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Authentically queer: exploring my sexuality in my 30s

Authentically queer: exploring my sexuality in my 30s

In my last blog post, I interviewed my nephew Jalen who fearlessly embraces his gay identity. He shared that he first realized he was gay at just 5 years old. Unlike him, it took me 36 years to question my sexuality. As a business and a person, I care deeply about sharing all the things that make us human. By courageously sharing our stories, we strengthen connection and acceptance. Join me below as I share my own LGBTQIA+ journey.

Tell us about your personal LGBTQIA+ journey.

From a young age I only dated/married men. If you know me well, you know I was always open about sex and sexuality, and had a pretty flirty personality. Sadly, the man in my last relationship aggressively shamed me for it which stifled my spirit for years. Since that relationship ended over 4 years ago, I’ve remained single and worked hard to be open and vulnerable with myself. This has allowed me to live more authentically while ignoring societal expectations surrounding relationships, sexuality, having children, religion, and more.

Last year, even though I still had no intention of dating, I finally gave myself the time and space to examine my sexuality. Over the years, there were so many signs and experiences that pointed to my bisexuality but I never opened myself up to the possibility of being queer.

It makes me laugh now that I just thought everyone found women attractive or hot, but ummm that’s not the case. I also thought I needed to date someone first before I could confirm my identity, but that’s not true either. Sexuality by definition is simply who you find physically, sexually, or emotionally attractive. You can be in a heterosexual relationship and still identify as LGBTQIA+.

As I was exploring, Lizzo released the song “About Damn Time,” and I smiled ear to ear singing the lyrics, I’m not the girl I was or used to be. Bitch, I might be better… I’m comin’ out tonight, I’m comin’ out tonight, woo!

The first two people I came out to were my Mom and my nephew Jalen. My relationship with Jalen has always given me so much strength and courage. As we sat next to a pool in Florida during the weekend he was graduating from college, I knew he would immediately accept my bisexual identity—and of course he did. It truly makes a difference to have supportive friends and family when big and vulnerable things surface.

I then posted about it on my business social media account during pride month last year. Because of the algorithm, I’m not sure many people saw it at the time, but I did receive supportive comments and messages. Part of one that sticks out was from my old co-worker Ron who said, “the people that matter will remain close, some will drift away, and a whole new community will embrace you for who you are. Pride month has evolved into a time to celebrate living our truths.” I couldn’t agree more.

Right after I came out, I traveled to New England and stopped into a bunch of shops that carry my Alison Rose Vintage products. I can’t express how happy it made me when I walked into Sea Love in Kennebunkport, ME and saw my pride definition prints proudly displayed at the checkout counter with pride-themed candles. I wasn’t in there for more than 5 minutes when a queer couple asked me to sign the back of one of my pride prints in celebration of their 11th anniversary—it was so serendipitous and heartwarming.

Now that it’s been over a year since I came out, I’ve found more queer spaces and groups in my area. I went on my first queer date. I’ve befriended more queer people. I walked in my first Pride March in Gatlinburg, TN (pictured below). And I just feel more and more affirmed in who I am, and more and more angry at the bills, laws, and hateful people targeting this beautiful and loving community.

2023 Gatlinburg Pride March

How has your identity (and/or coming out) impacted your mental health?

I am more myself now than at any other time in the past, and there is something really liberating about that. When you know the truth of who you are, you don’t have to please others or explain yourself anymore. You shed the need for external validation and get to prioritize your own happiness.

Some people will hate me no matter what I say or do just because of the way I look or identify, but the only thing that matters is how I feel about myself. It’s been really good for my mental health to continue to evolve and accept new parts of myself regardless of how old I get or what others say about it.

I’m not sure how it would have affected me if I would’ve explored my sexuality at a younger age. My heart hurts thinking about the “Don’t Say Gay” bills, book bans, anti-trans legislation, and threats of violence. So many children and teens already know their LGBTQIA+ identity. Not talking about sexuality and gender can lead to confusion, isolation, bullying, suicidal ideation, and suicide. Why would anyone want to let those things happen?

Two mental health non-profit organizations that I wholeheartedly support are To Write Love On Her Arms and The Trevor Project. Please connect with one of them if you or someone you know needs support.

How does your identity affect your creativity, decision-making, relationship with others, etc? Have you faced any unique challenges or discrimination in forming and maintaining relationships?

Through my creations, social media posts, blog posts, and emails, I get to share exactly who I am—an imperfect being who continues to learn, evolve, and experience heaps of joy and pain. Even before coming out, I felt a strong allyship to the LGBTQ community because I know that every person is so much more than their sexuality (or their race, gender, etc). I’ll never understand automatically shunning someone for the way they look or identify, and I will always use my platform to spread love and hope.

I’m also agnostic so people can yell things about god, the bible, and “going to hell” all day long and it’s meaningless to me. It just reminds me why I would never sign on to a religion that fosters bigotry and hypocrisy. The only message around faith I can get behind is one that encourages people to love and accept all without judgement.

I’m no stranger to open and subtle discrimination when it comes to my gender and race, so I kind of knew what to expect as I became part of another ostracized group. I know I will hear some really ignorant and harmful things come out of people's mouths (I already have). But as I get older, I realize I don’t have to associate with those people. I speak up more now and set more boundaries to protect my mental health and well-being. I have a neighbor who posts anti-trans rhetoric and other crap on Facebook and probably wonders why I avoid them. I recently lost it on my hairdresser after they were laughing about trans people to other customers and I won’t be returning there.

I know not everyone will be as passionate about defending or protecting targeted groups, but I gravitate towards people who genuinely care about others. These are the friendships and relationships that are worth investing in. If you claim to be an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community or love a queer family member/friend, it’s so important to speak up when someone spews something hateful, show your support at marches or events, and vote against harmful and biased legislation.   

What are your thoughts on LGBTQ+ representation in media, society, and pop culture? Have you found role models or individuals who inspire you within the LGBTQ+ community?

The way conservative media and individuals portray queerness like it’s something to be afraid of or criminalize is deeply disturbing, disheartening, and dangerous. I will never understand how people can be so misinformed and hateful.

There are so many amazing LGBTQIA+ role models and inspiring individuals on social media. I credit Capri from @capricampeau with so much of my bisexual education and identity affirmation. Matt Bernstein @mattxiv, Jamal Taylor @lemmeeducateyou, and Lainey Molnar @lainey.molner are filled with love, insights, education, and humor. And I adore Dylan Mulvaney @dylanmulvaney who literally just spreads love and light even when she’s being torn down daily by bigots.

I also really appreciate Chrishell Stause @chrishell.stause and her openness and vulnerability around relationships and queerness. You might know her from All My Children, Days of Our Lives, or most recently Selling Sunset. She dated/married only men until she was 40 years old. She then met and married G Flip who is non-binary and they haven’t been afraid to share and celebrate their relationship, yay!

And I can’t stress enough how much of a blessing TikTok is for me. There are so many amazing LGBTQ individuals talking about every day stuff and sharing their beautiful queer relationships or struggles. It’s also become a literal news source for the things our media doesn’t or won’t cover.

How would you define pride?

I am so glad that one of my very first wholesale customers asked me to define pride for a print (pictured below) several years ago. To me, pride is standing tall in our truth, loving ourselves and others as they are, self-expression, and the rainbow after the storm.

Pride definition print

I hope my story highlighted the importance of self-acceptance at any age, supportive relationships, and being an ally for the LGBTQIA+ community. I’d love to hear your story. Comment below or reach out to me on social media. Happy Pride Month!

With love,

Alison Rose

Social media: @alisonrosevintage

Shop: alisonrosevintage.com

 

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