Wellbeing / Support + Self-Care

“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’m in high school, and I went through a really messy, miserable breakup last school year. For the rest of the year, I would get anxious every time I saw my ex and tried to avoid her at all costs. Now I haven’t seen her in two months because of summer and I’ve been doing a lot better, but I’m afraid of how I’ll react when I see her again/if she tries to talk to me or if we end up in a class together. Help?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Brittany Ashley Says:

We’ve all gone through it. Trying to avoid seeing an ex-girlfriend is like the world’s worst video game that we’re all stuck playing for the rest of our lives. To take extra precautions, we’ll deny ourselves going to that party (5 points!) or cut off seeing certain friends (Bonus level!), just in hopes of avoiding one particular human being who seems to have the cheat codes to our anxiety.

Let’s start by saying this: throughout the summer, there’s no doubt that you’ve made progress. You started to feel like yourself again and finally like she’s not the only radio station playing in your head. Seeing her again doesn’t get to erase any of the work you’ve done. She doesn’t get to have that—that was work that you did! It’s yours! You own the rights to it!

I get that you think seeing her again might throw a wrench in your betterment. The best (but also worst) thing about being a fleshy mortal in this situation is that you simply can’t control the outcome of every awkward interaction or every student’s class schedule. Well, wait. Actually, if you learned how to hack into your school’s database, you could probably engineer the perfect schedule to where you two wouldn’t be likely to cross paths. Obviously you’d have to come up with an algorithm that also prevents hallway run-ins–maybe setting up roadblocks that block the flow of students. But even so—learning hacking as a trade feels like an enormous amount of effort just for this.

So focus on what you can control, like how much time you spend dwelling on the what if’s or how much space you let those negative feelings take up in your mind in places where good stuff could go instead. Remember good stuff? Good stuff is nice.

Once you relinquish the idea of control, the next thing you can do is build up your foundation. By that I mean: think of your self-esteem like a house. How banal, I know! But you don’t have to take an architecture class to understand how spot on my metaphor is. It’s easy to feel better momentarily when you paint the walls a bright new color or hang up a cool new Buffy poster. Who wouldn’t? Aesthetic improvements feel nice but they’re momentary. Why? Because if your foundation is cracked, the way the house looks doesn’t really matter because you have to rebuild that goddamn thing. The good news is that whether or not your house feels like an abandoned roadside shack or an immaculate mansion a la MTV Cribs (too old a reference?), remember that you can always build up your foundation.

So how can you build up this foundation, you ask? Well, emotional health should be tended to at all times, not just when you’re in dire need of it. If you continuously appreciate yourself and the people around you, you’ll build a strong ass foundation that won’t crack easily.

Think about what makes you feel warm and good. Maybe that’s simply being outside. Listen, you don’t have to go base jumping or extreme whitewater rafting, but sometimes it means just taking a book in your backyard or sitting on a swing.

Too much like an indie movie? Fine. Then go do something nice for your friends like writing them a handwritten card or making them a mixtape (Am I out of touch?). Strengthening your friendships and telling people how much you care about them is by far the coolest thing on the planet. Trust me. They won’t forget it.

Walk through the halls confidently with your headphones in while you listen to music. I like to daydream and picture myself as the lead singer, but that’s just me. Maybe you can even jam out to this playlist I crafted for you:

 

BuildThatFoundation_2

cover art by Isabella Rotman

 

But most importantly: Give yourself a break. It’s okay to not fully be over the messy feelings that ensued, that just means you’re human. If we could think our way out of heartache, we’d all be robots.

Eventually, you’ll be so distracted simply basking in your own incredible atmosphere, that you’ll forget that you ever cared what you’d think if you ran into her. I know it sounds kind of silly: Distract yourself with yourself. t’s the best advice I can give and has gotten me through many versions and variations of “fear of running into my ex at school.”


Hello! We are starting a new advice series here at Everyone Is Gay called “An Honest Mixtape”! Each month (starting right now!) we will feature a new guest writer who will tackle one of your advice questions with words *and* music! 

Huge thanks to writer, comedian, and actor Brittany Ashley for kicking things off for us!

Listen to Brittany’s Mixtape, “Build That Foundation,” right here!

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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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"I’m a trans woman, and in the wake of the election I’m finding it hard to be hopeful. Any advice?"

