Undergoing metamorphosis

My experience of finally coming to terms with my identity


Aashi Venkat

Although realizing and embracing my sexual orientation has been a terrifying experience, releasing this butterfly and ultimately “coming out” has been incredibly rewarding

Aashi Venkat

“You look straight.”  

My outfit that day was similar to those I had worn for the past month: a dress, a sweater, a mask, white Air Force Ones and at least five different pieces of jewelry — there was nothing about it that stood out to me as “straight.”  

Maybe it’s the fact that I didn’t have the word “pansexual” written in permanent marker on my forehead, or maybe it’s the fact that I wasn’t decked out in rainbows, but terrifying feelings of doubt and invalidation immediately began to flood my mind. 

I’m not straight, and people know that. They must know that. They must … right? 

This brought me back to when I first realized that I was not, in fact, 100% straight. Middle school was full of friendship breakups and nights spent crying over the B I got on my science test, but it was also when I had my first major crush — on a girl. She made my world turn, and being around her summoned a swarm of butterflies that twisted my stomach into a million knots, a sensation I had never felt before. 

Graphic | Aashi Venkat

Yet this exhilarating feeling of love came with a looming cloud of shame and self-hatred. The media I consumed growing up defined heterosexual as normal, and I felt like straying from it would make me an outcast. So I continued trudging on as a caterpillar in a world of butterflies, shamefully hiding my identity rather than freely accepting it.

But I didn’t want to stay a caterpillar, even though being a caterpillar felt safe. I wanted to expand my wings and truly fly — I wanted to completely love and accept my true identity. 

Because of my fear, however, the first time I came out wasn’t to my parents or my friends — it was to a teacher. My reasoning for this seemingly rash decision was that, if this were to go poorly, it wouldn’t impact me as much as if the response was from someone whom I had known for years. I just wanted to tell someone, because I believed that expressing my sexual orientation would allow me to completely come to terms with it. 

During this moment, every word that came out of my mouth was tinged with fear — fear that he’d call it a phase, fear that this would forever change the way he perceived me, fear that he’d tell my parents — all I felt was overwhelming fear. The biggest fear, however, was that if I were to say these words, I would never be able to take them back — I would be completely and irrevocably “out.” 


And that was it. The years I had spent anticipating how people would react, terrified that I would be perceived in a negative light, was disproved completely by a singular word. A warm chrysalis of acceptance wrapped around me, as I finally began to realize that my sexual orientation is not the “phase” I was raised to believe it was — the only phases were coming to terms with and fully accepting this component of my identity. 

Ultimately, that’s what I did. The new school year started, and I wore my orientation on my sleeve. Pink, yellow and blue beads strung on a necklace, rainbow bracelets wrapped around my wrist — I was open, and I felt blissfully free. 

But then I heard those words take flight from the mouth of a friend. Those three dreaded words. 

It felt overwhelmingly invalidating and it made me feel like a fraud — I had spent years contemplating what I was, only for people to say that they didn’t believe me because I didn’t look the part. My peers’ refusal to acknowledge such a significant part of my identity felt like hands crumbling the chrysalis surrounding me, suffocating me — I was transforming into a butterfly, yet it felt as if others preferred the unsure, insecure caterpillar significantly more. 

How could I prove my sexual orientation? Do I wear more pride-colored jewelry? Do I change my style? 

Graphic | Aashi Venkat

However, my chrysalis has taught me that my sexual orientation and identity are only mine to confirm and accept. My sexual orientation is part of my identity, and I am immensely proud of myself for spreading my wings and overcoming the fear, self-hatred and internalized homophobia I previously maintained. 

And it’s inevitable that others are always going to believe that they are right, even when assuming and analyzing someone else’s identity, but the most beneficial thing I can do for my own wellbeing is to simply live my life however I want — with whoever I love. 

I know that I am pansexual. But I’m not obligated to “prove it” to anyone other than myself, because my identity — my butterfly — is always going to matter more than what other people have to say about it.