Becoming

by | Jul 1, 2023 | 0 comments

My name’s Aaliyah. I am a 16-year-old, African-American, queer, young woman attending La Follette High School. This fall, I will be starting my junior year, and when asked to write this essay I was shocked, anxious, and confused on why me—a random high schooler—would be picked to write for a magazine, but I realized this gave me an opportunity to share my story just a little on coming out, understanding queerness, and what it means to be me.

Even recognizing I am queer started in the summer before freshman year. I was super-worried about starting high school. I wasn’t worried about the academics as much as I was the social aspects. Freshman year was my first time going back in person after Covid. That summer felt different. Everything was about to change for me, and it caused me to think about what any teen is thinking about before high school: Relationships. The fact that I’d still never been in one is scary, but what was also scary was realizing that I could be queer. Even thinking about it felt weird to me. Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community was never something I was exposed to as a child or young teen until I got to high school.

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While growing up, no one around me was ever really saying much about it. When it was talked about, it was brought up as unnatural. So that summer me and my best friend were walking back to my house for a sleepover. As we were walking she told me that she’s bisexual. Being her bestie, I was happy for her and also excited that I could talk to someone about the same thing.

As I moved through freshman year, I didn’t really have any boy crushes at all. I didn’t really think any boys were attractive and was in a new friend group with my bestie where everyone was bi, pan, lesbian, trans, etc. I felt comfortable around them, but also awkward at times because they all really had their identities figured out while I was going through a spiral trying to understand which identity was for me. So for most of freshman year, it was a mess of going between bi, pan, and lesbian. In the back of my head the one thing I knew for sure is that I liked girls. When sophomore year came around, I was still closeted and identified as bi still. But sophomore year was gonna be different, so I decided to be more involved with my La Follette GSA and joined the club with a few friends. Another change that year was that I was having serious crushes, and they were all girls. I was getting more connected and educated about my community through GSA and the GSAFE leadership program.

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What also changed sophomore year was that I came out to my mom. It’s very odd, because it happened in a Taco Bell when my mom was asking me about plans for Valentine’s Day. It was a salty topic because I’m single, and at that point most of my friends were in a relationship. I was mentioning the fact that most of them have girlfriends, boyfriends, or partners, which is when the awkward question came up: My mom asked me, “Well do you like boys or girls?” In the moment it was a mix of, “Okay, I have to tell her,” and also a feeling sick of hiding and wanting to get this over with. So I said, “I like boys and girls, but mostly girls.” From that conversation we talked about all kinds of labels and terms for the LGBTQ+ community but the one thing I really took away from coming out to my mom is that she said she loves and accepts me.

In the end it felt so freeing knowing I could be myself around my loved ones. I now identify as queer because it feels more natural and true to me without struggling or stressing about labels. 

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