish you were anyone else.

When you were 13 and figuring out attraction, and you thought, “My heart skips a beat every morning when she gets on our school bus. I must be at least a bit gay?”, you were right. 

Partially right. You’re actually very, very gay. You figure this out over the next couple years, and despite every message from every place you’ve lived and almost every person around you, you refuse to feel ashamed. And you are right. 

When you were 15, you decided to wait until you were safe – away from your family and school and entire city, financially independent, untouchable – to come out. This decision saves your life. Make it over and over again. You were right.   

When you were 22, you came out and tried to explain your self-concept of pansexuality to hurtful reactions from your family. You thought it didn’t matter to you, because you were finally free. You were wrong. 

When you were 28 and you realized that despite having, for the first time in your life, a group of women who 100% loved and supported you, that you did not fit in, that you still felt like something different, you were right. 

When you were 31, you found out your new health insurance covered top surgery, and you got really, really excited. You thought, “No cisgender person would get this excited about top surgery”. You were right. 

You get sick and have to put the idea of top surgery on hold, but in an odd twist of fate, your sickness leads to the option for hysterectomy. You tell your parents about your decision to have one.

Your mother screams, “ABSOLUTELY NOT!” at you.

You get it anyway. You’ve never been happier. You were right.

When you were 32 and started using “they/them” pronouns, despite being so afraid you were wrong, that you were asking for something you would later go back on, you were right. 

And even if you weren’t, if you did go back to she/her, it wouldn’t have mattered. Don’t ever let them tell you that it does.

Every choice to be yourself was right. Every time. You’ve never regretted a single one. No matter how people reacted to you, no matter what friends you lost and what community you didn’t fit into any more – you never regret it. 

The only mistake you made was thinking it didn’t hurt you. You thought that standing up for yourself was the same thing as not taking on damage.

But you’ve been damaged. You’ve been absolutely ravaged.

Know that it’s okay to be this damaged.

It’s okay to be dealing with the damage for the rest of your life.

It’s okay to not be done being who you are yet. It’s okay to not be sure.

It’s okay to still be learning about yourself.

It’s okay.

It’s all okay.

This life will break your heart, but it will keep mending it. You’ll find friends you never expected. You’ll travel halfway around the world and, unexpectedly, meet someone just like you, who lived so many of the same experiences. You will realize you’ve never been all alone, just separated. Cut off from the people like you.

You’ll want to give up, over and over again. You will fight to stay alive. But know that you have so much to look forward to and so much to do on this planet.

A final piece of advice, perhaps the only one you ever needed: 

Be yourself. Love yourself. Find others like you. Love each other. 

Written by: Valerie

Valerie is a writer, marketer and community organizer living in California. When they are not working, they can be found at the skate park doing battle with gravity.

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