"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.
"My girlfriend and I had both planned to go to pride in Orlando... she's still dead set on it, but I'm scared. I just graduated and she's just gotten into medschool... I love my community and am proud, but with everything that's happening I'm scared."
-Question Submitted by Anonymous
Hi there, Anonymous.
A few days ago, a friend of mine reached out to see if Everyone Is Gay had any specific resources that she might offer to people who were trying to navigate through the days after Orlando… and I couldn’t find anything that I felt would connect us properly. How could I find something that would connect us properly? As a community – as communities – so much of this is uncharted territory.
In the past week, my thoughts have been wrapped tightly around my own sadness and fear, the sadness and fear of the LGBTQ community as a whole, and the devastation faced by the LGBTQ Latinx community, specifically. I’ve been more silent than usual here on Everyone Is Gay and across my personal social media accounts, because I haven’t known how to speak, what to say, how to engage.
Today, though, I am going to start talking a bit more – and I am beginning with your question because it is one that I am also wrestling with, directly.
First: There is nothing wrong with feeling scared.
I want to repeat this, Anonymous:
There is nothing wrong with feeling scared.
I have always struggled with my own personal fears of being in large groups; a fear that was compounded when a vendor was shot just about five feet away from the booth that Dannielle and I worked at San Francisco Pride in 2013. After that incident, it was months before I could go to music shows or other large gatherings without having my back against a wall and knowing where the exits were. I also lived in NYC when 9/11 happened, which forever altered my own feeling of safety riding mass transit, working in city buildings, and honestly, just living. There were events I didn’t go to in the aftermath of both of those experiences because I was afraid; there were times when I had to get off the subway and take a walk before getting back on and completing my ride.
I don’t mean to conflate any of these experiences, because they are distinct in so many ways; but the one thing they share in common is that they made me feel unsafe in spaces where large groups gathered. That is a part of how I am feeling after Orlando, too, just like you. That fear is weighted differently this year as it intersects with my identity as a bisexual, queer woman who has always aimed to speak as loud as possible about my identity.
I will be working at NYC Pride this year. I will have a booth down where the parade empties out in the West Village where my interns and I will let people know about the resources that Everyone Is Gay has to offer, where people will come to buy themselves hats and shirts that say Everyone Is Gay, and where – as happens each year – many people will come to say hi to me, personally, and tell me how our work helped them get through a break-up, tackle a coming out experience, or find a better understanding of their identity. It’s always a powerful experience, and an important one, and one of many powerful ways that pride celebrations allow us to come together.
I will also be feeling scared while I am down there. I am not sure how scared I will feel or how it will manifest, and I won’t really know until I am there this Sunday, surrounded by so many of your beautiful faces. I also know that many of you will be feeling similar things, and that some of you won’t feel safe enough to attend. That is a sad reality, because LGBTQ people deserve to have spaces where they do not have to feel scared to be who they are… and those spaces are few and far between.
I have had many conversations with those close to me, and with myself, about my own relationship to this year’s pride celebrations, and to gauge my own needs around self-care and wellbeing. I’ve spent that time doing that work so that I could figure out my personal best path forward. For me, that path leads to standing next to those I love, and celebrating who I am amidst the power of that shared space and presence. But that is my path, Anonymous, and the only way to find yours is to have those conversations with those you love, and with yourself. It is okay if you can’t make it out this year. It is okay if you want to talk through things that will make you feel more safe if you do make it out this year.
One thing I can promise is to stand that much taller for you this Sunday – and for (and with) all of you who are also feeling scared and unsure.
I said this the day after Orlando, and I will repeat it here again: If you’re out there, also shakily trying to put one foot in front of the other, you’re not alone. We wobble together.
We can only take these things one moment at a time. We will all continue working to hold each other up, and that includes compassion and understanding for how you, personally, navigate your grief and your fear.
Much love to you, Anonymous.
“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.
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"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
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.
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“This past year I’ve had a run of hard things. My friends have been super supportive, but I can tell they’re getting drained and I hate feeling needy. What do you do when you still need extra support but you feel like you’ve exhausted your support system?”
-Question submitted by Anonymous
Kate Scelsa Says:
Let me just say right off the bat that man oh man I have BEEN THERE. There is nothing worse than needing help and on top of that feeling guilty about needing that help and then beating yourself up about feeling guilty and then not being able to just have nice, relaxing time with your friends (which could potentially really help) because you’re too busy being a bundle of “how can I make myself feel worse about this entire situation???”
The very very short answer to your question is, simply, therapy. A therapist’s job is to be a person who is not your friend who listens to anything you need to talk about, and supports you in working through what you need to work through. And because it is this person’s JOB to do this, you are released completely from feeling like a burden to them.
If you can afford therapy, if you have insurance that covers therapy, or if you have access to free or subsidized therapy (at school, at a community center, as part of a support group) TRY IT. It might take a couple tries to find someone you like (or a group that you feel comfortable in), but once you do, even just knowing that there is a time each week set aside for you to talk about what’s going on with you in which you don’t have to worry that you are bothering a friend is HUGE.
If you have an aversion to therapy—if, for example, you tried it once and had a bad experience, or maybe there’s a stigma in your family or in your community around going to a therapist—I really urge you to just give it a try. Your situation is exactly what therapy is meant for. And if it’s overwhelming to you to figure out how to find a therapist (or a group) that you’ll be comfortable with, try asking one of those friends who you’re worried you’ve been too needy with to help you with this one last big thing. They will probably be really happy to know that you’re seeking out this extra support, and you might be able to find someone through a personal recommendation.
The other half of my answer to your question is that, in addition to therapy, there’s a lot of work that you can do to build up your ability to be self sufficient in nurturing yourself and soothing yourself. This is a skill that needs to be actively worked on, and it improves with time. And you might be doing certain things already that help.
Do you need to take a bath every night with candlelight and a comic book? Do you need to write long, indulgent descriptions of your dreams as soon as you wake up every morning? Or does it help to do morning pages from the great creativity book “The Artist’s Way?” Does reading self-help books make you feel less alone? Do you feel better whenever you go roller skating? Does being around animals help you? Nature? What does your most Quiet and Alone Self need?
For me the secret is writing. I don’t always think that I want to do it, but it always makes me feel better. It’s almost as if I can feel all of the stuck stuff inside of me draining out onto the page (sorry, that’s gross). When I write regularly, I feel like I’m taking care of myself. And when I haven’t written for a while, all my neediness comes back. It’s like my brain is calling out for a way to process my life.
What you want to avoid is turning to harmful behaviors to self soothe. TV, junk food (or, um, late night cheese-eating parties aka “Night Cheese”), alcohol, and drugs might all temporarily stop the inner monologue in some ways, but they don’t help it. The way to help it is to use these self-soothing techniques that you’re going to develop as ways to tell yourself “I’m okay.” Because you are.
Once you figure out how to self-nurture even in little ways, you can start to do these things for yourself without anyone else’s permission. This will teach you that your needs are not unreasonable. When we have needs and we turn to other people to meet them and for whatever reason that person isn’t able to meet that need, we tend to judge the need and judge ourselves. We believe that we asked too much, and that needing what we needed in the first place was wrong or bad or “too much.”
The most empowering thing that you can do is realize that you are not “too much.” Nothing about you is too much.
Being alone with our needs is scary, because when bad things happen to us we feel depleted. We feel incapable of controlling anything. We feel that the universe is being ungenerous with us, so we don’t trust it to point us in the right direction.
Let yourself listen to the part of you that knows what these little things are that might help, and visualize this self-soothing work as simultaneously filtering old, stuck emotions and building up self-love resources.
Your friends who love you will still be there for you. And all of this will allow you to be there for them too. It sounds like they’ve given a lot to you, so see if you can find little ways to thank them. A silly gift. An “I love you” text. Share with them the ways in which you are learning to self soothe. Maybe they would like to go roller skating too. It will feel great to know that you can tell them how much they mean to you and how much you appreciate their support through this rough patch.
This road back to feeling okay isn’t always easy. But I promise you that it’s so worth it.
Kate Scelsa is the author of the young adult novel “Fans of the Impossible Life” (HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray). She grew up in New Jersey, went to school at Sarah Lawrence College, and now lives in Brooklyn with her wife and two black cats. Kate also performs with theater company Elevator Repair Service and is half of The Kate and Vin Scelsa Podcast, available on iTunes. Follow her on Twitter. Help support our contributors here on Patreon!