We spend our lives searching for ways to discover ourselves. At times, this search is conducted in mirrors or photos; finding the aspects we find beautiful in our appearance and the factors we wish to change. At times, this search is conducted by looking outward; recognizing that a friend’s sense of humor brings out our true belly laugh or that a partner’s temper makes us wilt in fear. We analyze who we are, who we spend our time with, where we are going, and who we want to be.
Growing up, we are told not to care about what others think. Don’t yearn to have your lab partner’s eyes or the soccer player’s body. Don’t think about what other people see when you break down and tell them ‘I love you’ or what your friend feels when they see you crying.
Don’t care about what others think, just be yourself.
Easier said than done. But the subject of that sentence actually comes at the end instead of the beginning, because it all starts with you. It’s not about not thinking about others and it’s all about thinking about yourself. Self-love and acceptance is not an easy task to conquer at times. It comes with hard work, dedication, and continual commitment to no one other than yourself. But, once we realize how special we truly are, recognize the unique qualities we bring to the table, and that our being is nothing other than beautiful, we could never feel more whole. Because, once you start thinking about yourself, the thoughts of others fade out and you find that you’re enough.
Even with more ways to express ourselves than ever, and a broader spectrum of voices shaping today’s queer narratives, societal pressure still plays a meaningful role in shaping who we are. It impacts how we perceive ourselves, how we communicate, how we present ourselves, and ultimately everything that defines who we are. The relationship between something as simple as who we like, who we decided to identify as, and what defines us fundamentally, can sometimes be more complicated than one might think.
Watch this video, ‘Queer Portraits’ to hear multiple members of the LGBTQIA+ community share their journeys defining, understanding, and accepting their gender expression and sexual orientation. Finding oneself and accepting who we truly are, can open so many doors toward who we are meant to become. So, how do sexual orientation and gender expression impact who you are; impact who your loved ones are; impact what our community is? Let’s find the ways we can accept ourselves against adversity, support the ones we love, and come together to represent the gorgeous tapestry our community is meant to be.