“I am going home for Christmas, and it is the first time that I am out to everyone as gay: my parents, my cousins, my aunts and uncles. I am really anxious about it. No one has even done or said anything to make me feel like it won’t be fine, but I just feel like there is some kind of weird spotlight on me that I don’t want!! Do you have any advice for how to calm down?!? I’d also love a little advice on what to do if someone does say something that is upsetting…”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Be Steadwell Says:

First: take a moment to recognize how brave you are! You came out to your family! You should be deeply proud of yourself. Look at your fine self in the mirror and say, “Yea boo. You did it.”

Now Christmas. The spotlight. The eyeballs. The questions! The comments. The strong drinks, ugly sweaters, weird gifts, bad jokes, all of it. Holidays are a lot, even without a big rainbow elephant sitting in the corner. Even family members’ gestures of kindness can feel extra.  In theory, the ideal way to receive a loved one when they “come out” is to thank them, ask what they need, and continue loving them as you did before.  Anything other than that (unless solicited) feels like work.

There’s a lot of literature about online about how to support your family after you come out; how to answer questions, or what to do when/if they say something hurtful. Of course you want to be sensitive to their journeys… but Christmas is a lot, and taking on everyone’s separate journey at once may be a tall order.

When it gets to be too much, give yourself permission to step away. Take a breather. Make some tea. Meditate. Go for a walk. Maybe you’ll find the thing to say, and come back with love and knowledge for your confused kinfolk. Maybe you won’t come back. It’s your call. Keep in mind, you deserve peace too.  It is not your job to educate every member of your family at once.  You may want to circle back and chat with family members in small doses.  But for the holidays, find the space that feels safe and comfy for you. I know–as a queer person, a Black person, and a woman–when someone says something ignorant in my presence, I rarely have the words to respond in the moment.  I’m so shocked and hurt that I can’t articulate–I can’t even wrap my head around the possibility that someone could say something so cruel. I usually need to regroup before I can address it, if that’s what I choose to do.  The point is: take care of you, and find your happy place.

Let this playlist be your Christmas cup of tea/coffee/cocoa/toddy. These tunes will give you some calm, warm, and affirming vibes to adorn your safer space. This space could be a brisk walk in the woods, it could be a room with a candle, it could be your cousin’s car. Wherever you find peace, allow yourself the time refuel, smile and remember: “Yeah boo, you did it.”

HotDrink


 

Be Steadwell is a singer songwriter from Washington DC.  With roots in jazz, acapella and folk – Be calls her blend of genres QUEER POP.  In her live performances, she utilizes loop pedal vocal layering and beat boxing to compose her songs on stage.  Be’s original music features her earnest lyricism, and proud LGBTQ content.​

Cover Art designed by the incredible Isabella Rotman!

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“Hi, I’m thirteen and I’ve been questioning whether I am bi or not. I am a girl and I identify as one, but what I am not sure of is if I’m straight and just making illusions for myself, or bi, or just lesbian and denying it, or something else I don’t know of. Uugh, it’s all so weird. How could I find out what I am?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

It is confusing, isn’t it? We are given these letter-shaped symbols to mush together in ways that will explain our millions of feelings to ourselves and to other people, and they don’t always just “fit.” Now, I do like letters and words, and I think that they can help us work through our feelings in incredible ways. For example, it is helpful for me to be able to say “My name is Kristin and Demi Lovato has come out as not straight and that makes me feel SIMPLY DELIGHTED.”

Now, I know you didn’t ask me about my feelings regarding Demi Lovato, but I do think they are relevant. Hear me out. Right now, in the year 2017, I call myself bisexual because I know I have the capacity to be attracted to more than one gender. I also call myself queer because I love the word and all of its infinite possibilities. In years past I identified as a lesbian, because I didn’t yet fully understand all of my attractions (do we ever?), but I knew that I felt at home in the “lesbian culture” of the early 2000s (think The L Word, fedoras, pin stripes, and lip gloss). I have used a lot of words over the years to help me move through my various understandings of myself, but one thing has remained true: when I think a girl is pretty (and especially if that girl is into kissing other girls), I am SIMPLY DELIGHTED.

There isn’t really a word for that feeling, and it’s one I have had for as long as I can remember. It’s a feeling that I had before I even knew I had it, but it is also one that took me a lot of time to understand.

