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**Content Warning: Abuse**
“I’ve recently realized that I’m gay. The thing is, I was sexually abused when I was a kid. What does this mean? Am I gay because I was abused? I know I didn’t chose this, but I can’t help but wonder if these two things are related.”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Rachel Halder Says:

First of all, congratulations on realizing an important and beautiful aspect of yourself—that you are gay! It sometimes takes a lifetime for someone to admit this to themselves, and you’ve overcome the first and arguably hardest hurdle. That must be celebrated!

Secondly, I am impressed with your vulnerability in stating that you were abused, and in allowing yourself to voice your concern in these two things being related. Abuse of all kinds is traumatic, and it takes deep, personal reflection to even acknowledge its influence in our lives.

I, too, am queer and an abuse survivor. I knew I was queer since I was 15. Or at least, that’s the first time I can remember admitting that I fantasized about women. But I didn’t allow myself to act on that until nearly 10 years later. Why?

I first encountered sexual abuse at three-years-old. I didn’t consciously allow myself to realize this though until I was 22. Even though I shoved that traumatic memory deep into my subconscious, it still affected me in many ways, including that I was seemingly unable to act upon my attraction to women.

There’s this really pervasive thing that exists in our society called shame. Unfortunately, we are all plagued by it, without even realizing that’s what it is.

Shame is the thing that keeps us in the closet. And shame is the thing that keeps us from talking about our traumatic experiences with sexual abuse.

We cannot talk about sexualized violence without talking about shame.

We cannot talk about gender and sexual identity without talking about shame.

Shame plays these tapes in our head telling us that we did something bad, we’re gross, maybe even disgusting. Shame makes us feel like we have no reason to live, that we’re somehow worthless and wrong. The thing about interlinking homosexuality with abuse is that it doubly shames a person.

Once a man asked me, “So how much of your being gay has to do with your history with sexual abuse?” His inquiry completely shattered me. I walked away in dumbfounded tears, unable to fully grasp why this question made me so hysterical. Thankfully a friend helped me see how the comment had been humiliating because it not only insinuated that I should be ashamed of the abuse I’ve experienced, but that I’m also guilty for having that abuse “cause” me to “turn gay.” I felt doubly shamed. In one question that took two seconds to utter, my entire self-worth felt shat upon. I heard, “You are not worthy. You are not good. You are broken goods. And because of your brokenness you now do disgusting things. Oh yeah, but none of it is your fault.”

Experiences of sexual violation are prevalent in the human population in general. According to reports that I believe are drastically underestimated, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys have been sexually violated. Yet, I’ve personally only met and spoken to one queer survivor open about her history with abuse. There are many who identify as straight who are survivors of sexual abuse. I’ve met and spoken to hundreds of them. My website Our Stories Untold documents their stories. They email me on a monthly basis. So I wonder, if sexual abuse is causing people to turn gay, where are all the gay stories on my website?

Would it be fair to ask someone, “So how much of your identifying as a heterosexual man have to do with your history of abusing children and women?”

Five years ago when I was in therapy for my sexual abuse trauma, I finally began talking about my attraction to women. I had a major crush on an openly gay girl at work—in fact I was totally in love with her—yet I felt paralyzed in doing anything about the crush, let alone admit to people around me that I was interested in a woman. Through therapy I realized the reason I felt terrified to “come out” publicly was because I had been abused—the idea that my abuse somehow “made me gay” was nearly too much to bare, and my biggest fear was someone making that assumption about me. It took my therapist repeatedly saying for months, “Your sexual abuse has NOTHING to do with the gender of the people you fall in love with” that I finally gave up trying to pretend that I wasn’t attracted to women. I freed myself from the cage I locked myself into. I allowed myself to become vulnerable with my multiple identities of both queer and abuse survivor. And I finally decided that what others thought about my life could not continue to dictate the way I lived, the people I loved, or the experiences I wanted to have. From that point on, I took my life back.

Let me do for you what my therapist did for me: Abuse you experienced in the past has nothing to do with the gender of the people you fall in love with. You can free yourself from your own cage. It’s tough, but you can learn to embrace the multiple identities you hold of both survivor and gay, and not let society’s false perceptions of how those two are connected to control how you feel about yourself.

