Community + Activism / Bullying + Discrimination

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“I’m in college and just overheard my roommate telling her friend she doesn’t support marriage equality or parents telling their children it’s ok for girls to kiss girls. We’re friends but she doesn’t know I’m bisexual because I have a long term boyfriend, but this really got to me. I want to assert my pride and values but at the same time don’t want to ruin our friendship. Any advice?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Here’s the deal, your friendship is already kinda screwy. You ALREADY feel weird about the situation. Not saying something is only making you feel a little bit worse and it’s not making your friendship any better.

I would say something, but be kind in doing so. These kinds of conversations can go sour pretty fast if you’re trying to tell someone their beliefs are wrong. Being away at college is complicated, too, because you’re finally in an environment where you aren’t completely clouded by the thoughts / opinions of your parents and your parents friends, etc. You finally have a chance to start learning about the world in a different light, you finally get to meet people who are different from you, you finally get to experience life as your own and come to understand the way you truly feel.

Say to your friend, “Hey, I overheard you saying some stuff and I wanted to have a conversation. I do identify as bisexual and I know that you might not be totally okay with that, but we are friends and I do value our relationship. I just kind of wanted to talk to you about those things because what you said hurt my feelings and I just wanted to clear the air a little bit.”

I guess I sounded a little bit like a robot, but like YOU GET THE GIST. Be kind, recognize that people opinions can change, take into account that she was saying a bunch of things back when she had no idea that it would affect one of her close friends.

 

Kristin Says:

Hm. Well, in my opinion the key word in this question is “roommate.”

If this was a friend of yours, period, I would say one MILLION percent follow Dannielle’s advice above and have a respectful conversation with your friend. In that scenario, generally one of two things will happen: 1) Your friend will have a meaningful dialogue with you, both parties will feel mutually respected, and the friendship will deepen, or 2) Your friend will respond poorly to your words and reject your identity or make you feel disrespected in some way, and the friendship will wane. These are both excellent outcomes, because, as Dannielle already stated, you don’t want to deepen a relationship with someone who won’t respect your identity.

However, you have the added complication where, if the latter happens, you still are living with this person for the balance of the year.

With that in mind, I want to say:

It is March, which means you likely only have a couple more months of living in the same space. In this light, I think you should have that conversation as soon as you feel comfortable and ready.

Also, it issss March, so if you want to wait until the end of the semester and have the conversation when you are legit done living with this person, that is totally cool.

But again, it iiiiiisssss March. Just kidding, I don’t have another point that hinges on March …that just started to feel fun.

SO. The long and short of it all is: you have to navigate this situation as you see fit for yourself, and your comfortability. Your question is phrased in a way that makes me think you are worried about your friend’s feelings more than your own While I appreciate your big heart, that should not be your central focus. Your friend has said words and expressed views that invalidate you as a person. Your feelings are hurt, and they matter more than enough to be spoken, regardless of what that means for your friendship.

I agree with Dannielle that you expressing your position doesn’t need to automatically throw her in the “wrong” bin as this will likely make her defensive, but she has to learn that her opinions and words affect other people around her. Maybe you will be the first bisexual person she knows, and maybe hearing how her words affected you will open her eyes to the real, lived experience of so many people around her.

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"Hi guys. I have feelings for my friend... but her best friend is a bully. I want to tell her how I feel but I am afraid that if I tell her she will tell her best friend and then, well, I will get bullied. My town and my school are pretty conservative, too. What should I do?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

This is a bummer for a few reasons.

(1) You feel like you can’t talk to your friend about something personal, regardless of the thing. If you had an intense feeling about something that you wanted to be kept private, you wouldn’t feel safe telling your friend, and that blows.

(2) Your friend’s BFF was brought up in a household or community environment that taught them the way to feel best about who they are was to make others feel like horse shit. It’s super sad and it’s unfair to folks like you.

(3) You have intense feelings for someone who might not return them.

The (1) sucks so so so much. If you have a good enough relationship with your friend to be like ‘listen, I get some flak from your BFF sometimes and I would love to tell you a thing that maybe won’t make it’s way back to them?? So, I don’t have to think about how to protect myself?” Some people aren’t close enough to someone to say that though, and perhaps you’re afraid it’ll backfire and you’ll lose your friend. I totally get that. The (2) sucks because there isn’t much you can do about it. You can absolutely ask the BFF to leave you alone, or talk to an advisor about how to handle the sitch, or ignore it, but if we’re all being honest, there is a huge possibility doing those things will make the whole thing worse! So, you have to follow your gut. I don’t know your environment nearly as well as you do, so keep yourself safe and make decisions based on what feels right.