When I was thirteen, my best friend’s name was Katie. She was hilarious and loud and strong and her hair was always shiny and smelled like this one deliciously incredible conditioner, the name of which I cannot remember, but that came in a blue plastic bottle. I never thought about kissing Katie, ever. I thought about the idea of dating boys (seemed interesting) and the asshole teacher who made me spit out my gum even when it wasn’t disturbing anyone (the worst) and how much I loved music (it made me feel like I could do anything) and how I wanted to dye my hair using Manic Panic (blocked by parental bullshit, of course). Looking back on my friendship with Katie, I can now draw connections between the way I felt about her and her hair, and my reasons for going out of my way to get the same conditioner so I could smell that amazing smell all the time… but that is because I am now 36 years old, and I have a wife and a cat and a long history of crushing and dating and wondering and questioning – which is what you are doing now!

*blasts ‘The Circle of Life’*

Here is one promise that I can make to you: You are not making illusions for yourself. If you have feelings that are confusing when it comes to people of many genders, that is real: you have confusing feelings about people of many genders! I will go out on a limb here and say that prooooobably means you aren’t 100000000% straight, and that it will also likely shift and change as you grow. And I am not trying to pull some “you’re 13 and shit will change because you are young now” crap on you, I am literally saying that your attractions and desires will shift and change forever.

Part of our identity is the wondering. Do you want to kiss the girl in your science class? Rad! I’ve been there. Do you want to hold hands with the boy who lives three houses down? Makes total sense. Do you want to spoon with the nonbinary barista at your local coffeeshop? Hooboy, I totally get that. For now, maybe that means you choose to call yourself bisexual. Even if you kiss that girl in your science class and it isn’t fireworks, you can still call yourself bisexual! And, if you do suddenly realize that, hey, you aren’t attracted to more than one gender after all? THAT IS OKAY! It doesn’t mean you were just lying to yourself about your feelings before, it just means that you have a mind that is open to the many possibilities that exist out here in this crazy world.

Before I go and leave you with all of life’s confusing feelings, let me do two more things to try to help you walk this maze (we all walk it! I promise!). First, let’s break your question into three concise lil bits:

How do you know what to *call* yourself?
I think most of us just choose a word that seems kind-of-correct and then change it down the line if we find something that fits even better. It’s okay to do that, and it isn’t “attention seeking” or “lying” to yourself or anyone else to try on identity words and see how they feel.

How do you know you aren’t lying to yourself? 
Well, you wrote into an advice site anonymously to figure out more about feelings you are having. That isn’t the typical behavior of a person who is lying about their feelings… it is the typical behavior of a person who has very real feelings that they are trying to sort through. Trust your feelings. The world out here will try to tell you not to trust them, especially when you are a girl, and that is a giant pile of bulllllllshittttt. Your feelings are real. Confusing as all hell, sure, but real.

How do you know what you are?
You’re you. I know, I know, my part-time job is probably writing cards for Hallmark… BUT IT IS TRUE. You are you and right now that you has confusing feelings about attraction and sexuality and identity. Some of that will always be confusing, and some of it will solidify over time. For now, explore those feelings. Write them down. Remember to trust yourself, and remember that you can be more than one thing (at the same time! at different times! ahhhh!).

Second, some music. I mentioned earlier that music made me feel like I could do anything when I was thirteen. It still makes me feel like that, and it also helps me stand up to a world that tells me to doubt myself and my feelings. Music helps me face those confusing feelings and say “fuck off, world, I can be something different than what you expect. I can change. I can be a million things all at once, and I don’t have to pick one and I don’t have to apologize.”

Last week I asked all of my internet pals to tell me about songs made them feel like they could be whatever the fuck they wanted to be, and so together we created this mixtape for you. When you are feeling that creeping doubt, pop your headphones in and remember that you are who you say you are even if that is *not knowing exactly who you are*, and anyone who challenges that can SCREW.

I'veGotStripesTooV2

 


 

Kristin runs Everyone Is Gay, My Kid Is Gay, and OUR Restroom, co-authored This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids, and worked as host & producer of PBS Digital’s LGBTQ series First Person. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast called Buffering the Vampire Slayer with her wife, Jenny Owen Youngs. You can follow her on twitter @kristinnoeline​

Cover Art designed by the incredible Isabella Rotman!

