Imagine going home every night from school feeling angry, sad, alone and empty. Everywhere you look, strangers, loved ones and peers are being themselves, confident in their own skins. Imagine looking into the mirror and not liking what you see of your own reflection. Others seem comfortable, even proud of who they are. But who are you? How can you be proud of yourself when you do not know who you are? That was how I felt. That was me, Celine.
But all along I did know deep inside who I was. I couldn’t face it because I was terrified of the reactions and opinions of my loved ones. I let society’s norms control my life and shape me, because I was afraid to admit to myself and the people I love that I am a lesbian.
In my Asian catholic home, same sex marriage was looked down upon. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people were objects of humor, of ridicule, to the straight people around me. My family and friends did not take LGBTQ people seriously. I did not want to be looked down upon or laughed at. So, I pretended. This made me depressed. I felt alone and empty. I did not know anyone from the LGBTQ community that I could talk to. There was no help at my middle school or high school for LGBTQ counseling.
I poured myself into my art. I would spend hours after school working on graphic design ideas. Other kids were doing drugs, I escaped inside Adobe Photoshop. In art, you’re judged by your originality, not by society’s norms.
I came out in my junior year of high school. My family had a period of adjustment, but now they have accepted who I am. Initially, I felt like my family thought this was a “phase.” I think they didn’t understand because they’re not me. It’s different to be a support system for friends, but entirely different when it is a close family member. I understand that.
In college, I had a better sense of who I was. Who was that person staring back at me in the mirror? Did I know that person? I could finally look at that reflection and answer yes to those questions. Today, I try to be strong for others who do not have a voice because they are also afraid.
I try to be strong for the LGBTQ people who were heartlessly murdered in Orlando, Florida at the Pulse nightclub shooting. I am afraid that my death may be caused by a LGBQ hate crime. I don't feel comfortable using the restrooms at school nor do I feel safe in this society.
I am always cautious of negative comments about how my appearance, even though I know it comes from a lack of knowledge of what it means to be LGBTQ. Sometimes I do not realize how different I am until someone points it out. Being in my own skin now feels so normal.