can we please stop making the only LGBT+ narrative we see “i always knew?”

like, i didn’t always know i liked girls too. i wasn’t having crushes on them or kissing them on the playground when i was five years old like you see on tv or read in books. i didn’t know for sure that i’m bi until literally this year (i’m 17 as of writing this). a former friend of mine is a trans girl. she didn’t always know. she didn’t realize she was trans until she was nearly eighteen years old. some people don’t realize it until they’re twenty, or forty, or sixty.

some people do always know. good for them! but can we please please please make it known that you don’t have to have always known for your identity to be valid? it makes it so difficult for people who are figuring themselves out later in life, because it feeds into this idea of “why didn’t i know it before? is this even real? if i haven’t known i’ve felt this way all along, how do i know i feel it now?” and that’s only making worse what’s already such a difficult time in life

give me eighty year old women who are just figuring out they’re lesbians. give me middle aged accountants who realize they’re actually trans. give me a guy who doesn’t know until he’s twenty-eight that he’s actually into dudes. god just please give us some other narrative, so we can be reassured that even if it took us a while to get there, our identity is no less valid than that of a person who’s known they’re LGBT+ since elementary school. stop telling LGBT+ people that that’s the only way they’re really LGBT+

what’s really sad is that people feel like it’s too late in their life to know if they’re LGBTQ, like there’s some sort of time limit on understanding your identity. and it’s heartbreaking. i knew i was gay when i was 8. my 31 year old cousin just discovered she’s bisexual because she finally explored her sexuality. i know trans girls who didn’t know they were trans until their 30s.

there is no right time to discover that you belong in our community. finding out your sexuality or gender later in life than others is not a bad thing, it’s not a wrong thing. please never feel like that somehow invalidates your belonging in the community, because it doesn’t.

and isn’t there a term like, compulsive heterosexuality or something, IIIRC? where some people, especially LBQ cis women, essentially convince themselves they’re heterosexual because that’s what’s expected to be the “normal”, and they just essentially brush aside any potential feelings they have for other genders? like, they’re pretty much just conditioned by society and/or their upbringing to not question themselves and to be dismissive over any romantic or sexual feelings towards ppl who don’t identify as men?

i could be completely wrong about the term or its definition, but i know there’s something out there like that. so what i’m trying to say is, you don’t have to place blame on yourself for finding out you’re LGBTQ later in life. even if that term doesn’t apply to you, there’s still NO reason to feel blame or shame. some people just discover themselves earlier than others, and some people discover themselves later than others, and it’s okay!! there’s no right or wrong time!!

we HAVE to welcome later-in-life LGBTQ people with open arms and make sure they are as welcomed in the community as people like myself who found out very early.

I didn’t know until three years ago that in high school I had a huge, obvious crush on a girl. My best friend had to tell me, when we were already in our second year of college, about something that had happened over two years before.

I honestly didn’t know.

In college I knew that, hey, maybe I’m not straight. I didn’t know this in high school because in high school I didn’t have the vocabulary for asexual and demiromantic and nonbinary. And even if I did, I still don’t think I would have been able to tell, wouldn’t have been able to form enough of an idea of what I wanted or didn’t want to say… yeah, I’m not this I’m that.

I had a huge, obvious crush on a girl. She played cello and was super smart and artistic and had beautiful hair and the cutest smile and I basically fell over myself to be able to do group projects with her or hang out with her or just be near her. I’d ask if I could braid her hair, I’d try to sit next to her whenever possible, and during assignments with even the slightest bit of connection to her I’d ask for her help never mind that we didn’t have very many classes together.

I didn’t realize this was me crushing on someone. I thought those fleeting appreciations of cute guys were crushes–those one or two week things where I’d blush whenever we met eyes, or I’d admire the line of his jaw and the length of his fingers. I’d never act on it because I didn’t want to act on it, I was content sitting and watching from afar, like a statue in a museum, look but don’t touch.

But with this girl? God, I wanted. Not anything sexual (because, well, ace) but I’d even go so far as to wonder how she’d cuddle. How holding her hand might feel. If kissing wouldn’t seem so weird if it were with her.

I didn’t know.

And the problem is, by the time my best friend pointed it out to me–she didn’t know she had to point it out to me, is the thing. She thought I knew. I was sitting there across the table, talking about, hey, I don’t think I’m straight and she’d snort and say, yeah I figured in junior year of high school, and I just stopped and stared and her–I no longer liked this girl. We had gone to separate colleges and it had been years since I thought about her, let alone spoke to her or saw her. It had faded into something I’ll look at a little fond and a little sheepish–my first real crush!–and it’s not like I was heartbroken…

But I didn’t know.

And I wonder… if I had known, then, would things be different? Would I even have been brave enough to come out, if I had known? Would I have risked our friendship (knowing how conservative my high school was/is) and her reputation to act on that knowledge?

I don’t know.

The people who graduate from my high school, they’re not all straight. But there’s no GSA or LGBTQ club, no way to gather us together and teach us and protect us and show us, hey, there’s more out there for us. So many people don’t come out until after high school–even the ones who did “always know”–because it’s not safe and… that’s fine. It’s not their job to come out and become martyrs–it’s the job of the school to make the option safe–but it’s still…

I didn’t know, and a part of me wonders if that’s for the best.