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“Hi, I have known I was queer for a while (like… a while. a long while) but haven’t actually come out to anyone until a month ago (to my out gay friend at church camp–different story). The problem is, I have no idea how to tell people. Sometimes I feel like yelling "HEY I ACTUALLY ALSO LIKE GIRLS THANKS” when my roommate walks through the door or talks about guys, but there is always the fear I have that I will be treated differently. What should I do?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kathy Says:

Hey, friend. First and foremost, I just want to say to you that your feelings are completely valid! I remember when my friends would talk about boys or dates to the school dance or celebrity crushes, and I would feel so left out, because I had absolutely nothing to contribute. Believe you me, had I known I was queer back in school, I would absolutely have wanted to jump in and add who I was crushing on.

Okay, now onto your actual question. You have the urge to come out to the people around you, but you’re afraid that people will treat you differently.

I think that if you have the urge to come out, you should absolutely do so. Listen to your gut on this one – and it seems like your gut wants to tell people! I think that people tend to emulate the energy that you give out to them, so that’s a good thing to keep in mind when you take the plunge. For example, if you are just bursting to tell your roommate that you’re also into girls, tell them with all the excitement in your body, and more likely than not they will be excited with you! I mean, don’t just shout “HEY I AM A GAY!” at them as they walk through the door, because that might be confusing…

Personally, I like coming out to people in the chillest way possible. When people talk about their partners, I will casually slip in something about a girl I used to date, or a girl I’ve had a crush on, or a girl I think is cute. Sometimes people raise an eyebrow, so I follow up with, “oh yeah, I’m into girls too,” and then I move on. Because I am completely relaxed about it, usually the people I’m talking to are too. I’ve also come out by having “the conversation”: I sat someone down and I said, “hey, here’s a thing I want you to know about me…” and proceeded to talk to them about my sexuality.

Another thing I’ve learned: the people you come out to sometimes need time to process what you’ve just told them, and giving them the space to do that will be helpful. Maybe your roommate will just take things in stride and immediately begin talk to you about your thoughts on Demi Lovato’s girlfriend – but it is also possible that she will hesitate at first and then find her footing once she has a moment (or a few days) to process.

If the thing you’re most worried about is people treating you differently after you’ve come out to them, well…  the harsh reality is that you have absolutely no control over how other people are going to treat you. Some people are going to be dickheads and make inane comments about lesbians or bisexuality. That’s on them. They need to learn to not do that, or you just don’t need them in your life. Sometimes people are going to ask dumb questions, or make hurtful remarks without thinking twice about it. You may be the first person in their lives to tell them what they’re saying is hurtful. In spite of this, there will also be people who are super supportive of your sexuality. There really is no controlling it.

Since you’ve only told a few people so far, I’d start coming out to the people around you who you trust, and the ones you feel like need to know most–for your own sanity (like your roommate!). I get the feeling that the main reason you want to scream “I AM A GAY!” at your roommate is because you haven’t had the opportunity to talk about your sexuality very often with people. You can start slow and have a few longer conversations with people; don’t feel like you have to cast a wide net when you come out. It’s not a race and it never will be!

Also keep in mind that you can be as out as you want to be. Coming out can mean telling your friends and family about your sexuality. But it can also mean presenting more authentically as yourself (e.g. more androgynous, more feminine, more butch). It can mean writing in your journal about how you’re feeling. It can also mean going to queer-normative spaces like a gay bar, a queer art show, or generally the entire Pacific Northwest (just kidding about the Pacific Northwest… but also maybe not kidding, I hear it’s pretty queer over there).

I’ve got a playlist here of music that my girlfriend help me put together. It’s by mostly queer artists who write about various aspects of queerness and are all out in different degrees. I hope you can take inspiration from them, and feel more agency in your coming out story.

You can be as out as you want to be.

ItsCodeMockup

Cover Art designed by the incredible Isabella Rotman!


Kathy Tu is the co-host and producer of Nancy, a podcast about the LGBTQ experience today. Prior to Nancy, Kathy worked on The Memory PalaceThe Mortified Podcast, Masterpiece Studio, and others. And prior to that she was an EMT and law school grad. It’s been a trip. Kathy’s on twitter @_ktu.