Now, the (3), I think you wouldn’t be nervous for one single second if you knew your friend was into you, too. A lot of this fear is based on what MIGHT happen. You could tell your friend about your feels and she could think you’re soooo weeeeiiirdd and then tell everyone about hooowww weeeiiirrdd you are and then everyone is making fun of you and her BFF is calling you ‘super gaywad fart breath’ and your friend doesn’t want to hang out with you and everyone at school starts ignoring you, etc… HOWEVER, if this gal is your friend, I don’t think that will happen. If she is really your friend, and you tell her your feels (coupled with the fact that you are not yet comfortable with everyone knowing), she should have the decency to respect you and your wishes. Regardless of whether or not she wants to make mouths with you. She will want to keep your feels to herself because she loves you as a friend. You know? Maybe evaluate your friendship in your mind. DO you think she’ll blab, or can you trust her? Start there, and best of luck!

Kristin Says:

Personally, I would take this in stages.

I think your concerns are valid, and we certainly don’t want to get you in a situation where you feel threatened in any way — emotionally, physically, or otherwise. So, we have to go to the root of this problem, and the root is your friend, not the bully.

I imagine that you are not friends with this bully, or, if you are, you keep a distance. Personally I have a lot of trouble with the term ‘bully,’ because I think it is much easier to put people in categories of ‘bad’ and ‘good,’ when in reality we are all struggling in different ways with what the world has taught us as tiny people — but that is another essay for another day. For now, I am going to put this person who bullies others on the shelf, and hone in on your friend.

You have to talk to her, and that doesn’t mean (at all) that you have to tell her about your feelings. Your first step is to talk to her about your feelings on this bullying. You’ve noticed it, so she must notice it too! Tell her that it has been making you uncomfortable, and that you want to know how it makes her feel. Tell her that you believe that everyone deserves to be treated equally, and that spouting off negative shit about gay or trans or bisexual people isn’t something you agree with. Any person, queer or not, can stand firmly in the opinion that making other people feel like shit is not cool.

Then, gauge her reaction. Is she immediately receptive? Does she say, “OH MY GOD I HAVE BEEN WANTING TO SAY SOMETHING THANK GOD, YES IT MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE TOO!”?? Is she hesitant, agreeing with you but unsure of how she feels?? Or, does she automatically make you feel weird for sharing your feelings, by saying something like, “Wow, what are you GAY or something??”

The first response is a great sign that you can trust her, in tiny steps, with your own feelings. Start with equality, work your way toward coming out to her, and then, if you still feel safe and trust her, you can tell her how you feel towards her. It’s a risk, of course, because perhaps she won’t return the feelings — but at least we’ve got you covered in this video! The second response will mean that you take even tinier steps on the same path, and just check in as you go. This is, truly, about your gut on whether she is trustworthy. The third response means that you should evaluate your friendship with this person. While we don’t have the opportunity to choose our families, we can choose our friends. It is so, so important to surround ourselves with friends who believe in us, who allow us to be ourselves, and who we can trust. If this girl can’t be trusted and won’t allow you the space to be you, it is time to walk away.

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"My dad is really homophobic and says queer boys are bad but queer girls are okay because they’re hot. I’m struggling with whether to come out or not as bisexual because of him. I don’t want to come out because I don’t want my dad to see me as hot plz respond"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

OH GOD. I HATE THIS. For so many reasons. First of all, saying queer boys are bad and queer girls are hot makes me cringe. Second of all, he’s creating an environment in which NO HUMAN WOULD FEEL COMFORTABLE COMING OUT.

If I were you I’d not-come-out-come-out. Hopefully you automatically understand what I mean and I don’t have to explain. Good luck! BYE!

JK.

What I mean by that is: I’d say “Here’s the thing, saying that makes me sort of uncomfortable because I feel like if I had a queer male friend you’d hate him / think he’s gross and then also if I were queer you’d think it was okay only because it’s ‘hot,’ and not because you think love is love and/or you are respectful of meORMYFRIENDS identities” … It’s kind of a mouthful (thatswhatshesaidOHGODIMSORRY), but it expresses what (i think) is a big part of the issue. It’s like, not about “queer girls are hot” as much as it is about that being THE ONLY thing, you know? There’s no respect or understanding or support, it’s just like “I’ll deal with it bc I like boobs and that’s extra boobs..”  Which is hella troubling.

