Written by Darriel McBride for Family Pictures USA

Despite the fact that we may love our families, there are things each of us carry in our hearts that may be difficult to share with our loved ones. For LGBT+ folks, opening up to family about their sexuality can be the most difficult thing to share. Sometimes, when that isn’t possible, they might seek support from the people they consider extended family: their friends. Miami, Florida native, Iris Torres-Gatherer, shared her own experience with establishing a strong support system outside of her own family. She shared that although her sister and some of her cousins are aware of her sexuality, her friends are her biggest supporters.

Darriel McBride: Why is this picture important to you?

Iris Torres-Gatherer: These girls are my close friends, Natalie and Layla. I remember the first time I did anything with a girl, I told Natalie first and she was happy for me. She was like, “Oh my god, really?” We recently became friends two or three years ago. These are my girlfriends and I appreciate them because we always have girl talk and talk about our relationships. They’re both so open to my life and to knowing who I am. It’s just nice to have people who don’t really know so much about your past and are just interested in learning more about you. I met Natalie on instagram and Layla is her best friend. I asked them to be models for another friend’s photoshoot and we’ve been friends ever since.

Pointing to the second photo and laughing,

she adds: This is Jessica and Maxine. These girls are Cuban girls from Miami and we went to high school together. I appreciate them so much. This photo really resembles our friendship. When we moved here to New York, our relationship got stronger and I realized that a lot with my friends from Florida. Life here in New York, made us understand the struggle, friendships, and opportunity so much more which makes my relationship with them that much stronger. These are my really close friends and our love and trust grows everyday. I really appreciate them because we can get really emotional with each other. No matter what is happening in my life or their lives, we can joke about it, and it’s really powerful. I love that because it shows you things can always get better.

Darriel McBride: Can you share a positive memory of acceptance you’ve experience from a family member, support system, or a friend?

Iris Torres-Gatherer: Even when I was younger, I felt a type of way towards girls, but I never addressed these feelings within myself. Because of what I grew up around, I wasn’t really honest with myself. But once I moved to New York and started exploring and meeting new people, I started to be more comfortable with myself. Nowadays, it’s more comfortable to talk about. It was very natural when talking about it with my friends. I don’t think i’ve ever said to them, “I am bisexual,” but I’ve had conversations with them about the relationships I’ve had with women and it always felt normal…like they weren’t shocked. There has never been any negative connotations around my sexuality either.

Darriel McBride: What do you love or admire about yourself? Why?

Iris Torres-Gatherer: I admire the fact that I can accept my flaws and all. Something happened in my past where I got really depressed and would do nothing but put myself down and be really nasty towards myself. I think that dark moment really helped me change it into positivity. Even though that happened, or even if I do something wrong, there’s no reason to continue to keep putting myself down. I realize now that I am a queen. I need to continue to stay positive and not expect people to change things for me. I have to do it myself, because it’s the only way I will ever be happy.

Darriel McBride: What advice would you give to someone who is not openly LGBT–for whatever reason?

Iris Torres-Gatherer: You really have to love yourself to the fullest. I have not openly told my parents about my sexuality, but this conversation really inspires me to tell them. I say this because I feel like people are most afraid to come out to their parents. But it’s important to love yourself because if you are super confident in who you are, you won’t care what anyone is going to say. We might fall in and out of love with ourselves, but that’s normal. At the end of the day, you are the person that is going to be there for yourself first. It’s so cliche, but if we don’t fully love ourselves how can we expect someone to respect every part of us? I learned this overtime and that’s why I am so open about what I wear, what I do, and what I say. I love to be as extra as I can be, because I look going doing it.

“I realize now that I am a queen. I need to continue to stay positive and not expect people to change things for me. I have to do it myself, because it’s the only way I will ever be happy”

— Iris Torres-Gatherer

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