While we're made some great moves forward in terms of LGBTQ rights, it's no question that things are still an uphill battle for the queer community. For many queer people, frowing up the in the '90s was a weird experience: While more positive and accepting than generations before ours, the '90s was still super heteronormative, especially if you lived in particularly conservative areas or in an environment where the LGBTQ community was oppressed or silenced.
Even today, queer kids are still struggling: Bullying is a major issue, kids are still disowned by their parents for coming out, and heck, kids are fighting for their right to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. Even though us '90s kids aren't children anymore ourselves, it's important to keep in mind that younger generations are still facing many of the same battles we did, so the fight isn't over, yet.
All of that said, there are fond memories to be had regarding growing up as queer in the '90s. Of course, not everyone comes out as a kid or a teenager, and that's OK! In fact, many people don't even realize they're queer until later in life. Looking back at certain moments or feelings and thinking "Man, how did I not realize just how queer I was?" can be both hilarious and bittersweet.
Being queer encompasses a lot of different experiences, so while we can't expect to speak for everybody, we think these 15 things will definitely resonate with people when they remember growing up queer in the '90s.
1. Fell In Love With Your Best Friend
Ah, falling in love with your best friend. It happened to all of us, and it was crushing, and we're OK, now. Valentine's Day in the fifth grade was pretty awkward, though, am I right?
2. Had A Huge Crush On Your Teacher
We all had at least one teacher we were head over heels for, likely leading to plenty of hearts with their initials in our notebooks and awkwardly swinging by their classroom to ask questions about the homework during lunch period.
3. Experimented With Your Gender Presentation
No matter where on the LGBTQ spectrum you fall, we pretty much all have experimented with our gender presentation, whether in a big or small way. Heck, some of us haven't even left the house in a different presentation, but exploration is still exploration.
4. Watched The L Word In Secret
In spite of being moderately problematic, The L Word definitely capture many young, queer hearts in the '90s. But given the amount of sex scenes, we all know we collectively hid our viewing from our parents because, um, awkward.
5. Watched Queer As Folk In Secret
Queer As Folk is another moderately problematic '90s gem, and one we all know we watched at least a few seasons of.
6. Wondered If Anyone Around You Could Possibly Be LGBTQ
If you had another friend who was LGBTQ, or even just a supportive ally, ruminating on whether or not random people in life were also LGBTQ was a regular occurrence. If you were by your lonesome, this activity definitely still happened, but probably just in your diary. (Or your Electronic Dear Diary, as the case may be.)
7. Obsessively Researched What "Queer" Meant Online
Thanks to the advent of the internet in the '90s, those of us who had access to computers in private definitely researched what we could about what it meant to be queer. Was there something wrong with us? Did we "fit" the definition? Were there any other queer people in the world, anywhere?! Oh, the questions I typed into AskJeeves.
8. Awkwardly Walked Away After Trying To Flirt With A Crush
Do you want to share half of my PB and J? No? Do you want to go to the Homecoming Dan-? Oh, OK, no.
9. Wondered If There Was Something Wrong With Them
Whether or not you were out about your orientation or identity or not, many queer people have wondered if something was deeply or innately wrong with them as they began figuring themselves out. It's a pretty terrifying sensation. (It goes without saying that no, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being LGBTQ.)
10. Tried Hard To Fit In And Be "Like Everybody Else"
Remember looking around and desperately wanting to mimic everyone around you, so you'd feel "normal" and be liked? Most of us have been there, too.
11. Listened For Queer Subtext In Literally Every Song Possible
Could be singing about someone of the same sex? Do I notice some references to a non-binary identity in the chorus? Regardless to what everyone else thought about the song, we were already deep into Queer Theory 101 with our '90s pop music.
12. Longed For Positive Representations Of Queer People In The Media
Some pretty famous people came out during the '90s (Ellen, anyone?), but a lot of people still kept their orientations and/or identities private. Famous or not, LGBTQ people had few protections against discrimination in the '90s, so it's understandable why many people were reluctant to come out — but for queer youth, it was isolating to feel like hardly anyone could relate to you.
13. Cringed When People Assigned Heteronormative Roles To You
How many times did a family member assume you wanted to date someone of the opposite sex? Oh, heteronormativity.
14. Cried Inside When People Assigned Your Gender Identity
Remember all the times people insisted on referring to you by a nickname rooted in gender norms ("princess," anyone?) in spite of how upset it made you? Or made a point of noticing how "feminine" or "masculine" you looked that day? Many of us have lived this nightmare.
But — as cliche as it sounds — it does get better. And although the coming years are going to be especially rough, there's support if you need it, and a lot of good to be done. These resources for LGBTQ youth are a place to start — whether you need support, want to provide it, or both.
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