Queer people’s stories are just as unremarkable and ordinary as everybody else’s stories in society. But being queer isn’t something that is necessarily an effortless part of people’s identities to openly disclose without feeling burdened by shame and trepidation. And although it shouldn’t be this way, this is the pervasive reality LGBTQIA+ individuals endure throughout their lives as they are continuously conquered with the necessity of having to come out, an action that should be meant to strengthen and reconcile one’s identity with their surroundings, not generate any undesirable harm.
 
We must carefully contemplate the risks of what it entails to come out; such as anticipating possible reactions, the look of disappointment in your parents’ eyes, the disruption this may cause at school, with friends or in community circles. In addition, there is also the slight possibility of being disowned, fired or ending up homeless, or even worse, being beaten, threatened, or killed. In other words, everything you love in life is put at stake for simply acknowledging a portion of your identity. Something that is so natural, yet so alien to societies that are only able to perceive love and identity through a binary lens.
 
To me, queerness means authenticity in times of oppression. Queerness is difference and power, hostility and ignorance, resilience and unity and without a doubt relentless suffering. When I remember my childhood, most of what I experienced was discomfort, years of environmental stress inflicted upon me when children in school began pointing out my differences, telling me who I was before I knew it myself. Undergoing repeated verbal and physical punishment for stepping foot in the distinctive waters of masculinity and femininity. Facing the prohibition of anything that could “engender” my improper demeanor, as well as being bombarded with microaggressions, which at the time I did not understand, but whose impact today has proven detrimental.
 
Very early in life I knew that it was unacceptable to be gay through the deprecating attitudes of adults in my life who fought tirelessly to rectify who I was. I had to wrestle years of bullying, of being taunted and physically abused by other students, while bearing an alcoholic father at home, from whom every now and then insulting words would pour out of his mouth that deemed me and my sexuality lowly. I have never had the opportunity to “come out” to anyone, and the truth is I don’t get to come out. Some may say, “It is too obvious; it is no secret,” but the immediate impact of stereotypes and other oppressive tactics weakens the human experience and our hardships are overlooked . . . 
 
I’ve been conditioned to monitor the way I sit, to supervise my gestures, even whether my voice is loud enough when I speak, especially when I find myself in unsafe spaces, and it is exhausting. The psychological implications of being dehumanized are indeed severe. From the moment I step outside of my door, I no longer belong to myself, and I say this after careful thought, not relegating myself to a victimized position, but rather, attempting to display the underlying homophobia I witness regularly. The head to toe disdainful scanning when I ride the bus. Being intentionally shoved, or threatened by strangers, being chased violently in broad daylight.
 
These oppressive attitudes are part of my day-to-day process, and despite attempting to disguise myself behind monochromatic clothing, I cannot seem to escape unwanted attention and sneers that cripple me with anxiety and depression. Putting up with this kind of treatment is not a choice. Oftentimes I overhear derogatory terms being thrown around loosely in what is intended to be just “locker room talk” or an inoffensive “joke”; and yet if I dare to rebuke those actions I might run the risk of getting attacked. I am suddenly viewed as being too serious, seeing prejudice where there is not any. I am instantly villainized when the archive of trauma in my brain opens, and triggering memories surface when such acts of subtle discrimination are being shamelessly normalized.
 
We must remember the stories that unfortunately have vanished into thin air, that represent the universal predicament of what it means to be a queer person in the world today. To the trans woman walking in the streets of Chile, unable to change her personal documentation from male to female, to the lesbian woman in Jamaica who reported being raped to the authorities, and was ultimately turned down and ridiculed, to the trans Salvadoran woman whose asylum request was denied as she traveled with the migrant caravan, and weeks ago was brutally executed in her home country. To the spouses whose marriage is not valid across state lines, and therefore don’t have access to hold their loved ones in a hospital room. To the trans men and women who died and had their birth names carved onto their gravestones. To the gay kid who posted an agonizing Facebook video explaining why he was putting an end to his life at age twelve.
 
I recognize that my sexuality is not something that will be openly discussed in my family nor in the larger society due to social and cultural limitations, but I am also incapable of reproaching or imposing my own beliefs onto others because I understand how negative attitudes are entrenched in our cultures with respect to LGBTQIA+ individuals. However, this is not an impediment for people to behave with decency; respect, tolerance, and empathy are core values that transcend race, religion, sexuality, and any other facet of people’s intersectionality.
As LGBTQIA+ people, most of us grow up disenfranchised from visibility—we do not have support systems, nor a single open-minded person who will not take a position of prejudice, but will rather serve as a safety net when adversity strikes. In my lifetime I would have never imagined that I would witness the rise of a gay presidential hopeful. Right now is an interesting transitional time where change is emerging from “peculiar” places like South Bend, Indiana, where Mayor Pete Buttigieg, an openly gay man, just launched a historic exploratory campaign to test the waters for the 2020 presidential elections. For the first time in my life, I’m now represented in government. According to the Victory Institute website, “Today LGBTQ people are more than 4.5% of our population but only hold 0.1% of elected offices.” Buttigieg can understand the powerless, as a victim of power, and he can understand the alienated, having been marginalized himself. There is something especially powerful about seeing someone like you that isn’t actually you breaking barriers and admitting that our position in society is hardly secure.
 
Beyond politics, this is about morals and creating a middle ground where we can have these conversations despite difference of opinions, seeing how our struggles intertwine because pain is such an equalizer, and ultimately the only medium that will secure a future where no human has to endure what most of us have gone through. By having this kind of representation I am hopeful for the future, because visibility does matter. Growing up I wish I had someone who’d understand, who would just stop and listen to my emotions and experiences. I still do.