I really don’t think my abuse “caused” me to be attracted to anyone. If anything, it gave me an opportunity to look deep inside my being and find true devotion and self-love for the human that I am. It offered me the opportunity to explore vulnerability and overcome shame in the most liberating ways. And it gave me a strength I never knew was possible. I’ve been in love with women, men, and a trans identified person. I love to love—as hard and scary as love can be—and I strive to open myself to love in any healthy forms it comes to me in. The most important love of my life though is myself. And loving myself means accepting both my sexuality and my abuse stories, and creating a life in which I can live fully and vibrantly as my unique, badass self.

You are worthy. You are good. You are not broken goods. And because of your unique and profound beauty created by your experiences and your heart, you can live the life you wish to live in the ways only you see fit. You can evolve, change your mind, and become someone new each and every day.


Rachel Halder is currently an MA in Religion candidate at Claremont School of Theology, studying holistic spiritual trauma healing for those who have been marginalized by the Christian Church because of sexual abuse and/or LGBTQIA sexual identification. She is passionate about interspirituality, believing that mystical spirituality is the origin of all world religions, and that at their mystical core all spiritual paths lead to Love. She blogs about sexualized violence at Our Stories Untold, about spirituality at Heart of Thought, and when she’s not writing or speaking you can find her hiking mountains or walking through the forest, communing with pachamama’s beautiful earth creation. Follow her on Twitter @raegitsreal

Help support our contributors here on Patreon!


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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 TwitterHelp support our contributors here on Patreon!


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“I am the president of the GSA at my high school and I’d like to do some volunteer work with the club related to LGBT issues. We live in a small, rural area and we can’t really travel to a larger city. I’m having a hard time finding much. What kind of stuff can we do?”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Dane Says:

Firstly, nice job landing president of your GSA! Now lets get into it.

You don’t have to travel to a larger city in order to do LGBT related volunteer work because there are volunteer opportunities all around you– you just have to think a bit further out of the box. For example, you could collaborate on projects with other school GSAs in the school district. Most schools have their own websites that detail all the aspects of the school’s academics, athletics, and extracurriculars, so perhaps search up a few schools around you, browse their sites, see if any LGBT related clubs are in their club listings, and then figure out how to get in contact with any GSAs you come across. Then, discuss with the student leader(s) how you’d want to volunteer or start a project together.

Now, I understand that when someone says they want to do volunteer work, they usually mean that they physically want to do something (i.e. volunteering at a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, etc). However, I’ve learned that volunteering doesn’t always need to be 100% hands on; raising awareness and support goes a long way. A school in my area holds an annual “Café Night” to raise awareness and money for LGBT issues and organizations. The whole event is basically dinner and a show; the members of the GSA and any volunteers cook food, bring drinks, decorate the gym, the whole sha-bang. Then, there are signups for performers to showcase whatever talent they have, be it slam poetry or avocado juggling. During the week leading up to the night until the night itself, there are ticket sales, and all the proceeds go towards whichever organization they choose. It’s pretty damn cool honestly and I think it works really well in most schools. BUT if you’re having doubts about whether it will work for your school in particular (because of the GSA size or school size or tolerance level), let me wrench out some more ideas for you.

Day. Of. Silence. The Day of Silence is definitely something that will raise a TON of awareness at your school. If you don’t know already, the Day of Silence is an annual event created by GLSEN in which people (mostly adolescents) take a daylong vow of silence to bring attention to LGBT youth who have been silenced due to bullying and harassment. Having your GSA partake in the Day of Silence is definitely a great form of LGBT volunteer work. I currently run a GSA and have been doing so for the last two years, and we also did the Day of Silence. It started out with only the club members taking the vow of silence, but as the day progressed, more and more people wanted to take the vow as well (there were also some bandwagoners but oh well what can ya do).


Pictured: me holding up a “What will You do to end the silence?” poster, also holding a sharpie and roll of duct tape in my right hand for people who wanted to participate last minute, and also sweating profusely because it was a lot of damn people.

