, , , , , , , , , , ,

“I am the president of the GSA at my high school and I’d like to do some volunteer work with the club related to LGBT issues. We live in a small, rural area and we can’t really travel to a larger city. I’m having a hard time finding much. What kind of stuff can we do?”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Dane Says:

Firstly, nice job landing president of your GSA! Now lets get into it.

You don’t have to travel to a larger city in order to do LGBT related volunteer work because there are volunteer opportunities all around you– you just have to think a bit further out of the box. For example, you could collaborate on projects with other school GSAs in the school district. Most schools have their own websites that detail all the aspects of the school’s academics, athletics, and extracurriculars, so perhaps search up a few schools around you, browse their sites, see if any LGBT related clubs are in their club listings, and then figure out how to get in contact with any GSAs you come across. Then, discuss with the student leader(s) how you’d want to volunteer or start a project together.

Now, I understand that when someone says they want to do volunteer work, they usually mean that they physically want to do something (i.e. volunteering at a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, etc). However, I’ve learned that volunteering doesn’t always need to be 100% hands on; raising awareness and support goes a long way. A school in my area holds an annual “Café Night” to raise awareness and money for LGBT issues and organizations. The whole event is basically dinner and a show; the members of the GSA and any volunteers cook food, bring drinks, decorate the gym, the whole sha-bang. Then, there are signups for performers to showcase whatever talent they have, be it slam poetry or avocado juggling. During the week leading up to the night until the night itself, there are ticket sales, and all the proceeds go towards whichever organization they choose. It’s pretty damn cool honestly and I think it works really well in most schools. BUT if you’re having doubts about whether it will work for your school in particular (because of the GSA size or school size or tolerance level), let me wrench out some more ideas for you.

Day. Of. Silence. The Day of Silence is definitely something that will raise a TON of awareness at your school. If you don’t know already, the Day of Silence is an annual event created by GLSEN in which people (mostly adolescents) take a daylong vow of silence to bring attention to LGBT youth who have been silenced due to bullying and harassment. Having your GSA partake in the Day of Silence is definitely a great form of LGBT volunteer work. I currently run a GSA and have been doing so for the last two years, and we also did the Day of Silence. It started out with only the club members taking the vow of silence, but as the day progressed, more and more people wanted to take the vow as well (there were also some bandwagoners but oh well what can ya do).

image

Pictured: me holding up a “What will You do to end the silence?” poster, also holding a sharpie and roll of duct tape in my right hand for people who wanted to participate last minute, and also sweating profusely because it was a lot of damn people.

Another great thing you could do is help out (and of course, raise awareness for) LGBT homeless youth. Life is hard, man. Parents disown, kick out, and cut off their children all the time simply because they are queer and/or trans, and that’s not okay. This is where LGBT homeless youth centers come into play. They’re really helpful in providing a safe place for youth to sleep and eat, but a lot of the time they could use an extra hand, and that’s where you come in. Have a bake sale (rainbow cupcakes are a must, I’d assume) or some other kind of food sale to raise money for a particular LGBT homeless youth center! Rather than just donating the money to the center, use it to purchase ample supplies for the kids living there like school supplies, warm clothes (if you live in a cooler area), gloves, socks (these are really overlooked when it comes to necessary clothing) etc, all in which can be shipped/ brought to the center of your choosing on your GSA’s behalf.

Last thing (I swear): Put your heads together. Whether there are five people or fifty people in your GSA, brainstorming volunteer ideas is always a good way to really understand what the club’s limits are in reference to what you can and cannot do. I bet you guys have great potential and you seem like a pretty rad leader, so I wish you all the best. Good luck!

share:

, , , , , , , , , ,

"I'm a cisgender white girl, and have been struggling with best practices as an attempting-to-be, admittedly imperfect ally. Since I haven't experienced the same oppression that people of other races and gender identities have, I’ve encountered situations in which I said something that I had no idea would cause someone pain or alienation, but did. It breaks my heart that I did this. How can I protect others from my ignorance, if I can't anticipate it in myself?"

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Aisha Says:

Okay, first, let me say good for you for 1) Admitting that you are an imperfect ally and 2) Being willing and eager to become a better one. It’s not easy to accept that you have privileges you never knew about, and it’s even harder to begin the work of unlearning prejudices or misconceptions.

Let me also begin by saying: you are not alone. Sometimes we say the wrong things. Sometimes we mean to say one thing and it comes out completely wrong—Cady Heron put that best in Mean Girls when she called it “word vomit.” Of course, there’s a difference between saying something embarrassing to your crush and possibly saying something offensive to your friend. (So not grool.)

