Connect with us

Growing Up Gay: A Stonewall State of Mind Series

A Stonewall State of Mind

Growing Up Gay: A Stonewall State of Mind Series

Illustration by Jocelyn Burton
Featured image by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

This will be my 22nd year of life on this planet, and in the time I’ve had so far, I’ve found myself in a near-constant state of confusion. As most adolescents do in times of growth or change, I’ve distanced myself from family and friends to figure things out about who I am, what I stand for, etc. I know now that I find comfort in the umbrella term “queer” to allow a particular connection to myself and the LGBTQ+ community. The word “queer” has been regarded as derogatory for quite some time. Still, in more recent usage, many LGBTQ+ communities reclaimed it as an umbrella term for being on the spectrum of non-normative (or not completely straight) sexualities. 

The UC Davis, LGBTQ Resource Center, explains this term in fuller detail: “One definition of queer is abnormal or strange. Historically, queer has been used as an epithet/slur against people whose gender, gender expression, and/or sexuality do not conform to dominant expectations. For some, this reclamation is a celebration of not fitting into social norms. Not all people who identify as LGBTQ+ use ‘queer’ to describe themselves. The term is often considered hateful when used by those who do not identify as LGBTQ.” 

Illustration by Jocelyn Burton

Being queer isn’t something I exactly wanted or expected from my life. Based on my experiences with the LGBTQ community, most of us agree that we wouldn’t “choose” this path, one that is arguably harder socially and developmentally to cope with than heteronormative sexualities and cisgender expressions. Growing up, I always looked at the LGBTQ community with fascination. Still, I never realized that the reason might have been because I would come to identify with and root myself in the shared experiences and ideas that I observed within that colorful, mysterious realm of the LGBTQ spectrum. 

I’ve lived the majority of my young life in my hometown. My upbringing, which was rooted in religion, consisted much of strict socializing in a religious context. My escape from my home life and school stress became nightly hangouts at our coffeehouse where all my friends from the church’s youth group congregated. Being a young person in a small town means there are always lots of eyes on you. Everyone knows you and your family, their expectations, your family’s financial status, religious affiliation, etc. Even as I return home to visit these days, I recognize almost every person I pass driving through town in some way or another. Now that I’ve begun to accept myself as I am, I notice more frequent stares, lingering whispers, and at times, the ignoring of my existence altogether. 

My queerness began as something I thought didn’t apply to me. I was taught in my church experiences to “hate the sin, not the sinner.” As time went on, I realized that I was that sin they talked about. Even though I’m not entirely accepted as I am when I go home, I find myself conflicted over choosing the community I’ve grown comfortably stagnant in or moving on to find my place in the world. There’s a peculiarly guilty cloud that hangs over my head about leaving that place, those people, those ideals. No matter how far away I find myself, I am curiously drawn to the nostalgia of my tumultuous but beautifully fossilized childhood there. 

The funny thing about not wanting or realizing that I was gay is that there were obvious signs. One such instance when I retroactively realized my repressed queerness was when I recognized that some of my beloved literary icons were part of the queer community or at least part of LGBTQ pop-culture. I was always enthralled with literature. Some of my favorite authors, including Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, and Walt Whitman, turned out to be related to queer pop-culture and theory. I idolized these authors’ lives and their stories but found that it was not only because of their excellent word-weaving skills but also because I found myself in them. 

Another retroactive realization occurred when I thought of all the people in my circles that I looked up to as a kid. Most, if not all of them, were struggling with the same identity issues that I was. We collectively and silently suffered through navigating a society that expected a studious silence from girls, reinforced the tropes of “boys will be boys” and made any of us in-between-ers feel as though we didn’t exist. This overt binary was especially apparent when I decided to join my friends in going to the homecoming dances. The choice of wearing a dress or being comfortable wasn’t a choice at all. Today, I know that I could have chosen comfort in my identity. Now, I would never choose those itchy stockings, hurting heels, unnatural-looking makeup, and the pretenses and awkwardness I felt that came with that radically gendered clothing. 

