Content warning: The following piece contains references to a person processing their identities as a nonbinary human being, which may be triggering for some readers.
"Figuring out Why," Karyssa Bickford
When I was in the sixth grade I started to realize I'm not straight. My best friend at the time, Alicia, was bisexual and when I would talk to her about her sexuality it kind of made sense. Back then, I didn't know much about sex or sexuality or gender expression so I didn't really understand what was happening with what I was feeling. It wasn't until freshman year of high school that I came out as bisexual.
Everyone told me I was just doing it to be trendy, because all my friends were, and it hurt because I had suppressed it for three years prior. Nevertheless, I dated my first girl. Her name was Sydney, and kissing her was magical. When I came out to my parents, my mom was angry and forced me to break up with her, which I did. The day before Christmas break. She came into school with my Christmas present, a gothic cross necklace, and I made her cry. I still have the necklace in the top drawer of my dresser.
I went back into the closet and suppressed my feelings for girls. My friend Breana, who I had been friends with since diapers, and our friend Amanda were like the three musketeers end of freshman year/beginning of sophomore. They were both a grade above me. Amanda was also bisexual and I had feelings for her and they were mutual. We started fooling around and my sophomore year we dated. I walked her to her classes, we shared a locker, we kissed each other goodbye in the halls.
She was also the first girl I was ever sexual with.
I didn't know it then, but she was my first love.
We wrote each other love notes and passed them off between classes to read in the next. We'd hang out at her house after school and cuddle in her bed and talk for hours. She always smelled like daisies and honeydew melon. She wanted me to come out and be Facebook official, tell my parents, have a real relationship; so I got scared and I ran. I left her a note on her bedside table while she was showering and left her house. Our friendship wasn't the same and we weren't really the three musketeers anymore.
I suppressed being queer until I was 20. In the summer of 2015 I came out as pansexual, and I wasn't going back in the closet. I realized I wasn't bi, rather identified more with pansexuality it had been more present in our society so I had the chance to learn about it. You can definitely tell times had changed, because my mom was supportive and asked me questions and listened.
I was in a long term relationship at the time, and experimented a little bit with gender nonconformity, which I had wanted to do for years, but was scared that he would leave me if I did it in public, so I did it in private.
When he left, I experimented more with it and came out in the summer of 2016 as nonbinary. At the time I was under the impression that I was genderfluid. As I continued to grow, I realized I enjoy being feminine, but my issue is just that I feel uncomfortable being boxed into a gender binary. I always have. It just took me a long time to figure out exactly why. My family still has a hard time using my correct pronouns, but my boyfriend whom I'm with now does it effortlessly and I'm accepted by his friends and mother as nonbinary. It's taken me a long time to get to a point where I'm okay with who I am, and why. But I'm here, and I'm queer.
About the art:
Karyssa is a brilliantly outspoken human being who owns their identities. That's the Karyssa I've known, so it was illuminating to read how much work it has taken for them to find this voice and this confidence.
I was given complete control with this piece of art and I'm thankful for that because it allowed me to take Karyssa's most powerful statement at the end - a deeply queer sentiment - and make a piece of art out of it! I added the "and I riot," based on a protest sign I had seen once! I think it sends an even stronger message and it fits Karyssa's mentality very well.