My Extremely Gay Adolescence, As Told Through Tegan and Sara Songs

As a teen fumbling my way through my queerness, the Quin sisters always had my back. Happy Birthday, you goddamn legends.

Today, sisters-slash-bandmates Tegan and Sara Quin, arguably Canada’s greatest and gayest claim to fame, turn 38. In my extremely biased opinion, every day is a good day to celebrate their incredible and extensive discography, but that’s even more true today.

To honor the birth of my most cherished queer icons, I’ve dug deep into my memory for seven formative moments from my messy-but-wonderful gay youth—and the Tegan and Sara tracks that made growing up queer a little easier. The sisters Quin have been there for me from the start: I found The Con, their veritable masterpiece of an indie rock album from ’07, when I was 13. Countless listens later, that album still slaps harder than most. In some of my darkest moments, it made me feel like I was actually, genuinely going to be OK.

Right in the feels, man!


Tegan and Sara, if you’re reading this, thank you. For everything. Happy freaking Birthday.

  1. Early onset gay panic/ “Walking With A Ghost”

    “I was walking with a ghost / And I said please, please don’t insist”

    Do you remember the first moment you realized you probably weren’t straight? I do. In eighth grade, a friend was telling me about her progressive interfaith church, where youth who grew up in the community learned about different faiths, lifestyles, and identities, including sexuality and gender identity. (I was raised Roman Catholic, so this made me feel like a literal embodiment of the expanding brain meme.) She then revealed that she was questioning her own sexuality. “Girls are just so… beautiful,” she told me half-incredulously, as if she were confessing the thought aloud for the first time. “I can’t stop looking at girls and thinking they’re so pretty and smart and amazing. I don’t think most girls look at girls that way, you know?”

    I smiled and nodded, but my heart began to race as my first baby-gay panic set in: Wait… they don’t?

  2. Coming out to myself/ “You Wouldn’t Like Me”

    “I feel like I wouldn’t like me if I met me / I feel like you wouldn’t like me if you met me…”

    Fast-forward to my sophomore year of high school. It was springtime in WASPY suburban Westchester County, NY. The hormones were a-raging, and the angst came in tow. I’d spent about a year grappling with my own attraction to other girls at school. Shoving it down seemed to help—that is, until friends began to flirt with each other and ask each other out. Forced to face my own feelings when friends asked shyly about who I “liked,” I realized I couldn’t hold the gay in forever.

    That year, I privately came to grips with my queerness. Though I knew in my heart of hearts that none of my loved ones would ever reject me for who I was, the gravity of being weird, of being different, sank like a lead weight in the pit of my stomach. “You wouldn’t like me,” indeed.

  3. Coming out to the world/ “Dark Come Soon”

    “Hold out for the ones you know will love you / Hide out from the ones you know will love you / You, you too…”

    For me, coming out seemed to happen slowly, then all at once. I started small, confiding in those I knew I could trust with my most vulnerable confession—my cousins. My best friend. My little sister. But word seemed to spread like wildfire, and before I knew it, my “secret” wasn’t so secret anymore. I’ll give junior year Sam some credit where credit is due: She handled the social ramifications of coming out in a majority conservative town with uncharacteristic aplomb, holding her head up high during the moments that mattered most. She also cried a lot. Made some questionable choices. Let people in, pushed them away.

    It was a process, after all. She was 17. She was learning how to be.

    I’m 22 now. It’s been a few years, but I’m still learning.

  4. Unrequited love/ “Where Does the Good Go”

    “Look me in the eye and promise no love’s like our love / Look me in the heart and un-break broken, it won’t happen…”

    You know that age-old adage about never forgetting your first love? Well, I’m coming in hot to add that you never forget your first unrequited love, either. This one hurt like a motherfucker, though I’m happy to say I came out of this gay fiasco relatively unscathed. Hell, the girl in question is still one of my closest and dearest friends. “Where does the good go?” Not too far, apparently. I know, I know, I’m lucky.

  5. First real love/ “Nineteen”

    “I felt you in my legs / Before I ever met you / And when I lay beside you / For the first time I told you / I feel you in my heart and I don’t even know you…”

    Ah, yes, the mystical whirlwind that is first love. And a whirlwind, it was: I was not 19, but 18, a freshman in college whose first real girlfriend changed the game. I won’t elaborate on the details, both because I respect my ex’s privacy and because the whole thing is tragically, embarrassingly gay. It’s the gayest thing ever. Just picture every stupid lesbian stereotype you’ve ever heard, and you can probably see the entire mess unfold, minus a few identifying details.

    We were engaged a year in. I was 19. Nineteen! Seriously, Sam? Get a grip.

  6. And first real heartbreak/ “I Was A Fool”

    “I stuck around / I did behave, I saved you every time / I was a fool for love / I was a fool for love / I was a fool / I was a fool…”

    And the flip side: when my first romantic relationship exploded in my face. I’d let my goals and my desires get lost in the need to please and care for my partner, something I spent too long denying. The breakup was mutual in the respect that the relationship had reached its natural end, and we both knew it. It was not mutual, however, in how we coped in the aftermath. Faced with the crushing weight of losing my first love and closest friend, I crashed and burned. Not the fun “crash and burn,” either. The sucky kind. It’s been some time now, but it still hurts.

    I was a goddamn fool. Let’s be real, though: Aren’t we all fools for love? The Quin sisters seem to think so.

  7. Coming out the other end/ “Stop Desire”

    “You know I’m ready for anything to happen / Take this passion, turn it into action / Get me, feel me, want me / Like me, love me, need me…”

    If there’s anything I’ve learned in my incredibly short life, it’s that healing is not simple, nor is it always a linear journey. It’s feeling good and then great and then absolutely terrible. It’s early mornings in solitude and late nights with the wrong people. It’s a glass of water and a bottle of wine, happy tears and drunken sobs. I’d be lying if I said my broken heart is completely mended. But that’s kind of the beauty of this, isn’t it? I’m in repair, and that’s OK.

    And damn it, I’m ready for anything to happen.

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.