Use a label if it empowers you, but that's not the only way to be LGBT+

I grew up in Germany, in a Catholic family. To give you an impression on how religious my family is, my dad studied to become a priest, but later decided against that and have a family. We would go to church every Sunday and would pray daily. My first memory of hearing about the LGBT community was through a homophobic remark from my dad when we accidentally came across a pride event. In primary school, “gay” was used as a slur, even though most of us children did not even know what that actually meant.

Already in primary school I felt like I didn’t fit in with the other girls, as I liked climbing trees and didn’t like playing with barbies. I also preferred to play catch instead of playing house or grown up. The girls thought I was weird, so I cut my hair short and thought I would fit in better by being like a boy. But of course, all the boys knew I was a girl with short hair and thought I was weird as well.

I felt like an outsider.

My early teens I spent trying to fit in with the girls, letting my hair grow long and trying to do feminine things. I realised that the thing that was “different” about me might be my sexuality when I was about your age – 13. It was a scary realisation and I didn’t talk to anybody about it, fearing rejection as I experienced it in primary school.

Some friends of mine and I really liked the Twilight movies and one day they argued whether they were in Team Jacob or Team Edward. My response to that was that I just couldn’t care less, so they asked me if I was in Team Bella. I felt caught and awkward and tried to change the topic, not responding to that question – in reality I definitely went to the cinemas to see Bella!

In the last few years before graduating from school I found a friend group that talked openly about LGBT+ issues and some of them thought about possibly being part of the community themselves. It made me feel safer and more comfortable with my identity and I slowly came out to my friends, casually without sitting them down – I developed an expectation of either they will accept me, or they are not people I want to be friends with.

I started Uni in London and was in a relationship with a girl, I finally decided to come out to my dad after years of thinking about it. I knew I had a safe place in London, and I feared to see his reaction, so I decided to write him a letter and leave it on his pillow before I left for 3 months for London. I wanted to give him time to process it and accept me the way I am, but I was also fed up and just wanted to finally feel free and not like I’m hiding a big part of my identity from him.

To my surprise, he sent me a text message right after, saying that he loved me no matter what – I was relieved.

For years I thought I was gay – but a couple of months ago I met a guy at my Uni and realised that might not be the case. Labels are there to empower you, but I personally feel trapped by them. Therefore, I don’t like to label myself other than part of the LGBT+ community. Sometimes people have difficulties accepting that and just want to put a label on me. I want you to know that it is your decision how you present yourself and how you label yourself. Do what makes you feel comfortable – if that’s labeling yourself and fitting into stereotypes then go for it, but it’s not the only way to be LGBT+.

Cece, Just Like Us LGBT+ ambassador in London

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