I remember back to my sophomore year of high school when I first realized I wasn't exactly as 'straight' as everyone else. I wanted to accept myself but without telling a soul about it. That wasn't the way to do it.
Three years later, I found that to accept myself, I had to be able to express myself entirely without hiding anything.
I was a shy and insecure girl who didn't know who she was, but I knew I was different in some way. I watched hours and hours of YouTube videos and visited dozens of different websites, reading article after article trying to figure out what felt most like me.
In reality, I didn't know who I was or what I was even looking for. I just needed to feel like I was a part of something. I needed a label to feel validated.
I settled for bisexual. Not that there's anything wrong with being bisexual, but I was just too afraid to fully commit to the word I was always afraid of saying out loud: lesbian. It sounded foreign to me and I didn't feel like I fit the mold for that extreme of a sexuality.
I still don't feel entirely connected to that word, but I've come to terms with my sexuality, no matter what the exact label is.
Through years of thinking and questioning and eventually coming to terms with my sexuality, I've learned a lot about myself and a lot about society. I haven't had a problem with anyone not accepting me, but I know those people are out there.
I know I'm bound to come across judgment and rude comments from people who are too close-minded to understand people who are different from themselves. There are still people I haven't told in fear they might change the way they feel about me.
I still have a long way to go in accepting myself, but I've made more progress in the past month than I have in the last three years combined. I feel so much more comfortable around people I'm open with. Keeping such a secret for so long really wore on me.
Finally being out, even if it's only a few people, has lifted a weight off my chest. I'm proud of myself for taking such strides in not only knowing myself but accepting myself as well.
I've realized that I don't need a label in order to tell people who I am. That's what stopped me for so many years and kept me in the closet for way too long.
Once I finally realized one label doesn't define every part of being, I was able to express myself and feel validated without feeling pressured to conform to a dictionary definition.