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Mey Rude Says:

Hey, honestly, I’m in that same scary, hopeless boat as you. But, the good thing about that is that there are a lot of us here in this boat, and while all of us are afraid of sharks and storms and jellyfish and waves, we’re also all together, and that makes us stronger. And while you and I might be really scared of the water and all the things in it, a lot of the people in the boat are a lot braver than us. A lot of them also have skills we don’t have. Maybe they know how to spot changes in the weather or how to patch up holes in the bottom of the boat. Maybe they know how to fight off dangerous sea creatures. Maybe they even know how to spot land and how to get us there.

Now, I’ve probably strained that metaphor about as far as it will go, but I hope you understand what I’m getting at. You’re not alone, we’re not alone, and we never will be. We’ll always have each other. A lot of trans women, and trans people of all kinds, are going to be banding together more now than we have in decades, because, honestly, the danger that faces us is greater than is has been since the days of Reagan and the AIDS crisis. Let me tell you something, though, when we come together, we are powerful as heck. We started the Stonewall Riots, that means the LGBTQ movement as we know it is because of us. We changed the way people look at gender and fashion and language. Shade, werk, yaas, read, all of that was us (and when I say “us” I mean specifically Black and Latina trans women in this case). Culture would not be the same without us. We are revolutionary, radical and resilient.

What’s more than that – and this is really good news – is that we have all of our allies. We have the people who love us and are willing to sacrifice in order to protect us. We have people who are fighting tooth and nail for us, and they’re not going to let this ship go down no matter what (there I am with that metaphor again). They’re already donating their time and effort and money to places like the Trans Lifeline, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Transgender Law Center in order to help us out. They’re already helping us to change our names and our documents, they’re offering us shelter in case we lose our homes, they’re offering us love and community and protection.

Also, to be completely honest, maybe my words won’t give you hope. I understand that. I’ve had a lot of hopeless days since the election. But even when I’m feeling hopeless I’m going to keep fighting until I get that hope back, and so are a lot of other people. And if you can’t have hope right now, that’s okay, the rest of us will hope for you. Soon enough of us will be fighting (whether we have hope or not) that we’ll make things better and it will be easier to be hopeful. This is something I believe with all my heart and know with all my soul.

Until then, though, it’s not going to be easy. I don’t want to give you unrealistic expectations for the next four or eight years. But I’m fine giving you hope, because no matter how small hope is, it isn’t unrealistic. It can’t be. It’s hope, and hope is literally magic. I told you I was done with the metaphors and I am. When I say that it’s magic I mean very literally that hope makes things that should be impossible possible. It changes lives and it changes the world. And so while it seems like these next four years are going to be impossible, as long as we have each other, as long as we have our allies and as long as at least some of us have hope, we’re going to keep on fighting and keep on moving forward.

If you’re feeling hopeless enough that you want to hurt yourself, please reach out to someone. You can call the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860 in the US or (877) 330-6366 in Canada, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or the general National Suicide Prevention Hotline for the US at 1-800-273-8255. The Trevor Project also has text and chat lines.

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"Self-care. Please self-care."
Some thoughts on preserving yourself / ourselves in a complicated time
by Kristin Russo

hello there, lovely readers.

for the past six years, most of my advice has been rooted in my lived experience. when you came to me with broken hearts, i told you how my own broken hearts had felt, and how i made it through to the other side. when you were having trouble with parents who didn’t accept you for who you are, i shared my own experience as someone who came out to a very catholic mother. when you found yourself in love with your best friend, i told you how i, too, fell hard for mine (and survived).

now, though, in this post-election world, we are facing some pretty big feelings together, in real time. i haven’t walked through this particular mix of sadness, confusion, and grief before – in big part because of my own cis, white privilege. perhaps you are more familiar with these feelings of confusion and grief than I am or, perhaps, you have found yourself just as embarrassingly railroaded by them as i have.

one thing i believe to be true for all of us, though, is that – now more than ever before – we must take care of ourselves.

some of us have been angry for days, others of us have fallen into a pool of sadness; some of us have been quiet and scared, others have taken to the streets with loud voices and painted signs. this fight has been and will continue to be one that requires our stamina, our strength in the face of hardship, and our resolve to hold each other up. this is a short list of ways in which i think we can do just that:

• give as much value to turning off your phone as you give to turning it on. yes, it is important to know what is going on in the world around us. i, too, know the deep pull to constantly check my social feeds, to share my thoughts, feelings, and findings with others, and to gather, collect, & critique that information. that is important, necessary work. however, those dives into the land of digital information can (and do) often snowball down into a dark, weighted place – especially in times like these. we must take breaks. don’t bring your phone into your bedroom at night. if you need it as an alarm? put it in airplane mode. set boundaries: don’t look at your phone or digital media of any kind during mealtimes, and give yourself at least an hour before bed and after waking up before re-engaging.

