“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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“So, I am a nonbinary person and I really hate having boobs. My dysphoria usually isn’t so bad, but for a while it’s really been getting me down and this human person would like to know is there are any little things that help hold dysphoria at bay.”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Alaina Says:

Hey bud, first and foremost, I want you to know that I feel these feelings that you’re feeling. Not being happy with the body that you are stuck with is probably one of the worst feelings that a person can feel in my opinion, because like what can you do? I’ve had days/weeks/months when all I’ve been able to think about is top surgery and how good I’d look if I just didn’t have these boobs—that I never asked for thank you very much. And while dreaming is nice, getting into that cycle of happiness=top surgery often makes me more sad than happy because top surgery is expensive, and inaccessible, and permanent, and just a big decision! So what’s a person to do right now, when they’ve tried on 17 shirts in one morning and every single one of them makes them look wrong?

Here’s my suggestion: feel those feelings. When I’m feeling dysphoric, I let myself feel it. That’s the most important step. Once you give yourself permission to feel things, you’re more likely to realize where those feelings are coming from and figure out a way to deal with them (or, at least my therapist says so). Once you’ve let yourself have a feelings party, choose an outfit that you objectively know that you look good in and wear it (call it your “fake it till you make it” outfit).  Then, text your very best friend a selfie of you in said outfit and ask, “is this a good outfit, yes or yes?” and if your friends are like mine, they will respond with all the emojis plus all of the love and confidence you’ll need to be able to leave the house. Lean on your friends. If you’ve got other nonbinary friends, now’s the time to chat with them about what you’re feeling—knowing that you aren’t alone will make dealing with these weird body feelings you have so much easier.

I also want to ask you (and myself) to work really hard to distinguish if what you’re feeling really is because of you and how you see yourself, or if it has to do with how the world at large sees you. Because here’s the dumb truth: we can’t control how others perceive us, and as nonbinary babes, it’s often even harder since most of society has been taught to use our body’s characteristics to see us as men or women. You’re never going to be able to get everyone to see you as the perfect non binary person that you are, so instead of trying to, really think about what makes you feel good and do that. You’re the only person whose opinion about your body matters.

Lastly, get physical. Dance, go for a run, have sex, do a cartwheel. Use your body. When I feel dysphoric, it’s also super easy to only be able to think about the things that are wrong with my body. But when I’m active, I’m reminded of all of the amazing things I can do with my body, like shake my hips or experience pleasure. My body is not perfect, and right now, it’s not exactly the body I wish it was, but it’s working so hard for me, and it can do so many amazing things. It houses my heart, lungs, and brain, which keep me alive. My skin stretches when I gain weight and retracts when I lose it. Every minute of the day my body is doing so much work to keep me alive and healthy and that is a gosh darned miracle. You friend, being alive on this earth for all of these days, it’s a miracle.

So when you feel the dysphoria creeping up, address it head on. “Listen Jan, I know you’re trying to come in here and ruin my life, but my body is trying it’s hardest! And I’m proud of it for doing that and since I don’t demand perfection from myself, I won’t demand perfection from my body either, so get out!!!” And then, dance!! (I even made you a great playlist!)

MyWeirdCoolBodCover Art designed by the incredible Isabella Rotman!


Alaina is a 20-something working on a PhD in Performance as Public Practice. They are a mom to three cats, they listen to a lot of NPR and musicals, and they spend a lot of time on Pinterest lusting over studio apartments. They are actively trying to build A Brand on twitter @alainamonts. One day, they will be First Lady of the United States.

“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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"I am queer and Muslim, and I am overwhelmed by how to move forward, especially right now, days before our presidential inauguration. I am scared, and I don't know how to help myself, and how to help my communities."

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Aaminah Khan Says:

I, too, am queer and Muslim, which is another way of saying that there aren’t many places where I feel like I belong. The US, and especially the deep South, had already felt hostile to me pre-election. In the state of Louisiana, where I lived for two and a half years, police were still arresting people under our (unconstitutional) anti-sodomy laws as recently as 2014. I’m out online and almost everywhere else – but while I lived in the US, I wasn’t out at work, because I lived in one of 28 US states that still allow employers to fire people for being gay. The local attitude toward Muslims was similarly horrifying; anti-Muslim rhetoric played on FOX News everywhere from hospital waiting rooms to chain restaurants. Pre-election, I had already felt an overwhelming pressure to try to hide the aspects of my identity that might get me fired, ostracised or worse; I didn’t talk about my religion or cultural heritage often, and I kept any relationships I had with people other than men quiet. I thought that by doing this, I could keep myself safe, even if it did make me feel like a coward a lot of time.

