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"My best friend keeps bringing up that I have done next to nothing sexual. She does it jokingly, but it’s a very sore subject for me.. I don’t know if it’s just an insecurity of mine or if she’s being insensitive or both? PS I argued that according to a 2006-2008 CDC survey 54% of teens haven’t had sex, but she said that most teens wouldn’t report it. Do you have insights into this subject and to my problem?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I can’t give you stats because my insight is that your sexual experiences have literally nothing to do with the sexual experiences of those around you. I don’t care how many people your age have or haven’t had sex and how they’ve done it and how many times they’ve done it and with what kind of people they’ve done it, none of that matters.

The bummer in this situation is your friend, making you feel shitty for having a preference. Sex is like anything else in the world. You have to do the things that make you feel best. When you are making decisions about sex, do what it is that you want. Have sex when YOU want, with whom YOU want, how YOU want, and ask for the things that make YOU feel good. It doesn’t matter what your friends and your magazines and your statistics say. Don’t do it just to do it, don’t do it to prove a point, don’t do it because of your age, do it because you WANT to.

Tell your friend just that. She can keep making jokes, but you’ll do the sexy things you want to do when you want to do them, AND once you do them… you might not even tell her because you should only tell people about your sexitimes IF YOU WANT TO. Also, the last thing she wants is for you to have sex with someone you don’t want to have sex with just because she’s pressuring you. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?!?!

Kristin Says:

Agree on all counts HOWEVER, there was a tiny piece of that question that wondered whether or not you were interpreting her behavior a particular way because your were feeling insecure. I want to look at that for a hot second, and give your friend here the benefit of the doubt, just in case that is an important little clue you left for us…

There is a chance that your friend, in truth, doesn’t give a flying fuck when you have sex, what you do, or how you do it. There is a chance that your friend is, in actuality, your friend, and so cares more about you than what you are doing with your body parts. There is a chance your friend thinks that she is making light of a silly thing called sex, but that because this whole goddamned world makes us all feel like sex is a Holy Grail of achievement, that you are hearing her jokes as weighty judgements.

My advice is to start there, and start there in two ways:

1. Think about what Dannielle said. Really, truly think about it. Sex is fun for people who enjoy sex and who are ready for sex, absolutely… but like… it’s not the big mysterious all-powerful monstrosity of a thing that the world makes it out to be. It is bodies on bodies making biology do a thing that makes more biology do things that makes us FEEL GOOD BC OF BIOLOGY. You can get some of the same brain-responses from eating a cookie (I don’t actually know this to be true, but I am sure there is cookie/sex science somewhere?). Like D said, you do things when and how you want to do them and you tell who you want and you move along on your own journey. Anyone who judges you is a total dummy.

2. Talk to your friend!!! In a moment where sex is not at all even remotely being talked about, say, “Listen. You know how you’ve had sex and I haven’t had sex and sometimes you make casual jokes about it? I am having a hard time being casual in my brain, because I feel really conflicted about the fact that I haven’t had sex yet, and I am trying to work through what I even want when it comes to sexy stuff and feeling all sorts of wobbly. Is it cool if we put a temporary hold on the jokes for now, and if I want to talk about things more I will let you know?”

I think the odds are high that your friend will hear you out. Especially as a human who has supposedly had sex, she MUST know that it really isn’t a thing that is the same for any two people or worthy of such pressure. Yeah? Yeah.

***

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"I came out of the closet last month as a gay male. Since then, I’ve heard nothing but positive words. However, I’ve come to feel very alienated around my male friends. It seems like every day they mention my sexuality in a lighthearted way. I mean, I appreciate being a hot topic, but I hate being objectified and viewed as "the gay guy" (which I have actually been called several times) Is this a phase or will I be dealing with this the rest of my life? And how can I prove to them that I’m normal?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Broderick Greer as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.

