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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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"How do I be happy surrounded by unhappy people? Im a college student in a very stressful environment. I want to be supportive of my peers when they need it but also not get pulled into the high-anxiety product-oriented mentality."

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

This is difficult, but possible. I find myself in a situation very similar pretty often. It’s like, we get a little bit older and EVERYONE things EVERYTHING is so dramatic. You know? There are so many humans in the world and so many of them can find things to complain about in LITERALLY ANYTHING. I hate it when I’m at an airport and the flight is delayed and people (1) WON’T stop talking about how the flight is delayed and how much that fucks with their schedule / life and (2) when they start yelling at people like flight attendants, gate check humans, information desk people, a whole slew of people who HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH HOW THE FLIGHT IS DELAYED. What is the point?

This happens in all aspects of life, for all reasons, and it sucks. Some people thrive off of that behavior. If they can get out their annoyed or stressed feelings, that makes them feel a ton better. If they just yell at a flight attendant, they’ve expressed their anger, they vented, they got it out. What you’re left with is you (flight attendant) having been vented to, unable to solve the problem, and trying to move on with all of these projected feelings on you.

There are a couple of options: (1) recognizing it’s not about you and their stress is their stress, they’re venting to you because they don’t totally know what to do with the emotion, so they just wanna get it out, (2) take more time for yourself, when your friends are venting / yelling about stress and it’s starting to stress you out, head out early, chill at home and remember all of the reasons you aren’t as stressed out, (3) ask them to curb some of the venting. I think it’s totally cool to be like “hey, I love you so much and I completely understand why you’re stressed, but sometime all of the stress and negative energy just kind of sits on me, and I wasn’t stressed in the beginning so all of a sudden I’ve taken on your stress because I care about you and then I can’t focus on other things.” I think it’ll take a little bit of navigating and maybe more than one talk, but when you soak up other people’s negative it just makes everything a bummer, and I think trying to have that talk is way better than living in that bummer.

Kristin Says:

First of all: you shouldn’t be surrounded by unhappy people.

I know that you have friends and right now maybe the majority of them are bummed the fuck out over this, that, or the other thing — and you can’t just cut them off as friends HOWEVER, I am willing to bet a couple of bucks at least that there are a few people (even if they aren’t close friends) at your college who are stoked on life and excited to kick ass. Find. Those. People.

Again, this doesn’t mean that you ditch your bummed out friends (and more on them in a moment), but it does mean that you take a night or two to hang out with a few new people who make you feel energized and excited and passionate. When I was 20 I had been in NYC under a year, and I was pretty overwhelmed by the entire experience. There was PLENTY of negativity around, but I also found some rays of sunshine. One of them was named Megan — she was a waitress with me in Union Square, and she was full of the best energy I’d ever encountered. We seized upon each other and spent countless nights dreaming about life’s possibilities… and then we formed our own theater company that we had for three years. It was the fucking best. You gotta find your Megan and keep her close.

NOW. Dealing with the negative Nancies: I agree with Dannielle’s analysis, and I would push you to say something to them. BUT, I would structure your conversation in a way that helps everyone stay as positive as possible. Lump yourself into the mass when you talk about negativity, and say something like, “I feel like there is a lot in this world that bums us the fuck out, and for good reason — but I’ve been thinking about it lately and I have an idea. Let’s have one night a week where we fucking gather together to get it ALL OUT. We can complain and yell and express all of our hurt and frustration, and then maybe start a bonfire or eat mac-n-cheese or something to finalize the experience. I want to start to release that shit at once, so that in the day-to-day we can be more free of it. WHAT SAY YOU SISTERS OF THE NIGHT?!” (I got a little carried away, you don’t have to say that part about sisters of the night…)

Maybe they’ll be into it, maybe they won’t… but you’ve made your point, and now it’s up to you to seek out the things that inspire you, and be sure to include enough of them in your orbit so that the Nancies (bummed out BFFEs) don’t bring you down.

<3<3

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“I tend to base my self worth off of recognition and awards, etc. It’s been alright so far, since I have always done relatively well, but I didn’t even place at the most recent writing competition I was involved in, and I’m feeling real crappy. This is probs not healthy. HOW DO I STAHP?”

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

Gabi Says:

I can definitely relate to this! I’ve had issues with perfectionism and external validation in the past, and it can be a hard habit to break. You’re right though, it’s totally not healthy, so I have a few suggestions for getting past it.

1) Realize rejection/failure is a good thing

I know this is totally cliché, but that’s because it’s true. Failing at something you love is NOT a bad thing, even though it feels like it. This has taken me a really long time to accept, but not being the best at something not only teaches us humility, but also inspires us to improve. Every single person who has done something awesome has failed at some point, from to Michael Jordan being cut from the varsity basketball team to Steve Jobs being fired from the very company he built. How you respond to that failure is really what determines your success; are you going to let it get you down? Quit? Or find ways to bounce back and make yourself better?

