Being out in public as any member of the LGBT+ community has its moments where you wish you had just stayed in the closet. If you've come out more than once, though, the challenges you've more than likely experienced can be very different.
Like many others, I made more than one stop along the way while discovering who I was and what I wanted out of life. Accordingly, I've had a few moments where I've had to come out to friends and family more than once as I looked deeper into myself.
This is largely because growing up, I thought there was only one way to be: Straight.
Although I was always aware of my attraction to women, I was raised to think that being gay was unnatural, disgusting and came with a one-way ticket to hell. Because of this, I spent the better part of 18 years pushing down my instincts as far as they would go and forcing relationships with men.
Finally, when I was 19-years-old, I stopped lying to myself and everyone around me and started identifying as a bisexual.
That lasted for about two years, mainly because I was too much of a scaredy-cat to start dating women and I kept getting distracted by men.
During that time I actually didn't feel any different, internally or socially. I still hung out with my regular group of friends, and the only homophobia that came my way was from guys who sexualized my friendships with women. In fact, I felt like I didn't even belong to the LGBT+ community because I didn't go through the "gay struggle."
As soon as I had my first girlfriend, I was hooked. My attraction to men flipped off like a light switch and I started to question everything. How could I be gay if I've had sex with men before? How could I be a lesbian if I've dated men my whole life, even said "I love you" to boyfriends before?
I want to add in a disclaimer here because my experiences while I identified as a bisexual woman were largely influenced by my upbringing, my friend group at the time and a lot of internalized homophobia. Bisexuality is not just a phase girls go through in college, or a stepping stone to coming out as gay.
Anyone who has questions about bisexuality is encouraged to reach out for more information or dig into their resources!
I ended up taking the summer to really come to terms with it, but by August I was telling all of my close friends and family that I was a lesbian.
This is when I truly started to feel "the struggle."
At first, there was just some weirdness from homophobic women who thought I was going to assault them and men who insisted they could make me "turn back." But about a month after I had officially come out, three of my straight male friends, who I had trusted as best friends, all walked out of my life.
All for the same reason.
It just went downhill from there.
I felt like every interaction I had was marked by it.
People, mostly straight men, would ask extremely personal questions to try and see what made me "switch sides." It was so invalidating to be forced to answer, "Are you gay because you were raped?" and I felt totally exposed having to defend myself to guys who wouldn't take "no" for an answer because "I'd done it before."
To this day, that period influences the relationships I have with men and the tone of my internal monologue on dysphoric days.
I realized that I hadn't felt "the struggle" yet because no one had even seen my bisexuality as real, let alone as a reason to discriminate against me. I realized all of my male "friends" were never actually friends because they were just biding their time until they could get in my pants.
Those first few months totally redefined what "friendship" means to me, all because of those few people who prioritized their expectations of me above my happiness.
As hard as that was, I got what I wanted. I was finally a graduating member of the LGBT+ community, with plenty of "struggle" to prove it.