,

Women's March: A Reflection

by Kristin Russo

In eighth grade I discovered the musical Hair and watched it over and over and over again, blasting the soundtrack from my bedroom at full volume (sorry Mom and Dad). I became endlessly fascinated with the protests against the Vietnam War & the many civil rights movements of the 1960s and 70s, and wished desperately that I had been born earlier so I could have been a part of those crowds myself, demanding justice, demanding equality, and marching shoulder to shoulder with thousands in demonstrations for peace.

I didn’t know exactly what I was wishing for, of course, since along with that fiery passion of a movement comes its counterpart: horrible racism, war, and unspeakable inequality for so very many. I also didn’t realize, at the time, that my white, middle-class upbringing shielded me from the fact that those very same inequities were still at work in this country, still holding tight all around me, and that there were loud, angry, passionate, and incredible fighters still gathering, still protesting, still demanding that their voices be heard.

In the last two decades, I have come out and grown up as a queer woman. I have worked alongside thousands of people in efforts to bring equality, awareness, and change. In doing so I have also learned more about my own privilege, about pervasive, systemic racism, about the effects of sexism, ableism, transphobia, Islamophobia. I have learned what it feels like to be treated differently and to have rights taken away based on who or how I love. That work, and that ever-evolving awareness, echoed many of the sentiments of that 1960s activism I so admired.

On January 21, 2017, though, I marched in a protest for the very first time. My fear of crowds finally met its match with the horrors I continue to see unfold in my country. I stood in a sea 750,000 people deep in downtown Los Angeles. I screamed and shouted: I am here, I am full of fire and life, I will not stand for the inequalities and injustices that still exist.

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 3.46.14 PM

Millions of people stood up yesterday and screamed those same words. Together, we challenged the world to listen. The inequities, the sexism, the racism, the homophobia, the transphobia, all of it is being doused with gasoline by a new administration that does not include the interests or rights of millions of its citizens.

As I stood with my wife, with my sister, my family, I realized: I was there. I was in the pictures I had seen all those years ago. I was right in the middle of that moving sea of protest. My wish, both powerfully and devastatingly, had come true.

To those who still have yet to listen: I am not going to stop shouting. I ask you to please think about the fact that millions of people are all, in unison, telling you that we are facing danger, that we demand better, that we need you to step up. If that isn’t worthy of your deep, concerted consideration and engagement, then I ask you one more thing: what ever will be?

tumblr_ok7dfoe4zp1qcl9tuo8_540

share:

, , , , , , , , , ,

"Is 'uhauling' a bad idea? I hooked up with someone I was casual friends with for the first time just over a week ago, and it was like something clicked. We've been hanging out and/or talking every day and it's just so easy and wonderful and makes me really happy. I really really like her and for the first time feel like I've found something that I really want to become serious and really want to last. But if one of my friends were doing this I'd tell her to cool it and take her time. Thoughts??"

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

Ooooookay okay okay okay great news: you just answered YOUR OWN QUESTION. Let me help you find it. Ready:

“If one of my friends were doing this I’d tell her to cool it and take her time.” – you, just now, being very wise.

“I’d like to move in with a girl who I made out with for the first time one week ago.” – you, just now, being not-nearly-as-wise.

U-Hauling, so to speak, is a term oft used to describe lesbians who move in together quickly. Now, “quickly” is a relative term (as is “lesbians” wheee), so I can’t really place a judgement on the entire PRACTICE of U-Hauling (and like, let’s be clear, we could probably all have a nice sit-down chat about the roots and usage of the phrase and get a good rousing back and forth going on our related feelings, but for now ADVICE). What I can say to you, Anon, is that ONE WEEK IS TOO FAST FOR GOD’S SAKE. That might even be too fast to be called U-Hauling. Maybe that would be called Rocketshipping. Or something.

You are having a GREAT time. That is GREAT.

How. Ever. This is akin to you discovering you love jelly beans, and then going to the store to buy 100 bags of jellybeans, then painting your room with jelly beans, then buying a jelly bean costume, then composing a song about jelly beans, then renaming yourself jelly bean. Chances are, jelly bean, you’re gonna hate jellybeans reaaaaaallll quick after that spree.

If you love jelly beans so much, just get yourself some jelly beans and sit down on a comfy couch and be like *snacking noises* MMMMMMM I love jelly beans! Applying this to your current situation, you can just sit down on a comfy couch with girl-you-adore and be like *kissing noises* MMMMMM I love girl-you-adore! YOU CAN EVEN CALL HER JELLY BEAN!

