This Inspirational, Out and Proud Spotlight brought to you by, Alexa Stonebarger.
Sexual Orientation: I tend to use the umbrella term queer but if I suppose I identify closest with the term pansexual, meaning I don’t necessarily have a gender bias or preference. I have dated men, women, and non-binary persons and tend to be attracted to individuals rather than a single set of ideals.
Gender Identity and Pronouns: She/her. I struggled with my feminine identity for a while and actually went by Alex for a majority of my life. Growing up in the Midwest surrounded by conservative ideals I saw being a woman as a hindrance in my goals and my femininity made me feel small and insignificant. Surrounding myself in my later years with so many incredible and strong female role models has taken me by a storm and really helped me stepped into my role as a feminist ambassador.
When did you know?
Though gender has never played a large role in my romantic attractions, I don’t know that I really understand the implications it had on my view of my own sexuality. I spent much of my teen life trying to trap myself into relationships that would fit the American ideal I was taught. I felt wrong for not loving correctly and not feeling what I ought to feel until college. I’d become so drained from toxic and abusive physical relationships and actually considered then I might be asexual as past traumas scared any romantic feelings far below any surface of my soul. Until I met ~her~. A beautiful and wonderful soul that I’ll leave anonymous for the sake of this statement but forever thank for teaching me to let myself, love.
When did you come out?
Honestly, I didn’t necessarily have a coming out moment so much as let myself incorporate my sexual fluidity more and more into my everyday conversation and language. I wanted to normalize it, make it feel commonplace. It was an easy transition being surrounded by open-minded incredible people during my travels about the US and my living on the coasts. Then last year during pride month I was seeing tons of jabs at “the hubbub” pride month creates from my Midwest acquaintances and made a public post just letting everyone know this is a part of me that I’m proud of. The support that flooded in was so empowering and it ended up reconnecting me with a handful of lost friends!
To whom did you come out first?
I may have accidentally told a friend in the movie theater about my big crush on “Sally” from cheaper by the dozen at age seven. Otherwise, it kind of came out in spurts of casual convo with friends and romantic partners.
How did your closest friends and family react?
I was blown away by the support of my friends and family, some of whom group up on conservative Midwest families and some of whom are in the LGBTQ community themselves. I think I was most surprised and touched by my father’s reaction. He used to jest that “bisexuality isn’t a thing.” And “bisexual people are just horny” so coming out as queer had an extra layer of scary. But seeing his daughter happy in life and whatever relationships that bring has been eye-opening for him and I’ve been so touched by his support.
More intimate questions.
How has your life been enriched by the LGBTQ Community?
The LGBTQ community has embraced me with open arms in times which I struggled with my sexual identity as well as identity as my place here a human being. Having been through sexual traumas that warped my view of self and sexuality it’s been so important to have a community to talk openly with and allow myself to explore my own identity while embracing and lifting me up for being an individual rather than scrutinizing my differences.
What are the common misconceptions about being LGBTQ?
Being pansexual DOES NOT mean I want to get in bed with everyone I cross paths with. It doesn’t mean I can’t maintain monogamous relationships or that I’m suddenly gay when I date women or straight when I date men. Sexuality is a spectrum and just because we have words that help us classify how we feel ALL sexuality is on an individual basis.
Describe the first time someone else read you (for better or worse) as LGBTQ.
In high school, I was terribly insecure and ill-informed about the LGBTQ community. My best friend’s boyfriend constantly called me a lesbian as an insult to my athletic wear and lack of make-up. Little did he know his mockery was actually a huge step in my self-discovery!
Who was your first LGBTQ role model or elder, and how did they impact you?
Honestly having an older sister that identifies as bisexual has been such a blessing. It’s nice to have somebody to talk about potential love interests with that doesn’t bat an eye when I mention “he” or “she” or “they” and just gossips and rides the wave with me.
What is the biggest external issue or challenge facing the LGBTQ community today?
I think it’s important to recognize that while huge strides have been made towards LGBTQ social equality, we need to acknowledge the lack of recourses even the most progressive communities face- from basic education to the ability to find and trust suitable healthcare providers.
The biggest internal issue or challenge?
I’m currently in a long-term relationship with a cisgender man. But my sexuality has shaped me in so many ways and it’s hard when I’m ousted by certain members of the community or my struggles are swept under the rug. Bi-erasure is a huge internal issue in our community and trying to define or control anyone’s sexuality is problematic and abusive.
Are there any LGBTQ nonprofits whose work you especially admire?
There are far too many, but Jasmine Singer from Our Hen House is doing amazing work for the LGBTQ community as well as other oppressed persons including the non-human type! Intersectional activism is so important to me because oppression is a systematic issue with roots of all oppressed groups entangled deep below the surface. To solve one problem and create total equality for one oppressed group we must do the same for all.
Do you have any advice for young queer folks who may still be defining their identity, coming out, or learning how to be their authentic selves in the world?
I just want them to know that they are deserving of love and carry that knowledge forward with them as they grow into their own in this crazy world we call home.
How are you involved in or how do you give back to the LGBTQ community?
My focus in life is rescuing animals from oppressive situations. Because I connect most with them and I understand their oppression and am an active member in the animal rights and vegan community, they are the best ambassadors for all oppressed communities. Through them, I teach others about the importance of ending all oppression. Through them I discus sentience and it’s importance in the rights inherent in all living beings. Through them, I discuss LGBTQ, POC, and women’s rights. My main goal in life is to bridge connections between compassionate people and compassion based movements and work towards a common goal of a world where we can all be treated as the deserving individuals we are.