By Diana Riccardi

Whoever you may be, and however you may identify — hi. I see you. I hear you, you beautiful human.

Whether you’ve just realized that you belong to the LGBTQIA+ community or came to know your true self years ago — this letter is for you.

I’m sure you know how terrifying it is to come out (or think about doing so). This concept of  “coming out” of the metaphorical closet is one of the scariest things to do in today’s society, but also one of the bravest.

You are facing the world and telling them something incredibly vulnerable about your truth. Something that makes you… you. You are so brave, okay? I don’t know if anyone has told you that lately (or ever), so just in case, I’m telling you right now.

I came out when I was 16. After months of contemplation from the first initial period of questioning my identity, thanks to the internet, I realized that I wasn’t straight. The first people I told were my high school friends. I texted them on my way home from school that day and was met with incredibly supportive messages. I was relieved. Telling people something like that in person made me feel anxious; I felt safe over text. I was terrified that I’d lose my friends if some of them didn’t support the way I identified. I didn’t tell my family for another two or three years. That endeavor was even more terrifying. I texted my mother on my way home from university and was met with loving support. Dating throughout this time was always tricky for me, too, as my experience with my identity has been incredibly fluid and ever-changing. Still, I could easily find kind like-minded people I was interested in.

Some people aren’t as lucky as I was, however. It’s a sad reality that there are places where members of the LGBTQIA+ community aren’t accepted, even by their own family, but there is a glimmer of hope in the concept of the ‘chosen family.’

The beauty of the LGBTQIA+ community is that we have a common thread linking us — our true expression of self, no matter how it’s expressed or represented. I have identified with a handful of labels that suited me throughout different periods in the eight years since I came out, and guess what? That’s okay! I believe that sexuality and gender identity are fluid; I don’t think we’re meant to stay the same our whole lives. If we experience something that awakens something in us and want to explore that, then by all means (if it’s safe to) do so.

If we see ourselves represented in the media and resonate with the way that character, musician, or content creator identifies, that is valid. If we realize that we identify one way and are content with that identity, that’s also okay. If we have no clue how we identify, but know that we are in the LGBTQIA+ community, that too is so valid.

Through our expression, we find community- people who identify like we do or identify within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum- and that is where the ‘chosen family’ comes in. My relationships look much different than when I came out eight years ago, but what I know now is love. Pure, unapologetic and genuine love.

Making it through many hard times and losing some important people in my life got me to where I am, but the joy I feel looking at who is in my chosen family is worth all that I went through.

If it makes you happy or feels like your best, most authentic self, then you are valid no matter how you identify and express that identity. Okay? No matter who you share your most authentic self with, even if it’s just kept close to yourself, you are valid every moment of every day. The least you deserve from the people close to you is love, safety and support, no matter what. And the least you deserve to give yourself is the best chance at living your most authentic life. Your people are out there, and you will be with them one day.

Allow yourself to see that one day.

Diana Alexandria Ricciardi (she/they) is a 24-year-old queer writer & multidisciplinary artist from Canada. She experiments in various artistic mediums through an introspective lens to improve their relationship with themselves and their emotions. They aim to inspire others to honour themselves by encouraging authentic self-expression.