Recently, we asked LGBTQ+ people of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us what advice they would give young queer people that they wish they'd gotten themselves. We got so many responses that we couldn't fit them all into just one post. So below is even more empowering and heartfelt advice that our Community members shared with us:
"Attending your first Pride event is the most freeing and liberating experience. When you find yourself surrounded by thousands of people celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community, you realize you aren't alone in this world after all."
"Dare to explore and lean into your sexuality. It’s easy to hide, but it’s so much more rewarding, memorable, and empowering to follow your heart and be true to who you are."
"People will tell you it's okay and normal to start having sexual thoughts and feelings, but it's also okay if you don't. Same goes for romantic feelings. You don't owe anyone a certain type of affection and there's nothing wrong with you."
"If you want to use labels for yourself, that's your decision and yours alone. Same goes for if you choose not to use labels. Either way is okay and a perfectly valid choice. And if you want to use labels but it takes you awhile to figure out what works for you, that's okay too."
"I know it feels like you have to defend yourself by having it all figured out, but don’t forget to take a breath. Discovering who you are shouldn’t be stressful. Just relax and let the right label come to you."
"Coming out can be really rewarding and also a scary experience. Just know you’re valid no matter how anyone responds to your truth."
"It’s OK if you didn’t 'always know' you were queer, didn’t have a big, dramatic coming out moment, were lucky enough not to experience significant homophobia, or identified with different sexualities in the past. Your queerness is still valid."
"You may (and probably will) feel ashamed of your identity for a bit. That’s okay. I identified as bi for years before I realized I was gay. It’s okay to change your identity, as it may change as you grow up. That’s okay. Don't put so much pressure on yourself to fit into a perfect box. What you feel best fits your identity is okay, and you don’t have to fit into a box at all. All that matters is that you feel comfortable and happy with who you are."
"You may not identify with the same gender and/or orientation your whole life, and that's normal. There's nothing wrong with it. I identified as a lesbian for some time and now I know I'm ace and it's okay. Finding yourself may take time and there's nothing wrong with questioning yourself and taking time to find who you are."
"Not everyone is going to be okay with [your sexual identity]. That's their problem. It's not your job to hide who you are."
"The people you have in your life right now might not accept you. It will feel like the end of the world, but I promise you, it isn't. You will find people who will accept, love, and cherish every inch of you for who you are. Don't change for those who won't change for you."
"Learn as much as you can about queer history and don't let compulsory heteronormativity stop you from exploring your options."
"Take some time to figure yourself out. Look up the different people that make the LGBTQ+ community and read up as much as you can so you can understand what makes us all awesome. Knowing who you are and who you're meant to be takes time and self-love, so don't rush into things. You may also find your chosen family if your biological or adoptive family tries to put you down, and know that family is all about love, no matter who it's from. You are valid, worthy, and loved."
"Don’t be afraid to interact with the community when you’re first discovering yourself, it can be wonderful. But never let anyone else take away from your sense of self — only you can tell who you are."
"Do not try to change who you are just to fit into the gay community, there is lots of pressure to fit in and conform to the 'stereotypical' gay lifestyle. Be exactly who you are and remember that being gay is your sexual preference and not your only identity."
"That you’re absolutely normal! I struggled with being bisexual for a long time because I felt like I had to choose between either being gay or heterosexual, so I chose loneliness (or crap-tastic men who gave me a sense of normality). And I felt like there was something wrong with me if I had crushes on people of different genders at the same time.
Bisexuality is real, it’s natural, and you’re normal!"
"I am an LGBTQ+ teen (bi) and I have many LGBTQ+ friends. Most of them are terrified to come out due to their parents. I would 100% say that if you can't come out right now or you have to pretend at home, it's not because there is anything wrong with you. You are simply making the best of the situation you are in right now."
"You’re gonna be confused and you’re gonna want to hide that part of yourself. But if you feel a sibling or relative would be okay with your sexuality, then coming out to them will be a big step and one of the most wonderful experiences — especially if your parents are homophobic. You’re doing great, and you’re gonna be amazing."
"Come out on your own terms, when you're ready, but build a safety net. If you can, stash away a couple of dollars, have a support system of friends or supporters, make a best-case or worst-case scenario plan. Hopefully you won't need it, but it's a life-saver if you do."
"You don’t need to marry the first woman who shows you attention, there are more lesbians in the sea. You are not as alone as you think you are!"
"As a bisexual non-binary woman, I would just have to say that you should never let anybody try to invalidate your identity just because they don’t or won’t understand. This especially goes for people who insist you’re 'not queer enough' just because you’re with someone of a different sex or that you’re 'just an attention seeker' because you’re not strictly male or female. Don’t be afraid to call them out if they pull that crap."
"Stay strong and stay true to yourself. Dare to explore your feelings, your identity, yourself. Things will be hard at times, but never forget there is a whole community that supports and loves you! If you feel alone, reach out to any queer person and you will feel the love! Your queerness makes you strong."
"You can come out at any time in your life, or not at all. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t your true self. You can’t speak your queer self into existence; you simply are. No one can take away the truth in your heart. I’m 30 and have only been out for a year. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, but I’m no more bisexual, no more queer, no more pansexual than I was at 15. I’m just as valid out or not — and so are you, forever."
"You're not broken or defective. Stop putting yourself down for not wanting the same things as your peers — there's nothing wrong with you."
"There is no one right way to be queer! If you prefer coffee and board games over drinks and dancing, there are people for you. Remember to be true to yourself and don't think you need to change just to be more like what you see in the media. Also, if you can, move to a big city with a queer community, or at least visit one! It is so reassuring to see people like yourself walking proudly down the street."
"There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You don't need to feel ashamed, don't feel like you're broken, and need to 'fix' yourself in order to be loved and desired by others or society. You're perfectly yourself and that's all that matters. You are your higher power."
"It’s going to be okay. If you follow your heart every day, especially on the days it feels the hardest — you will be okay. Even the darkest storm ends, but you will still be there. You’re magical. Now go out and kick some butt!"
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.