• talk to your friends. laugh with your friends. when the world feels heavy, sometimes we feel we are not allowed to let light in. please, please, let the light in. make a concerted effort to plan time together with those you love. facetime with your long distance friends, meet your amazing cousin for a drink, gather at your best friend’s house to have a coloring party, or schedule a weekly movie & grilled cheese night (!!). you are allowed to have fun. you are allowed to laugh. if fighting this fight is the exhale, consider these moments of laughter and levity to be the inhale. they must exist together.

• go outside. this planet is a beautiful, magical place. leaves change color and fall from their branches, streams bubble over rocks as they have for centuries, clouds make ever-shifting shapes in the sky. make time for yourself, at least once each day, to appreciate this beauty. put your work, your phone, and all else aside and commit to taking a walk outside every day (even if you have to bundle up in the cold weather!). those shifts in perspective & moments of reflection can underpin some of our most important ideas.

• look for new ways to engage with community. i recently received an email from a friend who told me that, in the wake of the election, she had decided to reach out to all of her old high school teachers. in her letter to them, she offered to be a pen pal or resource for any high school student who might be feeling stuck in her conservative home-state of south dakota. now is an incredible time to engage with our communities in ways we haven’t before: volunteer at local organizations who serve LGBTQ or other marginalized communities, help arrange a book-drive, look into arranging a digital meet-up, write letters to the people who have inspired you to keep fighting. engage.

• read old books, new books, used books, all books. we have a little ongoing list over here on facebookof books that are exceptionally important to the work ahead of us. you should read them. add your own recommendations to the list. read them along with your friends! heck, go ahead and start a book club! bring cheetos to share!! you can even read more than one book at a time. my wife does this, so i know it is true… she stacks them up in a big pile and then depending on how she is feeling and what she needs from a book, she chooses accordingly. you can have a horror-book and a queer-book and a comic-book and even a cooking-book all at the ready for whenever you are in need. books are like the fucking super-food of self-care.

• if you are able, be active. physical activity gives our bodies a way to use all of that whaaaaaattheeeefuuuuuck energy in ways that, at the same time, make us stronger. do ten jumping jacks when you wake up. learn how to do a sun salutation. go swimming. start running. rearrange your bedroom. organize your garage. dance to tegan and sara on full blast. do all of these things or some of them or even just one of them!

• create. there is a very silly myth that some people believe, which is that in order to create you must be good at creating. not. true. write a poem, sing a song, draw a picture, braid your hair, finger paint, make a collage. you do not have to make art for anyone but yourself, but spend some time each week on creating something… anything. remember that it isn’t the end-product that matters, it is the process itself that allows us to find new spaces of healing.

• ask for help when you need help. it is okay to struggle. reach out to those you love when your heart is breaking, when you get stuck on the couch in a whirlwind of sadness, when you sit at your desk surrounded by papers and due dates and rage, rage, rage. talk it out, yell it out, lean on those close to you, and keep a list of hotlines handy should you find yourself in need of more professional care. the trevor project is available at 866-488-7386 and the trans lifeline is available at 877-565-8860.

• breathe. like, literally… breathe. breathing regulates our entire nervous system. there are many different breathing exercises that you can learn, and you can even make it a fun new project to try a new exercise each week. my go-to is square breathing, where i breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and repeat. close your eyes, find a quiet place, and do this for ten minutes each day – if you can, do it right when you wake up. in moments of extreme anxiety, use these breathing techniques to help you find your center.

my dears, i am going to hold tight to this list fiercely over the coming weeks, and i ask you to do the same. it is easy to feel like we cannot take a moment away from the fight because it is so vital, so critical to our own survival and to the survival of so many… but we cannot sustain it if we do not sustain ourselves.

remember that when you take time out to do these things, you are still fighting.

clear eyes, full hearts,
kristin

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