Another great thing you could do is help out (and of course, raise awareness for) LGBT homeless youth. Life is hard, man. Parents disown, kick out, and cut off their children all the time simply because they are queer and/or trans, and that’s not okay. This is where LGBT homeless youth centers come into play. They’re really helpful in providing a safe place for youth to sleep and eat, but a lot of the time they could use an extra hand, and that’s where you come in. Have a bake sale (rainbow cupcakes are a must, I’d assume) or some other kind of food sale to raise money for a particular LGBT homeless youth center! Rather than just donating the money to the center, use it to purchase ample supplies for the kids living there like school supplies, warm clothes (if you live in a cooler area), gloves, socks (these are really overlooked when it comes to necessary clothing) etc, all in which can be shipped/ brought to the center of your choosing on your GSA’s behalf.

Last thing (I swear): Put your heads together. Whether there are five people or fifty people in your GSA, brainstorming volunteer ideas is always a good way to really understand what the club’s limits are in reference to what you can and cannot do. I bet you guys have great potential and you seem like a pretty rad leader, so I wish you all the best. Good luck!


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"I'm a cisgender white girl, and have been struggling with best practices as an attempting-to-be, admittedly imperfect ally. Since I haven't experienced the same oppression that people of other races and gender identities have, I’ve encountered situations in which I said something that I had no idea would cause someone pain or alienation, but did. It breaks my heart that I did this. How can I protect others from my ignorance, if I can't anticipate it in myself?"

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Aisha Says:

Okay, first, let me say good for you for 1) Admitting that you are an imperfect ally and 2) Being willing and eager to become a better one. It’s not easy to accept that you have privileges you never knew about, and it’s even harder to begin the work of unlearning prejudices or misconceptions.

Let me also begin by saying: you are not alone. Sometimes we say the wrong things. Sometimes we mean to say one thing and it comes out completely wrong—Cady Heron put that best in Mean Girls when she called it “word vomit.” Of course, there’s a difference between saying something embarrassing to your crush and possibly saying something offensive to your friend. (So not grool.)

This may sound too simple, but you know what they say – the simplest solution is usually the right one. I would suggest asking questions. Approach your friends of color and your nonbinary friends and be honest! Tell them that you are scared of saying something hurtful, and ask them what they’re comfortable talking about with you. Ask about their experiences with oppression, or the right pronouns to use when someone is transitioning. This might sound easier said than done, but trust me: your friends want you to be a better ally, too. I definitely want my friends to be!

For example, there’s a kid who sits at my table at lunch—let’s call him Tim—and from time to time he says ignorant things. Once, he admitted he was afraid of and intimidated by muscular black men. I know what you’re thinking: OH MY GOD HOW DO YOU EVEN EAT NEAR SOMEBODY WHO SAYS THINGS LIKE THAT? 

Believe it or not, like you, Tim genuinely didn’t know that he was being offensive. It was so ingrained that he thought that my friend and I—who are also black—would agree with him! My friend and I could have gotten angry, but instead we decided to use the situation as a learning opportunity. We talked Tim through it and asked him why he felt that way, and by the end of it, he realized that he was being influenced by the media and by prejudices in his family. He walked away with a heightened awareness about his misconceptions.

You seem like you are already pretty socially aware, so—and I know this sounds super simple again—just try to be mindful about what you’re saying and thinking. Ask yourself, If the roles were reversed, would I be comfortable if somebody said what I’m about to say? Usually, you have your answer right there. I have another friend who, like you, was frustrated about saying potentially racist things without meaning to. I told him he could text me with questions, and now from time to time we end up having really cool conversations about how he can be a better ally!

Of course, it’s not always easy to find friends who are open to talking about their experiences with you. Remember, it is not the responsibility of people of color or nonbinary people to educate you on how to be an ally – that’s something you have to navigate for yourself. One thing you can do is online research. Diversify your media consumption by reading Out, Essence, or Latina magazines; this will help you to familiarize yourself with the experiences of people of other races and gender identities. There are so many awesome online resources now, too: This Everyday Feminism article and this list of LGBTQ+ identities are great places to start. I wish you all the best, and remember—don’t feel so guilty! Don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance, and realize that you will make mistakes, but that doesn’t make you a bad ally. It makes you human!

