"You're not the only LGBT+ person out there and you will find love and acceptance."
My name is Lupe Cruz Cardenas and I am a transgender, non-binary, pansexual person.
I started questioning my gender as soon as I had an idea what gender might mean. At a young age, I refused to be label as a ‘girl.’ I loved being called a ‘tomboy’ and I noticed that I was not like other girls.
Being Mexican and growing up Catholic, the idea of gender is aggressively reinforced. I hated doing things that girls did. Mexican girls are meant to learn how to cook and clean in order to become the perfect wife in the future. I never wanted to cook and clean in the kitchen for the men in my family. I never wanted to follow the rules of how to be a proper lady and to grow up learning how to please my future husband. I wanted to play soccer, play video games, and hangout with my brother and other boys. I wanted to have the freedom that these boys had. I wanted to look like them.
I knew that I was different from the girls growing up. In secondary school, I learned about the ‘T’ - transgender - in the LGBT+ community, but I refused to accept the fact the ‘T’ might be who I was. I was sad when I reached puberty, because I could never look like the boys I met in my life that I admire.
I also refuse to believe was that I was anything else but straight. When I was 12, I had my first crush. Her name was Jana and she was my best friend that I met at my Catholic school. Anyone who was gay at that Catholic school was harassed and picked on by others - even I participated on the name calling of those students who were ‘out of the closet.’
Because of the climate of the school, I refuse to believe that I was gay and that I had a crush on Jana. At one point when I was 13, I remember telling my cousin and my sister that I thought that Jana was attractive. They told me that even if I was gay that they would still love me. I replied to them very angrily that ‘I am not gay.’
I was afraid to come out because my parents were Catholic and how they treated the LGBT+ community. I was afraid that no one would love me and accept me for who I was. With that mind set I was determined to pull off that I was a straight woman throughout high school and it led me to a long state of depression. You had to be straight and identify with the gender you were born into, to survive in the community I lived in.
In secondary school, I was in a committed relationship with a boyfriend for three years. I did love him for a year or two and using that idea of love it was easy for me to use that as an excuse of being straight. It was until my last year of high school when I was 18 that it was becoming harder to bottle up all of these unanswered emotions and feelings.
In my last year of high school I broke up with him. Around the end of the year, I no longer felt I could hide the fact that I am bisexual to my friends. The depression was eating me up alive that I started thinking that ending my life might be the best alternative to finding happiness. I came out to Jana one day after she had asked me why depression was taking over me. After I told her that I was bisexual, she told me that she already knew that I was gay. She became my biggest support for my early years of being out of the closet.
Ever since I came out to Jana my life turned around for the better. I started coming out to more of my friends and the huge amount of support was overwhelming. My determination to start a new life in University as a person who was out of the closet motivated me to be strong and continue on with my life.
I was 19 years old and it was my first year of university, I was proud of being bisexual. Everybody was so supported and I made a community with other LGBT+ people. Still something felt off, even with all of the support on my sexuality. The problem was that I still had not come to terms with my gender.
That year I met someone name JD who didn't identify as simply a boy or girl, using the pronouns of they/them and he/him. After meeting, someone like them and going to an event that explain LGBT+ terms, I started to understand my gender identity.
Everything in my life made sense when I started accepting my gender and sexuality. I am a queer person and I share similar backgrounds or events in my life to other queer people around the world.
Just remember you are not the only queer person going through struggles and that you will find love and acceptance. I was able to find love and a community abroad and at home.
Lupe is a Just Like Us Ambassador from Cardiff.