Blog Posts

Guest Post | Queer Identity – Marie-Helene Bennett-Henry

I am so grateful to Marie-Helene for sharing their journey to queerness and self acceptance. We first met in 2018 in the Feminist Society at the University of Kent. How time flies! This is a brilliant read, which I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did. Also, the gorgeous art works are all originals by Marie-Helene. Amazing!

Marie-Helene (she/her/they/their)

Embracing my queerness is still an ongoing journey but it happened pretty quickly after I broke up with the last m*n I’d ever date. I first came out as bisexual because I was thinking about other peoples reactions and it felt more comfortable. At the time, it felt like less of a big deal and the easier option as, in my head, I believed it would soften the blow for others because at least there was still a chance of me being with a man, right? And this is where my first lesson as a queer person revealed itself; only do what feels comfortable to you and no one else. Coming out is difficult and will definitely make you feel anxious and scared but it is important to remember, as I remind myself daily, that this is your journey and you do not need to cater to someone else’s feelings or make someone else feel comfortable. This is all about you, your peace of mind and safety.

The next thing I had to battle with is self acceptance. Of course, as a queer person we are shrouded in shame. Forced to act ‘normal’ – ‘normal’ being straight – and are rarely given space to express ourselves. This was especially true for me in secondary school; those queer desires and thoughts I had were quickly squashed down as I entered an environment that, instead of nurturing differences in gender and sexuality, was not welcoming to anyone who was not straight or perceived to be anything other than straight.

Now, I would like to remind all my fellow queers, especially those who are yet to tell anyone, that many will try to invalidate your feelings and experiences and that this is why I urge all queer people to continuously work on self acceptance. Self acceptance, especially as a queer person, in my experience will allow you to stop forcing yourself to be someone everyone else wants you to be. You begin to see that there is nothing wrong with you and the things you’re feeling are not a phase. And you will also begin to realise how beautiful and powerful being queer truly is.

There is no doubt that you will experience harassment, toxic friends and family, shame and heteronormativity and you may even date people you don’t like. I can relate to this, I was harassed, unfriended and made to feel abnormal and this trauma resulted in years of me dating m*n, instead of w*men; which I now realise was me acting out of shame and projecting my feelings for w*men on to men; trying to force something that would never fit and would never fulfil me. However, there is hope. Because beyond the binary, heteronormative world that we are all forced into lies a beautiful queer universe waiting for you when you are ready for it.

Another important lesson that I’ve learnt recently after being around queer wom*n and speaking to other queer wom*n is that it is so important to surround yourself with people who accept and understand you. And although your straight friends may be allies, make sure you have at least one other queer person you can talk to as they will be going through the same feelings and journey as you and you will feel more free to speak on your thoughts, feelings and experiences without judgement or misunderstanding. Having other queer friends and being a part of a queer community – whether it be a group of friends, joining a a workshop or a group chat or just joining a Facebook page – not only means happiness and love but also means safety and security, both for your physical and mental health.

And one last thing that has helped me sit more comfortably in my queerness is art. Whether it be writing and doodling in a journal, writing short poems on your phone or in your diary, drawing and painting, dancing and singing, even getting new tattoos. All these things can really aid in self acceptance and the many emotions you will continue to feel as a queer person.

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