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“How do I get over internalized homophobia. It’s stopping me from being myself and I hate it.”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

The first step is recognizing the internalized homophobia, which you’ve already done, so you are literal LIGHTYEARS ahead of the curve. A lot of us (myself included) don’t realize what’s making us feel awful until way way way way way down the road. AND THEN we figure out that it has to do with how parents, friends, teachers, and society has made you feel about the LGBTQ community. THEN, WHAT’S MORE, how all of those things have made US feel as a member of the LGBTQ community. We’re taught pretty intensely that “it’s OKAY that someone is gay, gay people are cool, but also you’re not a gay person, which thank god bc gay people aren’t as cool” … YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

I’d like very much to suggest therapy. There are so many things about the way that we lead our day-to-day lives and how we feel about ourselves that we can’t even begin to understand because we’re IN IT. We can’t understand the outside perspective and we can’t begin to work on it because no one has said “Hey, have you thought about this thing that happened that scared you? Maybe that contributes to you still being afraid.” Having someone help you figure those things out is fucking KEY, y’all. It’s so important.

Maybe therapy isn’t the answer for you, maybe writing your feelings out is, maybe talking to some friends, maybe you need to check out a PFLAG group and hear thoughts from other folks.

I think you’re on the right track and I think you’ll get there. You are doing all of the best things for yourself.

Kristin Says:

Self-forgiveness is a critical part of this, Anonymous.

We are all hardwired by so many of the things and people and words and thoughts that surround us in our day-to-day lives that it becomes a heavy process when we begin to untangle it all. And that, I believe, is why you are feeling things so deeply at this moment… you’ve begun to untangle those ties that bind you. When we are all tied up and, as Dannielle put it, “IN IT,” it is easier to ignore it all and live our lives amidst the tangle as though nothing is wrong. When we begin to see those ties all around us, it can be a sudden and sometimes crippling blow; you are now realizing that you can be more, and that the things and people and words and thoughts that surround you are not true. The journey to combat that within and outside of yourself can seem a harrowing one.

Hell, it can be a harrowing one.

So remind yourself that you’ve just taken the first few steps, and that it is okay if situations and moments arise where those ties pull tight around your chest. Just yesterday I had a conversation with my wife about an experience she had on her flight to Nashville. The woman next to her was very chatty and asked her if she was married and if she was going to have kids and all sorts of other things, and she assumed that my wife was married to man. Well, my wife made the decision not to correct her. Is that wrong? I don’t think so. Does it stem from a place where we are taught that others may think we are less than and so therefore we occasionally occupy that place and remain silent? It sure does. The fragments and pieces of it all are a part of our lives, and they manifest in different ways for each of us. You aren’t bad or wrong for having feelings that creep up and make you doubt who you are. Forgive yourself these moments.

Then, surround yourself with people who believe and fight for equality, people who walk a similar path to your own, and people who love, admire, and believe in you – the complete you. Talk to those people about some of the struggles you have and see if they’ve felt similarly. Recognize the moments when they happen. Journal about them. Practice yoga and meditation if you can, or any activities that help center you on this planet as a worthy, brilliant human being.

It takes time to untangle those ties, Anonymous, but you are doing it. For each one you unravel and drop to the floor, you’ll find a new, shiny piece of yourself to love and appreciate. The real you includes doubtful feelings right now, and that is okay. What the world has taught you, and all of us, is a giant pot full of absolute bullshit. We foster and grow this beautiful community of queer and trans people as a means to fight that bullshit, to re-teach ourselves truth, and to walk each day with our heads held a bit higher.

xoxo

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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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"I recently came out to my parents as pansexual. They took it surprisingly well and I am truly grateful for that. But I can’t help but think that they just acted like they were fine with it and secretly judge me for my sexuality. All of this makes me extremely anxious, what should I do?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Hi, me, how are you today? I am fine, thanks for asking, me. Love you, me.

This question isn’t ACTUALLY from me, but it may as well be bc those are all my feels. I don’t know where it comes from, maybe we all just get so worked up about stuff that once someone reassures us of their feelings, we are still freaking TF out in our brains because our worked up feelings haven’t gone away yet?!

I’m no brain doctor (or whoever knows this stuff), but that makes the most sense to me. We build something up and up and up and up and in our minds there is no possible way to feel good about it, so, the person is like ‘holy shit that’s great’ and even though they totally mean it, we are like ‘IT’S NOT GREAT. IT ISN’T BECAUSE I ALREADY THOUGHT YOU WOULD NOT THINK IT’S GREAT.”

