"What should you do when you say a shitty thing to someone? I am generally careful about my words, but I made a joke that was actually not very nice to someone I care about. I have recognised what I did wrong, apologised to the person whose feelings I hurt, and respected their need to be distant from me for now. But now, all I want to do is fall into a spiral of self-hatred and never leave my house again for fear of doing something shitty again, which doesn't feel healthy or productive."
-Question submitted by Anonymous
I want to start by telling you that, given the context of this question, you have already done two incredibly wonderful things: First, you’ve recognized that your misstep affects two people – yourself, and the person you care about. Second, and most importantly, you’ve prioritized the needs of the person you care about by recognizing, apologizing, and respecting their space. The importance of those actions cannot be overstated. So, so many people who are in a similar position to you, Anonymous, get so wrapped up in that self-hatred part of the equation (and we are gonna get there, hang tight), that they do not prioritize the overarching respect that is so critically important to the person who has been hurt by their actions or words.
I want you to begin by acknowledging the respect you are giving to the person who you’ve hurt. That is a productive, positive action that you have taken and are continuing to take.
Now listen to me: you are not defined by one moment, one action, one utterance. What defines any person is the way that they respond, learn, and adjust after they do something that has hurt another person (or a group of people). Yes, of course, it would be just lovely if no one ever said words that hurt others, never took actions that caused harm… but that just isn’t possible. We do not live in a utopia, we live on a planet that is riddled with misinformation, complicated and troubling messages, and a whole butt-ton of inter-personal feelings. The truest path on this little planet to a place of healing and growth is found by learning from the moments where we all, inevitably, misspeak or misstep.
Once, at a speaking event that I did years ago in Tennessee, a student expressed concern, and hurt, during the Q&A. With the room full of hundreds of students, she said to me, “during your talk you said that people were either LGBTQ or straight. I am a trans woman and I identify as straight, and that really made me feel erased.” My eyes likely got as big as dinner plates as I realized what I had done – I had used my words in a way that not only caused this person to feel erased, but that had potentially misguided a room full of people! I felt horrible, but I also immediately realized that this person speaking to me deserved an immediate apology, recognition, and a promise for change. And, that is what happened. I apologized. We had a long, incredible conversation about gender, sexuality, and erasure while the audience listened, and I changed that part of the event forevermore so that I wouldn’t ever misinform anyone else on that false dichotomy.
Now, that doesn’t mean I never misspoke again, Anonymous. It does mean, though, that I never misspoke in that way again, and that I became even more vigilant about choosing my language and constantly, consistently educating myself. You will leave the house again (you must! you’ll at least need some gummy bears from time to time), and it is completely, 100% possible (and even likely!) that when you do you might hurt another person through your words or your actions. You are not a perfect person. You do not know all the things about all the people or even all the things about your own language!! No one is, and no one does. What I can promise you, though, is that you have learned something from this experience, and you can use that knowledge to help you make better choices and choose better words in the future!!
So. When you feel that pang of “what the fuck did I do,” turn it on its head and make it productive. That’s how you escape from a self-hate that will always, only be unproductive! In the morning, when the moment flashes through your brain and you wince and start to spiral, find a quiet spot and meditate. Clear your brain. Help your emotions to find a place of balance, because that balance will better guide you and your words next time. In the afternoon, when you think “what the hell is WRONG with me, how could I have done that,” find a book, an article, a video, a podcast that has informative, balanced content so that you can be better informed and educated. That education will help you to understand the world around you in even more complicated and nuanced ways, and that will also help to guide you next time. In the evening when you start to sink into a deep, desperate longing that it had never happened… remember that it did happen, and that you are learning from it, and that is the way that the world changes. Keep working on yourself, continue to respect the needs of those around you, and please, please leave your house. That courage, Anonymous, is what will help change things for yourself, and for a whole lot of others.
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“I’m genderqueer, and my friend has been super supportive…up until I came out as asexual as well. She keeps asking me if I’m sure I’m really asexual or if it’s just because I’m genderqueer or ‘confused’ about my gender. What do I say to her?”
-Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Kara Kratcha as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
Dear anonymous friend,
How are you? I hope you and your genderqueer ace self are doing well enough and avoiding all of the nonsense that sometimes comes with existing as a genderqueer and/or ace person. I’m sure you’re great and that you’re doing a great job.
Anyway, I have to admit that this kind of reaction to a combination of queer identities in one human frustrates and confuses me. There doesn’t seem to be any reason an ace identity should invalidate a genderqueer (or nonbinary or trans) identity. More broadly, there doesn’t seem to be any reason a sexual identity should invalidate a gender identity or vise versa.
That said, I am a human who has gone to great lengths to educate themselves about queer sexualities and genders and I bet you are too, so maybe your first move should be to explain some terms to your friend. I know you have probably already done some of this. I know you might find this a little more exhausting every time you have to do it (I know I do).
Still, there’s so much confusion in the world about the difference between gender and sexuality that sometimes we have to explain ourselves if we want to be understood. Once I told a coworker that I was doing research about asexuality and narrative. He responded with a monologue about how gender roles are collapsing in the United States and that the difference between men and women is disappearing and isn’t that a shame? I think he thought we were talking about agender people or maybe trans people generally. In any case, we did not share a vocabulary about the topic we were supposedly discussing and therefore could not communicate about it. If you want to be able to talk with your friend about your identity, you may have to establish a common vocabulary.
(You should also remember that you have not failed if you decide that you cannot or do not want to explain yourself until you are understood right now. Both asexuality and genderqueerness are complicated topics, and combining them makes them even more complicated and difficult to explain to someone who has never experienced them. In the situation with my coworker, I decided that making myself understood wasn’t worth it. You may decide differently with your friend, but that’s your call.)
The other reason I am so baffled by your friend’s reaction to your aceness and genderqueerness, dear anon, is because I myself experience my ace identity and my nonbinary identity as intertwined and inseparable. My gender complements and complicates my sexuality in ways I continue to discover. I don’t know what it’s like for you, but I find the gender binary in relation to sexual activity a lot like a fruit fly infestation: always buzzing in the background, sometimes hard to see from a distance, and almost impossible to get rid of. Even the concept of “gay sex” relies on the idea that the people involved conform to the same end of a binary gender system.
Even more frustratingly, sometimes perceptions of gay sex fall into “masculine” and “feminine” roles. I recently told someone that I am into girls and thereby implied that I’m gay or maybe bi (this, by the way, is a strategy I use when being read as a straight girl in gay spaces gets to be too much for me but I don’t feel safe explaining how I actually identify) and their first response was to ask if I’m a top or a bottom. Yuck!
By asking this question, this person presumes that all people who have same-sex interactions take on one binary gender role in sex all the time. As you perhaps perceive, my nonbinary trans identity and my ace identity are interacting here in ways that are difficult for me to pick apart. Does that response to my perceived identity squick me out because I don’t want to have to identify as top (coded masculine) or bottom (coded feminine)? Or because I don’t want to be associated with sex acts I’m not performing? Or because the gendering of sex makes it difficult for me to access it as something I want at all? I don’t know, but I’m definitely sure it makes me uncomfortable. If you have had similar experiences, maybe you would like to share them with your friend so that she can think about how the labels you use make up one whole person who experiences the world from multiple standpoints all at once.
Thinking about my gender identity and my sexual identity together often brings up more questions than answers for me, but that doesn’t mean that I’m confused about one or the other or both. My guess is that you feel similarly at least some of the time. If your friend is really your friend, then you should be able to engage in identity uncertainty and exploration with her and leave feeling that your identity is still valid. Alternately, maybe you feel entirely certain about who you are and what that means, in which case I think you should tell your friend who you are and what that means as clearly as you can and hope she takes you at your word. If she doesn’t, then maybe you should reconsider whether this person is capable of supporting and loving you the way a friend should.
All of the best,
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"My best friend and I live thousands of miles away and have never met. It just became very possible that I might be moving only 10 or so miles away from him. But that would take me thousands of miles away from my friend in my hometown, who I've known for years but slightly grown apart from. Is it wrong to want to move if I'd never come back?"
Question submitted by Anonymous
I live 2,000 miles away from my best friend in the world. I also live 3,000 miles away from my businesswife who i love with all my heart. AND I live 3,000 miles away from my childhood bestie who houses all of my memories (i have a bad memory, thank god for her). It’s FUCKING HARD. IT’s so hard. In a lot of ways, I hate living so far from so many people I adore. It’s hard to live that far away from my dad. It’s hard that one of my really great friends from High school had a baby and I can’t hang out with that baby everyday. It’s all so hard.
However, as far as where I live and the home I’ve built? I’ve never been happier. I feel like opportunity is everywhere and coming home is a relief. I love the weather and the city and the people I’ve met. I love the ability to go to the mountains and beach and inside of a canyon with little to no effort, whatsoever. I love when people come to visit. I’m proud of where I am, I’m proud of my apartment, I’m proud of who I am in this city.
You should live where YOU want to live for the reasons that YOU want to live there, and that’s it. It’ll be hard to leave your best friend, the same way it’s hard to live so far away from your other best friend right now. Life is hard, friendship is so important, and special, and strong. The reason it’s so strong is because it’s hard. That’s just life.
Do what you need to do for you. ALSO, I’m a big fan of living in different cities. It’s an experience I feel everyone should have, but it doesn’t happen to you, you have to make the effort.
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"How do I deal with thinking my friend is in a bad relationship? They nearly broke up but are getting back together and I’m scared she will get hurt again, but want to be supportive."
- Question submitted by Anonymous
I was once off-and-on seeing someone who was not at all interested in a relationship. I was cool with it, took the ‘we’re sleeping together sometimes’ role and did not give her anything relationshippy. HOWEVER, I did WANNA date the shit out of her, so I was bummed out, but didn’t think I was allowed to be, and neither of us were getting what we wanted. I talked to one of my BFFLs who said, “Dannielle. You get one year. ONE YEAR. You can’t do this back and forth shit forever, it’s not fair to anyone.”
I took what she said with a grain of salt at the time because guess what… no one ever listens to anyone when they’re in the middle of a THING with a PERSON. We just don’t. We can’t wrap our minds around the right thing to do because we’re wrapped up in a REAL LIVE HUMAN BEING. That’s the end all be all truth of everything. We get caught up, y’all.
I will tell you, though, there were a number of friends who didn’t tell me to get my shit together. They would listen to me, they would offer advice, and they’d say, “I don’t know, I don’t feel like it should be this hard, if you want to be together, be together, and you should be with someone who wants to be with you.” They didn’t tell me what to do, but they did give a gentle suggestion that helped me find my own way. AND when we rounded the bend of one-year and things were 100% over, I thought about what my BFFL said. She was absolutely right.
Yeaaaaahhh, this is that whole You-Can-See-It-Clearly-From-The-Outside thing, and it’s a tricky little bugger. I think this scenario has gradients and nuances and COMPLEXITIES, if you will, so here is what I say:
1) If the relationship is bad for her in the sense that she is being emotionally or physically abused, this conversation ends here, you close your laptop, you tell her that you are concerned for her well-being, and if she doesn’t listen you speak to someone else in her life and sit her down again with more support.
2) Your question doesn’t seem to imply that the above scenario is what’s up, so now we move to What-Do-You-Do-For-Her-Because-Jesus-Christ-Why-Is-She-Doing-This? …You listen. You tell her your concerns once, maybe twice, possibly three times over the span of a few months, and then… you listen. She will know good and goddamn well that you are concerned but more than this she needs to know that you are there for her. This is the only way she will be comfortable enough to open up if and when shit starts to hit the fan again, and hopefully end it once and for all.
3) What-Do-You-Do-For-YOU-Because-Jesus-Christ-Why-Is-She-Doing-This? …You do what you can. You can’t be expected to pick her up over and over and over again if she keeps running back into this wall. Be as patient as you can, but when you feel yourself wearing thin, tell her. Say, “I love you and I want you to be happy, but I am watching you walk back into this same wall over and over again… and I can’t keep comforting you if you keep turning back around and doing the same thing.” It’s tough, but it’s true, and you really can’t comfort a person forever.
4) As much as you can, let it be what it will. You are probably right. She will probably get hurt again. But… maybe she won’t. One of my closest friends is married to a person who cheated on her SPECTACULARLY within their first year of dating. They got married a year later and we were all like Oh no oh no oh nooooooo…. and they’ve been married for a billion years. So, like… sometimes you just never can tell.
(PS: Dannielle, you should know by now that I AM ALWAYS RIGHT.)
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