Relationships in college are nothing short of a roller coaster. It’s all about getting to know people from scratch, learning how to be independent and potentially spending part of your relationship long-distance when school is out for summer.
On top of it all, college is also a time to reinvent yourself and figure out who you are. It can be a handful for anyone to manage.
Now take all that, factor in discovering your sexual identity, and you’ve got my freshman year of college in a nutshell.
I spent 18 years brushing aside all indications that I wasn’t straight. During my first semester of college at UC Santa Cruz, I was surrounded by supporting, mostly LGBT+ roommates that encouraged me to be my most authentic self. I quickly discovered the most genuine version of me was as a queer, bisexual woman.
I had no idea where to go from there. I’m still figuring it out today, and it hasn’t always been easy.
How do you navigate the world as a queer woman when everyone around you is still figuring themselves out?
Even now, after being publicly out as a queer woman for more than three years, I find myself primarily dating men, and recently I’ve questioned why.
Is it because it’s considered “normal?” Is it simply most convenient? I know what it’s like to date men, but what if I’m honestly terrified to start dating women?
Deciding when and how to reveal my sexual identity is always an interesting situation. I have labeled myself as “queer” on my public social media many times and removed it just as often. Not that it’s a secret, but I struggle sometimes figuring out how to build my identity into online and offline life.
Two years ago, I decided to try online dating, even if it just meant making a few more LGBT+ friends. Downloading and creating a profile on Tinder proved to be the most frustrating experience of my life. All it did was make me feel like an object for couples to experiment with, and I am constantly fighting against the ridiculous stereotypes bisexual people get every day.
There are days I feel that who I am will always come with battling the ignorance and stereotypes. When I transferred to San Diego State, I removed “queer” from all my social media bios. Honestly, I was just tired of constantly having to come out to those around me, and it made me question how loudly I want to be myself. Then I realized, if people don’t want to be in my life simply because I date people other than men, then they weren’t the best people to surround myself with anyway.
I always remind myself to be the person I needed when I was younger. I wonder how different my life would have been if I had grown up watching more people of the LGBT+ community live and thrive in the world.
I recently realized I can be that person for someone else. Normalizing the presence of queer people in the dating pool makes it easier for us to find the person we will spend our lives with, regardless of our gender. I currently have “queer” on my social media accounts. Representation and finding your community matters, and I want people to know that I am with them, I support them and I am someone to come to if needed.
As I approach the end of my college career, I have learned a lot about myself. I’ve also learned how I can be a better friend, girlfriend, student and sister. The best thing you can be is yourself, and regardless of it you decided to label yourself publicly, you’re valid.
I’ve found true happiness comes from being myself and knowing that I am working on myself every day.
Alexa Oslowski is a senior studying journalism. Follow her on Twitter @AlexaROslowski.