When the world shut down in 2020, I went back in the closet. Like many, I found myself spending a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic in my rural, conservative hometown, living in my childhood bedroom, and caring for my parents. Yet, when it felt like the world was changing hourly, there was nothing new about having to hide my queerness.
I realized that I was bisexual at sixteen and have spent a decade doing everything in my power to keep my parents from finding out. I’ve never considered coming out to them; it wasn’t any of their business. But there was no way I was going to come out to them during quarantine. At worst, I could have been kicked out of the house. At best, I would have been trapped in the house trying to explain the nuances of bisexuality or why you can’t say the word queer in that tone anymore. Neither sounded appealing so keeping my sexuality concealed would be the best way to keep me safe.
To be queer means living in and out of closets. I easily fell back into the secretive life I had lived in during my teen years: deleting my search history, keeping semi-anonymous on social media, and hiding anything that even whispered “gay.” Gone were the Pride banners and the “keeping it queer” mug. I was playing it straight for the time being.
As I tried to figure out how to express myself discreetly, I realized the answer was in three powerful colors.
However, this constant vigilance ended up being more emotionally draining than I imagined. In a universal time of loss and grief, I found myself mourning a personal loss: the ability to express my queerness. Not just being able to date queer people, going to pride, or wearing LGBTQ+ clothing. I lost out on being able to sit with my friends and spending time in a community where I could casually drop in my sexuality without having to brace myself for the blowback. I missed being able to exhale.
The grief became so overwhelming, I knew I had to do something or I would drown in it. I needed to remind myself I was still me, even if I couldn’t be as open about it as I like. As I tried to figure out how to express myself discreetly, I realized the answer was in three powerful colors.
Ever since I was a child, my three favorite colors have been blue, purple, and pink. Coincidently (or maybe not), those are the same colors as the bisexual pride flag. While my parents know what the rainbow flag represented, they didn’t explore the internet enough to recognize the bi flag. Even if they did, they knew that I loved the color scheme enough that I could feign innocent if the question ever came up. So blue, purple, and pink became the color palette I used to create my queer sanctuary.
Blue, purple, and pink became the color palette I used to create my queer sanctuary.
When I realized I could use my flag colors, I began putting them everywhere I could think of: bedding, jewelry, candles, and unicorn figurines. Last Christmas, a dear friend bought me a beautiful paper-cut mood light box that bathes my room in shades of blue, purple, and pink—it never fails to bring me joy. I spent the better part of a year looming a bi flag blanket in my living room, in front of my parents. I painted pictures using my color palette while listening to LGBTQ+ books on audio.
The paintings are mediocre, but I hung them up anyway because each stitch and brushstroke was an affirmation: that I was still me. That I could celebrate and express myself and my community, even though I felt, and still feel, cut off from the rest of the world. Rainbow capitalism may be trying to sell my sexuality on a shirt, but I can still create my form of representation with my colors in my own space.
While I’m still in the same bedroom I spent most of my childhood in, it feels a lot more like me. By surrounding myself with queerness, I created a lifeline for myself, even with the most subtle touches. It's a constant reminder that I’m still valid, that I’m still here. This situation will not last forever and I can survive this. I will thrive.
And that’s something to be proud of.