Now that it no longer seemed to fit, I looked for other words to replace it. A friend of mine called me out on it once, voicing some strong opinions about how often the word queer was historically used to humiliate and isolate LGBT people.
Personally, I'm in favour of reappropriating it – partly because taking ownership of the word away from our detractors is a good thing, and partly because there's no other word to describe who I am.
It's close to what psychologist Carol Dweck calls a "growth mindset": Whether it's while your best friend is fishing, or your mother is sitting down with a glass of wine, or your brother is half-watching something trashy on Netflix, there are certain points in most situations where a person is comfortable enough to accept the challenge your ideas present to their worldview.
It was important for me to create an environment that was safe for everyone – I wanted my family and friends to be receptive, but I also had to look after myself and make sure I felt comfortable telling my story.
We looked at each other for a long time before sharing our first kiss in the rain, lit only by Christmas lights; it was right out of a movie.
What had seemed like a gradual build-up of feeling to me was a sudden revelation to her, but it didn't take long for her to reveal that she had fallen in love with me not long after we met.
It's been nearly four years since that moment; we spent our first two years together at separate universities, yearning for graduation, then moved to the southwest together.
Throughout all of this, should I have been thinking, "don't do this, you're gay"? Overcoming self-inflicted heartbreak is a lot harder than admitting that there's an exception to the rule. Saying "I'm gay" was daunting when I came out before, but at least the label was there to do some of the explaining for me. I've occasionally used the word "queer" for brevity, but it doesn't always feel appropriate, since in my experience many people still take offence at the term.
But before long, she was waiting for a bus back home.As Alison Goldfrapp puts it: "I don't like to be defined by my sexuality, which swings wherever I like to swing."There are no rules with these things; you just have to choose the approach you're most comfortable with. If you've ever felt the need to change your label after getting together with your partner, you'll know that doing it again can feel every bit as tricky, with the added burden of explaining yourself to every last person.When I felt it was important to me to help someone understand, I found that putting them in the right conditions really eased the conversation and made them more receptive to new ideas.I had put her through my coming out, my relationships, and the apparent certainty that we would never be together.She said “I love you”, and without hesitating, I said it back.