Outside Voices: Lauren West
Updated: Sep 8, 2018
Welcome to my newest blog campaign: Outside Voices.
As I continued to write about the LGBTQ community, I came to realize that I didn’t want to create the impression that my personal experiences as a white, gay man were representative of the experiences of the entire LGBTQ community. I could never, ever, begin to understand how different other LGBTQ people’s experiences have been from my own.
So, instead of speaking for them, I want to use my blog as a platform to give other people a voice. Every LGBTQ person has had different experiences, different challenges, different triumphs, and different lives. With the Outside Voices campaign, I hope to expose my readers to the endless facets of our community - those sometimes complicated, sometimes difficult differences that make this community so beautiful.
The name - Outside Voices - is an ode to being out. It’s an ode to being loud. And it’s an ode to letting others use this platform to share their own stories. I will feature a new Outside Voice about once every month.
So. Without further ado, let’s get started. I’ll pass the torch on to Lauren.
Name: Lauren West
From: Brisbane, Australia
Identifies as: A cisgender, bisexual female
Hi, Lauren. Can you explain your identity to those who may not know what it means?
I identify as a cisgender, bisexual female. To me, the term “bisexual” means I am attracted to people of the same gender as me, as well as other genders.
Even though I do identify in this way, I also use both the terms “gay” and “queer” to describe myself. This is mainly because they are good umbrella terms, but there can actually be days when I don't fully connect with the term “bisexual.”
This doesn't mean I don't identify as bi - I am fully accepting and wear that word like a badge of honor - but some days I can feel more fluid in my sexuality than others, so other terms can feel more... fitting.
Tell us about yourself.
My #1 hobby/passion is dance. I've been dancing since I was 5 and it has always been a big part of my life. I have also been working in dance retail for over a year, so now more than ever it feels as though dancing and the dance industry is a constant in my life, which I love despite it not really being my long-term career goal.
Other than dance, I love to travel. Whether it's a small day trip or a full 4-week vacation, it all makes me very happy. A lot of my travel tends to revolve around travelling for concerts or to meet internet friends.
I'm also an animal lover - I've been vegan for almost 3 years now and it was one of the best lifestyle choices I've ever made.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face as a result of your identity?
Coming out and figuring out how I wanted to do it. When I had what I call my “lightbulb” moment, my immediate thought was where do I go from here and how do I tell people?
At first I never felt as though I needed to publicly announce it, but the more research I did in order to figure out exactly who I was, the more I felt like I wanted to come out publicly to show that I was proud to be a part of this community. It was terrifying.
Even though I have always been proud to be who I am, the first time I posted about it online I had to put my phone down and not look at it for about an hour. After I looked at my phone again I had been bombarded with support from my friends, as well as from strangers, which made me feel very loved and very accepted.
What’s your favorite aspect of being a member of the LGBTQ community?
The sense of community and the pride. The more involved I get with the community, the more proud I become of my identity. There may be some cracks in the community and it's not always perfect, but it makes me feel accepted and loved and that's what it’s about. It allows me to learn, as well as talk to others who have had similar experiences as me, which really helps combat some of those emotions that you can’t really deal with when you are newly out.
Could you tell us a story about your experience as a member of the LGBTQ community?
Something that really warms my heart is when I think about when I first came out publicly. Not even a minute after I posted it, my friend messaged me and immediately came out to me for what was her first time really telling anyone else. It made me realize, even within the first five minutes of posting my own coming out, just how big of an impact one person’s story can have.
Me fighting my own doubts and just saying the words and putting them online gave one of my friends the strength to say them, too, and that will always stick with me and remind me how important it is to talk about this stuff.
What’s the most common misconception people seem to have about you?
I think my personality can sometimes give people the wrong first impression. I'm quite bubbly and loud and very "out there," as well as quite opinionated. I like to speak up for the things I believe in. There have been situations in which I’m meeting someone for the first time and they make a comment that I believe is offensive or I disagree with, and I will comment back. Some people can take this as me being aggressive or standoffish - which I'm not - I just don't like to allow people to be blatantly rude or downright cruel.
If I could address this before getting to know someone, I'd probably tell them that I just like to stand up for what I believe is right. I don't ever intentionally call someone out for the wrong reasons; nothing I ever say comes from a place of hate.
I do it because I care, and that's really it.
If you could say one thing to the world to help them understand you better, what would you say?
I'd say that I don't mind if people dislike me, as long as they treat me with respect. We're all just trying our best and you can't please everyone, so sometimes it's just not worth the fight.
Any last words?
I want people to know that it will be okay. Figuring out who you are is scary, and sadly it doesn't get easier as you get older. But do what you can to stay true to yourself and things will happen when they need to.
Those who are meant to be in your life will find their way into it, and those who aren't will find their way out. It might be hard, but sometimes you just have to trust that things happen for a reason. The LGBTQ community is a wonderful home for us - it's the family that many of us never thought we'd find, but your chosen family can be the ones who help you find peace. So if you're struggling, just know that it's okay to be who you know you are, and there will always be someone out there who understands.
Thanks for reading Lauren’s story, folks. And thank you to Lauren for sharing it with us.
If you identify as LGBTQ and you would like to be featured in a future Outside Voices profile, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d absolutely love to hear from you.
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