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I Didn't Know I Was Gay Until I Was in My 20s

People always say that the path to happiness or personal fulfillment is to "be yourself," but what do you do when you haven't figured it out?
ART Trixie Ison, PHOTO MTV

Growing up is a hard and confusing time, especially if you're grappling with your identity. People always say that the path to happiness or personal fulfillment is to "be yourself," but what do you do when you haven't figured it out? Or when people don't seem to be too happy with who you know you are?

It's okay to not know everything yet (and it's okay to change your mind)

Something that people don't often say is that it's okay that you don't know yet. You're allowed to try and figure it out if something doesn't quite fit right. You're allowed to ask questions—even the uncomfortable ones. You're not tied down to who you were in the past, especially if that's not how you personally see yourself anymore. You're allowed to change your mind.

A personal struggle for me was trying to make other people happy with the person I ended up being, instead of being true to the person I know myself to be. Although I was doing it so that I didn't upset people I cared about, I wasn't being true or fair to myself.

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No one knows really who they are right away, so take time to figure it out. I didn't know I was gay until I was in my 20s, but only because it didn't ever feel like an option to me. Getting to know yourself takes time, but it's worth it to find out.

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It's okay to be weird

There's also that looming fear that maybe we're just a little bit too different or too weird. We end up letting only the more "normal" parts show, because we don't want to be alone.

Sometimes we make boxes for ourselves, trapping ourselves in. But here's the thing: it's okay to be you. I was lucky enough to have grown up in a space that was mostly safe to be myself. High school was strangely pleasant, even with the abundance of Harry Potter fanfic and embarrassing crushes on girls and otherwise.

Find your safe place

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If you don't have people in school that you can be yourself with, try to look for them somewhere else. One of the best feelings in the world is finding people who ride the same wavelength as you. When you feel misunderstood, they assure you that you're not quite alone.

I found kindred spirits online, first through shared interests that eventually bloomed into real friendships. I wasn't much of a talker, but I poured my heart and soul into writing paltry LiveJournal entries late into the night, and my friends from all over the world commiserated with me, writing about their lives as well.

Since I hated talking about my problems, I wrote about them instead. I am 100% sure that having this outlet, this safe place where I'm not judged and where I'm listened to, is what carried me through most of my tumultuous, angst-ridden (and very confused) adolescence. It helps to go through weird and confusing times with others.

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You'll figure it out

Don't feel the need to live according to the validation of other people, especially if they are aggressively rejecting who you are. Everyone will always have something to say about stuff that doesn't involve them, both good and bad. "Haters gonna hate," Taylor Swift sings, but it really helps to not let little comments get under your skin. The important thing is that you know who you really are and that you love yourself despite everything.

It gets better

Sometimes it doesn't seem like things will get better, but they can. It's hard to look past a difficult situation, but it's worth it to stick it out. If you let it, the world beyond high school can be beautiful.

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About the author
Carina Santos
Contributing Writer
Carina is a writer and visual artist based in Manila. She has a fondness for mountains and One Direction, unabashedly. Okay, maybe a little abashedly.
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