Post-election, even that didn’t feel like enough to keep me safe any more.

The reports of hate crimes had already started filtering in on social media as I got to work the morning after the election. Many of my students were from the Middle East, and I wondered how many of them would have to bear the brunt of this newly-validated bigotry in the coming weeks. I had flashbacks to my own experiences after 9/11, when people had screamed obscenities at my family and me from their cars, thrown things at our house and vandalised the local mosque – but this time would be worse, because not only did people feel like they had an excuse to attack anyone who looked sufficiently foreign, they had a President-Elect who would and did back them up when they did. It was difficult to look my students in the eye and tell them everything was going to be all right when I didn’t believe it myself, so I didn’t. Instead, I told them to be safe, and prayed that they would be. I felt powerless to do anything else.

I didn’t voice my other fears to them – that this would mean the end for marriage equality, for LGBT workforce protections, that this would mean that people I knew and loved would be hurt, even killed, by people who now felt like they had a presidential mandate to rid the country of queer and trans people. I kept quiet because I knew that while my students – just like many people of colour around the country – feared for their futures in Trump’s America, a lot of them were also conservatives who didn’t particularly like queer or trans people any more than Trump voters did. It felt like even more cowardice, but as I’ve told many young LGBT people of faith in the past, being out and proud should never come before one’s personal safety and security. Choosing when and where to be out, just like choosing when and where to be openly religious, is part of the series of tough personal decisions we have to make in order to ensure our continued survival.

Navigating the dual identities of religiousness and queerness often feels like walking a tightrope. How much do you tell your family about your sexuality? How much do you tell your friends about your religion? It’s a precarious balancing act, and post-election, the wind is picking up and someone’s started shaking the rope; keeping that balance is getting harder and harder. Do I seek comfort in my faith, knowing that many members of my community couldn’t care less if trans people are denied healthcare or gay people are denied inheritance and marriage rights, or do I organise more actively with my fellow queer and trans people, knowing that they see my religious identity as an offensive eccentricity at best and a harmful liability at worst? Neither community feels like home, because both of them implicitly reject or disapprove of at least one part of me – and what is home, if not a place where all of you belongs?

Internally, I am entirely at peace with being both queer and Muslim, and I am lucky enough to know a small community of similar LGBT people of faith around the world on whom I can rely for comfort and support. But there are too few of us, and we are spread very, very thin – and sometimes, talking to friends on the other side of the world doesn’t feel like enough. I want to be able to share in the grief, mourning and consolation happening in the communities around me – want to be at the mosque, at the gay bar, offering strength and support of my own to people I love, people like me. But I don’t know how to without compromising at least one part of myself, and every time I have to do that – every time I have to hide my relationships with women or pretend I’m not really that religious – it hurts, both because I feel like I’m being forced to lie to people I love, and because I feel like I’m lying to myself. I don’t think there’s any easy solution to that problem.

So here’s what I suggest to young queer and trans people of faith who write to me for advice: be out where you can, find allies where you can, do the work you feel capable of doing – but most of all, don’t be ashamed to put your safety first. These days, I try not to beat myself up too much for needing to compromise, for not talking about girls with my mother’s friends and not praying audibly in public. When I have the energy for it, I try to do work that bridges the gulf between LGBT and faith communities – writing pieces like this one, participating in workshops and dialogues about the intersections between queerness and religion, talking about LGBT issues with my students – but sometimes I don’t have the energy, and I’m slowly learning that that’s okay. No one person can do it all at once. Sometimes I need to retreat and lick my wounds for a while, and sometimes I need to bite my tongue to ensure my personal safety. I won’t pretend it feels good, but it keeps me alive to fight another day.

The good news is that we’re not in this fight alone. Around the world, LGBT people of faith are making strides bringing their communities together, and each time an imam comes out or a priest speaks up for marriage equality, it makes it easier for us to start having those conversations with our loved ones. When I feel particularly alone in this struggle, I think of my friends and loved ones around the world who are doing this work with me – speaking in mosques; starting interfaith and LGBT dialogues; writing radical and inclusive reinterpretations of faith; attending pride marches in their hijabs, unapologetic. They are sources of strength and encouragement both at the times when I feel capable of confronting community prejudices head-on and the times when I know I need to stay silent. They provide a framework for having tough conversations with loved ones as well as a reminder that the conversations are worth having.

I don’t spend every moment of every day working or fighting because that’s not sustainable, but when I do, it’s with the knowledge that I am part of a new kind of community, one that is global and growing, a community with whom I can stand in proud solidarity. In short, by working to navigate the spaces between queerness and faith, I have finally found the place where I belong.

