It starts with a flicker. A woosh. A moment where you pause and think, what was that? It might be instigated by a specific person, or moment, or it might feel completely random. But all of a sudden there’s this new feeling, and you’re not sure what it is or what it means.

Slowly, you experience more and more of these moments. At first, you notice them but just push them aside, to the back of your brain, where you don’t have to think about them or analyze them. You say to yourself, it’s probably nothing, don’t overthink. But then there are more and more of these moments and feelings, and you can’t ignore the overflowing back closet of your brain just waiting, begging to be opened.

All of a sudden you are paying close attention to every instance where you feel this odd, new feeling toward people or scenarios that you haven’t noticed before, and don’t understand. What does it mean? Do you feel these things all the time, or only sometimes, and is it only for that one gender or is it for both or all?

Then comes the sometimes crippling self-doubt. You wonder what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling it, what it all means. You feel so alone, like, everyone else has it figured out, so why don’t you? You’ve gone all these years thinking you knew how you felt about certain types of people but now you’re questioning everything. Everything. Do you like that person? What about that person? What does it mean to like someone, to be attracted to someone? You suddenly have all these questions that have seemingly no answers. Nothing makes sense.

Some more time goes by. You continue questioning every little thought and feeling, every dream and unexpected fantasy. But eventually, some of it makes a little bit of sense. Not completely, but a bit. Maybe you’re starting to be able to answer some of those questions. You think, yeah, I think in general I might actually like these kinds of people I didn’t think I liked before. You realize, maybe it makes some sense, looking back. The way you acted around certain people, admired others. When your friends were swooning over one famous actor, but you really preferred another. You never thought anything of it then, but now it makes more sense. Now that you’re understanding more of these feelings, these attractions that were stuffed down deep inside you before, you find a bit of comfort. You maybe, just maybe, start to accept that this might be a real, legitimate part of you that you should acknowledge.

More time passes. You become more and more confident in your new identifier, a new label or non-label — an acceptance of yourself. You maybe start telling those closest to you that you identify this way, and hope with all your might that they’ll be supportive and it won’t change your relationships with them. You’re terrified out of your mind even if you know there’s no real reason to be. Slowly you tell more and more people, and start considering yourself “out,” at least mostly, and work on embracing yourself and this new-found piece of your identity.

Even though you still experience moments of self-doubt that seem to completely unravel your progress and how you thought you felt about certain things or people or desires, you still overall try to feel confident and okay with yourself. You try to remind yourself that uncertainty, questions, are okay. You’re allowed to question, even when you thought it was over. Even if society doesn’t deem you “normal” and doesn’t represent you, even if you’re mad as hell that it’s taken you so much time to accept yourself, you try your best to reassure yourself that it’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect and know 100% everything about you all the time. There is a community of people out there just like you, who have gone through the same processes as you and experienced the same or similar things as you. You are not alone.

And, you try with all your might, as you learn to embrace yourself, to be PROUD.

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