In this feature, we sat down with Olivia Ouellet to discuss her journey to embracing her identity and paving the way for others who are going through the same challenges. Read her interview below, and feel inspired, empowered, to live your truth.
Q: Hey, Liv! Go ahead and introduce yourself to our community.
Hey, Sweet Peas! My name is Olivia Ouellet, I usually go by Liv and my pronouns are she/her. I am a 25 year-old cisgender woman, born in Connecticut, now living in Brooklyn, NY. I went to a small liberal arts college in Hartford, CT, called Trinity College, where I graduated with a double major in Political Science and Women, Gender & Sexuality in 2018. I currently work as a Project Manager at a boutique law firm in Manhattan. I like to run (read: jog slowly in Prospect Park). I love to read queer theory and nonfiction. I practice living an anti-racist life and I am incredibly passionate about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the workplace. I have a rescue pup named Luna that I adore. And oh, I’m really really really QUEER!
I sometimes oscillate between the labels “Queer” and “Lesbian” depending on how I feel when I wake up in the morning, which is the beauty of sexuality – it’s so fluid! As a recovering Catholic, it took me a little bit longer than most to start exploring these feelings of queerness because I was taught to believe they were deviant. News flash: they’re not! So, it took me a little while (also read: my entire adolescence) to figure out and accept that I was gay. I came out to myself as something other than straight at around 14 years old, but I didn’t really have the terminology then to label myself as queer – I just knew that I liked girls, but there wasn’t anyone else around who I knew felt the same. Unfortunately, because of a lack of representation of how I felt, I pushed those feelings down throughout the rest of my teen years and when I transitioned into college, I was again surrounded by straight folks and an extremely heteronormative community. It wasn’t until I went to Spain during my Junior year at Trinity for a study abroad semester, that I really let myself explore these feelings. It was extremely overwhelming and scary and wonderful. When I came back to CT, I came out to my closest friends in the Spring of 2017. In the Fall of 2017 I came out to my housemates and was more openly dating women as I figured out how I actually wanted to label myself. When I moved to New York in June of 2018, I was out in all of my social circles and my employer. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I decided to come out to my parents and other family members. Everyone’s coming out journey is different and for some folks its never-ending. As a femme-presenting person I often have to come out in daily social interactions because folks assume I’m straight (we’ll talk about this in a bit). But what I want to hammer home here is that there is no right way or wrong way to come out. I also want to acknowledge the privilege I have as a white, ciswomen – since people do not automatically assume I’m gay, I do not have to deal with the discrimination, hatred, and/or violence that my fellow queer siblings go through if they don’t “pass” as straight. I also have the privilege of a safe and supportive friend group, employer, and family – not every queer person is as fortunate and I am extremely grateful.
Q: What is one of the greater misconceptions people have about you that you often have to explain?
I think the biggest misconception folks have about me is that I’m straight! My overall gender expression is very femme, which means that the clothes I wear, the way I cut and color my hair, and my makeup and jewelry, are all traditionally “feminine.” I think there is a misconception among straight folks that queer women and lesbians present as more masculine, or butch, as it’s often referred – but this really isn’t the case. However, because of this misconception I constantly find that I am trying to make myself look “gayer” by the shoes and accessories I wear, pins on my purse, and just my overall demeanor.
Q: Your advice for your younger self, and others in your shoes?
When I think about the advice I want to leave my community, I think about what younger Liv needed to hear when she was on her journey of self-discovery. I think about how my life might’ve turned out differently if I had an older queer person to help guide me through the rollercoaster of emotions that is “coming out.” If I were talking to her right now, my advice would be this: Being you, truly, authentically, unapologetically YOU, will be the most difficult and bravest thing you will ever do. Being true to who YOU are, is the only path to happiness. You will find your chosen family, you will find your way, and you will be alright. Love is love; it comes in so many shapes, sizes, and colors, and you are deserving of all of it. Love yourself first – the rest will follow.
Q: Are there any organizations you think we should support, follow, etc?
@thisisyoungfellow (New Hampshire)