Interview: Raising the Rainbow Flag

Interview: Raising the Rainbow Flag

This is an interview with a student who recently discovered a new part of herself– her homosexuality. This article explores her struggle with anxiety through her and one of her friends. She would like to remain anonymous, thus she will be referred to as Eva and her friend as Lindsey in this article.

The Humanology Project: When did you first meet Eva?

Lindsey: Eva was my first friend at college. We met on our college’s housing portal and awkwardly agreed to share a room together. For a while, we were each other’s only friends – we got our meals together, did our laundry together. As we got comfortable with each other I found that behind her shy persona was an outgoing, selfless girl that had struggled with her sexuality and anxiety for a while. She concealed her troubles and pain with levity, hiding them so well that if I hadn’t known her personally, I might’ve dismissed it as a self-reflexive sense of humor.

THP: Eva, what would you describe as your biggest struggle?

Eva: I always knew that I had anxiety; it took me longer to come to terms with my sexuality. At first I came out as bisexual, but then I met the kind of guy I’d always wanted and it still didn’t seem right. The situation was baffling for me because although I thought I had found the perfect label for myself, I now had to deal with the of challenge of accepting myself all over again. I think I found it (only a little) easier to accept myself as bisexual because in my head, perhaps, bisexuality was a compromise between society’s norm of heterosexuality and my own true desires. Embracing myself as homosexual meant that I was “atypical” in the eyes of the society that I had grown up in.

My anxiety heightened during this phase, I cried myself to sleep a lot and felt like I was “abnormal.” Anxious thoughts, such as negative reactions I could get from people about my sexuality, manifested into self-hate. When I was sixteen years, I used to stare at myself in the mirror and try to convince myself that I’m not a lesbian because I had dated boys.

Certain events from my past contributed to anxious thoughts about my homosexuality. Girls in my high school would insult other girls by calling them lesbians. The derogatory use of this term perhaps delayed me in labelling myself as one, and created challenges in loving myself as one. When I got into my first homosexual relationship and told my friends that I lost my virginity to a girl, one of them retaliated by saying, “You can’t lose your virginity to a girl.” However, virginity is something you define for yourself. This comment, unexpectedly, infuriated me instead of increasing my anxiety. It made me want to defend and accept myself more.

THP: Is there anything that has helped you calm your anxiety?

Eva: I started seeing a therapist for my anxiety a few months ago, but we mainly discussed regular stressful college affairs and basic coping skills. I’m now seeing a different therapist, who seems to be a better fit. Perhaps we as humans are scared of dealing with some of our more severe emotions, so we deal with what’s easier first, warming up to our real battles later when we find the courage to.

Television has also helped me tremendously. Seeing queerness normalized on a national television network, where I knew a lot of other people were also watching it and recognizing it as normal, gave me the sense of belonging I needed. TV series like Carmilla and Grey’s Anatomy have gay protagonists or bisexual characters that have generated huge fan bases and gay communities. These are diverse and positive safe spaces where I feel like I’m a part of something, and that comforts me. These groups have played a role in accepting myself and contributed to building a healthy self-love.

THP: How has this friendship impacted you?

Lindsey:  Eva is the first person I think of when something troubles me. She always knows what to say to alleviate my perturbation. Because of her experiences, perhaps Eva can decipher the complexities of other people’s emotions and perceive their insecurities. She emanates compassion and empathy and I can express my apprehensions to her openly, without the fear of being judged. She is truly an incredible roommate and best friend. 

I’ve never had a friend who has experienced such inner conflict, or even a friend who was gay. It has given me more insight into issues that I didn’t know existed. Watching someone close to me struggle has made me wonder how many others must struggle with their sexuality and anxiety, among other things.

THP: What kind of stigma do lesbians face?

Eva: A common stigma that lesbians face is that when we come out, some of our female friends may assume that we’re attracted to them and feel threatened. This is misguided. On the other hand, men may say things like, “You haven’t been with me, I’ll make you straight.” Some men may even find lesbian women sexually appealing and thus, accept them more easily than they would accept gay men. These comments depict the ignorance of many people in our society. People also often assume that lesbiansim is a choice, that women “chose” to be lesbian because a man broke their heart or didn’t treat them well. Lesbianism is not a choice. This comment, just like all the others, is unschooled and presumptuous. It reflects the beliefs some people possess about the invalidity of homosexuality.

THP: Do you think coming out has made Eva stronger? If you could give everyone a message what would it be?

Lindsey: Eva was my first gay friend and that gave me a new perspective about things in general. Coming out has been the first step in improving her state of mind; without acknowledging the thing that causes you such strife and internal conflict, you cannot make progress. Her coming out was an intense time for her because she had to say it to two of the most important people in the world to her–her parents. It is essential to accept yourself, but sometimes people forget how important it is for those who you care about to accept you. It took a lot of courage for her to say it.

Most people have to deal with anxiety, it’s something that happens under stressful situations. However, it must be difficult to feel it so intensely and frequently. Some people don’t take much notice to it, they think ‘everyone has anxiety.’ There is a difference between what people who don’t have anxiety feel and those who do. The severity of it can be very impactful.  

I’ve always been very accepting of the LGBTQ* community–you are who you are and that’s that – it doesn’t change the fact that you are a human being with your rights to be who you are. Since I’m so open I believe that everyone must be as nonchalant about it as I am. Why would anyone be anything less than accepting? But I’m not gay and I forget there are people who are nasty and close-minded and uneducated, who can’t accept that. Living with the fear that someone wants you dead for your sexuality must be unbearable. I think that people should respect the struggle and the fight that these people go through daily for self acceptance–the acceptance of others–the fight for every right that they deserve, and the fight for decency and freedom to be who they are with no questions asked.

Eva: “The anxiety mainly develops from having to come out to people. The reason is because even if you know they will be perfectly fine with who you are and accept you 100%, your anxiety comes up with every negative possibility in your head and those negative thoughts kind of manifest.”

“Earlier, when I would come out to people I would get shaky and stutter and wouldn’t really say the words. I’ve finally been able to use the word “gay” rather than, “Oh I like girls too/and boys.” Meeting various kinds of people from the LGBTQ* community who have accepted themselves makes me believe that there’s hope for me too.”

This interview has been edited.

Nikita Kohli

I come from a family of doctors. Growing up surrounded by doctors, of all the things I heard at the dinner table the one thing that repeatedly peaked my interest was mental health. This encouraged me to shadow a psychiatrist and observe patients with schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. As a health science major, I want to work towards removing the stigma and misconceptions associated with mental illnesses, thus preventing people with mental illnesses to feel alienated from society. I still remember when the psychiatrist taught me to say “people with schizophrenia” rather than “schizophrenic people”.

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