Broderick Says:

Dear Very Alienated,

You are a courageous soul. Coming out of the closet as a gay man is one of the most important, life-altering claims you will ever make in your life. To claim your place as a sexual minority – especially when you don’t have to – sets you apart as a person of deep integrity and thoughtfulness. Unfortunately, this integration of self will not be appreciated by everyone. Whereas you have done the necessary work to disclose a reality you know to be true in your innermost being, many people you interact with on a daily basis have never done such intense self-evaluation. This difference in maturity might be at the root of your male friends’ “lighthearted” mention of your sexuality. If they can’t deal with your being gay, they need to grow up. The time is over for joking about sexual, racial, ethnic, and gender minorities, especially when we’re nothing but respectful of our majority counterparts.

When you made the bold step of coming out as a gay man, you sacrificed the privilege and convenience of being assumed as a straight man. As you know, straight male privilege is the comfort zone that keeps so many non-straight men from disclosing their sexual minority status. There are numerous gay men who marry women, become fathers, and settle into suffocating lives of closet-dwelling. You, however, have chosen a different path. You have the fortitude to be honest with yourself and the people you love about the beautifully complex person that you are and that is a true gift. Anyone, I mean anyone, who cannot accept you for who you are doesn’t deserve your time, attention, or thought. If the time comes to escort them to the exit door of your life, walk them there with all of the assertiveness and gentleness you can muster.

But before you escort them to the exit door of your life, tell them that you feel objectified when they mention your sexuality in a lighthearted way. Let them know that your sexual orientation is not something you are ready to make light of and that if they are your friends, they will respect your desire to be treated like a human being, not a sideshow. If they continue to belittle you, do just as this wise child did to his playmate: assert your needs. You cannot live your life pressed under the unrelenting, insensitive social urges of people who do not care about your emotional well-being. It doesn’t matter how you make your feelings known to them – a Facebook message, a handwritten letter, a face-to-face meeting – as long as you make your feelings known. Like Zora Neale Hurston said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

Will you have to deal with being called “the gay guy” the rest of your life? I do not know. I am an advice columnist, not a medium. I do know this, however: Being yourself is always the life-giving road to travel. Will there be unpredictable twists and turns on the path of authenticity? Yes. Will you find yourself, at times, unsure of your decision to disclose your sexual orientation to the world? Most assuredly. But there will also be moments when you can’t even remember what it was like to not be an out gay man. There will be moments when you know that the act of self-disclosure far outweighs an alternative of fear-based isolation. And through committing to being yourself, you are embodying a new kind of normalcy. A normalcy fed by transparency and genuineness. And that, my friend, is normal enough.

Yours,

Broderick

***

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"MY FRIENDS THINK I’M IN LOVE WITH THEM JUST FOR BEING LESBIAN."

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

YOUR FRIENDS ARE TURDS.

Kristin Says:

Here’s what you do. Go to a well-populated area, like a mall or a Chipotle or amusement park or something. Take your phone or a camera. Take a picture of every single boy you see for two hours.

Print out the photos at your local place that prints photos. I know the ability to print photos exists somewhere, so just figure it out, k? Get some glue and some posterboard. Paste all of your photos on the posterboard. Write on the top in magic marker, “Boys My Friends Must Be Crushin’ On Bc Of No Other Reason Than They Are Boys.”

Next time your friends say that you must be in love with them since you’re gay, take out your posterboard (I don’t know where you’ll keep it, but just figure it out I’M NOT A DOCTOR), and say, “that’s sooooo funny because I took all these pictures of your crushes the other day SINCE THE FACT THAT YOU LIKE BOYS MEANS YOU MUST LIKE EVERY BOY ON THE PLANET EARTH DO YOU GET WHAT I AM SAYING?! You can hang this on your wall.”

Then find the nearest boy and point and shout “OMG ANOTHER ONE OF YOUR CRUSHES!!!”

Then roll your eyes and tell them Dannielle Owens-Reid, celebrity author, thinks they should stop acting like turds.