So much of growing up gay still gets under my skin. Possibly because I can’t bring myself to make peace with feeling how I’ve felt my whole life, or maybe I can’t reconcile it because it’s not time for me to do so. There are unlimited experiences to speak about, and we all have stories to tell, I’m sure. Whether it’s relating to where you’re from or other possible cultural factors and influences, we can identify those common threads of being an LGBTQ person in our years of maturation. I feel a lack of connection with the community in general because of these confusing and stressful times we are having. For now, if any of you out there wants to join in conversation with me, I invite you to reach out. Until next time, remember that growing up gay, or growing up at all, isn’t something that ends. In a way, we never stop growing up, and that’s a fantastic opportunity we have, isn’t it? 

SUPPORT STUDENT MEDIA

Hi, I’m Sara Crawford, a senior journalism student from Cleveland. I’m also the editor in chief of The Burr and the opinions editor for KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you interesting, humorous and hard-hitting stories that tap into current events, trends and the lives of those who have made a home in Kent, Ohio. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

More in A Stonewall State of Mind

Facebook

Trending

Staff Playlists

Playlists

Playlist: On Our Radar

By February 13, 2021

Playlists

Playlist: The End Of An Era

By December 12, 2020

Playlists

Playlist: The End of The World

By December 5, 2020

Playlists

Playlist: Moments In Movies

By November 14, 2020

Playlists

Playlist: Absolute Chaos

By November 7, 2020

Recent Stories

The Art Outlet

The Art Of Self Care

By February 24, 2021

FEATURES

The Artists of Phil Spector

By February 22, 2021

GUEST BLOGGERS

My Journey With Mental Health

By February 22, 2021

FEATURES

Here’s To New Beginnings

By February 21, 2021

FEATURES

Romanticizing Serial Killers

By February 20, 2021

Talking With Taylor

Let’s Travel! (After Corona)

By February 19, 2021

Picture Books Aren't Just For Kids

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #1: The Secret of the Old Clock

By February 18, 2021

Real, Good, Human

Not Everyone Should Be A Leader

By February 17, 2021

A Step Forward

A Step Forward

By February 16, 2021

Playlists

Playlist: On Our Radar

By February 13, 2021

GUEST BLOGGERS

Division

By February 12, 2021

Entertainment Analysis

Entertainment Analysis: Bridgerton

By February 11, 2021

The Art Outlet

Seven Tips For Success In The Arts

By February 10, 2021

Celestial Conversations

Mercury Retrograde and New Moon in Aquarius

By February 8, 2021

Talking With Taylor

My Guide to Morning Classes

By February 5, 2021

Picture Books Aren't Just For Kids

Picture Books Aren’t Just For Kids

By February 4, 2021

Real, Good, Human

“Maybe I’m Not Tired”

By February 3, 2021

A Step Forward

A Step Forward

By February 2, 2021

Season of Justice

Season of Justice: Michelle Martinko

By February 1, 2021

Strong Opinions

On Santa Deniers: A Christmas Meditation

By December 17, 2020

FEATURES

The Plight Of Student Workers

By December 16, 2020

Speakeasy Sounds

Final Speakeasy Sounds

By December 15, 2020

A Stonewall State of Mind

Growing Up Gay #3: The Creative Way

By December 11, 2020

FEATURES

More Than Just A Pen And Paper

By December 9, 2020

In the Queue

In The Queue #5: Female Empowerment

By December 9, 2020

FEATURES

I Never Left The Stage

By December 7, 2020

Season of Justice

Season of Justice: Carla Walker

By December 7, 2020

Playlists

Playlist: The End of The World

By December 5, 2020

GUEST BLOGGERS

Ending Where I Began

By November 20, 2020

Strong Opinions

Strong Opinions: The Bar Scene in Kent

By November 19, 2020

The Art Outlet

A Day in the Life of a Musical Theatre Major

By November 18, 2020

Speakeasy Sounds

Speakeasy Sounds #12

By November 17, 2020

The Egg Burner

The Egg Burner: Layered Taco Dip

By November 16, 2020

In the Queue

In The Queue #4: Comedic Break

By November 11, 2020

FEATURES

On Video Games and Escapism

By November 10, 2020
To Top