I imagine myself in a hallway with five doors, in search of something. The doors are labeled as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. Periodically a door will open to reveal someone who is ready to come out. Some of these people are nervous to show who they really are, but they appear confident and proud of their identities. None of the doors seem to describe me and yet I know I belong here. Which one am I searching for to open?
I think I visited my first door in second grade, the door labeled “Queer,” because when I started to question my identity, that was the only one that seemed like it was close to fitting me. Identity for me has always been kind of an ambiguous thing. On my dad’s side, I am half Zuni, a Pueblo tribe from New Mexico, on my mom’s side I am white. I was assigned male at birth, but often am happiest in roles that are considered feminine. I am comfortable in my own skin, and still struggle with feeling like I don’t fit in.
According to stories I’ve heard about my younger self I was a typical “rough and tumble” boy when I was little, but by second grade I did not identify that way. When other boys were playing sports and wrestling I was knitting and doing crafts, baking, watching My Little Pony, and playing with my mom’s make-up. In fourth grade, I was ecstatic to be Queen Elsa from Frozen for Halloween and rocked the blonde wig and floor-length ball gown. My experiences in elementary school were mostly positive, and it was easy to just be myself without getting too deep about it.
During my transition to middle school I was having a harder time finding acceptance. Part-way into the first year, another student would follow me on my way home after school. I had this amazing pink and silver sparkly backpack with Elsa on it that I loved, and he would pick on me for it. He would frequently taunt me about being a “girl” and yell after me that I was gay. One day, I had had enough and told him, “There’s nothing wrong with being gay, so that’s not much of an insult.” He didn’t have a comeback, and he didn’t follow me around anymore.
The experience of standing up for myself was empowering, but it made me question and reconsider defining my identity. I opened another door in my journey and tried coming out as Bisexual and Non-binary.
I began advocating at my school and standing up for people who weren’t being treated with respect. I became a confidant among some of my peers who were questioning coming out. I had great parents, teachers, and friends who supported my identity, but it still sometimes felt like I was invisible or on the outside.
Why did I still feel that something wasn’t quite right? Just like “queer,” my new labels didn’t feel like they truly fit me either. I thought coming out was supposed to feel freeing and proud, instead I felt confined and unseen.
In eighth grade, I participated in a week-long Equity Institute at my school. An entire day was dedicated to LGBTQ+ issues, and it was during that experience that I learned there was so much beyond the + that I had never known about. I begin to hear stories and see people of all ages and backgrounds creating their own terminology and labels. Intersex, genderfluid, asexual, gender apathetic, and so much more. This was exciting! I felt like a deeper understanding had been unlocked, not only for how I observed the world around me but how I could see myself.
I looked back into my imagination of the LGBTQ hallway, and suddenly there weren’t just five doors. There were countless doors, and new ones being created all the time.
I come out now as pansexual and gender non-conforming. Gender doesn’t define if I am attracted to someone or how I see myself. I am proud to describe myself as “Two Spirit,” a modern Native American term for indigenous people who present as both masculine and feminine and holds a special place in many tribal cultures.
In search of finding my gender and sexual identity, I have grown stronger within the LGBTQ+ community and have had many positive experiences. I come out now with confidence that I found what I was looking for. I understand now that the door I was seeking to open is Love.