June is National Pride Month, a time when members of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies alike can wave their flags loud and proud. The festivals are lit, bars are packed to capacity, and allyship is in full swing and growing in numbers. This is the perfect time to bring more awareness to LGBTQIA+ rights and equality issues. Pride Month serves as a prime time when the queer community is more likely to be heard, understood, and celebrated.
When did you join the Pride month celebration?
But what if you came to the party late? What if you simply didn’t know or didn’t feel comfortable speaking your personal truth until you were well into your twenties, thirties, or even older?
For a large population of the queer community, it seems as though they knew exactly who they were and how they presented since they were in diapers. However, the same can’t be said for all members of the community. Some individuals “came out” much later in life for a plethora of reasons ranging from upbringing to simply not knowing their authentic selves until they were faced with their feelings years or even decades later.
There are countless stories of women who entered hetero-normative marriages, gave birth to children, and had what they considered to be the American dream only to later divorce their husbands and fall madly in love with a woman. Does this mean they lied about who they were for decades? Not at all! Sometimes, feelings shift and we aren’t made aware until they present themselves to us down the line. Furthermore, tons of children are born with the feeling that they were not assigned to the right body and are only permitted to make the necessary changes later in life.
My experiences and Pride Month
Coming out at the age of 30 myself, I can recall some of my first “lesbian” dating experiences when I was asked, “did you turn gay because some guy hurt you?” Honestly, I was surprised. I expected a member of the community to be accepting and non-judgmental. But that wasn’t the case. I felt like my sexuality was being taken as irrelevant or as some type of joke.
I can also recall an online interaction I had where I told a woman my coming out story and she immediately said, “wow, I would have to match with a ‘baby gay’.” Her comment stung. I shifted from feelings of attraction to offense in an instant. I knew that coming out late didn’t make me any less of a lesbian and I wasn’t going to allow myself to be treated as if it did.
If you’ve had similar interactions to these, then there’s no wonder why you would question “Am I really queer if I’ve never actually been in a long-term, non-heteronormative relationship? Or, I’m only curious, does that mean I can’t celebrate?” The list goes on and on.
As a result of coming out late in life, people might make assumptions about whether or not you’re “queer” enough to call yourself a member of the LGBTQIA + community. Maybe you’re bisexual and have been told that you’re confused, and you need to pick a “team.” Perhaps, you’re trans but you’ve encountered individuals that won’t take you seriously unless they can’t “clock” you or you’ve had gender reassignment surgery.
While negative interactions like these can make a late coming member of the queer community feel discouraged, it’s safe to say you are not the only one who has experienced this, and it is more than ok for you to consider yourself a part of the LGBTQIA + community. You don’t have to prove your queerness to anyone.
The fact of the matter is there is no right way to be gay, bi, pan, trans, or gender non-conforming. The second you know that you feel differently than what is considered the “norm” is when you can celebrate your differences.
Celebrating Pride Month
Pride Month is all about having the courage to celebrate your differences and share your truths despite what others may say about you. There are no prerequisites. You are not required to be in a queer relationship or to identify a certain way. All you need to do is stand with your LGBTQIA+ community members and educate those around you on the importance of inclusion for all humans no matter whom they love or how they identify. This Pride Month, don’t waste another second wondering if you “came out” too late to celebrate; instead, run out with your brothers and sisters and dance in the streets to the beat of your own drum.