An Open Letter to my LGBT Icons

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Reilly O’Neill
@rconeillcourant

Dear Queer Heroes,

Hello! It’s fantastic to once again informally meet you using the power of media.

On Facebook, I am the one who sent you a friend request because I saw we had some distant mutual friend who was queer. I like all your posts and occasionally comment, but we’ve never really talked.

On Instagram I may have followed you because you’re famous, or look cool, or just because I want to be your friend. Whatever my reason for following you online, the reason for my continuation is that you’ve all saved my life.

When I was younger and began to realize that my romantic feelings weren’t the same as everyone else’s, I didn’t know anyone who was the same; until I did. Little 9 year old me overheard pieces of a family conversation I wasn’t meant to and it changed everything. Suddenly I knew my feelings were okay and that there was a future for me. Thank you, anonymous family member. Seeing you living happy, married, and out and proud is the greatest gift you’ve given me.

This brief reprieve from my persistent loneliness ended in middle school. I didn’t have friends who were queer and I came out to as many people as possible, hoping someone would say “me too.” I felt isolated when I developed a mad crush on my best friend. I only wanted to talk about my crush on my best friend, with my best friend, but that wasn’t an option. Then, in high school, I was allowed to set up a Facebook because of cheerleading. There I found queer YouTubers and peers and was welcomed by many queer folk online. I began to find friends in real life and digital who shared the common trait of atypical attraction. The friends I made in that one year changed my outlook on what it meant to be bisexual and how to live proudly.

My sophomore and junior years were stressful as I began to explore my gender identity. A good friend of mine came out as transgender, and the confusing feelings I had about what it meant to be a woman or man threw me completely for a loop. He was openly exploring his own identity and realizing who he was while I watched silently in awe at his bravery. So thank you, trans friends who came out before me and built me a path to safely and confidently express myself.

There is one more person who I’d like to thank immensely for my ability to have a semi-smooth coming out. Since I’ve become Facebook friends with you, you have shown me how fantastic it is to be queer. When others insult you, you share it in a spirit of conviction in your identity, rather than anger at the perpetrator. When a relative didn’t want you turning up at their wedding presenting the way you normally do, your response that none of us should “dilute our queerness” and that “nothing about being queer makes you any less respectable” has been reverberating in my mind since you posted it. You’ve shown me that it is more important to be myself than to be miserable for other people’s sake. You’ve saved my life on multiple occasions and although we’ve never really met you’re one of my biggest inspirations and have given me the hope and silent support I need to continue living my authentic self. It is people such as you who give others the courage needed to stay out of the closet.

So, thank you all. Thank you all so much for simply living and breathing. For pursuing happiness and showing me what it means to be out. And for paving a way for me to safely and confidently explore my identity.

Love,

Reilly

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Blogs Editor I Class of 2018 I Expanding my knowledge of how journalists investigate stories and how to work with a variety of people

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