The feeling of having ‘a piece missing’ is probably somewhat of a universal teenage experience. In high-school, I often felt that there was some kind of disconnect between me and my peers. I’m sure that many teenagers feel the same way, for an infinite number of reasons. For me, the disconnect arose around the topic of boys; I could never relate to my female friends’ passionate ‘fangirling’ over Joe Jonas, Benedict Cumberbatch, Justin Bieber etc. I couldn’t really understand how they could hang out with Joseph Bloggs from Chemistry class, like, two times, and suddenly feel inseparable from him.
I felt like I was watching my friends play out an American high-school movie plot, and that there was no place for me. I was afraid that I was missing out on an integral part of teenage-hood. Sometimes I willed myself into thinking that I had a crush on this guy or that - but ultimately, I never felt drawn to my male peers, and never felt the desire to forge relationships with them that went beyond friendliness.
I think it occurred to me that I might be gay, but I always pushed the thought out of my head. I always told myself that I just hadn’t found the right person yet. I definitely didn’t want to be gay. And besides, the lesbian stereotypes that I’d learnt from movies and TV shows didn’t fit me. I was really good at explaining away any attraction I felt to girls – ‘all girls go through this phase’, ‘girls are normally more affectionate with each other than boys’, ‘just bi-curious’, or whatever.
My school, MAGS, was pretty conservative. I didn’t know any students who were out, and there were no LGBTQ+ support groups back then. LGBTQ issues were covered once-over-lightly in health class. Looking back, I think it would have been helpful if there had been more LGBTQ support in high-school. I think one of the reasons I never came to terms with my sexuality in high-school was the lack of LGBTQ visibility in the school, and my lack of awareness about the LGBTQ community. I believe that for students who do identify as LGBTQ in high-school, LGBTQ support-groups are important. I hope that awareness of LGBTQ issues improves at MAGS, and that future students will have access to such support networks.
It wasn’t until university that I accepted my sexuality. I remember watching a TED talk by iO Tillett Wright called ‘Fifty Shades of Gay’, and realising that sexuality and gender are not binary but are a continuum. That was an eye-opener for me – I decided to open my mind to the possibility that I was ‘not 100% straight’. Once I’d stopped immediately dismissing and ignoring my feelings, I was able to become more accepting of myself. I started reaching out to LGBTQ support groups at university and in the community. The process of self-acceptance was gradual for me, but extremely rewarding. It feels good to not be at war with yourself!
I haven’t come out to all of my friends and family – but I’ve been lucky that the people who I have come out to have been accepting and supportive. Naturally, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to come out to anyone if you don’t want to. Telling people is difficult, but it’s really great when you do have people you can feel totally genuine with.
I remember how helpful it was to read about others’ experiences with self-acceptance and coming out. If you’re feeling unsure about your sexuality or gender identity, I think one of the best things you can do is learn about others’ experiences. There are so many resources and stories online. I think the most important thing is to keep your mind and your heart open, and to remember that while every experience is unique, there are so many people in the same boat as you!
Bobbi graduated from Mt Albert Grammar School in 2012 and is heading into her final year of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Auckland. When she's not studying, Bobbi is probably somewhere in the Waitakere ranges, or possibly at the beach trying really hard to surf.