“An Honest Mixtape” is a new advice series here at Everyone Is Gay! Every month we will feature a new guest writer who will tackle one of your advice questions with words *and* music! 

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Longest Days, Sacred Nights

a project for LGBQIA Muslim youth


This Ramadan, Everyone is Gay is partnering with Masjid al-Rabia to put together an ENTIRE MONTH of Ramdan programming for LGBQTIA+ Muslim youth. The package includes letter of support from other LGBTQ Muslims, a Queer Ramadan Mixtape from Punkjabi, a collection of resources from OUTMuslim, and more!

Here is the welcome letter from Masjid al-Rabia founder, Mahdia Lynn:

Ramadan can be hard, especially so for the most marginalized in our communities. It’s also an opportunity for people to reconsider their prejudices, step out of their comfort zone and strive to enact positive change in the world. Ramadan is a time of generosity, family, introspection, temperance, struggle, heartbreak, frustration and tears. It can be hard to explain just how beautiful and devastating this month can be at the same time.

Last year hit many of us the hardest. On the seventh day of Ramadan in 2016, a man opened fire on 49 LGBTQ people at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub on Latinx night. Our community was devastated, and the LGBTQ Muslim community came out in droves to educate others on Islam and to support our community. Suddenly “LGBTQ Muslims” was on the lips of every news source in the world. A lot of us came out that week—I did. Much of Chicago’s LGBTQ Muslim community did. Many lives were lost, many families were broken that week.

But something big came out of all that tragedy and chaos. Queer and trans Muslim organizers came together in unprecedented numbers to speak out and to support one another. We realized just how desperately we need support and resources for people like us—people who understood that being LGBTQIA+ and Muslim is a beautiful, valid identity with a thriving culture. We needed to help others realize it’s perfectly okay to be who you are; we needed to ensure that the work reached everyone who needed it. We needed to get the word out, that it was valid and beautiful to be us. That we can be okay and be loved. That we have a future.

A year has passed. Many great changes occurred in the wake of the chaos. In Chicago, those of us who came out in the Muslim community last year formed a committee that would develop into something beautiful and dynamic. We built a mosque: a ground floor from which our community could flourish. We created something unprecedented and new, so we can share our mission of spiritual support for marginalized Muslims with anyone who seeks the truth of Islam.

We needed a safer space where everyone could celebrate the beauty and truth of our faith without fear, so we founded a community of our own. We built a mosque on the sacred principles of accessibility, equality and pluralism. We named it Masjid al-Rabia.

A year has passed and here we are. A fully independent women-centered, LGBTQIA+ affirming Muslim community in Chicago, Illinois. After hosting weekly prayer services, advocating for LGBTQ Muslims and fostering new spiritual leadership in our local community, we want to share our mission with the rest of the world. We at Masjid al-Rabia have partnered with Everyone Is Gay to create another something, unprecedented and new: A month-long campaign of support, shared resources, and endless love for LGBTQ Muslim youth. We’ve got letters of support from prominent queer & trans Muslims. We’ve got Punkjabi’s Queer Ramadan Mixtape. A collection of resources and organizations to share with the world from advocacy organization OUTMuslim. Art. A social media campaign encouraging others to speak out and support LGBTQ Muslims.

We’re kickstarting an international campaign to support LGBTQIA+ Muslim youth. It’s our mission this Ramadan to make sure no Muslim is alone in their faith over this holiest of months. We’ve started something new. Let’s keep the momentum going.

This project is for you: For people trying to navigate fasting while living with an eating disorder. For poor Muslims surviving on free iftars and holiday generosity. For disabled Muslims fighting for a space in the masjid. For reverts and converts struggling to find a place in the faith. For those of us marching in the streets for economic and racial justice. For those of us kicked out of the mosque for being who we are. For those of us with families who don’t understand. For those of us without families at all.

Ramadan Mubarak. This is for you.

Here is my prayer for you: May you have a peaceful, fulfilling Ramadan. May these longest days lead to sacred nights full of support, growth and endless love. I pray for peace and blessings upon every single one of us. I pray we find purpose, and find new creative ways to uplift one another. I pray we find greatness.

In this most sacred of months, dream big. Think about what you want and what you need from your community. Step out and start doing it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re feeling raw or vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to stick your neck out there to make some real change in your community. Don’t be afraid.

