Emma Crosby’s Pride Memoir
June 25th, 2021
As a kid growing up in Minnesota, I had no idea what it meant to be gay. I remember being in high school and the only gay person I knew was the coach of a younger soccer team. There were no gay references in the media or any representation around me, so I thought that to be gay, I had to look and act like her. She had short hair, a built figure, self-confidence, and an insouciant swagger—all things I didn’t have. At the end of my senior year, I was at my friend’s graduation party and noticed a female couple. They both had long hair, dressed like I did, and were far from every stereotype I thought you had to check. It was the first time I saw a gay couple. In one instance, that experience provided an alternative narrative for me. For the first time, I saw myself in another person in ways I had never allowed.
That only grew in 2014. I decided to move to Salt Lake City to go to college and board. Snowboarding became an outlet to be creative and confident, which coincided with an empowering expression of my identity. I was surrounded by more diversity in my classes, on social media, and on the TV shows I was watching. It made me realize that there were other people like me out there. My friends in and out of snowboarding were essential in the process. They showed me that sexuality and figuring yourself out didn’t require labels, and I could be whoever the fuck I wanted to be. They paved the way with their bravery and created the most welcoming environment for my curiosity. Without them, I know my story would be different.
Labeling has always been really hard for me, as I think it is extremely difficult to define sexuality. I know that labels help some people understand and connect, and that makes total sense. On the other hand, I don’t want to diminish this exciting experience of discovering yourself and sexuality without borders. I think for me, this is something I am still kind of figuring out, and I think that is okay too. In the past I’ve dated men, but I fell in love with a woman. I’ve often been asked: If I wasn’t in my current relationship, would I date a man or a woman? To me, this completely invalidates my current relationship and doesn’t seem fair to her. This is the relationship I’m in, the one I have chosen, so nothing else really matters.
When I was first asked to write something for this month’s Pride Week, I was a bit reluctant. I didn’t think there was anything I could say that wasn’t perfectly said in last year’s pieces, and to be completely honest I was nervous to be vulnerable. Putting yourself out there always comes with the risk of pain, and I never wanted to be hurt because of who I am. Times are changing, but constantly knowing that we are not fully accepted is what makes it hard. Then I thought a little bit more about how representation was so crucial for my own well-being in seeing myself in that couple at the graduation party. I realized that sharing wouldn’t be for myself, but for others. If even one person reads this and something resonates with them, that’s worth it. The more people to come out and talk about their experiences, the more stereotypes are broken down for what it is to be gay. When people see more representation of themselves, it fosters a greater affirmation of their identity. If you don’t see yourself, you will feel like you don’t belong. Representation matters, so let’s expand the circle of inclusivity.