Growing up queer in this country isn’t a piece of cake; our experiences in life are far different from other kids. First kisses, heartbreaks, fighting insecurities, and developing hobbies—finding your style, discovering new music, and obsessing over the latest gossip in that rival friend group—oh my! If you’re a straight person in their twenties reading this, chances are you’re reminiscing about your teenage years, and if you’re a 20ish queer like me, you might be thinking, ‘story of my life.’ So why then do we as queers go through what Katy Perry serenades about in “Teenage Dream” in the second decade of our lives? The answer might seem a bit complex, but it’s no Da Vinci Code.
Newly Found Freedom
If you, dear reader, are hetero, bear with me as I explain: imagine if, for a significant portion of college and perhaps most of school, you had to hide the fact that you dated, nay, liked, someone. Imagine if any and all kinds of romance were completely forbidden—not just by your strict parents but by everyone around you, including most friends; imagine if merely saying, “Hey, I have a crush on so and so’ could result in a pin-drop awkward silence that seemed to last an eternity. Add to the mix what you choose to wear – how you might want to dress stands in direct contrast to what is seemingly acceptable. What would you do?
In such a world, I’d maintain a low profile. Something that most of us did. The thoughts of fear, stigma, and ostracisation, all looming large. Of course, that’s how being a closeted queer in high school and college is. For most of us, there’s the unspoken rule of, “I’ll come out when I move out.”
Freedom becomes dear to you. Metropolitan cities bustling with queer events, that high school friend who “suddenly” put a rainbow flag in her bio after graduating, the distant cousin who stopped coming to family functions but frequents pride and parties with his work friends, predominantly female, might I add, are all testaments to the fact that moving out and supporting oneself financially is often necessary to live our truth to the fullest. A select few (some would call them lucky) happen to live with gradually accepting parents in the same city, a sort of catharsis of sorts, hastened and helped greatly after there’s a career to speak of and some financial backing.
Navigating the Rainbow Road
With such freedom also comes, of course, a challenge—a challenge between balancing the work life of a 20-year-old with the emotional chagrin of one’s teenage self—and it manifests itself in a plethora of ways. From playful banter and rivalry between friend groups (we have a term for it, Kiki), to discovering a new music genre and developing an obsession with said musician (that’s Stan Twitter for you), to working around the basics of dating, to boy/girl drama, to, of course, experimenting with styles and makeup. There is such extravagance in the exuberance, it perhaps explains the age-old saying “queer people don’t age.”
And so to all the hetero folks reading this, don’t be baffled by our feistiness and our spirited demeanour, and to all the queer folks reading, never apologise for feeling or doing anything that might be written off by others as high school behaviour. Go make those pillow fortresses, get that haircut, and rock out to those Olivia Rodrigo songs to mark the end of that situation, and keep changing your home decor with gusto—you’ve got this, you always have!