 

2) Focus on the work and not the outcome

One thing I did in college was avoid classes I really wanted to take if I wasn’t 100% sure I would get an A. Crazy, right? It’s seriously one of my biggest life regrets. I was always really into creative writing, but I was afraid of not being the best in the class or that I’d get a grade that would lower my GPA, so I didn’t take it at all. I was totally missing out on life experiences and learning new things for a really silly reason! By focusing on having fun and improving your writing instead of what accolade or award you’ll receive from it, you’ll get back to actually enjoying the writing process. One way to get to this point is by taking a class or joining a club where there are no grades or awards involved. I was still passionate about creative writing after college, so I found a screenwriting class with no grading system. When there was no pressure to get the A, I was able to enjoy the class and focus on learning and giving/receiving constructive criticism.

 

3) Acknowledge that awards are subjective

I don’t expect you to stop submitting your work to writing competitions altogether! In fact, it’s often just a numbers game. The more things you submit to, the more chance you have at being published or winning one of the many awards out there. But at the end of the day, remember that award recipients are usually chosen by a subjective group of people who may not dig your stuff for whatever reason. That doesn’t mean your work isn’t good or valuable. I’m sure you know how many amazingly talented artists lived their ENTIRE lives without recognition. Imagine how many musicians there are out there right now who are awesome but never get signed to a record label or are never up for a Grammy. It doesn’t invalidate their talent, you know? Keep working hard, getting better, and have a solid group of creative friends to support (and critique!) your work. Good luck!

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"Life tips/words of wisdom for new college grads? *freaks out about the world and the future*"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

A few things I’ve learned in my 15,000 years on earth.

(1) Middle school does not prepare you for high school
(2) High school does not prepare you for college
(3) College does not prepare you for real life
(4) Nothing prepares you for anything, ever.

Knowing those things might help a little bit, or maybe they’ll add to your freak out WHO KNOWS. Also, I can nearly guarantee that your internal freak outs will continue to happen regardless of how helpful we are… so…

I think you should do what you want to do. Not what you think you’ll want to do in 5 years or 10 years or 25 years. What you want right now. Legitimately, actually, really, truly follow your heart. YOLO, you know? You LITERALLY OLO. I know it sounds cliche and stupid to scream ‘follow your heart’ over and over. But you won’t regret going after the things and people you love. Even if you fail, you didn’t fail. You tried, you fought for what you believed in, you did what was best for you. Now is a great time to travel, try out jobs you don’t know that you’re qualified for, flirt with baristas, eat doritos, and, in general, live life in a way that makes you genuinely happy. Fun tip: being happy now will help you understand what you need to be happy later.

Also, save money. Because something WILL happen that will blow up your shit and you will need at least a tiny savings to fall back on.

Kristin Says:

“You LITERALLY OLO.” – Dannielle Owens-Reid

Goddamn, you guys… when I read this question I got all goose-bumpy thinking about all of your heads out there in the world who are just about to leave the land of college forever and ever. IT’S SUCH A BIG DEAL AND MOMENT AND ALL THE OTHER TYPES OF THINGS. I AM SO PROUD OF ALL OF YOU. HOLY CRAP.

My words o’ wisdom are in three parts (some of which echo Dannielle):

1. Jesus H Christ, Please Save Money. I don’t have many regrets about my life, and in all honesty who can really say what ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ been… but I do know that I was very, very careless with my dollars. I waited tables for a long time out of college, and then got an incredibly well paying job at a hedge fund (LOLOL) and in both scenarios I barely saved a dime. I was like “WHEEEE GROWN UP LIFE IS SO GREAT LET’S BUY NICE WINE AND GO ON VACATIONS.” Sure, I had a ton of fun, and I am not telling you to not spend some money on wine and travel if you can… but make a promise to yourself to budget in a savings if it’s possible. Now, those of you who are in the position I was in when I wasn’t waiting tables / at a hedge fund are like HAHA funny joke I won’t even be able to pay for soup let alone save money. That brings me to my next point:

2. Have Patience. There were many years in my post-college life where I would look around me at people who were able to take their creative passions and make money doing what they loved. I knew I was smart and I knew I had good ideas, and I would get SO ANGRY because I wanted to focus on all of those energies and was stuck working jobs that weren’t fulfilling. I wanted to get to a place where I was established IMMEDIATELY, without putting in some of the work that was needed for me to get there. This is why I caution you to have patience. You have no idea how the jobs you have right out of college are going to impact your overall future. Many of the people I worked with through the years helped advise and support the very initial days of Everyone Is Gay. My hedge fund job allowed me to have the funds to get my MA in Gender Studies, which fueled the beginning of this whole organization. My frustration WITH MY JOB is what inspired me to go back to school in the first place. Patience. Patience. Patience.

