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“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

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.

**
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“How can I ask my school to include LGBTQ health and sex education in classes?”

Question Submitted by Anonymous

Dana Says:

Hey! So I love love love that you want to get LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed in your school because a lot of the time, this doesn’t really cross the minds of our educators—or even us as LGBTQ people! I know that as an 8th grader in an introductory health class, I had absolutely no idea what a “dental dam” was and I probably wouldn’t have known about it in my 10th grade health class either if I hadn’t already searched it up. In any case, LGBTQ individuals deserve inclusive sex ed, so damn it, we’ve gotta try our best to get it.

Before you ask your school to get an LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed curriculum, you need to have all your arguments, evidence, etc in order, so I’ve compiled a badass list (if I do say so myself) to help you do so!

Evaluate the current state of your health curriculum
Odds are that if your school is enforcing abstinence-only education, they’re probably not going to be so keen on considering LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed. You can do this by simply asking health students what they have learned, or referring to your old health notes if you have already taken the class. If your school is able to educate students about the ol’ penis-in-vagina method, then they should be able to teach them about other forms of sex as well.

Check up on your state’s standard health education curriculum
Go online to your state’s department of education website to find out whether your school is actually following the state guidelines. This has the potential to contribute a lot to your argument for LGBTQ-inclusive health classes; if the state says LGBTQ-inclusivity is the standard health curriculum, then why isn’t your school’s health curriculum up to par? If you find that your school is indeed failing to follow the guidelines, you should TOTALLY take that information to your state’s Board of Education.

Gather some queer-er data!
A great way to see what your health curriculum specifically needs is by asking your queer peers what they want to learn. Maybe they want to learn about anal sex, or oral sex, or the different ways you can protect yourself from STI’s when in a same-sex relationship, because oftentimes a lot of us queers have no clue how to go about understanding all of that. So ask away!

Gather your troops
By this, I mean gather a few of your friends who are just as passionate about the cause so you can set up a meeting with your health teachers and/or the administration to talk about it. If you know any supportive parents or faculty who will join you in setting this meeting up, that will definitely add much-needed fuel to the fire!

Start a petition, get attention!
If the administration refuses to meet with you, start a petition among your student body, and perhaps even reach out to the local news outlets. Go nuts!

Ask LGBTQ health-related questions
If you’re asking questions that require answers, your teacher(s) will be forced to come up with an answer (or find that they lack one entirely). More often than not, health teachers don’t have enough knowledge on safe sex to provide students with accurate answers. In the asking, you’ll either be getting more information for all of your peers, or alerting your teacher to the fact that they need to learn more about LGBTQ issues!

Take matters into your own hands
You can’t teach in your school because you probably don’t have any kind of teaching degree, but you can reconvene with your troops and study up on as much you can find about LGBTQ sexual health. If the teachers aren’t going to teach, then you are going to have to spread the word about safe, sane, and consensual queer sex (say that five times fast!) as best as you can. Laci Green on YouTube, Autostraddle, Girl Sex 101 by Allison Moon, Scarleteen, and even your state’s LGBTQ research center (if you have one) are all great resources to get you started btw! Rather than proclaiming “the prostate gland is often found in AMAB (assigned male at birth) individuals and can be a major pleasure center if stimulated!” down a crowded hallway, educate on smaller levels, like at a GSA meeting. A lot of the kids who want/need LGBTQ-inclusive health education are probably already in the school GSA.

When playing GSM (Gender/Sexual Minority) Jeopardy with my school GSA, I slip in a lot of random LGBTQ health facts so they learn something in a fun and lighthearted environment. For example, one of the questions was “What is a dental dam (or what I like to call, a dental “damn” ;D), and how is it used?” Because none of them knew, I ended up explaining what it was and its purpose, which definitely opened up their eyes to the world of STIs and sexual safety. Smaller-scale things like this definitely make a big difference if your school is consistently refusing to incorporate LGBTQ-inclusive sex education.

Last but not least, be patient yet still persistent
A lot of school officials aren’t as ready and willing as you are to get an LGBTQ-inclusive health curriculum for a multitude of reasons. The administration may be afraid of angry parents demanding why their teenager came home wanting to know more about safe anilingus, or the administration could be controlled by the state government, making it even more difficult to alter the curriculum, or perhaps they’re just not supportive of anything LGBTQ-related. The bottom line is, stay patient and stay persistent.

If all else fails, civil disobedience in the form of a sit-in at your school could definitely raise some eyebrows (and probably some blood pressures). That’s just my personal endgame, though, haha. Anyway, best of luck!

