Relationships / Family

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“I’m a girl but I REALLY hate wearing dresses. They just make me feelsuper uncomfortable. On New Years Eve my mom said I had to wear a dress. I didn’twant to, I explained why and wore a button down, collared shirt and corduroy pants instead. My brother was wearing something very similar to me. My mom said that I didn’t look nice enough and said many terrible things that really hurt my feelings. When I wear something slightly boyish she tells me its not appropriate and makes me feel terrible. How do I deal with this?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Anita Dolce Vita as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.

Anita Says:

This sounds like a very painful experience and I am sorry that this happened to you. First and foremost, if you feel that you may be in an abusive situation or that your physical and/or emotional safety is at risk, please reach out to a trusted teacher, mentor,social worker, counselor, coach, health care provider, or other supportive adult. Your safety is of primary importance.

Having said this, parents often express unfavorable opinions about their children’sbehaviors, which may feel abusive but may not necessarily manifest in immediatedanger to anyone’s safety. All of us, including our parents, are socialized from the moment we come out of the womb to adopt social norms, many of which are rooted in harmful “-isms” and phobias. Your mother’s behavior is more a reflection of how she has been socialized into the norms of mainstream culture, rather than a reflection of your worth. As Will Smith once rapped, “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” We often feel hurt when our parents disapprove of our partners, our identities, our careers, our clothing, our friends, our weight, etc. When it comes to self-care, the key is to understand that, while validation feels good, your mother’s lack of understanding is less about you and more about her own issues. She may come around one day. She may not. Either way, you have to know your own worth. You are valuable irrespective of her criticism.

You can participate in conversations and exercises to help educate her about style and gender and to discuss how her criticism makes you feel. Qwear has a great article that includes conversation starters, such as each of you talking about your favorite outfits and commenting on why these outfits make you feel empowered. Another helpful exercise recommended by Qwear is to have your mother make a list of stereotypes of how women are “supposed to act” and then identify the ways in which she doesn’t fit those stereotypes. You can point out that, like her, you do not fit all of the stereotypes of how women are “supposed to act,” with your clothing preferences being a non-stereotypical trait that makes you special. In your conversations, you can sit with her and explore empowering queer style sites like I Dream of DapperQwear and dapperQ. Show her successful female-identified “menswear” models, like Elliot Sailors, who are changing the way we look at clothing. When you talk to her about the way her criticism makes you feel, you can also refer to anti-bullying projects, such as The Dapper Chicks of New York, which uses a common love of “menswear” to address cyber-bullying. If your mother would be open to therapy, you can always look for a professional therapist who specializes in sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to help facilitate conversations.

In the meantime, it is important to feel supported and I highly recommend building your own social networks that can provide you with a safe space. In addition to your local LGBTQ center and/or gay-straight alliance (if you have either of those nearby), here are some great places to start:

A Dapper Chick

Autostraddle

bklyn boihood

dapperQ

Everyone Is Gay

Hey Queer

I Dream of Dapper

PFLAG

Queer B.O.I.S.

Qwear

She’s A Gent

Tomboy Femme

I hope you find these resources helpful in your journey. Remember, keep your head up and stay dapper. You are incredible no matter what you wear!

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"My mother holds the philosophy that I have to have experience in order to be gay (kiss a girl). I hate that I don’t feel safe or accepted by her, even though we have a terrible relationship. What do I do?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Shane Billings as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Shane Says:

Oh man, parents can be the trickiest. It’s like, they hear ONE Katy Perry song and all of a sudden they’re like “If you haven’t recorded a hit single about the girls you’ve kissed, how can you even be GAY?!” You have my complete and genuine sympathy, and if you do feel unsafe, please talk to a responsible adult, or reach out to THESE FOLKS, who are always available to help and support you.

In the meantime, here are some (hopefully) helpful points to keep in mind, and perhaps share with your mom.

Sure, there are SOME things you need to experience before you know whether they’re for you. Like Thai food, or toenail polish. Some things, however, you don’t.  Like, I don’t need to get hit by a Subaru to know it hurts. There are absolutely people who have ~*~ExPeRiEnCeS~*~ that inspire the realization that they are, in fact, gay. But the experience is not a prerequisite, by any means.

