Not being taken seriously is awful. It’s the most frustrating feeling, whether it’s your project group in school not listening to your ideas, or a boy asking you to name 50 of a band’s songs when you wear their t-shirt to prove you’re a real fan. THE WORST.
But often other people not taking you seriously can have more damaging repercussions than being bored out of your tree for 30 minutes at a party as a boy asks you to recite Radiohead lyrics. It can really knock your self-esteem, particularly if it’s a dig at a part of your identity you hold dear – or might still struggle with.
For a lot of people, our sexuality is a massive element of what makes us well, ‘us’. But all too frequently other people (friends, parents, the media) can make you feel invalidated and inauthentic when it comes to who you fancy. This is particularly the case when it comes to those of us who might not identify along the traditional binary of attraction. If you’re not straight, it’s ‘just a phase’, and if you are attracted to more than one gender, you’re obviously hopping aboard the ‘Queerness As A Trend’ bandwagon that we’ve all heard about.
How to deal
First off, if it’s just a phase – who cares? Exploring your sexuality is normal and healthy, and it’s never your fault that someone has stereotypical preconceived notions about who you are.
‘You’re just confused.’ Er, being a person alive in the WORLD is confusing. Confusion is an aspect of being human we all have to deal with, but having your feelings invalidated by an ignorant remark can leave you feeling embarrassed and like a fake. If you feel like you can engage with this person and tell them your feelings were hurt, by all means give it a shot, but it’s also not your duty to convince someone that your identity is worthwhile. A lot of people would class their sexuality as fluid and changeable, while other people feel very comfortable categorising themselves as one thing or another. Guess what? Everyone’s feelings are valid! I know, crazy right?
Secondly, people dismissing others identifying under the LGBTQI umbrella as a ‘trend’ is nasty and short-sighted.
LGBTQI individuals have a much higher risk of suffering from mental health issues, or being victims of prejudiced abuse because of how they identify. The American Department of Health and Human Services found that there are higher rates of depression and anxiety among lesbians and bisexual women, with bisexuals even more likely to experience mental health issues. A lot of the time ‘bi-erasure’ (ignoring, dismissing or pretending bisexuality doesn’t exist) can contribute to the anxiety for bisexual people, who feel like they have twice the amount to prove. So if someone ever implies you’re just pretending to reach some imaginary level of cool, they’re being ignorant of the fact that LGBTQI people have a harder time in a largely hetero and gender-normative world. Tell them that.
That old chestnut, compulsory heterosexuality, is another reason people might brush off your feelings about who you’re attracted to. The world is structured so people are viewed as heterosexual by default, unless they can prove otherwise. This means that if you deviate from the so-called ‘norm’, you’re sometimes viewed with a little bit of suspicion. But thankfully, people seem to be becoming more open-minded and thoughtful in their responses to the multitudes of sexual identities and ways to define yourself (or not).
Ultimately, if you find yourself feeling less comfortable under a label and gravitate towards another one, that’s fine. ‘Finding yourself’ is kind of a myth anyway, as who you are is a continuous process, moulded by what you experience as you grow up. People who have a problem with it most likely have their own issues they’re projecting onto you. Sexuality isn’t as easy to compartmentalise as you might think, and it’s not up to you to constantly prove yourself to other people.
Look after yourself, and treat others with the same respect and kindness you deserve yourself. That’s all any of us really need to do.