A series of tweets on the difficulties of growing up queer has gone viral.
Alexander Leon, a writer at the LGBTQ group Kaleidoscope Trust, posted a message Tuesday that thousands have shared about the impact of stigma on LGBTQ youth and how that burden carries forward into adulthood.
"Queer people don't grow up as ourselves, we grow up playing a version of ourselves that sacrifices authenticity to minimise humiliation & prejudice. The massive task of our adult lives is to unpick which parts of ourselves are truly us & which parts we've created to protect us," he wrote on Twitter.
The message was not only shared on Twitter; a screen shot of the text circulated among LGBTQ people on every major social media channel, including Facebook.
In the subsequent thread, Leon said that while dealing with his burden so early in life is "massive and existential and difficult," it is actually "a gift in disguise. We come out the other end wiser & truer to ourselves. Some cis/het people never get there," he wrote.
"All of this is to say - be kind to yourself. Discovering who you really are is an enormous task it doesn't happen overnight, nor does it happen without some hiccups along the way. Be patient, be compassionate, be vulnerable and exist loudly. And most of all - be proud!" he concluded.
At the time of this article's publication, Leon's original tweet had received over 46,000 retweets and 167,000 likes. Its replies were filled with messages from those who related to the feeling of having to play catch-up, socially and emotionally, with straight peers.
"100% spot on. [I] feel like I’m living my teenage years trying to discover who I am and being comfortable and confident with myself," wrote user @caniculee.
"I’ve always felt like I’m about a decade behind my straight friends when it comes to a lot of things, most notably relationships," added @Urendkit. "I literally couldn’t even start learning about myself in that way until after some of them were already married."
Upon seeing the surprising visibility of his message, the activist, who is Australian, encouraged followers to donate to the Red Cross to assist the victims of the New South Wales bushfires. In follow-up tweets, Leon also called the viral response "extraordinarily humbling (& overwhelming)," revealing that the tweets had been abridged from "an essay I thought too personal/niche to attempt to get published."
"All I've ever wanted to do in any of my work is for queer people (& particularly QPOC) to feel seen, heard & understood. I can't open this app at the moment without ugly crying because y'all are showing me that in my own small way, I'm achieving what I set out to do. Thank you," he wrote.
Research has shown that the majority of LGBTQ young people are in the closet and are disproportionately impacted by mental health issues. According to the Trevor Project's 2019 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth, 71 percent of LGBTQ youth reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two weeks in the past year. Less than half were out to an adult at school.