In partnership with Hope in a Box and in commemoration of Pride, we held an LGBTQ+ Lit Contest that asked high schoolers to share how LGBTQ+ representation in books inspired them and impacted their lives. The following is an award-winning contest story.
“Am I sure?” is what I was asked when I came out as Bi-sexual.
The doubt running through my mind . . . was I sure? Of course I was, I had known for as long as I could remember, but suddenly I wasn’t so sure. As a result, I began reading stories of other people who, like me, were grappling with their sexuality. I started to feel understood in a way I never had before and less alone. I related to the stories, and it helped me be comfortable with my identity and understand it. It made me feel at ease knowing that other people felt the same way I had. LGBTQIA+ stories inspired me to be myself and eventually share my story, too.
Dean Atta’s “The Black Flamingo” was one of the books that helped me figure out who I was. The main character, Michael Angeli, encouraged me to be more expressive with myself and dive deeper into my identity and sexuality. In the epilogue, Micheal writes, “Don’t. Don’t come out unless you want to. Don’t come out for anyone else’s sake. Don’t come out because you think society expects you to. Come out for yourself. Come out to yourself. Shout, sing it. Softly stutter. Correct those who say they knew before you did. That’s not how sexuality works, it’s yours to define.”
When reading this, I felt I had complete control of my identity. Micheal taught me to be myself and come out to the world on my own terms. I decided that I needed to tell my family and friends about my sexual orientation, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. Reading Micheal’s story of finding himself has helped me find my identity and express myself the way I want to.
Reading stories of people who, like me, were struggling with their identity, helped me feel less alone. I realized that there are communities of people where they are themselves, and they don’t have the urge to change – unlike how I used to feel when I didn’t really belong in any of the groups I was in. I felt like I had to conform to a mold of what society expected me to be. If I showed any part of me that was different than the norm, I would be cast off. The heteronormativity ideas society shares have really taken effect on me.
When I was younger, I used to think that I was only attracted to boys and that was that. When realizing that I didn’t just like boys, I felt like an outcast. Reading other people’s journeys inspired me to go on my own. By reading stories of people questioning their sexuality, I realized that I was not alone.
Inspiring stories shaped who I am today, and they will continue to do so. LGBTQ+ stories helped me realize that I’m not alone, and everyone’s journey is different, yet equally important. It has also helped me realize my identity, and for that, I am forever grateful.