OMG I just realized it’s like when you’re falling in love with someone and you’re like ‘god i hope they like me as much as i like them’ and they’re like, ‘i like you so much i can’t stand it’ and then you walk away and you’re like ‘i bet they don’t like me as much as i like them’ and it’s an endless cycle based on nothing because we are all afraid. BUT WHAT ARE WE AFRAID OF.

Here’s what we should do. From this day forward, let’s all give each other the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume people are telling the truth. Let’s believe the people we care for most. Let’s recognize when we feel like our loved ones aren’t being honest and take a deep breath. Remember that we could be wrong, they might very well love us unconditionally.

Kristin Says:

You know, my therapist and I once had a conversation that I believe applies directly to your question, Anonymous. Do you think I have to pay my therapist more if I am using her guidance on the internet? …Shhhh, no one tell her.

The long and short of what my therapist told me was that I wasn’t allowing for other people to have more than one emotion simultaneously. She asked me to think about my own feelings on certain things in my life, and recognize that I could feel confused and excited all at once, sad and hopeful in the same breath, joyful and scared together in the passing of just one second. One single feeling doesn’t occupy the entirety of us at a time… we are pretty complicated beings. And, one single feeling certainly does not negate other feelings that are happening simultaneously.

I tell you all of that, Anonymous, not because I don’t believe your family. I do — I think they are being great because they love you and support you. And, maybe that is ALL they feel, and like Dannielle has suggested, you just need some time to adjust and accept that. However, that might not be the entirety of what you are experiencing. You might be picking up on some nuances in their responses or behavior — perhaps they are being supportive but they are also unsure of certain ways that they should talk to you now, maybe they are confused about certain terms or identities, maybe they are scared about certain things but don’t know that they can share this with you. That is all part of the coming out process — for you and for them.

The important thing to know, though, is that if they are unsure or confused or scared… that does not mean that they cannot also be full of love, support, and excitement for you. My advice is to allow them that complexity. Accept what they are telling you, and if they have moments where it seems they are more unsure than excited, talk to them and remember that doesn’t make their support disappear.

I promise you that they are not judging you. They love you, and at most they are seeking out answers that will help them to understand you even more.

<3

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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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"Dannielle, how do you stop yourself from getting angry about people (strangers, etc) making assumptions/comments about your gender presentation in public?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

A few months ago I was apple picking (DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT) and a 6-year-old referred to my gf and I as “you and the girl.” Which, I KNEW was because he knew FOR SURE my gal was a gal because dresses and long hair, but he had no idea what TF I was… like was I a boy or a girl and how would he even ask and was it worth the time? He decided to just bypass the whole issue and move on bc the point of his conversation was, if my gf sat on my shoulders, she could easily reach the apples without needing the apple-picking-wire-tool. THAT WAS THE POINT, THE POINT WASN’T TO HAVE A LONG CONVO ABOUT MY GENDER. This six year old knew that and moved on without question.

Later talking about it, I thought it was pretty cool. He didn’t need clarity because it didn’t matter. I was a person and he wanted to talk to me and he didn’t give a fuck what I was peeing with, you know? (BC when you’re six, that’s all gender is, that’s it)

Gender, of course, is not that simple. HOWEVER, I felt I needed to start there because it wasn’t anything I’d thought about. I’d only thought about my experiences being referred to as the wrong gender in so many situations. I’d only thought about feeling uncomfortable and destroyed because I can’t dress the way I want or feel comfortable without being mis-identified by people who know nothing about me. AND THIS IS ALL BASED ON WHAT I’M WEARING AND HATS… it makes no sense and I hate it. I do get angry, I get VERY angry, especially because it isn’t about me. It’s about the thousands of people we talk to every day who go through what I’m going through. People who struggle even more with their identity and don’t know how to react. People who struggle and don’t know how to talk about it, who talk to, why it’s okay to feel comfortable, ANYTHING. People who don’t live in big-progressive-city-bubble like me. I get sad for my own feels, yea, but I get way more sad for all the other humans with feels.

I try to bypass those feelings by paying attention to all the positive shit that’s going on. AND I try to be a part of that positive. I like to have conversations with people close to me, or people I work with and let them know my stance on gender. My stance is confusing, because gender is confusing. BUT THE POINT IS, you can really get into someone’s brain and make them start to live life in a more inclusive way if you simply bring up the idea that (1) you don’t always know someone’s gender just by looking at them and (2) you don’t ever NEED to know someone’s gender… Honestly, why do you have to say “ma’am can we borrow your salt” when you can just say “excuse me, can we borrow your salt?” It’s a small change, but if we all made it, the world and the people around us would feel a lot more comfortable. We are lightyears ahead of where we were 20 years ago. And “progress” is an active word, we are in motion, currently changing how people think and act and speak. We can’t expect the entire world to change over night, we can just try as hard as possible to continue making that change. And I think we are doing just that.

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