Click through to read more about Aisha and our other contributors!


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“I grew up in a Muslim household. I’ve recently come to terms with being trans, and while I want to stay connected to my faith, I’m not sure how to reconcile my identity as a trans person with my identity as a Muslim.”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Mahdia Lynn Says:

Mash’allah! What a blessing, to be Muslim and trans. Islam is such a beautiful and dynamic faith. And! Trans people are friggin’ awesome. Being a TRANS MUSLIM!? This is awesome. You are awesome. Yes.

It’s not all sunshine and roses, of course. Holding on to your faith while being “different” can be a real struggle—and being trans is a pretty big “different” to deal with. The highly normative, gender segregated culture that is so common can make navigating Muslim spaces a minefield of gender feels. And while a lot of people in the community are more accommodating and accepting of trans people than you’d think, it’s often the bigots who yell the loudest.

That doesn’t mean Islam as a whole is unaccepting of transgender people. In fact, multiple well-respected scholars have ruled in favor of transgender people’s rights (like the Grand Mufti Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy of Al-Azhar, the oldest Islamic university in the world, who ruled in favor of modern transgender pioneer Sally Mursi in 1992) and many governments have followed suit (like when the Islamic Republic of Pakistan provided a “third gender” option on legal documentation in 2009 or how the Islamic Republic of Iran provides financial and legal support for its citizens undergoing transition ever since 1987). While the language we use to describe ourselves may change over time, gender variant people have existed since well before the time of the Prophet Muhammad(SAW) and Islam is a dynamic and diverse faith that makes room for all its followers—cis and trans alike.

Here are some strategies that have worked for Muslims like us: A lot of people choose to avoid the masjid* during the early stages of transition. Some start visiting a new mosque, making it easier to use the washroom without being clocked from that one nosy aunt who’s known you from birth. Still a great number of people—trans and cis—have begun creating our own spaces out of exhaustion and frustration with the heteronormativity of it all. LGBTQ friendly, gender-equal, and trans affirming Muslim space is becoming more and more accessible every day—if you’re near any kind of major city (or even some less-than-major ones), chances are there’s a family of queer & trans Muslims meeting up for coffee or having a potluck this Friday. If you can’t find a real-world community quite yet, the el-Tawhid Unity Mosque in Toronto Skypes its jummah services every Friday.

One of the many blessings of my life is that I have a great deal of transgender Muslim family to help field questions like this. Sitting back with such lovely friends last week I asked, “If you could give advice to a Muslim just coming to terms with being trans, what would you say?” It sparked a great conversation—inspiring and engaging, much like most of the conversations I have with such family—but it was what my gender-nonspecific-sibling Fatima said which sums everything up better than I ever could:

“Allah(SWT) doesn’t make mistakes and as such you are not a mistake. Your knowing in yourself is leagues more honest and mature, with wisdom and intelligence, than the things society says/thinks/enforces. Trust in yourself and Allah and make room for the process to learn yourself even though it may be long and confusing and sometimes painful.”

Our faith does not belong to the bigots. Whatever happens and wherever your path leads, there is family to have your back and provide support. The way society divides and stresses it can seem like there’s nobody else on the planet like you. But we’re here. Getting by in our own quiet ways, living out Islam as best we can.


A glossary for some Muslim-y jargon used here:

– “Mash’allah” is a phrase that means something like “Allah has willed it,” used to express gratitude or happiness at a person or happening.

– “masjid” is another name for a mosque, or Islamic community center.

– After the name of the Prophet Muhammad, out of respect Muslims often use the acronym “S.A.W.”, a shortening of the salawat, which translates to something like “may Allah grant peace and honor upon him and his family.” Similarly, after the name of God we can use the acronym “s.w.t.” which translates to “Glory to God, the Exalted.”

– FUN FACT! The world “Allah” is just a literal Arabic translation of “God”—the same one Christians, Jews, and Baha’i pray to, to name a few faiths in the diverse dynamic family of monotheistic religions.


Click through to read more about Mahdia and our other contributors!

Also check out our resource list specifically for LGBTQ Muslim youth, curated as a part of Longest Days, Sacred Nights!