I didn’t really consider the idea that I wasn’t straight until 8th grade. By then, I had already had two “crushes.” How a crush feels is never explained to anyone because supposedly everybody feels one by the end of middle school. That makes it pretty easy to misconstrue. I just knew that I had a really good friend, who was a girl, and I really enjoyed being around her. Sounded spot-on.
One night my sister, cousins and I were playing truth or dare. A lot of the truth topics were about crushes and stuff, and my two (male) cousins started talking about what it feels like when they see a hot girl. I said that I had no such experience. They seemed to think I was some sort of a saint, but my sister asked if that meant I was asexual. I laughed about it but looked it up that night. A lot of the stuff was pretty relatable. There were loads of stories about people who had experiences like me but didn’t hear about asexuality until they were much older. I’m lucky I figured that part out so early.
Of course then I thought that would be the end of it – I’m ace, but I had crushes on girls. Heteroromantic. Easy. But then I started digging into the ace community on tumblr. They had all sorts of other labels for every type of attraction. I thought a bit about a few of them, but didn’t really consider them too seriously until much later. Still the idea that I wasn’t a “completely straight ace” lingered.
Fast forward to the beginning of my sophomore year of high school. I had identified as a heteroromantic asexual for about a year and a half, and told around five close friends. I had had three “crushes,” all on girls. Then I started thinking about my friendship with another guy. How I felt about him was stronger than how I felt about any of those three girls. For a moment I wondered if I was attracted to men, but I asked myself what I actually would want in a relationship. The list included things like sharing cool stuff in life, being able to rely on them, having fun with them, and being able to be chill with them. That sounded an awful lot like friendship. I summed up my ideal relationship as “forever roommates” and realized that applied to several of my friends. None of them were what crushes were supposed to be.
I looked up “what does it feel like to be aromantic” and found a list of ~50 things. I personally related to over 40 of them, and one of them used the wording “forever roommates.” It couldn’t have been a more perfect fit. Looking back, it seems pretty obvious, but that’s compulsory straightness for you.
The year since then has included no crushes (now that I understand them) but one attempt to date. While it was fun, it showed me that even someone who is perfect for me isn’t going to change the fact of who I am. I understand that sexuality can be fluid, but for the moment I’m proud to be an aro/ace.
– Cate S.
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The notion of “coming out” is one that can be intimidating to a lot of people. Formally telling the people in your life about your sexuality seems a daunting task. This, among other reasons, is why I personally choose to be extremely open about my sexuality, with people in my regular life and on my robotics team. I openly discuss/mention my sexuality with people in my life and on my team, but I don’t make a point of specifically coming out. I am unapologetically bisexual.
But it wasn’t always that way. In order to live this way, being able to feel comfortable and secure is absolutely essential. When everyone around you knows that you’re bi (or any other orientation/identity), you will face some judgement and questions. You cannot let those things put doubt in your mind, you know who you are better than anyone else does. Reaching this point of stability in your identity can take a long time. For me it took several months, but for some people it could take years. That is okay. Once you reach this point, you may make the choice to be extremely open with your identity, or you may wish to be more private or reserved. The decision of how open to be with your sexuality/identity is entirely yours. But I’d like to share some pros and cons of being as open as I am and how they affected my decision to be who I am so publicly.
How I Made My Decision
Here I listed a few of the major pros and cons I considered when I decided I wanted to be extremely open. These can differ from person to person and their impact and importance can vary as well.Deciding whether you want to be more reserved or extremely open with your sexuality/identity is entirely up to you. You have to be comfortable in your own skin and be sure of who you are. You also have to evaluate the safety of being open about your sexuality in your current situation. It also has to be something you want, it simply isn’t for anyone. But for me, it has worked out very well and made me quite happy. Hopefully you find what’s comfortable for you and it makes you happy.
When you think of FIRST, what is the first thing pops into your head? For many people it’s robots, outreach, or helping your community. For some it is the inclusivity of FIRST and, hopefully, how welcome they feel on their team. FIRST is supposed to be an all-inclusive organization, welcoming people from every race, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and background. FIRST is an organization that wants to bring together everyone and anyone as one big family. But for some people they may not have been exposed to members of the LGBTQ+ community and may been misinformed/uninformed of non-heterosexual and cis (identifying with the gender assigned at birth) identities; it may be difficult for these people to relate to members of the LGBTQ+ community that are on their team. If you’re one of those people, there are ways to become informed and make your teammates who are in the LGBTQ+ community feel safe and welcomed on your team.
When I first joined my team two years ago, I met two of my best friends. One was transgender and gay. The other was gender fluid. At the time, I had a no idea what gender fluid even was. I was incredibly uninformed and would be embarrassed when I would misgender either of them or use the wrong pronouns. And for much too long of a time, I did use the wrong pronouns. It took time for me to continuously call them by the correct pronouns, but I tried relentlessly to get it right, often times thinking about what I was going say a few times just to make sure the pronouns were right. If you’re on a team with someone who’s transgender or completely non-binary, you must try your absolute hardest to call them by their correct pronouns. Now I was lucky enough that my friends wouldn’t visibly get too upset when I would accidentally let the wrong pronoun slip out, but every time I did it I knew that inside I was hurting my friends. People I cared about. People that were a part of my team. That was why I urge all people in FIRST who are cisgender to use always remember to use correct pronouns. This a way you can avoid hurting people.
Another issue I often see on my team is a lack of understanding towards LGBTQ+ members. There are certain needs that these students have that must be met. Each student is different and that is a good thing, so they must all be helped in a different way. An example of this may be a student making another student feel uncomfortable through hate-filled remarks about another person’s gender or sexuality. This is completely unacceptable, doesn’t follow FIRST’s message, and must be dealt with by the mentors of that team. FIRST is meant to be an all-inclusive organization where everyone can feel safe, so it stands that the teams in FIRST must be the same. It is the responsibility of all members of FIRST, especially the mentors, to make sure that LGBTQ+ students and all others feel safe on their team. If that means disciplinary action must be taken on a student or mentor, then it is the responsibility of the head mentor or whoever runs the team to make sure that action is taken.
FIRST Teams in general should be a welcoming environment for everyone. That’s one of the main goals of FIRST. So it should be the goal of everyone in FIRST to welcome in members of the LGBTQ+ community and make sure they feel safe and like a valued member of the team. You never know, your team may just be the only place they feel that way.
About LGBTQ+ of FIRST
LGBTQ+ of FIRST is an organization dedicated to raising awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ participants in FIRST Robotics. LGBTQ+ of FIRST was started to spread visibility of the LGBTQ+ community within FIRST and help teams become safe spaces for their members.