For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been infatuated with the idea of love. How it looks, how it feels, how it tastes. As we are growing up, especially as young girls and young women, we are bombarded with the ideals of love in books, movies, and music. I grew up on the idea that in order to be happy and be normal, I needed to find love. Let me be more specific: I needed to find love with a man. As I grew older, that ideal only got reinforced more and more. I was not being taught about love in general, just love as someone who is straight. I was taught that love is ruled by gender, not people.

I remember that the first time I was interested in a girl was in high school; I thought she was absolutely beautiful and a remarkable person. Based on what I thought was right and wrong (because of social ideals), I thought that my interest in her was wrong. Instead of exploring my confusion, I let it go. I continued to date boys, most of whom I never felt a true connection with. I did have my share of love even then, but as I progressed through college, I felt my attraction toward women grow. I knew there was a part of me that I was ignoring. It took a lot of soul searching and muddling through depression in order to allow myself to explore this new part of me. It was scary, but it was even more thrilling. I finally met a woman that I was interested in, someone who I knew I could fall in love with, and then the hardest part began: telling my friends and family that I was not only interested in boys, but girls, too.

My anxiety was a result of feeling that what I was doing was wrong — that they would be ashamed of me and disappointed that I wasn’t fulfilling their ideals of whom I was supposed to be. Then it hit me: I can’t continue to live my life for anyone else. I’ve said it for years, but I truly believe that love is love. When I finally revealed my feelings toward this woman to them, their responses can basically be summed up as, “So what?” I was relieved. I was reaching a more complete feeling of acceptance since I was no longer hiding something from the important people in my life.

To anyone out there who knows they are queer — or for anyone who is still questioning — you owe it to yourself to be true to the person that you are. The first time you realize that you aren’t straight may be at a very young age, or it could be four years after your first few feelings, like me. When is not important; it’s becoming comfortable with your identity that is. Even though I identify as bisexual now, my sexuality is still being explored. Sometimes labels make things more confusing, so I just love people for the beauty that they carry.

Being out is not always easy; I’ve still had comments made about my relationship choices. People telling me that it’s not permanent or that I should rejoin the heterosexual side; but, I don’t let these people bother me. I love the person I am, and I am so lucky to be dating such an incredible woman. Hopefully, one day we will all be teaching our kids what it means to love a person and to not be confined to gender constraints. Love is love, no matter what LGBTQ letter you are. You are important, and the people you love are important.

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