Queer people don’t come into the world knowing ourselves. We look for clues around us, whether they are found in the movies and television shows we consume or a gaze that lingers a moment too long. As a young queer person, I discovered myself gradually, often in cinematic glimpses of a future to come: the homoerotic friendship of Y Tu Mamá También that culminates in a kiss dissolving the limits of possibility, the queer longing for connection that permeates A Home at the End of the World, and the barbed revolutionary romp of The Dreamers, all of which somehow slipped past my parents’ radar. Suffice it to say, I had a thing for messy bisexuals. Now a messy bisexual adult, I look at each of these as critical moments in my becoming—a journey that each of us tread as we slowly define who are we and envision who we want to be.
As all of us continue our chosen paths forward, BuzzFeed asked 15 LGBTQ+ people when they first saw themselves reflected back in the environment around them. In their stories of life-changing friendships, favorite books, and even a gender-ambiguous Dairy Queen dessert, it’s clear that representation isn’t just important. For many of us, it provides the language to speak ourselves into existence.