It’s a much larger conversation, and I think if you have it in you, you should try to talk to him about it, or at least let him know what it makes you uncomfortable (on a larger scale). It sounds to me like he’s spouting a bunch of half-hearted feelings and not considering the feels of those around him, at ALL. Hopefully a little dialogue will help him become more understanding and open.

Kristin Says:

Ooph. This is a toughie. First of all, I don’t understand why your dad would want to share with you that he thinks ‘queer girls are hot’ in the first place. What does that even do? What is the point in even sharing that sort of thing with your kid? However, I can’t figure out the motives and reasons behind all the things that come out of your dad’s mouth, so I am just going to work with the facts at hand.

It’s totally fucked up to base your judgement of other human beings based on what gives you a personal boner. I am so sorry that I am now referencing your dad’s boner. This is going horribly. Let me try again.

Your dad is basically saying that anything that he PERSONALLY likes to look at is MORALLY or SOCIETALLY okay. Which makes him some kind of god-like figure who can point his finger willy-nilly at human beings and decide what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ based on how they make his insides feel. I am saying all of this because this is core of the discussion I would have with him, in your own words. If he says, “I like women together so that’s fine,” I would say something like, “I think that the identities of other human beings don’t get to be cast aside based on just what you like to personally think about, Dad.” Let him chew on that for a hot minute, you know?

Onto the next point: your dad has made you TOTALLY uncomfortable coming out to him because he has boiled your entire identity down to a sex act and, as you well know, your identity is way more complex than that. So, perhaps that is your second point of conversation. “Hey, Dad, you know there is a lot more to being queer than just people having sex, and I don’t know why you would reduce someone’s entire identity to one tiny thing.”

These little nuggets are good ways to start cracking open that ignorance that your dad is spouting before navigating into personal territory.

Which, brings me to my last point: your dad’s view of his daughter. I can’t promise you anything, but I have a pretty good idea that his tiny little bucket of girl-on-girl images is going to get turned on it’s motherfucking head when one of those girls happens to be someone he knows and loves, and not just a body. The likelihood is much more that, rather than thinking you are ‘just another hot queer woman,’ your dad is going to go through a serious process that undoes a lot of that fantasy-space in his head. AND WELL HE SHOULD, IT’S TOTALLY NOT COOL TO REDUCE HUMAN BEINGS TO SEX ACTS, YALL.

Do these things on your own time. Don’t feel you have to come out to him before your ready, or ever, for that matter. I would take small steps with conversations and just follow your heart. When we know someone close to us who comes out as LGBTQ, it has a way of changing perspectives enormously.

Good luck, and sorry about all that nonsense you have to sift through.
xx

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"Hey, I’m a young FtM transgender guy and I just got called "it" for the first time. The person who said it meant it as a joke after my friends were explaining the pronoun thing, and they immediately addressed it and we all moved on. But now I can’t get it out of my head and I’m feeling down. I don’t hold it against him, because he didn’t know and he was just trying to be funny (he’s new around here too), but I just can’t seem to leave it alone. I’ve never felt this way before. How do I move on?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Liam Lowery as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Liam Says:

Oh, my friend. My heart aches for you. This is such a familiar feeling for me.

So many times in my life, a fun evening has been soured by someone saying something stupid about my gender identity. That person will forget what they said almost immediately, but hours later I’ll still be sitting up in bed, reeling from disappointment.

From your letter, I get the sense you can relate.

We’re not crazy, by the way. There is a reason it hurt so terribly to be called “it.” These comments are more than faux pas, or a failed joke. This is one of a list of slurs that have been the last words heard by those of our trans siblings who have been killed. Slurs like these are acts of violence unto themselves.

We are too valuable to be used for a cheap laugh.

Therefore, you need to come up with a plan: A first aid kit for those emergency moments.

First, you need to exit the situation safely. Why exit?

Think back to the night you described in your letter. The name-caller wasn’t trying to be mean. Your friends stood up for you in the moment (yay, friends!), and everyone moved on. Yet you still feel raw and hurt now.