We’re here for you if you need us.

~~~

Get involved and help make this project the best it can possibly be. Start conversations in your community about LGBTQ Muslim inclusion. Invite new people to join in your community and events. Send love and support to the most marginalized. Contribute artwork, poetry, essays, memes—anything you can think of, anything you excel at—post it on social media, tag it #LongestDaysSacredNights and share with our community.

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“how can I surely know I am gay? like everyone is saying that they have known it since they were little kids, but can you figure out later that you somehow happen to love women? I told my mother about my feelings because I believed that she would help me with it but she said to me that, she knew me and I cant like women because I didnt obviously like girls when I was a little kid. does it really make sense? I am really confused, I dont think I am faking my feelings but what if she is right?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

Your mom is wrong.

Want to know how I know? I know because I am pretty flippin’ gay (specifically a queer bisexual cisgender lady married to a queer cisgender lady, if you really want to know the particulars), and I didn’t have any awareness whatsoever of being anything except tiny Kristin Russo when I was tiny Kristin Russo.

When I was 4 ½ I met a boy named Peter and he was 4 ½ too, and I thought that was the most lovely thing I had ever heard and so we told our parents we were boyfriend and girlfriend and then wrote each other pen-pal letters for a few years. In middle school I had real, heart-stopping crushes on boys and I also adored my very best friend in the whole wide world who was a girl. When she moved from New York to Ohio it was as though all of our limbs were being ripped from our bodies. You know?! In tenth grade I kissed some girls on “dares,” and was like “Oooooh boy, I sure don’t think I am gay… that was a GRAND EXPERIMENT, though!” Then, when I was a senior in high school I kissed one more girl and I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach and I was like “OH WAIT OH SHOOT OH MY I AM SO GAY FOR THIS GIRL AHHHH.”

You can read some of what happened after that when it came to coming out to my family here, but my larger point is that while I can go back and see some deep connections that I made with other girls (like my BFF in middle school) and perhaps overlay some “Oh maybe I should have known something then” logic… I didn’t know then. I didn’t know at all! I wasn’t sitting up at night thinking, “Oh but if only my BFF would kiss me someday, wouldn’t that be swell?!” I didn’t want to kiss her! I just wanted to be her very best friend forever!!

Some people know from a young age, sure. They feel different, they have crushes that are clear, and they might do things that make their parents or family think, “She is gonna be gay.” (Which SPOILER ALERT is pretty problematic bc you cannot tell a person’s sexuality by watching their behavior alone, duh.) Some people might be able to say, “Well, my name is Tina and I am a lesbian, I have known forever, it is clear as day,” and then slap a big rainbow sticker on their laptop. That is super great for Tina! GO TINA.

However, there are a whole ton of people who, like me (and you!), navigate through our sexuality in a more complicated (and sometimes confusing) manner. You might not ever feel like you know who you will be forever, and that is okay. You might not feel like you know exactly how you feel right now, and that is also okay. What you are saying is that you might find girls attractive, and you don’t have a label for those feelings yet. THAT. IS. OKAY. That is great! That means you know something super rad about yourself, and it means that maybe you will explore those feelings with people as time goes on. That exploration might teach you even more about yourself – what you like, what you don’t – and help you in better understanding your identity.

You aren’t faking your feelings. If you were smushing down those feelings and not talking about them or acknowledging them at all, that would be really tricky, and might make you “fake” certain feelings (like forcing yourself to date a boy so you don’t have to think so much about your crushes on girls, for example). If you are curious or interested or super into the idea of dating a girl someday, that isn’t fake! Even if you someday date a girl or kiss a girl and think, “Welp, I didn’t like that after all,” those feelings still weren’t fake!! They were just feelings that changed over time.

It is okay to tell your mom you don’t have a word for yourself yet (and that you might not ever). It is okay to tell your mom that not all gay people “always knew” who they were. It is okay to tell your mom that what you need right now is her support and love as you work to understand yourself better, and that you would really love to keep an open dialogue with her as you figure things out more.

Here is a video where I talk a bit more about my own journey with my sexuality, and here is another video I made with my own mom about our coming out process together.

Coming out to ourselves and other people can be really confusing sometimes, and that is totally, completely okay.

All my love to you and your mom, and I hope 2017 brings you a whole bunch of new questions, new answers, and maybe even a girlfriend WHO KNOWS.

xo

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