***

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"I want to get a tattoo or a piercing, but my parents won’t let me. How do I explain to them that this is how I want to express myself?”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Allyee Whaley Says:

When I was 13 years old I wrote my parents a 10 page paper on why getting my belly button pierced was an expression of my true self, with lots of facts and research supporting my argument. My parents didn’t really know what to do with the paper, but they did end up letting me get my belly button pierced. Then my nose. Then my lip. Then my eyebrow (you get the picture). Tattoos were always off the table. Around 16, I went behind my parents back and got a tattoo anyway, and my parents felt like their trust was broken. Now almost a decade later, I am covered in tattoos and piercings, my hand is fully tattooed and all hope is lost that I will ever fit into mainstream society. And guess what? My parents still totally love me and support me. But not everyone grows up in Oakland, California with feminist queer parents who always encouraged us to be fully and authentically ourselves, so here are some things I would keep in mind when navigating this path:

1.     Always try and partner with your parents first. If you want a specific tattoo that means something to you, explain what it means and why it is important. My first tattoo was a quote (that I misquoted, on my arm), “For Failure Isn’t Falling Down, But Staying Down.” I was def a “wild child” who was committed to being the best at being the worst, but I was trying to turn things around. I explained to my parents this was the first quote I ever heard that made me feel like I could change, that I could be more, I could be happy. I explained that every time I wanted to give up, I couldn’t, because I would look down at my arm and be reminded of my commitment to betterness. As mad as they were that I lied to them, it was pretty hard for them to fight this explanation. I definitely don’t think tattoos haveto have meaning to be important, I think body modification in itself is a meaningful practice, and has been throughout human history.

2.     It is super important to weigh that people with tattoos & piercings still do face discrimination, especially if you count in other forms of oppression working with them (race, religion, ability, orientation, gender, location, etc).  Only in recent years has the culture around tattoos shifted in America, as they are becoming mainstream. Parents often don’t support their kin getting tattooed, not only because they don’t want them to suffer (from the pain of body modification), but because they often don’t want us to be seen as “society’s deviants”. A lot of people say this is why family can get initially spooked when LGBTQ+ young people come out, because they instinctively want to keep them out of harms way and they know by being LBGTQ+ they will live a harder life. The same logic can be applied for tattoos/piercings. If you let your parents know you have considered this reality, it can help them understand you are weighing all the consequences and still think it’s important.

3.     “But what if you regret it?!” – the number one argument against body modification. The most common response to this argument tends to be, “tattoos can always be covered, they can always be removed,” but I think it is important to point out to your parents that body modification can also teach us a hell of a lot about acceptance. I think it is pretty normal to have different feelings towards our tattoos/piercings as we grow. For years my lip piercing was such a part of my identity, my face, my reality, I never once thought to remove it. Now that it’s been out for years I laugh at old pictures of myself like “why world!!!!” but I don’t regret it. I appreciate how much it meant to me, it showed the world from the get go that I was different, I was badass. Body modification has taught me to not only accept myself, my past, my future, but celebrate each part of my journey as uniquely my own. Beyond regret, let your parents know that body modification can also be a tool for radical self love & care. Getting tattooed was one of the first times I realized what it felt like to actually love myself.  With each new piece, I stare in the mirror filled with joy thinking, “damn, look at how awesome I am!” Tattoos and piercings were also one of the first things to show me how to physically care for and nurture my body (because body modification takes lots of daily care, anywhere from 2 weeks-9 months, and beyond). Radical self love, radical self acceptance, those are things body modification can teach us if we let them.

4.     Not all parents are going to be okay with tattoos or piercings. Some might never be okay with them. Your safety and the value of your relationship with your parents are super important to weigh as you decide to embark on this lifestyle. I have adult friends to this day who hide their tattoos from their parents. Most of the time my friends hide their tattoos so they can retain their relationship with their parents, and therefore also their community/culture/religion. That is their choice and something they have considered the pros and cons of, so I encourage you to do the same. Some parents might say stuff like “if you ever get a tattoo, I will no longer speak to you.” This is something to weigh: is getting a tattoo/piercing right now worth losing XYZ?

5.     If all else fails and you decide to go behind your parents back and get one anyway, please consider a few things. Any tattoo/piercing shop that is working on someone under the age of 18 without their parents consent is doing something very illegal, and could lose their license for doing so. From my experience, these shops tend to also be doing other illegal things, including but not limited to, not being up to health codes, as well as not being very experienced at giving out tattoos or piercings. These things increase the chance of infection, injury, transmission of things like HIV through needles, and very very very worst case scenario can lead to death (usually from infection). Also, they tend to not give out very good tattoos, but hey, that’s relative, right? All this to say, I’m totally a harm reduction gal and if you weigh all these things and still think it’s worth it, then go for it. That is your choice. I know my first tattoo saved my life over and over again when things got dark– I wouldn’t take it back for the world. I also would have gone about it TOTALLY differently if I was to get it now, but whatever, that’s all a part of growing up, learning and changing.

Wanting a tattoo and/or piercing is totally normal. You may or may never convince your parents to let you get one while you live under their roof/they feed you or finically support you. They may never acknowledge, support or appreciate your body modification even after you move out. If you’re lucky, they may come around one day, but if that day isn’t soon enough for you, it’s up to you to weigh all the pros and cons and move forward. It is your life, your body, and your choice.

***
Allyee Whaley has long strived to create balance in the universe by listening attentively, advocating ruthlessly, and loving compassionately. She is an openly polyamorous queer based in New York City who will talk your ear off about anthropology, human sexuality, social justice, and mystical creatures. Please help support her and all of our incredible contributors here on Patreon.

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