***
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"I recently found out that one of my good friends is lesbian, which I’ve always suspected anyways. Never thought about asking her as I think it’s best to let her come out at her own pace. The thing is, she’s told a couple of other friends. I wouldn’t be so hurt if we haven’t known each other for much, MUCH longer. Now it makes me feel like she never really viewed me as a close friend all along. She’s trusted me with a lot before so, why not this? Any ideas? I can’t wrap my head around it at all"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

This is really interesting because I feel like we hear the other side of this all the time. We talk to people who say “I didn’t tell my BFF first and I think she’s upset, but I just wasn’t ready.” In fact, yours truly (read: me), didn’t tell her BFF EVER. Literally, my best friend since 8th grade and I never had a conversation about me being gay. I just one day started bringing a girl around and that was that. I don’t know why I felt so weird talking to her about it, but I did. I just didn’t know how to do it, so I didn’t.

Your friend is not using this against you. She isn’t making the conscious effort to leave you out, I promise. Sometimes telling the people who are closest to us is the hardest part. It was actually WAY harder to tell the people in my life who I KNEW would be understanding and supportive. I knew FOR A FACT a lot of my friends would be stoked, slash love me, slash be proud that I was figuring me out. Those were the hardest people to tell because what if I WAS WRONG?!?! What if the ONE person I believed would support me was THE ONE PERSON who didn’t support me? It’s terrifying.

I think you’re doing right by not forcing it out of her, but I also think your feelings are pretty valid. It does feel like she’s being distant and uncomfortable and I appreciate that you still want to give her time. Please please please know this is nothing against you, this is just a process and it’s so hard to understand even our own feelings. I still don’t know what I feel half the time. I still get nervous about telling friends certain things that I’ve kept private. SOMETIMES WE JUST DON’T KNOW HOW OR WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO SAY ANYTHING. Be the supportive friend I know you are, when the time is right, it’ll be such a wonderful relief for your friend.

Kristin Says:

I agree so, so whole-heartedly. The instant I read this I thought: you are one of her closest friends, and this is exactly how you know how much she cares about you.

When you aren’t in the position of coming-out to people, it’s often completely impossible to imagine how someone might think you would be upset or offended about the sexuality or gender identity of another person. You know yourself, and you know that you will love your friend no matter who she is, who she loves, or how she identifies. You want her to know that about you, and the thought that she might be worried about this can feel really crappy… bc our brains automatically think, “Oh, that either means they don’t care or they think I am an asshole.”

From the inside of this experience, I can tell you that isn’t the case at all. Not only does your friend care  about you, but her potential fear in telling you doesn’t reflect on her opinion of you AT ALL. Fear does crazy things to our insides, and before coming out to our friends and family, most of us spend hours, days, even years, imagining worst-case scenarios that are not only unlikely, but sometimes completely impossible.

Your friend is feeling those fears, and that is okay. The thing you can and should do as her friend is twofold:

1. Support her by waiting for her to tell you when she is ready, just like Dannielle said. She will get there. When she does, don’t tell her you already knew, don’t ask why she waited to tell you, just tell her that you are so, so glad that she trusts you enough to share this part of herself, that you will love her forever, and that you are proud of her.

2. When it makes sense, bring up your support of LGBTQ issues. Things are all over the news right now, not to mention in the media at-large. In the right context, you can bring up these things and voice your support. Even though it seems totally obvious to you, those little reminders will help your friend gather the courage that she needs to come out to you.

I totally understand why you’re feeling this way — but I promise you that your friends does care about you, and this is a shining example of what happens when we care about people deeply: we become that much more afraid of what would happen if they didn’t stand by us, support us, and love us unconditionally.

Thanks for being a good friend.
xx

***

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"Hey, I’m a young FtM transgender guy and I just got called "it" for the first time. The person who said it meant it as a joke after my friends were explaining the pronoun thing, and they immediately addressed it and we all moved on. But now I can’t get it out of my head and I’m feeling down. I don’t hold it against him, because he didn’t know and he was just trying to be funny (he’s new around here too), but I just can’t seem to leave it alone. I’ve never felt this way before. How do I move on?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Liam Lowery as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Liam Says:

Oh, my friend. My heart aches for you. This is such a familiar feeling for me.

