Rachel Charlene Lewis
May 17, 2016 11:58 am
Getty / Sam Diephuis

Few things are more important, valuable, and necessary in life than friendship. Your friends — your very best, closest friends — are so often the people who know you best, sometimes even better than you know yourself.

The power of friendship really shines when you’re trying to figure out who you are.

Struggling with your sexuality or gender is rough. It’s hard for many people, because it’s a struggle that calls so much into question. Who are you, really? What does it mean to be your most authentic self? What does it mean if you find yourself not falling into one category or another, but instead finding comfort in a gray area? Who are you if there’s not a label that fits? Does your identity count if you feel most comfortable label-free, or with a label people aren’t super familiar with?

So often when we talk about gender, we talk about it in a binary way: you’re a boy, or a girl. Even if you’re trans, we assume you’ll fall into one of two categories: boy, or girl. While it’s great that we’re finally talking about what it means to be transgender, but there’s a lot we’re missing — what does it mean if you don’t identify as either, or sort of slide between the two?

Obviously, this is a lot to deal with. Coming out as non-binary or genderqueer, whether that means coming out to everyone you know, your closest friends, or just to yourself, is a process that is often super exhausting, but can also be super empowering.

What can makes this time easier is having supportive friends who act as a mirror and allow you to see your true self even when you’re struggling to figure out what that means.  A big part of having supportive friends is having people in your life who are willing to do the work to make sure that your friendship is inclusive, and allows room for change.

Because the thing is, change is a part of life.Some friends come out as queer. Other friends come out as genderqueer. Sometimes, you come to see little ways that your friendship has been gendered. A lot of friends love to call each other ladies, or talk about their #girlsquad, or use other phrases that seek to show just how tight-knit you are with your besties, but it can end up being not very welcoming for friends who don’t identify as women.

One of the best ways to show how much you love your friends is to be beyond happy and willing to make sure that your spaces are inclusive, and allow each friend to be their truest, most authentic self. Things like language (ladies, versus besties), checking in (have you ever asked your friends how they identify? What pronouns they use?), and paying attention to what your friends need and times they seem to be struggling go a long way when it comes to having true, deep friendship.

And supporting each other through it all will only bring you closer.

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