Allonté Barakat (he/they) identifies as gay/queer and is still figuring out their gender, preferring labels such as the non-gendered “dude” (i.e. “I’m a dude. She’s a dude. He’s a dude. We’re all dudes!”). Today he shares his experience with self-acceptance as a single memorable event, but more importantly, as a process that never ends.
Coming Out to Myself
There isn’t one story or one moment when I came to identify by specific gender and sexuality labels. The ones I use are just a convergence of things that make sense to me today. When I was super young, I definitely remember having crushes on girls. Then I had a bi-blip, and now I am romantically and sexually interested in men.
On the gender spectrum, I’m still figuring out what that means to me. I’m thinking about, “In what moments do I feel pulled in either direction?” I can only say that I think starting to have dialogue with yourself and people you trust is the best beginning to the story.
To some extent, I think my labels are pretty solid but I do think there is room for change within a certain band. I have a firm belief that romance and sex can be separated; who you have sex with doesn’t necessarily have to be who you build a life with. With that in mind, I have more work to figure out where on the demisexual scale I fit and whether my drive for sex is more about what I want or if it’s about conforming to a pseudo-monolithic identity about what I’m “supposed” to be like as a gay person.
Being gay was one of those things that people questioned or assumed before I even knew what it meant. Letting people tell you who you are is an unfair assumption because life, in my opinion, is a journey of self-discovery, of self-actualization. No one has the right to take that journey away from you.
When I was sixteen or so, I remember driving in a car on a super long highway passing the California picturesque mountains, but everything looked so gray to me. I was lost in the mires of being on the verge of being kicked out of boarding school, deep in the depths of depression, and wishing for something, everything, to be different. Wishing I was different… then thinking to myself, “What else do I have to lose?”
I knew it was time to come out because there was only so much pain I could carry. The world is hard enough to wade through without adding more invisible weights to ourselves. Denying parts of yourself is like drowning in an inky black ocean of secrets. While we are all inundated with persistent waves of people telling us who we need to be, the only way I found myself floating above the tides was to start allowing myself to be me, unoccluded. That moment began with me, eyes full of salty-eyed tears, staring out the window to the mountains, finding the strength to commit the most radical act of self-love I could muster: saying out loud, “I’m gay.”
Coming Out Was a Process of Letting Things Be Okay
Coming out was an inverse process; no one was really surprised that I was queer. I never tried to “butch it up,” I never tried to “be a man,” whatever that meant to everyone else. Coming out was a slow, blooming process of letting things be OK. That the abused 5 year old kid who saw a man and woman get married on TV and asked, “Can two men or two women get married?” is OK. Once I accepted that these attractions are more than valid, it got easier to accept the “less manly things” that I have grown to love about me – my high empathy, my artsiness, and even silly physical things like having long hair.
Once folk open themselves up past rigid notions of what they should do or be, they can experience amazing things. Being locked into certain gendered experiences can make someone miss out on the full spectrum of life. I have learned such a love for the human form and the amazing ways they move. One of the ways I’ve let myself open up is by respectfully joining traditionally female spaces like pole-dancing and burlesque.
As far as I’m concerned, I am now out completely. I make no effort to hide or change myself in private or public, but I also don’t go out of my way to make it known. As far as I’m concerned, in the workplace it is truly no one’s business what my life is outside of work.
Advice from Allonté
- Don’t let anyone or anything rush you or tell you who you are. Even (or especially) after you come out. No identity is a monolith. Whatever your identity may be, always remember that is not all that you are — it is just a facet. Maybe that will make things feel less big and all-consuming.
- Surround yourself with truly empathic people. This is a good life rule. These are the folk that will be in your corner through every change. Not everyone you meet (and yes, this can include family) is meant to be a lifetime relationship. Everyone is on their own path, and when they can converge or be in parallel, it is beautiful.
- Things do get better, but it is not in an instant. As long as you do the inner work to undo the damage you’ve done to yourself on the journey of self-discovery, there will be a metaphorical beach for you to enjoy your moments in the sun.
If you live in British Columbia and would like support understanding your identity or sharing that identity with others, Tricia McGarrah is a queer-identified Registered Clinical Counsellor who offers online sessions to adults (18+).