Blog / 2023 / Mistake #8: Hiding My Queer Identity for Years

June 18, 2023

Last month, my art career turned twenty. To celebrate this milestone artiversary, I’ve been focusing on some of my most mundane mistakes, little things like publishing art that’s not my best and not recognizing that people want me to succeed. Because if I had to name one main reason why I’m still making art after all this time, it’s that I refused to let these everyday fails stop me.

Today’s installment of the Carnival of Errors is all about hiding a big piece of myself for far too long.

I came out when I was 35. I mean, I’d been out to my partner and some of my friends for a while at that point, and I’d even alluded to my identity here and there in professional settings, but the first time I fully owned my queerness in public was in this video from 2017.

Directly after publishing that vlog, an artist I’d previously been friendly with—someone who’d recently surprised their audience by declaring themselves virulently pro-Trump—slammed me on social media for pretending to be gay in order to get attention.

It was destabilizing, for sure. I didn’t like to think I’d let anyone that unkind get close to me, but there was more to my feelings than a worry that I was a poor judge of character. As someone who passes very easily as straight and cis, I was excruciatingly aware of my privilege and unsure if I should even come out at all. To have my identity immediately negated by a poop-for-brains definitely threw me.

But, by that point I’d already been dealing with bigotry aimed at my art. I’d accepted the idea that there were people who wouldn’t want to work with me because my art was queer. I just needed to make a bit of a leap to accept that there were people who wouldn’t want to be decent or respectful to me for the same reason.

painting process for rainbow magical sea turtle
painting process for Pride Turtle

When I look back from the vantage point of today, some six and a half years later, it’s clear to me that I should have come out earlier. For starters, one shouty poophead and a handful of more subdued haters definitely make me feel crappy about humanity, but the love and support I’ve received since coming out more than make up for it.

More importantly, although I’m not certain that every queer person has the sort of identity that needs to be out in a public way, I’m certain that mine does. I needed to stop keeping my queerness tucked away inside my shell, sharing it only with the people closest to me. I needed to wear it on the outside, because my low-key genderfree womanishness is directly impacted by our binary-obsessed society and the way it pressures me into being something I’ve never been, a cis woman. I needed to engage society in order to truly feel myself. I needed to push back against the binary in public spaces in order to more completely inhabit my body and this world.

Sometimes I wonder what I could have experienced and accomplished if I’d come out sooner. How would I have evolved? What sort of art would I be making now? Mostly though, I’m just glad I finally found the courage to be my full self in public.

swimming sea turtle embodying a Progress Pride flag, illutration by nonbinary painter Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Pride Turtle
acrylic on paper
8 x 10 inches

The original Progress Pride flag sea turtle piece is currently for sale at the Trenton City Museum’s shop as part of the Ellarslie Open 40 show. It’s $350 plus shipping and tax.

For prints and t-shirts with this turtle design, go here in my print store!

design of a swimming sea turtle embodying a Progress Pride flag
cut out of Pride Turtle

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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