My point (I have one!) is that you can enjoy a good thing without having to take all of the steps to commitment-land right this very instance. In fact, you moving in so quickly makes me feel like you’re panicked that it might slip away… and I can’t say this strongly enough: moving in together does not mean you are securing a forever. Hell, marrying someone and even having babies with them doesn’t secure a forever. Nothing secures a forever, which is why falling in love is so terrifying and wonderful all at the same damn time!!

I advise you to enjoy this person. I advise you to feel terrified every minute, and to feel glorious every minute, and to imagine your wonderful castle in the clouds that you will build out of cotton candy some day. I advise you to appreciate the tiny, wonderful parts of not living together now, because once you move in, those tiny, wonderful parts won’t be there anymore! Do you know how much I miss getting ready for a date and showing up and being like BADOW DON’T I LOOK FLY?!?! Now my wife watches me toss clothing all over all the rooms while I hunt for the perfect outfit, or she just gets to hang out with me in sweatpants bc why not?! You’ll get to sweatpant-land, too, don’t worry (and there are parts that are lovely), but enjoy the now while you are in it!!!!!

Breathe in. Breathe out. Unpack your bags. Kiss the girl you love.

share:

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

“How can I come to terms with the fact that I can’t do it all?”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Kate Scelsa Says:

Okay, I am going to give both of us this advice at the same time because I am guessing that you and I have a lot in common. I’m going to go ahead and assume that you are an overachiever who is excited about many things and is overloading your schedule and making lists and giving yourself a really specific timeline for when you want to have reached certain achievements.

It’s like I’m talking to myself already.

I’m a writer, but I also have a podcast with my DJ dad (see, you’re talking to the right multi-tasker here). We recently had the cool task of listening to an old interview that my dad got to do with David Bowie (!) in which Bowie said something that I found to be so helpful. He was talking about how, when he was young, he felt all of this urgency to get as much work out as he could as quickly as possible. And that, as he got older, he realized that life was long. “You realize that you have all the time in the world,” said David Bowie.

David Bowie was right! Not everything has to happen RIGHT NOW. Some things can wait. They’ll still be there if you want to come back to them later. The most important thing is to fully commit yourself to what you’re doing in the moment. Maybe even try to (gasp) enjoy it! If you’re doing one thing, but thinking about getting to another thing, or wondering if you’re missing out on a third, you’re not bringing your full self to the beautiful moment of the thing that you’re actually doing!

A really important part of this is actually honoring the fact that you are a person that has a lot of interests and things that you’re enthusiastic about. That is awesome! Some people don’t want to do ANYTHING! And you want to do ALL THE THINGS! It is a beautiful thing to have enthusiasm, to care about things, and to want to experience life in a lot of different ways.

But (and now I’m going to get a little mystical on you here) everything you do isn’t actually about the things you’re doing at all. It’s about you. It’s about the You that you are bringing to it. The experience that you make of it. WHAT you do is less important than THE YOU that’s doing it.

We live in a world of choice, and this can be overwhelming to ALL of us. And it can be paralyzing. It’s not your job to make The Best Choice—because there is no Best Choice to make. It’s your job to stay curious, and to learn about yourself and what makes you tick and how you can best serve that thing. And, if you’re paying attention and bringing your whole heart to the moment, then you are going to learn something about yourself no matter what you’re doing.

If we honor each thing as it comes, and the people who come into our lives and the opportunities that we are given, we can exist in the kind of flow that will bring us to exactly where we’re supposed to be in each moment, where things can happen that we actually couldn’t have even planned. And I promise you that that’s when life gets really interesting.

***

Support our work on Patreon (and get fun stuff, too)!

share:

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

“Is it possible to be queer and Christian? It feels like those two identities are constantly in conflict in my life, but they both mean a lot to me :/”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Alyse Knorr Says:

Short answer: Of COURSE it’s possible to be both queer and Christian! Not only because you can be any damn thing you want to be in this world, but because these two particular identities actually go together like peanut butter and jelly or Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo or whatever other metaphor you prefer. Before we go any further, let me first say that I am a queer, Christian-identifying human, and so, as with anything religious, everything I say here will come from my own personal interpretation of Christianity. Everyone’s experience of their faith will be different, just as everyone’s experience of their gender and sexuality is different. So take that with a grain of salt and pepper. Or Dany and Drogo. Or whatever.

For a long, long time, I, too, felt like I could not be both queer and Christian–that I had to choose one or the other, and that never in a million years could those two identities coincide. And to be fair, there are certainly reasons why you and I and many others have felt this way–reasons that probably have a lot to do with our own unique experiences in our church upbringings and in our views of the role that some Christians play in debates over LGBTQ rights.