Learn more about Aaminah Khan here on our contributors page, and follow her on Twitter! So much gratitude to Arlan Hamilton, who sponsored this post as a part of our ongoing POC Writers’ Fund initiative.

Also check out our resource list specifically for LGBTQ Muslim youth, curated as a part of Longest Days, Sacred Nights!

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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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“Last night was one of the worst in my life. I’d been wearing a binder for about a week or so off and on because I was having really bad dysphoria and dressing more masculinely is the only way to relieve it sometimes. I was in no way out to my parents that I was transgender and I didn’t want to be. They cornered me last night and wouldn’t leave until I came out and then tried to make me feel bad for doing so. What should I do now? I never wanted to come out.”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Mal Blum Says:

First, I’m sorry this happened and especially that it happened like this. I don’t need to tell anyone that coming out to parents can be difficult to begin with, and should never be forced. On top of that, physical dysphoria can feel intensely personal and vulnerable (especially if you are still figuring out how it manifests in your body, and what eases it). To have it confronted and dragged into conversation like this and forcing you to explain yourself is truly awful.

This shouldn’t have happened and (this part is really important, if you don’t read any other part of this, please read this) it isn’t your fault, you didn’t do anything wrong and they are wrong right now.

I say this because I know that when you feel vulnerable about something like this, it can be easy to internalize the things the people around you (especially authority figures) say about it. If they confront you in an aggressive way, if they make you feel uncomfortable or ashamed, there may be a part of you that is thinking “this is my fault, I made this uncomfortable situation, if I wasn’t trans this wouldn’t be happening, etc. etc.” – Here is where I am going to say it again, and hope that you believe me: if they caused you to feel uncomfortable in this situation, they are wrong in this situation. You are not responsible for this happening and are not at fault. Okay? So if you don’t believe that little voice inside of your gut that is telling you it isn’t your fault, then you can believe me, a stranger on the internet. Okay, so now that we have that covered, there is that question of what to do now…

Without knowing more about your situation, it’s a matter of what you have access to now. First is finding support to lean on. Do you have a supportive friend who knows what’s going on? Do you have access to a trustworthy counselor or therapist, if your parents aren’t supportive in helping you access that, maybe through school? I know some might not, and the plight of sticking it out and cohabitating with your parents can seem dire – I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention as a resource for someone to talk to about what you’re going through that The Trevor Project has a free 24/7 line (866-488-7386) or 3-9pm E.T. online chat. You can also reach the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860.

Second, I want to encourage you to let yourself cope in whatever ways work for you. Is there anything that makes you feel better, or takes you out of your head, even if only marginally, even if only for a few minutes? Music, books, video games, memes, maybe this e-care package from Everyone Is Gay, whatever it is, I want to tell you that it’s okay. My opinion is as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, whatever you need to do to help yourself cope is okay.

Third, be as kind to yourself as you would be to somebody else going through the same thing (and there are other people going through this, if it helps, you are not alone). This is an important one. Try not to say mean things to yourself. Remember to be patient with yourself. Be a good friend to yourself. You deserve that.

This last bit is only for if you are anxious about the long term. I don’t know your parents, or your relationship with them. I do know that your relationship with your parents may grow and change. On my best days, I believe that people have a tremendous capacity for change. Part of my first “coming out” process involved an intervention-style “family meeting” where I was confronted, shamed and told awful things that I internalized, including the position that if I were “the gay kid” I would be responsible for my youngest sibling (my ally in the family) being bullied and assaulted on my account.

As an adult, I know that is wrong. It is not okay to put that responsibility on a child’s shoulders, it is not okay to aggressively confront your child about their gender or sexuality, or use derogatory language to get your point across. As a child, I think I knew that somewhere, but I didn’t totally believe it. I hope that you believe it.

I also don’t know if it helps, but I am close with my parents now. I kept them at arms length at times, and I did a lot of work once I was out of their house. I learned to assert boundaries, I learned to express myself and feel more valid in my opinions, thoughts, feelings and needs. I am still learning. That same sibling was really helpful in coming out to them about gender stuff over the last two years, and they have clearly grown a lot and I am glad to be close with them now. There were times I never could have imagined it 12 years ago, but a lot can change.

That said, if your parents are not the type to grow and change with you, if they are unwilling or unable, if they continue to be harmful or abusive, I don’t think you owe them anything, including a relationship.  Either way, you don’t have to figure it out today, all you have to do right now is focus on being kind and patient with yourself and surviving the best way you can.

Sending hugs, I hope you’re okay,
Mal

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