And by the way, you are never ever required to verify or demonstrate your identity — not for your mother, or your friends, or for Michelle Obama… if she asks… which would be awesome… but still. Coming Out is extremely important for yourself, but there is no clause in the Gay Commandments that stipulates that price of admission for being gay is the performance of THREE QUEER ACTS.

A couple years ago I stumbled onto this quote:

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

The PRIVILEGE of OWNING YOURSELF is the part that gets me. Remember that, my friend. Maybe even write it down somewhere, and look at it once in a while to remind yourself that you are your own rainbow.

If you can, keep talking to your mom, or write her a letter, letting her know that you don’t feel safe or supported. At the very least, you’ll have expressed how you feel, and it will help you start doing the work of moving forward. But always remember that there is a community of us out here, always supporting you and always working to create a safe place for you.

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"I came out 2 years ago to my parents and at first they seemed cool with it but lately they have been making offensive comments and refusing to let me see my friends/date. I’m 18 and have a decent job and a really good friend offered a room in his house for cheap for me to live. My parents hate the idea and want me to stay home, but being at home make me super depressed, what should I say to them?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I think the best way to handle this is to say you’re going to try living on your own to see what it’s like and to let them know you appreciate them. You appreciate that you have a home with them and you feel supported in knowing that if something happened you could come back home.

THAT is what I think you should say to them, HOWEVER, I want you to know that getting out of a home environment that doesn’t make you feel comfortable / safe / loved is very important to your mental and emotional health. If you have the ability and the resources to live in a place where you can be yourself and start to live the life you want to live, you should absolutely do it.

I think it’ll be scary and hard and you might get some flak from your parents, but I think that flak is worth the lifetime of of misunderstanding.

Besides, how much longer would they REALLY keep you there? 2 years? 4 years? That’s such a small difference for them to let go of, you know? You are making the right decision.

Kristin Says:

I agree with a couple of the sentiments that Dannielle has offered, but I have a thing or two I would like to add. Yes, I agree that you should get tf out of your house and move in with your friend. Yes, I agree that there is a positive way to talk to your family about this, without doors slamming and eyes rolling and spit flying…

However, I think your parents need and deserve to know what has pushed you to make this decision.

Let’s stop there for a moment: You should only speak to them once you have made the decision. This means you know how you are paying the first month or two of rent, it means you have a plan for when you are moving, it means you’ve discussed all the particulars with your friend/future roommate. Once that is all settled, then you sit down with your parents.

And yes, you should absolutely sit down with them. I would let them know, either in a note or an email or a conversation, that you want to have time to sit down and discuss some big life-things with them. This is a big deal for you and for them, and it is rooted in a place that needs a lot of attention for you to have a good relationship with them in the future, so it deserves a proper sit-down.

Cool, so now here we are at this sit-down talk. This is where you tell them that your friend has offered you a room, that you have prepared your rent and made arrangements, and that you love them very much, but you know that this is the best decision for you. That part Dannielle covered… but I don’t think you stop there. They need to know why you have made this decision. They need to know that their comments have hurt you, and that their restrictions have made your home environment extremely upsetting. You don’t have to say this in a way that makes them feel like the scum on the bottom of your shoe… in fact, you should speak to them as their child who is very hopeful that they will be able to grow, learn, and become a supportive force in your life.

I would give them This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids, and I would also let them know about The Parents Project and PFLAG, and any other resources that you might have in your area. Tell them you love the person you are, and that you want to work to a place where they also love all of the pieces of that person.

Tell them you want to have weekly family dinners. Tell them that you will miss them and that you love them (it’s okay to hit this point a few times). Remain firm in your choice, because it is a very, very important choice to make. You are choosing support and positivity, and you are giving yourself the space to be yourself and your parents the space to learn and grow.

<3

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Safety Planning for the Holidaze

by Allyee, Wes, and Everyone at The Trevor Project

Ho Ho Ho, Merry…  Ehhh… Not so fast.  For so many of us, the holidays can be a super stressful and challenging time.  On top of the regular challenges we face during the holidays (what presents to buy, how many treats to indulge in, which ugly sweater to wear), LGBTQ young people often face many other obstacles to having wonderful holiday cheer.

