I grew up in an Indo-Fijian household where we didn’t talk about our feelings, so I often felt alone. In my teenage years, I was struggling with my identity and am grateful I was able to build friendships with others who shared similar thoughts. The queer community has a diverse range of identities and experiences, and so there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to navigating this landscape. However, there are some common challenges and strategies that may be helpful for those who are exploring with their identity.
Everyone has their own journey, and it's your choice to come out or not. There is no set age or timeline. What’s important is that you are ready. This decision can be liberating, scary, and an uncomfortable process. One of the reasons many people don't come out is because of acceptance, but it's completely your choice. There's no right or wrong way to go about this, because it will depend on your situation. There are many people who never come out, and some people that tell everyone. Others might only share with a select few. The process is very personal, so take all the time you need.
It's okay for your identity to change. If you start identifying with a specific gender identity or orientation and then feel different about it, that is okay! There is no right way to live an orientation. Society has made us think that we have to talk, walk and act a certain way, but how you navigate your identity is your own discovery. Sometimes things we consume, especially on television, connect us with characters or stereotypes of who we think we should be. We are often expected to be straight and cisgender in society, and if you are not, then we can experience stigma when coming out. A quote that resonates with me by Doe Zantamata is “The freedom to be yourself is a gift only you can give yourself. But once you do, no one can take it away.”
Being surrounded by people that are supportive and want to celebrate you is so important. Whether this is friends, family, or coworkers, it's great to have a support system who you can be honest and open up with. Most of us have so many resources available now within our own communities and you can always speak with a counsellor, call an anonymous helpline, or join some organizations and support groups. There are even groups available online. Wherever you find community, it feels great to be surrounded by others who may have relatable experiences as you. Another important factor is to seek out allies who are committed to creating safe and inclusive spaces for queer individuals. It’s not easy to deal with loved ones that don't accept you, and sometimes it will take time, but always remember there are people out there that will love and accept you for being you.
Remember it's always important to take care of yourself and your mental health. Self-care is important as it can boost your self-esteem and reduces stress and anxiety. It's also great to spend time with some self-discovery. Whether that's exercising, meditations, yoga, taking time for yourself — self-care can be anything that works for you! It's important to do things that improve your physical and mental health, even if you want to bundle up and binge watch tv shows while indulging in your favourite foods, do it!
Learn about sexual health
Understanding your sexual health is an important part of our wellbeing (and self-care!). We don't always learn about sexual health in our schools and communities. Reach out to your local clinics, doctors, or organizations that will have resources available for you to be safe, informed and respectful to yourself and others.
It's always great to turn on the television and see a show with representation. There are numerous shows, movies, and documentaries you can watch nowadays with queer representation that are educational and entertaining. It's great to see characters or storylines that we see ourselves in!
Remember, no matter where you are on your gender identity or coming-out journey you are always valid and worthy of love and respect. You don’t need to have everything figured out or have it all together - you just need to be true to yourself and your own unique path. It can be a complex and challenging time, but it can also be a deeply rewarding one.
Director of Communications, Sher Vancouver