There was nothing especially significant about my eighteenth year. I was a bright kid, a committed academic. I remember being surprised by how much I loved my biology class, and by how bad I was at French.
I remember being confused about math, and confident in my bisexuality. Something inside of me was whispering that I wasn’t really a girl, either, but that wasn’t something I’d be prepared to deal with for a few years.
Now, I wasn’t confident enough to properly step out of the closet, but I was confident enough to say to myself, “this is me,” and keep it like a token in my pocket. I thought to myself: men, women, what’s the difference, really? A series of socially constructed points to check, stereotypes by the handful, nothing that is useful when considering a person as an individual.
That’s how I saw the world then, and it’s how I see the world now, at twenty-one-and-a-half. It’s not how I saw things at nineteen, twenty, when a combination of biphobia and late-teen desperation for a sense of belonging, chased me out of the wrong closet.
I came out, stuttering and desperate, as a lesbian; the promised sensation of freedom, of self-liberation, did not come. It felt like I was choking myself, lying to myself, pressing myself into the ground, in an attempt to flatten into a shape that made sense. Made sense to whom?
Fake it ‘til you make it, and all.
And there’s the trouble: lying to myself, refusing to acknowledge my instincts, brushing off my feelings, was never sustainable. I hit a rock-bottom built on mental illness and internalized prejudices, and I realized that I am the only one who can define me.
This is where I’ve taken strength; this is the foundation upon which I am building my life.
People ask each other, all the time: “If you could go back, if you could tell your younger self one thing, what would you say?”
Dear eighteen: you were right all along. Bisexual is not a dirty word—in fact, it describes you quite well-- and there’s a reason that the pronoun “she” feels like a shoe laced tightly on the wrong foot.
Dear eighteen, sometimes it’ll feel like nobody understands. But remember, always, that just because somebody doesn’t immediately “get it,” doesn’t mean they don’t want to learn.
Dear eighteen, love yourself enough to be bold. Be proud, wear your love and your identity right out there on your sleeves, because that voice of yours is meant to be heard. Don’t be so scared; most people are far kinder and more open-minded than you give them credit for. Be patient, be both firm and gentle.
Dear eighteen, for the love of God, get your driver’s license. And that history paper you’re about to put off until the actual last hour? You pull it off with an A-. Fine.
Felix Hartman is a twenty-one year old writer and artist from Michigan. Ze is nonbinary and bisexual, and hopes that zir works will help others to feel optimistic, courageous, and less alone in the world.