At The Trevor Project, we hear from young people from all kinds of backgrounds about their experiences with the holidays. This might include traveling home for the holidays, spending more time than normal with family while being on break from school, or not going home at all. Of course, some young people return to supportive or welcoming homes and loved ones.  However, this doesn’t necessarily protect them from potentially triggering or traumatic situations. All of these different situations might bring up experiences like:

– Having family members who may be openly hostile towards your LGBTQ identity;

– Being around family and having to go back into the closet, even if you’re out in other environments; this can be especially difficult for trans*, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming youth who may have to revert to unwanted gender expressions, names or pronouns;

– Not feeling safe or supported enough to go home or visit family;

– Watching friends and loved ones visit their families when you have faced rejection or hostility from your own;

– Being homeless due to family rejection or hostility – something that really impacts our community. 

While we can’t possibly cover every “what if”, we do know that every young person deserves the chance to thrive, regardless of their identities.  So, we had the ENTIRE staff at The Trevor Project come together and brainstorm Holiday Self Care Ideas for YOU. Here is what we came up with:

– Budget personal time to decompress. You don’t have to be around people all the time, despite what it may seem like.

– Take walks: Try making playlists to match your mood.

– Create a self-care corner: Place happy reminders or notes in mirrors, on your dresser, or in a bag to brighten your day along the way.

– Brainstorm “safe” conversation topics for family.  Try to find neutral topics that decrease the likelihood for offense or pain.

– Plan game time for family/friends: This takes away the pressure to create conversation!

– Try to keep in touch with your chosen family/friends while you’re away from them. Schedule phone or chat dates regularly or for times when you think you might need them.

– Try to acknowledge the things in your life you’re grateful for, or things you’ve accomplished that you’re proud of (big or small). Write them down. If you keep this list in your phone, you can pull it up whenever/wherever.

– Don’t overextend yourself financially if you don’t want to.  You can give gifts and appreciation cheaply or free!

– Give away items you don’t need to charities or shelters.

– Sing! Practice self-karaoke!

– If religion is an important part of the holidays for you, try finding a welcoming congregation in the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources.

– Identify safe places if you’re traveling somewhere. Are there Community Centers, or LGBTQ-inclusive spaces in the area in case you need a place to go? Sometimes the best place to go is to an online community. YouTube has a bunch of awesome people and videos to lend support and a giggle or two (I dare you to not smile at this video) Also, TrevorSpace is an online community for LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 from all over the world, and it’s a great place to find support.

– It is especially important for those of us who aren’t going home for the holidays to reach out for support. Whether that be the family/friends you have chosen, or through an online community. If you need a place to stay, please don’t hesitate to contact the National Runaway Safeline at 1-800-RUNAWAY or us here at The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.

– Create your own traditions with a person or people that are meaningful to you. This can be laying in bed all watching movies, having your own party or dinner with friends, or signing up to volunteer at your local soup kitchen.

– Anticipate challenges and healthy responses that keep you safe above all else, and come prepared with those. There is a chance that you might encounter homophobic, transphobic or biphobic remarks. Before standing up to these, some things to think about are; is it safe for me to stand up to this remark? What is the best case scenario? (Can I change their viewpoint? Can I help them understand why that is hurtful and/or offensive? Will they apologize?) What is the worst case scenario? (Will I be outed? Will they say even more hurtful things? Will I get in trouble? Will I be upset for the rest of the trip?) Do you have an alternative place to stay if things get too intense?

– Safety Plan! Do you need help making an individual safety plan? Call The Trevor Project anytime at 1-866-488-7286 and we can make a master plan together.

– Accept sadness. Sometimes we stress ourselves out with feelings we “should” feel. Sadness is okay to feel, especially at the holidays.

Finally, remember that Trevor is here 24/7 at 1-866-7386, including every single holiday. Our trained counselors are here to listen to whatever it is that you are going through and work with you to create your very own safety plan and Holiday Self Care List.

This time of year is an awesome time for reflection and gratitude.  Sometimes, it can feel almost impossible to find things to be grateful for.  At Trevor, we feel tremendously grateful for your trust in us in helping you through those dark times.

We’ll be here every single day and night if you need us.  You are never alone.


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