So many times in my life, a fun evening has been soured by someone saying something stupid about my gender identity. That person will forget what they said almost immediately, but hours later I’ll still be sitting up in bed, reeling from disappointment.

From your letter, I get the sense you can relate.

We’re not crazy, by the way. There is a reason it hurt so terribly to be called “it.” These comments are more than faux pas, or a failed joke. This is one of a list of slurs that have been the last words heard by those of our trans siblings who have been killed. Slurs like these are acts of violence unto themselves.

We are too valuable to be used for a cheap laugh.

Therefore, you need to come up with a plan: A first aid kit for those emergency moments.

First, you need to exit the situation safely. Why exit?

Think back to the night you described in your letter. The name-caller wasn’t trying to be mean. Your friends stood up for you in the moment (yay, friends!), and everyone moved on. Yet you still feel raw and hurt now.

I’ve found that by staying in that situation, I keep feeling dehumanized—even if it was said in a joking way, even if my friends stand up for me, even if I say it’s okay. By hanging around, it makes it seem as though disrespecting me isn’t that big of a deal. And I regret it later.

I also regret times I’ve engaged with the name-caller in the moment. I try to explain why the comment was hurtful, but instead of listening, the perpetrator gets defensive. This stinks, but it makes sense….I am calling him out in front of our mutual friends, and expressing why what they said was transphobic and hurtful to them, and an audience. And while it feels gratifying to call someone transphobic after they’ve hurt me, it ultimately shuts down the conversation and makes me seem brash. Jay Smooth, of Race Forward and Ill Doctrine, has a really helpful video  on how to call people out on racist comments. The same strategy can be very helpful in talking to someone about transphobic comments.

Right when the incident happens is not the best time to engage in a Transgender Identities 101 lecture with this person. Instead, you need to prioritize taking care of yourself.

When this happens to me, I say, “That’s not funny. I don’t appreciate hearing that, so I am going to head out.” Usually I can leave the location, but if you have to stay—like if your ride isn’t coming for another hour, or if you are at your family’s house and your sibling is the culprit—you might want to head to another room, or go take a walk around the block.

In the aftermath, address the three parties involved: your friends, the culprit, and yourself.

Let your friends know that you appreciated their support. This is, of course, what everyone should do, but the sad fact is many people don’t. And it never hurts to tell someone you appreciate them. But you also need to let them know that these comments are unacceptable, and that you will continue to leave the group hangout if you are disrespected, because there needs to be a consequence for making transphobic comments.

Next, there’s the perpetrator. If this person is going to keep hanging around, it’s worth it to take some time and address what happened. So contact the person—this can range from a text to an email. You don’t want to give them an out to start trying to defend themselves—or as Jay Smooth says in the video linked above, you don’t want to twist a conversation about what they did into a conversation about what they are.

If you decide to talk to this person, be clear: this is not a discussion. This is not two people on equal footing expressing their feelings. This is an intervention, because this person majorly messed up. So be clear: tell them never to call you, or anyone else, “it.” Tell them to back off of any “jokes” about trans folks. Tell them that the trans community is languishing in poverty, depression, and violence because many cis people think our identities are jokes.

Don’t get too deep, though. Though you are a beacon of light, there is a dark side at play here. Trans people, especially those of us who are open and communicative about our identities, are heirs to a legacy of faux-guruism. Often, we are treated like we exist to make cis people really think about gender for the first time. We are our own people. We don’t exist to teach anyone else. Don’t be part of toxic ecosystem. You are not getting paid to be this person’s Gender 101 professor. So in closing, suggest that this person read a book like Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, or check out online resources to get more information.

Then there’s you. Be proud for standing up for yourself. You don’t know what will happen, but you can feel hope. Hope that this person will come around. Hope that your friends will continue to support you in your journey. Hope that the small actions we take with great love can better our world for everyone in it.

***

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Everyone Is Gay has started a new project to help parents who have LGBTQ kids: Check out The Parents Project!

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