3. Work Hard. I am going to let you in on a little secret from the other side of post-college life. Many (many) of your peers are not going to put in 100%, and when employers or colleagues or whomever come across a human (hopefully you) who are willing to put in 110%, you become irreplaceable, valuable, and necessary. It seems too easy, but I can promise you that, as someone who has worked alongside a bunch of humans over the past few decades, I consistently find that people are dumbfounded by my work ethic (which is simply, ‘do the work’) and then, because of that, continue to give me better and bigger opportunities. Reach out to organizations and volunteer your time where you can; get as much on the ground experience in the things that you love; work as hard as you can and be consistent. You’ll be amazed at where it gets you over time.

3 1/2. Maintain Balance. I can’t leave you with the note to work hard without underlining the importance of always, always finding time for yourself, for your brain, and for your balance. Find the things and the places that let you re-center, whether that be a spiritual practice, running outdoors, or reading the newspaper for 15 minutes each morning, keep them as a constant in your life.

Holy crap, HAPPY (ALMOST) GRADUATION YOU GUYS!!!
<3<3 *screams* <3<3

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"My mom went through everything that I own (I don’t even live with her) and found all of my sex toys and my queer books, including the Whole Lesbian Sex Book, which sort of outed me to her. She wants to talk to me, but I don’t want to come out to her because she’s casually homophobic and monosexist (I’m not a lesbian; I’m queer). I don’t need to have this discussion with her. I don’t know what to say to her. PLEASE HELP!!!"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

If I were you I’d write a list of pros & cons. Talking to her vs. not talking to her. It sounds like both options are stressful as shit and causing you some panic. So, what’s better?

For me, the constant wondering what she’s thinking about every time I make a move is WAY WORSE than being out and having to argue about my identity. But that is me. I know myself and I know I will internalize all of the feelings I have and eventually explode.

You have the safety of already not living with her. So, if things get hairy, you can always escape. I think it’s a good sign that she wants to talk to you, a lot of parents might not ever want to talk to you again. No one is telling you you HAVE to talk to her.

It’s annoying to explain your identity over and over and over again to someone. Especially someone like your mother, who should respect and accept your identity with no questions whatsoever. BUT IT’S LIKE, what if you explain yourself 30 times and on the 30th time she finally get it? You know?

If you talk to her, explain that you’re queer, and when she says “does that mean you’re a lesbian.” Calmly explain to her you identify as queer and what that means to you. There is certainly a learning curve, queer is not a word that is plastered all over the world the way ‘lesbian’ is, so give it a little time and don’t stop owning your identity.

Kristin Says:

HOLD. THE. F*CKING. PHONE.

I agree with a lot of what Dannielle is saying but let’s start at the beginning here… your mother WENT THROUGH YOUR PERSONAL ITEMS. That is not okay, never okay, completely out of line, and DID I MENTION NOT OK?!

Okay.

Yes, a conversation with your mom is something that should happen, on your time, and when you are comfortable, but I am going to give you permission here (not that you need it) to focus that first conversation on the violation of your privacy, and nothing else.

Your mom found a bunch of things in your personal space and now wants to talk? Cool. Here’s the initial talk: “Mom, I know you found a lot of things that you have questions about, but I need to explain to you that you found those things by disrespecting my privacy. I do have things that I would like to discuss with you, but it was my intention to have those conversations when I was ready… and I was not (and am not) yet ready. Things have shifted, now, because of some of the things that you’ve found, but for now I just want to let you know that I feel very violated and disrespected, and I would like our first conversation to be about that, and nothing else.”

If you can’t say it but you want to? Write it down and give it to her.

You cannot have a conversation about your identity before first addressing the fact that this identity was discovered by force… which is totally uncool.

NOWWWWWW that you’ve gotten that out into the open, you can begin taking baby steps with mom into the land of coming out and understanding the word ‘queer.’ I second Dannielle on having patience as she learns a new concept: you are working against decades of heavily demarcated information in her brain, so it can be tricky. Explain what the word means to you. Try to use examples and metaphors and any other descriptive tools to help her understand things past the black/white understanding of YOURE EITHER GAY OR STRAIGHT. Repeat yourself. Tell her when she’s said something offensive, but recognize when she is trying.

It’s a journey, but moms have the ability to surprise us all. Stay patient with her, but always remain firm in your boundaries and your identity.

PHEWF.
WHAT A FRIDAY, Y’ALL.

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