I’ve found that by staying in that situation, I keep feeling dehumanized—even if it was said in a joking way, even if my friends stand up for me, even if I say it’s okay. By hanging around, it makes it seem as though disrespecting me isn’t that big of a deal. And I regret it later.

I also regret times I’ve engaged with the name-caller in the moment. I try to explain why the comment was hurtful, but instead of listening, the perpetrator gets defensive. This stinks, but it makes sense….I am calling him out in front of our mutual friends, and expressing why what they said was transphobic and hurtful to them, and an audience. And while it feels gratifying to call someone transphobic after they’ve hurt me, it ultimately shuts down the conversation and makes me seem brash. Jay Smooth, of Race Forward and Ill Doctrine, has a really helpful video  on how to call people out on racist comments. The same strategy can be very helpful in talking to someone about transphobic comments.

Right when the incident happens is not the best time to engage in a Transgender Identities 101 lecture with this person. Instead, you need to prioritize taking care of yourself.

When this happens to me, I say, “That’s not funny. I don’t appreciate hearing that, so I am going to head out.” Usually I can leave the location, but if you have to stay—like if your ride isn’t coming for another hour, or if you are at your family’s house and your sibling is the culprit—you might want to head to another room, or go take a walk around the block.

In the aftermath, address the three parties involved: your friends, the culprit, and yourself.

Let your friends know that you appreciated their support. This is, of course, what everyone should do, but the sad fact is many people don’t. And it never hurts to tell someone you appreciate them. But you also need to let them know that these comments are unacceptable, and that you will continue to leave the group hangout if you are disrespected, because there needs to be a consequence for making transphobic comments.

Next, there’s the perpetrator. If this person is going to keep hanging around, it’s worth it to take some time and address what happened. So contact the person—this can range from a text to an email. You don’t want to give them an out to start trying to defend themselves—or as Jay Smooth says in the video linked above, you don’t want to twist a conversation about what they did into a conversation about what they are.

If you decide to talk to this person, be clear: this is not a discussion. This is not two people on equal footing expressing their feelings. This is an intervention, because this person majorly messed up. So be clear: tell them never to call you, or anyone else, “it.” Tell them to back off of any “jokes” about trans folks. Tell them that the trans community is languishing in poverty, depression, and violence because many cis people think our identities are jokes.

Don’t get too deep, though. Though you are a beacon of light, there is a dark side at play here. Trans people, especially those of us who are open and communicative about our identities, are heirs to a legacy of faux-guruism. Often, we are treated like we exist to make cis people really think about gender for the first time. We are our own people. We don’t exist to teach anyone else. Don’t be part of toxic ecosystem. You are not getting paid to be this person’s Gender 101 professor. So in closing, suggest that this person read a book like Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, or check out online resources to get more information.

Then there’s you. Be proud for standing up for yourself. You don’t know what will happen, but you can feel hope. Hope that this person will come around. Hope that your friends will continue to support you in your journey. Hope that the small actions we take with great love can better our world for everyone in it.

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"I’m in high school and one of my teachers is prone to making rather queerphobic / heteronormative jokes and comments. As a queer person myself do you think I should call her out on it or just stick it out?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Sara Kost as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Sara Says:

First, I just want to say that no student should have a teacher who makes comments like those. And I hope that you have other teachers who are respectful, positive role models for you and your peers.

As I see it, you have a few different options, depending on your specific circumstances. It’s going to be easier for you to address these issues if you are supported by other students, your family, other teachers, school administration, and your community. If there is a GSA at your school or an out, queer teacher, you could go to them first and ask for advice or help dealing with the teacher making comments.

If you feel comfortable, absolutely bring it up with the teacher. Any good teacher should be open to hearing from students if the student approaches them in a calm and constructive way. Perhaps your teacher doesn’t even realize she is saying something offensive. Perhaps your teacher didn’t realize her comments were affecting students. You could say something in class right when she makes a joke or comment, or wait until after class to say something. If it helps, you could ask a friend to speak up with you. Power in numbers!

Another option, if you don’t want to directly confront your teacher, or if your teacher blew you off after you confronted her, would be to bring the matter up with your school administration. Document the comments that your teacher makes, and try to enlist some friends or other students in other classes to document them as well. Note the date, time, and quote what was said for a few weeks. Once you and other students get enough evidence, go to the school administration and demand they do something about that teacher.

You deserve to feel safe and supported at school. I hope your teacher will learn from her mistakes and realize that queer people exist in your school and in the world.

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