This may sound too simple, but you know what they say – the simplest solution is usually the right one. I would suggest asking questions. Approach your friends of color and your nonbinary friends and be honest! Tell them that you are scared of saying something hurtful, and ask them what they’re comfortable talking about with you. Ask about their experiences with oppression, or the right pronouns to use when someone is transitioning. This might sound easier said than done, but trust me: your friends want you to be a better ally, too. I definitely want my friends to be!

For example, there’s a kid who sits at my table at lunch—let’s call him Tim—and from time to time he says ignorant things. Once, he admitted he was afraid of and intimidated by muscular black men. I know what you’re thinking: OH MY GOD HOW DO YOU EVEN EAT NEAR SOMEBODY WHO SAYS THINGS LIKE THAT? 

Believe it or not, like you, Tim genuinely didn’t know that he was being offensive. It was so ingrained that he thought that my friend and I—who are also black—would agree with him! My friend and I could have gotten angry, but instead we decided to use the situation as a learning opportunity. We talked Tim through it and asked him why he felt that way, and by the end of it, he realized that he was being influenced by the media and by prejudices in his family. He walked away with a heightened awareness about his misconceptions.

You seem like you are already pretty socially aware, so—and I know this sounds super simple again—just try to be mindful about what you’re saying and thinking. Ask yourself, If the roles were reversed, would I be comfortable if somebody said what I’m about to say? Usually, you have your answer right there. I have another friend who, like you, was frustrated about saying potentially racist things without meaning to. I told him he could text me with questions, and now from time to time we end up having really cool conversations about how he can be a better ally!

Of course, it’s not always easy to find friends who are open to talking about their experiences with you. Remember, it is not the responsibility of people of color or nonbinary people to educate you on how to be an ally – that’s something you have to navigate for yourself. One thing you can do is online research. Diversify your media consumption by reading Out, Essence, or Latina magazines; this will help you to familiarize yourself with the experiences of people of other races and gender identities. There are so many awesome online resources now, too: This Everyday Feminism article and this list of LGBTQ+ identities are great places to start. I wish you all the best, and remember—don’t feel so guilty! Don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance, and realize that you will make mistakes, but that doesn’t make you a bad ally. It makes you human!

***
Click through to read more about Aisha and our other contributors!

share:

, , , , , , , , , , ,

"I'm 14 years old, gay, and my dad is in the military so we move around a lot. How do I deal with having to come out over and over again?”

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

Shane Says:

Dear Over-and-Over-a-Gay:

The coming out process has actually been on my mind quite a bit recently. I’ve noticed that, even ten years after I started coming out myself, it can still be a challenging task. You’re not alone.

The sort-of-bad news is that coming out is rarely a one-stop shop. And by “rarely” I mean sometimes Olympians like Tom Daley date Oscar-winners, then come out with a viral video, so…. if you can pull it off, there’s that option.

But, silver lining! The coming outs can be whatever you want them to be, and can happen however you want them to happen. You have the added challenge of moving around military-family style, which can be exhausting every time you have to rehash your personal intro. But if you add a little creativity to coming out, it can alleviate the anxiety that usually goes hand in hand with being vulnerable around new people.

For example, you could set up a Secrets Booth, where people come to trade secrets with you. That way, you level the playing field when it comes to disclosing personal information. There’s also the right-off-the-bat approach, which goes something like…

“Bonjour, I’m Shane and also gay, smell ya later!”

If you’re inclined towards the written word, some of my closest friends have had positive experiences in writing coming out e-mails. You can preface with something like, “I’m figuring out the best way to do this, so here goes….” Writing letters, e-mails, or private messages gives you the literary freedom and control to articulate yourself the precise way you want.

You’re also totally justified in saying, “I don’t feel comfortable talking about it,” if your sexuality comes up, or you’d rather come out after you get to know people a tad better.

If you let it, coming out can become an ongoing skill and a helpful tool, rather than a burden. My big picture advice: within safety and reason, come out as often as you can. Say it to the mirror, sing it underwater, write it on a bathroom stall. Make prank calls and say, “Hello, I’m gay. Have a wonderful day, sir or ma’am.”

Don’t pass up an opportunity to be courageous, even by yourself. You are an extremely important figure in the big gay narrative. Stories like yours, that demonstrate continuous courage, those are the stories that inspire others to do the same, to be themselves.

It’s an enormous responsibility and a fabulous privilege. Your coming out helps build a safer community, by outnumbering the fears that keep us in the closet. It doesn’t have to be HIGH KICKS and GLITTER every time. But every time a gay kid comes out, a drag queen gets her wigs. Let that comforting thought be the wind beneath your wings.

***

Love Shane’s work? He is a volunteer contributor! Support him on Paypal!

Click through to read more about Shane and our other Second Opinions Panelists!

share:

, , , , , , , , , ,

“Hey, this is quite a general question applicable to many things, but how do you not burn out from activism?”

Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

This is quite a general answer but:

You gotta take breaks.
You GOTTA take breaks.
YOU GOTTA TAKE BREAKS.

They can look like this:

Or this:

Or even this:

(If they look like that we should talk about dating in the near future.)

ANYWAY, the bottom line is that you gotta take care of you.

SeriouslySelf-care is a critical component of changing the world, so whether that means you take a day, a week, or three years, you gotta take the time you need to feel centered, positive, alert, and ready. The change-making is going to need you when you return, and you’re gonna be refreshed and ready to tackle it once you’ve rested your sweet lil’ activist eyeballs for a bit.

share:

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Hi, I’m intersex, but I’ve never met another intersex person before. Where is everyone?! I want to meet another intersex person so much. Where do I find them?”

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

Claudia Says:

Hi, Anonymous!  This is a great question – I don’t think I’ve ever met another intersex person that didn’t share these sentiments.  I remember dreaming about what it would be like to meet another intersex person as a kid, wondering where they all were, wondering when it would happen. When I finally did meet an out intersex person for the first time, I felt like my heart and my life exploded in the best of all possible ways.    I had been told for years and years by doctors, my family, society at large that I had to keep my body and myself a secret, that other people wouldn’t understand, that I had to try my best to be “normal” at all costs.  To finally meet someone that not only understood but VALIDATED my intersex self? Was nothing less than life-changing. I count that as one of many turning-points in my life.  Meeting other intersex people is important and great, and I hope that you can connect with some fantastic intersex folks soon!

That being said, WE ARE NOT AN EASY BUNCH TO FIND out in the world nowadays.  That shame and secrecy I referenced just a moment ago is still the party line that a lot of intersex kids are given – and what a lot of intersex teens and adults stick to because 1) there aren’t a ton of models out there showing closeted intersex people that you can come out and live a fulfilling life and it will be okay, and 2) the medicalization most of us undergo and the intersexphobia we feel in society is a deterrent to coming out when most of us are still closeted. Intersex people looking to connect have historically had a difficult time doing so.  Furthermore, doctors have not been helpful for putting intersex kids and families in contact with one another, at least in part because of patient confidentiality agreements.

But one giant thing has changed since the dark ages of the 1980’s when I was born, that’s helping intersex people find one another today:  THE POWER OF THE INTERNET.  There has been, like, approx. eleventy billion articles and thinkpieces on how the internet has changed social landscapes, in ways that are argued to be either awesomesauce or awfulsauce #makinwordsup #fakewordfriday #justgowithit  #awfulsauceyum??  In this particular case, the internet has been enormously helpful in enabling intersex people to connect with one another – both online and in real life.  In short:  THE INTERNET IS RIDICULOUSLY HELPFUL, DO YOU KNOW, WHY DON’T YOU LOG ON NOW #dialupnoises #ughlikeyouknowwhatthosearenow #speakingofthe80s #halpimdecrepit

There are multiple ways you can search for awesome, out intersex people to connect with.  You can search the #intersex hashtag on social media, like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook or Google search terms like “intersex organization” or “intersex activist.”  (You may not care if the wonderful intersex people you wanna connect with are activists/affiliates of an intersex organization or not, but these are nevertheless starting points to meet other intersex people!)  Follow some intersex folks and orgs that advocate for intersex human rights and/or provide support for intersex folks.  If you find some people or groups you think you like, check em out online and learn more.  Check out some stuff they’ve written.  Subscribe to a newsletter.  See if they host a chatroom, forum, or closed Facebook group you can join, where intersex people can talk with one another.  (These exist out there, with some that are specific for people with a particular intersex variation.)  See if the intersex folks or orgs you like give talks or workshops, or take part in or host (bi-)annual meetings you’d like to attend, AND THEN GO!  Going to a real-life event is a great way to meet intersex people in person!  You have the opportunity to not only meet awesome intersex folks who live far away but you can keep up with through the wonders of text message, Gchat, and Skype, but you may also find intersex people you like that live near you! And now you’re straight-up hanging out with intersex people, ALL BECAUSE YOU SEARCHED A HASHTAG ON THE INTERNETS, man are you good!

A further note:  if you don’t have a lot of $$$, that’s not necessarily a problem – you can still totally go to an event!  Many talks and workshops are free or donation-based for participants, and big annual meetings – which do cost money, and are hosted in different places that require travel – sometimes offer scholarships to help those in need attend. See what’s in your area or close-by, and what seems worth saving up for, traveling to, and applying for scholarships to attend.

FIRE UP YR SEARCH ENGINES, Anonymous, and go find some friends!  <3

***

Love Claudia’s work? She is a volunteer contributor! Support her on Paypal!

Click through to read more about Claudia and our other Second Opinions Panelists!

share: