How Having CF Helped Me Understand My Sexual Orientation
By Natalie Park
How I choose to express myself—my internal sense, mannerisms, and behaviors—are influenced by the things I cannot change. There is nothing I can do to control the way CF affects my body—I can only control how I react, behave, and choose to grow from an unfavorable condition. I will find myself in many more situations where the only thing I can control is how I respond. So, when I began questioning my sexuality and the revelation that came from it, CF prepared me for how I should react, respond, and express myself.
In an online world where everyone can share their thoughts, feelings, location, and pictures in a matter of seconds, it’s no surprise that it’s easier to know everything about someone than ever before. While some choose to keep their private life private, others, such as myself, choose to share their personal life with the world. Since an early age, I have always been open and honest about my CF. From middle school all the way to college, I chose to educate as many people as I can about CF and why it’s important to me and many others. I will never know whether I would have shared with the world my important milestones, downfalls, or uphill battles had I not been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. I take on my CF as a piece of my identity, as it shaped who I am and the way I choose to express myself. Although CF took many things away from me, it also gave me the confidence and strength to always be myself. I’ve spent my whole life oversharing, so it was very simple for me to publicly accept my identity within the LGBTQ+ community.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy for everyone to be comfortable going public with their sexual orientation or identity because of the potential criticism from friends or family. I have widespread support and love regarding my CF; however, as I get to know more people with whom I share my CF story, the more I have to cope with judgment and negativity. I’ve had very dear friends express to me that my CF is a burden: they ignored my requests of distancing themselves when they are ill and, even worse, they wrote off my symptoms and mental illness as drama. Through CF, I’ve learned to let go of relationships that no longer serve me, which is why I didn’t hesitate to publicly embrace my sexuality.
While being lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, etc. is an identity many take on during their teenage years, it’s something that I have only recently discovered about myself at 23. Everyday I am still discovering more about myself—how I process the ongoing emotions that come from having a chronic illness, how I challenge myself academically, how I bring positivity into new relationships, and how being gay is now a part of my identity. This is an exciting time in my life as I get a fresh start at dating, which is both a relief and nerve wracking as I explore these new relationships with women. Like always, I continue to be open and honest about my CF when meeting new potential romantic partners. Dating women feels like I have finally filled a piece of myself that has been missing. I feel as though life is a giant puzzle and we continuously fill the pieces in with new things about ourselves.
There is nothing I can do to change the fact that I have CF and there is nothing I can do to change the fact that I am gay. I have no control over my chronic illness other than how I deal with it emotionally and mentally. Similarly, I have no control over who I am attracted to and it was something very easy to accept about myself. CF gave me the confidence and strength I need to keep discovering new beginnings, even if they might be scary at first. I know this strength is something I will always have with me and I am reminded of it every time I do a breathing treatment, take pills, or have a hospital stay.
If you are questioning your gender identity or sexual orientation know that you are not alone. It can be something difficult to accept about yourself, especially if you are scared of society’s judgment and/or your support system isn’t understanding. Ultimately, you have to do what makes you happy. I am here for support for anyone who needs it — CF or otherwise.
About the Author: Natalie Park is 23 years old with CF. She lives in the Chicago, Illinois area. She is passionate about conservation, animals, and wildlife. She has been accepted to a conservation-based master’s program and looks forward to continuing her career in the animal care field. Natalie enjoys sharing her CF story on social media and being a CF advocate. You can find her online at @nataliepark6 and @lovingeverybreath.