Proud of My Stripes
Hi everyone, my name is Rae (@fourthtimesequestrian on Instagram) and today, in honor of pride month, I want to share my stripes with you.
A quote that has recently stuck with me is, “Don’t ever be afraid to show off your true colors.” I found that quote on the internet and I have no idea who said it or where it came from but I love it, and it’s really struck a cord with me. I used to be so afraid to be myself. Growing up and going through middle school, I was always one of the “weird” kids. I was bullied for the way I dressed, my weight, my hair, the way I acted, I didn’t fit into the mold that others did and at the time that was all I wanted to do to make the hurtful words stop. So, I changed myself as much as I could do blend my stripes into a world of polka dots.
I hadn’t been diagnosed yet, but my anxiety and depression dragged me to a really dark place those years. Seeking help in school made no difference, the counselor basically told me that I was being overdramatic. Thankfully, my parents were nothing but supportive and did everything in their power to help me, which included pulling me out of public school and homeschooling me from 7th grade through 12th. I still tried to hide my stripes even after leaving my school. It felt like I was at a constant battle with my mind, still desperately trying to make myself fit into the mold that I didn’t need to try to fit into anymore. And amidst this battle with myself, was where I learned the most about myself.
Going through my teen years, I was never interested in being in a relationship like everyone else my age was. I was completely sex repulsed and the thought of being in a real relationship with another person was enough to make me gag, and as a result I kind of felt like I was broken. No one else I knew felt this way, why did I? Certainly it’s not normal. I didn’t understand myself, I didn’t understand the way I felt. But I wanted to, so I started researching and trying to put words to my feelings. I was probably around 15 when I first learned of the word “asexual”, and seeing that there were other people that felt the same way as me was incredibly validating and relieving.
In my junior year my mom signed me up for a homeschool group that got together every Tuesday and had a day of classes. I took photography, sign language, computer science, and a few other classes, and it was nice to get out of the house and get to make some acquaintances. It was at this group that I had my first crush at the ripe age of 17 when I was a senior. And my crush was on a girl. So now I was a confused little queer who didn’t even know what to identify as. Was I still asexual? Was I gay? Was I bi? It was a weird time for me while I struggled to grasp what the heck my sexuality actually was. What no one told me though was that not knowing exactly what you identify with is perfectly normal and okay! Sexuality can change and be fluid, and labels are just that, labels, and you don’t even have to pick one! If it’s easier to just call yourself queer instead of defining yourself with one or multiple labels, do that. You do what makes you feel comfortable and what feels right to you!
So now, let’s fast forward a couple of years to me being in my first relationship, with a girl. Being a queer equestrian, especially being “out” and in a same-sex relationship, is somewhat taboo it seems. It’s not “normal”. When my then girlfriend would come to the barn, there would always be a couple of people that would just kind of look at us funny. Not in a rude way, but just that they didn’t understand. It’s always bothered me though how I’ve been looked at and treated when in a same-sex relationship versus a straight passing one.
The equestrian community definitely has some work to do with being more open and accepting of LGBTQ+ equestrians. Having and being good allies can be a literal lifesaver to someone in the LGBTQ+ community. Whether it’s putting your pronouns in your profile or sharing your support for pride month, it’s all these little steps that push us in the right direction and make it a safer world for us.
So here I am now, proudly wearing all of my stripes. The stripes that don’t define me but, rather, have shaped me. I am a biromantic asexual, and that will undoubtedly shift throughout my life, and that’s okay. I am a type one diabetic, and the loss of function of an organ has made me stronger (and bionic). I have anxiety and depression, but it doesn’t have me. I am a million little broken pieces put together with glue and tape and good intentions. I am me, and that’s all I can be. I’m proud of myself and my stripes, I’m proud of overcoming my struggles and I will always be unapologetically me.