In the past years, I have been frequently asked - by lovers and friends, or simply strangers with no boundaries - how I knew I was gay. What had been the moment the lightbulb had lit up? When had the letter from the Sapphic School of Witchcraft been delivered? How did I know?
The fact is, I didn’t. I have a clear recollection of a specific night, I must’ve been eleven or so, and I was crying in bed thinking, if I ever fall in love with a woman, I’d marry a man and pretend that never happened. But thoughts like that don’t come randomly. What I can’t seem to recall is that AH-HA moment, the one heterosexual people always asked me about. Until I realized: there hasn’t been one. Cisgender heterosexual people don’t get that life-changing moment, they don’t wake up one day and say “Whoa, I am straight”. And just like them, for me, it was a fluid thing.
I just felt something and recognized I needed more information. There wasn’t much around my house and I have always been very independent, so I took my old computer out and got to work. I learned about gay culture, I developed a life-long crush on Kristen Stewart, started listening to Lady Gaga just in time for Born This Way to come out, following the rites of passage of any young lesbian growing up in the early 2000s. It would’ve been a walk in the park if I hadn’t been born in Venice, northern Italy. A small-minded community, where tourists come and go, but the inhabitants that stay are afraid of diversity. I grew up in a racist town, where anything that didn’t conform was labeled as dangerous.
With being gay, I developed a conscience that made me look at other marginalized groups. I would have many discussions on the way back from middle school – I was about twelve - with my grandmother about Muslim women’s rights to wear hijabs in our country, I would defend black people when she would wrongly accuse them or use offensive terms. I really see it in provincial young adults now, even when they start traveling, it’s easy to tell who has had a sheltered life and who has actually educated themselves.
Being gay, being bisexual, being trans, being black, being disabled, being of a different religion than the one imposed (officially or not) by the country you live in, automatically puts your back against the wall. When you’re out, you’re going to face ignorance. You’re going to face the blind hate.
Ignorance about gay lives is everywhere. As much as I love following queer shows and TV in general, most of the people they target are queer people looking for representation – absolutely indispensable, we actually need more of it – or young white women, mainly straight, who look for the image of the “gay best friend”. Take Drag Race, for example. Out of all of the people that I know that follow the show, a great part is made of straight girls. And that’s great, but what about their parents? What about their boyfriends? Those are the people who need to be educated the most. Watch the show. Learn that drag queen is not another name for a trans woman; that a man can portray a character and spread art while wearing exaggerated women’s clothing, but so can a trans woman and a cis woman.
Watch Queer Eye. Don’t just fall for Jonathan Van Ness’ cuteness, dig deeper and use their pronouns correctly. Learn what non-binary means, respect the non-binary people in your life, recognize them for who they are. Take in what the Fab 5 have to teach and realize that they have families and husbands and children of their own and they are just the same as you, as me, as the next person crossing the street.
Watch Pose. Force yourself to watch this important piece of art. Watch these amazing women get recognition and representation in such a positive light. Trans women, especially black trans women, are killed and abused at alarming rates all over the world. Trans women need to be protected more than any other LGBTQI+ person. Educate yourself. Not every trans woman you meet is a sex worker. But many trans women are, and they need your respect and protection even more.
We desperately need queer education. We need to learn about Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Silvia Rivera, we need to educate these clueless kids. Make them realize that while they look down on trans women, they would have nothing if it wasn’t for them. To all those “Masc4Masc” gays, that they wouldn’t have Grindr if it wasn’t for drag queens. To all the straight couples wanting their own straight parade, that they don’t need one, because our story is stained with blood up to this very same day.
In 2018, 369 trans people died. Out of all the UE countries, Italy has the worst rate (five women killed in 2018). Brazil has a count of 167 murders in 2018. Mexico’s rate is 71, the US’s 28, Colombia’s 21.
The war is not over. We might win a battle over here and over there – gay marriage, same-sex couple civil unions, adoption laws, more accessible surgeries, more accessible hormonal therapies – but we are losing on the daily. It won’t be over until every single member of our community will feel safe walking down the street.
Your alliance means nothing if it’s not intersectional. Your support means nothing if it’s not directed towards trans and non-binary people. Your feminism means nothing if it doesn’t include queer, trans women of color.
Education is key. Knowledge is power. The internet is out there, the information is out there. There is no excuse. Go get yours.
About the author:
I am a lesbian intersectional feminist who loves to read books and write thoughts down; I mostly travel around in search of new adventures and cultures to learn from!