3 – Erin Van Vorst

Non-Binary (they/them) // Colorado Springs, CO // NY Born & Raised. Landed in the Springs. Footwear of choice: Adidas Slides.

With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know?

“I felt that I was different at a very young age, but did not understand at the time what that meant for me. The first thing that comes to mind is realizing I had hated wearing dresses for as long as I could remember, and I would fuss every time my mom made me wear them to family gatherings. There came a point in time where I think she finally gave up trying to force me to wear certain clothing and my clothes of choice was jeans, t-shirts, and a baseball cap …go figure.  I have two siblings, one younger sister, one older. My older sister and I are six years apart, but spent a lot of time together growing up.  I can recall multiple times hanging out with her and her friends, and having the desire to continue being around one friend in particular. Since I was still fairly young, I didn’t quite understand what or why I was feeling this way, but I understood it was a different sort feeling than most people around me were experiencing. I think I’ve always known I didn’t completely identify with the gender I was given at birth and only recently within the past couple of years have truly been able to embrace it. While I identify as non-binary, there is definitely a part of me that identifies more with masculinity than femininity.”

Thoughts on pronouns…

“I identify as non-binary. So, I use them/they and sometimes just my name depending on who I am talking to. I’ve been referred to as ‘him and her’, and both are fine. I can respect the fact that many people do not understand pronouns outside of your typical he/him or she/her, and the only people that I care to inform about my specific pronouns are the people closest to me. I am not open with my family about being non-binary but do plan on opening up about it next time I am back in New York. I think gender identity is very fluid and the spectrum is endless which is why I specifically like non-binary.”

How old were you when you came out?

“This is a difficult question for me and the more I think about it the harder it is to remember. I came out to my friends well before my family. At the age of 14, I had my first girlfriend and the only two people who knew about this relationship were …her and I. It wasn’t until a couple months later in her basement where we kissed, and her mother saw us through the window from outside. This was a very traumatic experience for me, because, at the time, I felt it was wrong, but knew that my feelings were real… but still did not understand why I had feelings for another woman. At this point, I did not understand the possibilities of gender identity and expression. It was then that I dated mostly men throughout high school, but dated a couple women without anyone knowing except a few close friends. Fast forward to my first semester of college, I was somewhat outted by my best friends mother. I was 18 at the time my family and I finally talked about it. I didn’t have this horrible experience that so many in the LGBTQ community experience. I was never made to feel badly about who I was, why I was doing this to my family, or what this meant for everyone but me. Unlike so many other stories, I was fortunate to have family that supported me. Although my family did not understand it fully, as it takes time for people to digest, there came a time where it was “normal” and it was just the way it was.”

What was your biggest fear/concern with coming out?

“I’ve always been the type to insist on making my mother and father proud of me no matter what it was. My biggest fear with coming out was disappointing my mother. She’s always been the most important person to me, so not getting her approval after coming out was terrifying. I was forced to come out thanks to my best friends mother, and that was really upsetting – because it was my story to tell and that was stolen from me. After my family and close friends knew and were accepting, it became easier to accept who I was from there on out. I think many of us have the same fear of rejection whether it is someone close to us or someone we just met. I think that is human nature… to fear rejection and not be accepted. Aside from that, I was afraid of what people thought, but courage comes with maturity and you realize other people’s opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.“

What do you feel is the most frustrating thing about being a part of the LGBTQ+ community?

“The most frustrating thing is being excluded. The community is extremely cliquey, and predominately white cis men. Most “gay” bars are primarily focused on men, and the inclusiveness is just not there. I think there was a point in my life where that feeling stood out more with me, but as I get older I frequent bars less so I no longer have the same experience.  Although, during some of the most opportune times growing up, this clearly stood out to me… it really affects people as you’re trying to establish a presence in the community.”

What’s one thing you would tell younger you?

“Your family will be there for you no matter what you’re going through. Be honest with yourself and everyone around you… it is easier than pretending to be someone you’re not. It’s ok to have the feelings you’re feeling, and do not let other peoples’ thoughts or actions define who you are. We are all unique in our own way, that’s what makes life so wonderful.”  

Any advice for anyone who feels like they can’t come out or don’t have a community to be apart of?

“I would definitely say, before you come out, to have a safe place. Have safe people around you. If you are in a bad situation, just be sure you can get to some place that’s safe. Put yourself first before anyone else. Who cares what your family thinks or how friends will react.  You need to live your true self or you will never be happy even putting others before you.”

Off Topic – First celebrity crush? 

“Justin Bieber, ha ha! If you ask my partner, she’d tell you I’d sleep with him if I had the chance. But on a serious note, I cannot think of a specific celebrity that made me question myself.  I was less focused on celebrities and more on my sister’s friend. I was trying to understand why I felt this way knowing that others thought it was wrong. I was so young and not understanding what a crush was, it was unlikely I had one at such a young age.”

What in your life are you most proud of?

“Probably just being independent, going to college and getting a job to support myself. As long as you’re a good person and treat everyone with respect no matter who they are, I’ve learned your experiences with people are much more positive.

Have you lived in COS your whole life, and if not what brought you here?

“I have not, I grew up in upstate New York. I finished college and started working at the VA. About 6 years into my career, I applied for a position where I now work from home which has granted me the ability to live anywhere within the continental US.  I’ve moved a few times in the past four years and decided to buy a house in Colorado.  My partner and I have lived here just over a year and couldn’t be happier.  We are obsessed with the mountains, trying to hike almost every weekend, and traveling all over the state.

With the state of the nation and the world, if you had the power to change one thing, what would it be?

“My views are all over the place to be quite honest, but I believe there should be salary caps.There is absolutely no reason we should have millionaires and billionaires all over the world, and at the same time, people worrying about their next meal or sip of water.That is by far one of my biggest complaints.I support people’s efforts to do well and be compensated for hard work, if that is how you accomplished these things, but it saddens me to think about the people who struggle every day.”

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