It’s easy to forget that, in the end, your faith–just like your gender and sexuality–is your own and no one else’s. No one can tell you what to think or do or what not to think or do when it comes to your faith. The key is to follow your heart and your gut and do what makes you happy. For some, that means opening themselves up to spiritual experiences through things like meditation, chanting, purposeful walking, you name it. For others, those spiritual experiences are made more meaningful, or occur more frequently, when governed by a set of ritual practices and/or occurring within a community. That, to me, is the difference between being spiritual and being religious. Religion is about practice and community.

For me, Christianity provides a useful framework within which to experience my spirituality, as well as a moral system to guide my actions. It’s the faith tradition I was raised in, and its rituals, central text, and emphasis on service work all resonate with me. Other Christians are drawn to worship, and still others to prayer. There are many ways of being a Christian, and I don’t just mean denominations! When you look past common stereotypes of “religious people” and Christians, you’ll see that you can be a religious skeptical scientist, a religious feminist, a brilliant religious pop star, or, yeah, a religious queer person.

As you point out, this identity is not without conflict. In some parts of the country it can be hard to find a welcoming church, or a welcoming church where you’re not the only queer person. And the history and political activism of certain Christian groups can feel deeply unsettling and can be difficult to look past. In the end, it’s totally fine to ask critical questions about your faith and your religion, because religion–any religion–can cause harm. But again, your faith is your own, and you can practice it in creative ways. For instance, I have never been that into all the language and iconography that represents God as an old bearded white man. So I like to use other language in my prayers and conceptualizations: God as a holy spirit, a comforting presence, the universe in all its complexities, or even a sacred mother. When I read passages in the Bible about how women must be subservient to men, I interpret them in their historical context, like the rule about not wearing clothing woven from two types of material (Leviticus 19:19).

So what do I mean, then, about how a Christian and a queer identity can actually complement each other in powerful ways? For starters, I didn’t identify as a Christian until after I came out. Growing up, I didn’t relate to my family’s religion at all, but after I came out and started to know myself better, I felt more in touch with the universe and more interested in big-picture questions about how to live a good life and help others. In an effort to continue to understand myself better, I looked back at the Bible and was totally shocked at what I found there.

Christianity, I discovered, is not a religion of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” It’s a religion of radical kindness, peace, and inclusion. The New Testament, and the gospels in particular, are all about loving your neighbor, loving your neighbor some more, and, just for a change of pace, loving your neighbor. “Yeah, yeah,” you’re thinking, “That’s the easy stuff. The hard things are going to church and reading the Bible and doing all those things that queer people aren’t allowed to do. The hard parts are those religious parts.” I would argue, though, that this is totally not the case. First of all, these central tenets of the faith are the hard parts–and not just because I’ve had neighbors who gave me bed bugs and kept me up all night with crying babies. Loving your neighbor no matter what is incredibly hard. Letting go of anxiety and putting your faith into the greater universe is incredibly hard. Living your life in service of others is incredibly hard. But Christianity challenges me to do all of this every day, 24 hours a day. My faith presents me with this challenge, and my faith provides me with the tools to meet it. My faith provides me with comfort when I face hardships in my life, including hardships related specifically to my female or queer identities. My faith offers me the promise of justice when I’m the victim, and the promise of grace when I’m the perpetrator–when I screw up, as we all inevitably do.

So that’s my experience–but you will have your own totally unique journey as a queer Christian, and it’s going to be awesome. The great news is that if you want to practice Christianity as a queer individual in a community of accepting and affirming people, there are an overwhelming number of opportunities to do so. Do you have a certain denomination in mind–perhaps the denomination you were raised in? If so, hop online and find a nearby church of that denomination that’s welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ congregants. Lots of denominations have special names for such churches, such as the More Light Presbyterians, the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, the Open and Affirming United Church of Christ, and Integrity Believe Out Loud Episcopalians. If you don’t have a specific denomination in mind, or you’re looking for something new or specifically gay-focused, try the Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian denomination specifically for LGBTQ congregants. I went to an MCC church and Bible study for awhile after I came out and absolutely loved it.

Finally, seek out classes (especially at the college level), books, and online resources to help you in your quest to negotiate your queer and Christian identities. Personally, I found most helpful the works of Christian scholar Marcus Borg, as well as articles on feminist readings of the Bible. Find someone you trust and talk to them about your journey. Be patient with yourself and follow your heart–I wish you the best of luck!

***
Support our work on Patreon (and get fun stuff, too)!

share:

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

"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

Kristin Says:

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.

**
Support our work on Patreon (and get fun stuff, too)!

share: