I Have Left My Heart…

I have left my heart in so many places. 

A year ago, on my 24th birthday, I spent about 48 hours straight just crying. It was the lowest I think I’ve ever been in my life. I felt unstable, lost, lonely, broken, and hopeless.

This year, I have realized after a lot of thought, that I can genuinely say I am in such a different place. Of course, it took a year of hard work, therapy, change, and help from a lot of amazing people, but I’m here and I couldn’t be more grateful.

For the first time in so long, I feel both happy and optimistic.

I’ve recently realized that, although I may have lost my childhood home (and to some extent, one of my parents too) and a lot of the stability that comes with that safety net, I have gained so much in the process.

 

I have left a part of my heart in so many beautiful places.

I may not have my first house anymore, but I’m starting to understand that my real “home” is scattered all over the country, and that is even better.

Here’s to 25 and all that is to come

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Pride Month: The End

I want to start this post with a video. This month, content creator and YouTube star, Tyler Oakley,  released a pride-related video series called Chosen Family: Stories of Queer Resilience. I highly suggest watching the entire series, because each piece is unique and powerful, but there was one video that really resonated with me.

I was lucky enough to spend not one but two days during NYC’s Pride Weekend at Stonewall. After watching this video, something just clicked for me.

This month has meant so much to me and I have so many amazing people to shower in endless thank you’s for that. Emily, Tierney, Nick, Jocelyn, Josh, Kevin, Nick, Collin, Alex, Carrie, LJ, Chrissy, and Bia – without you, this month would not have been possible. To say all of your words have been inspiring is an understatement beyond belief. You guys have become more than just a piece on my blog, you have genuinely influenced me to be more myself than ever before.

Spending Pride Weekend at Stonewall made me realize how grateful I am for this month, this blog experience, and all of the people that took the time to read these words every day.

We really have come such a long way since the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Although we still have a lot left to fight for, I just wanted to take a minute to appreciate where we are now.

As cliche as it is, growing up, I would have never been able to find a blog filled with a month’s worth of LGBTQ+ related stories and experiences. On a personal note, even a few years ago I wouldn’t have had the balls to want to create LGBTQ+ content like this either. We/I have come so far and for that, I am so proud.

In all seriousness though, this blog has been so empowering/therapeutic for me these past couple months, but it has grown to become something so much more than that. I am so beyond appreciative for every single person who has been willing to open themselves up for the sake of helping others. I am so thankful for everyone who has read these words, reached out to these writers, and shared this content. Without all of you, my little passion project would be meaningless.

I want to end with a reminder – each of you reading this have stories and words worth sharing. Your feelings and valid and your experiences are meaningful. Content like this needs to be shared. Content like this is raw and real and relatable. Content like this really, truly helps people.

Thank you so much for making my second month of collaborative content one I will never forget.

New content coming soon!

x

Pride Month: Chrissy

Remember last month when I said how crazy and mind-blowing it was to receive so much positive feedback regarding the Mental Health Awareness Month posts? If you had told me then that these Pride Month posts would receive even more views, shares, and positive feedback, I probably would have never believed you. 

More on how appreciative I am for all of that another time, but I did want to touch on it for a reason. The writer of this piece is Chrissy, a friend of my friend Laura. It was so beyond humbling when Chrissy reached out to me to write a piece for this blog (thanks to you too, Laura). This kind of interest from people like Chrissy is exactly why I wanted to start this project in the first place. 

I think Chrissy’s words are important for many reasons. As you will read, she explains a common misconception that many people struggle with. For some reason, there is still this unspoken belief that, as a female, you can’t be both gay and pretty. There is still this massive lingering stereotype that gay men are all chiseled Gods with wonderful taste in fashion, and gay women are masculine,  sports-loving, for lack of a better term, “dykes”. 

Not only do I strongly disagree with this long-standing theory, but I actually believe it can be really detrimental to both people within the LGBTQ+ community, and people still coming to terms with their sexuality. To see what I mean by this, check out Chrissy’s piece below: 

“You’re too pretty to be gay.”

A phrase that holds more power than I could ever imagine. Most people who utter it think it’s a harmless joke after feeling unsure of how to react when I disclose my sexuality. But I wish so badly that I could show them the self-conscious whirlwind it sends me down.

I used to feel so much pressure from society to “be a certain way”, and at first, that meant trying to be “straight.” I was unhappy and uncomfortable in my own skin. I felt empty – like I had no purpose in life when I could not live it, or express myself, the way that made me happy. I felt like I was constantly drowning. There was no coming up for air until I could let the part of me out that would help keep me afloat.

When I first started coming out to people, I felt obligated to be the “right kind of lesbian.” What does that even mean, anyway? Ask most close-minded people, and the responses you may get are “butch” or “dyke”. My personal favorite? “Lipstick lesbian.” A term that is thrown around like some foul, derogatory thing, like it’s the “wrong” lesbian. I felt I had something to prove, as if I had to show people that I could be the “right” kind of lesbian. But not anymore. I love women, and how I look and how I dress doesn’t change that. I am free to love who I want, and that, that is what pride is about for me. This month is meant to show people that it’s okay to not fit in a perfect box. Not everything is black and white. It’s something to celebrate, not something to put others down for. Love is beautiful in its entirety.

While I’ve come to terms with the fact that there is no wrong way to love, I still struggle with getting to the stage of readiness where I can tell other people about who I love. My reality of being a lesbian? Imagine every time you met someone new you had to preface with “I’m straight”. It sounds absurd, right?  To announce your sexuality as if it could make or break a relationship. Or worse, that it’s something that could put your life in danger. That’s the reality I live in. With every new move, every new opportunity or experience, any time there’s a chance to meet someone new, it’s a thought that’s in the back of my head, constantly. How to do it, if I should say it, playing out the worst case scenario of how someone might respond. 

As the years go on, I have realized how much it consumes my life, and though I have become more confident with who I am, the fear of people’s responses has grown stronger. I literally feel an obligation to come out again, every time I meet someone. When I was dating, I felt like I had to explain to everyone that I was gay before I could bring my girlfriend around. Needless to say, the anxiety won out most of the time. Unfortunately,  it has been the cause of many breakups, which is infuriating. I want to be angry at all the people I feel as though I have to explain myself to. But who’s fault is it that I have to explain myself? That is the million dollar question. Where did this notion that I have to “get permission” to be gay around people I consider friends come from? Without anywhere to direct that anger, it can bubble inside. Combined with the anxiety it brings, it’s like the angel and the devil on your shoulder, only worse, because they are both whispering terrible things into your ear.

Working in healthcare, I feel as if I will forever be living a double life. I feel obligated to hide the truth about my sexual orientation for fear that it will impact being hired or being able to maintain a job, or worse, how my patients view me. While I want to be angry at the people who make me feel like I have to hide, I am actually more upset with myself for letting other people have such a hold on my life and how I live it. I don’t feel like me, not completely. Because a huge part of me is missing for the majority of my day, and instead, it is always just tucked away in my mind.  While most of the time it’s not something that’s actively a part of my day, it’s impossible to permanently evade the “do you have a boyfriend?” question. A question I so desperately want to correct, and say, “do you mean ‘do I have a significant other?'” I wish I was just bold enough to respond with, “no, but I have a girlfriend.” That day has yet to come though. I am hoping one day I’ll be brave enough because that day will be the first that I feel infinitely free.

 While I would like to think we’ve made progress in this world, it’s still a very scary place to live in. The fear of rejection can make you feel like such an inadequate human being. It can waste you away into nothingness, and infiltrate your every thought until you actually start to believe that you aren’t worth it, that you’re wrong, and that you’re not enough. If there’s one thing I want people to take away from this, it’s that they are enough. They are worth it. Rejection does not define you as a person but rather, it speaks volumes of those who are unwilling to open their minds. It is so incredibly important to rise above those people and love in the way that feels right to you. That’s why “Pride” is such an amazing experience.  You can feel the power of love, and you can sense the strength of all those who have risen above the worst of it. That strength is what we need.  That strength gives people hope. That strength is why I’m here today.   

You can also check out Chrissy on Instagram: @chrissy_wojo

Pride Month: LJ

Today I am extremely happy to share a post written by the very talented, Lawn aka LJ. I met LJ freshman year of college, and I remember feeling like she was just immediately one of the most friendly, outgoing, and accepting people I had met thus far. 

Freshman year of college is weird AF, you’re trying to get to know people, find your niche, and feel comfortable in a foreign place. I was lucky to have been introduced to LJ through another friend of mine, Kara, and our friendship just felt natural. I’m pretty sure the first time we hung out she literally let me drag her along to a concert hours away from our school, for an artist she had never heard of, and even welcomed us to sleep at her house afterward too. 

Anyway, the reason I asked her to write has nothing to do with that (lol), I just wanted to give a funny little backstory. I asked LJ to write because I think her ideas are extremely important. I’ve been following her on Twitter for years now,  and I just feel like there is so much substance and importance to the things LJ tweets and retweets. I just had this feeling that if I reached out to her, she’d have something unique and valuable to share. 

To be honest, LJ’s piece surpasses what I even expected. I know this month is about “Pride”, but like I have said before, “Pride”, and the meaning behind it, encompasses so much more than just positive experiences. Her words aren’t necessarily about a coming out story or a supportive moment, quite the opposite actually, and I think that is what makes them powerful. I don’t want to give too much away with my summary, so just check it out here:

I’m gay, but don’t tell my coworkers

June. The month many LGBTQA members of our society are looking forward to every year. Why? Well, because it’s the month corporate America so generously gives to the LGBTQA community as a chance to be unapologetically proud of who we are and who we love.

For starters, I am a cisgender gay woman and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I am out to pretty much everyone: my parents, my friends, and even the random girls I meet around midnight in bars while I’m in line for the bathroom.

However, there is one group of people to which I have never uttered the words, “I’m gay” — my coworkers. While many of them probably assume my identity because I never bring a date to our staff parties and can rock a pantsuit better than Ellen, they never bring it up.

Kenji Yoshino best describes this term in his book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. In Laymen’s terms, to cover is to tone down a disfavored identity to fit the mainstream. It’s not a new term and it isn’t solely attributed to the LGBTQA community. There is also racial covering and sex-based covering, but this post focuses on LGBTQA covering.

People cover for many reasons. I cover for fear that my homosexual identity will undermine the quality of work that I produce. I don’t want to be known at work for my sexual orientation because I don’t want to give anyone a reason to dislike me for something that is irrelevant to my work performance.

Is this thought process messed up? You bet. It’s hard going to work every day feeling like I have to censor my true self to cater to the bias and comfort levels of other people.

But covering doesn’t make me feel safe and “in control.” Instead, I feel ashamed and dishonest. I’m ashamed that I care so much of what current and future colleagues may think of me and I feel a dishonesty that is so privileged because I can pass as straight.

It’s also discouraging to think that people I work so closely with every day might suddenly shift their opinions of me because of who I have feelings for.

I guess I have to decide what’s more important to me, the comfort of others or how beautiful my girlfriend will look at our next holiday party.

Pride Month: Carrie

Although this weekend was Pride in NYC, that doesn’t mean my posts are over yet!! I still have a few more awesome pieces to share.

For those of you who know Carrie, are there even words to accurately describe her? Like I’m asking genuinely because I don’t know if there are. Carrie, the writer of this piece, is like the best combination of all of your favorite comedians, rolled into one.

Befriending Carrie felt so natural. It’s just impossible to feel uncomfortable around her. My friend Morgan put it best when she said, “she’s hysterical, yet the most personal and easy going at the same time. She’s a real life example of not taking anything too seriously and counting your blessings.”

That is Carrie to the T. Genuine, compassionate, and without a doubt, always the funniest person in the room. 

She is the type to put her whole heart into everything she does, which is why I am so excited to share her piece for Pride Month today. It’s raw and honest and seriously beautiful. Her words literally radiate this newfound confidence, and I can guarantee you’ll find it just as captivating as I do.

Here it is:

“What are you so afraid of?”

I sat across from my therapist shaking like a leaf. If I could’ve gotten up and bolted to the door at that point I would’ve, but my head was spinning and I thought any sudden movement would send my dinner all over her Persian rug. It was early October, I’d just graduated from college, and I hadn’t seen my friends in what felt like years. You know those heavy, grey coats they used to make you wear at the dentists when they’d x-ray your teeth? I felt like I was constantly wearing six of them– I was a slab of lead, I was dead wood, and I was sick of feeling like I couldn’t speak, or breathe, or grow, or do much of anything, really.

It was my fourth session with my therapist Susan, and I’d made pretty good headway since I had nearly gone into cardiac arrest coming out to her a few weeks prior. I had made some progress, but the real challenge was sitting right in front of me, staring me in the face: I had to come out to my friends and family.

Figuring out the logistics of coming out was turning into a big, gigantic fucking nightmare, and I was getting lost in the details. I felt like I was trying to throw a surprise party, only instead of everyone surprising one person, I was one person trying to surprise a mob of people. What if I tell this person and they can’t keep their mouth shut so they tell someone else, and it spreads? I’m not ready for all of kingdom come to know I’m gay. I can’t do this shit…

Trying to control a rumor is the easiest way to make yourself insane. The x-ray coat began to feel heavier and heavier.

I was in the middle of rambling on when Susan cut me off: “What are you so afraid of? What’s stopping you from coming home, right now, sitting your family down and saying, ‘hey guys, I’m gay.’”

She was right. I was scared. I was absolutely petrified. I thought that coming out meant I’d risk losing the friends/family/relationships that I cared the most about. I thought my friends would think I was weird. I thought my relationship with my sister would change, I worried my little brother wouldn’t look up to me the same way he did. I just wanted things to be the way they were, I didn’t want to be labeled, or boxed in, or put in a corner over something that I had no control over.

I was starting to work myself up into a state, when Susan looked me dead in the eye and said “Well, yeah. That might happen. You may lose some friends, people may look at you differently. But when you’re totally yourself, you’ll attract the true friends, and you’ll build stronger relationships than you’ve ever had before.” 

It’s crazy how the worst thing in the entire world can turn into the most important lesson ever. Yeah, I really did feel like my worst nightmare had come true- but it was the first time that something really clicked. It was the moment I realized that I had to really start to love myself- FULLY- every part, regardless of if I’m different, or weird, or off-the-wall, or whatever. Regardless, unconditionally, I had to be good with myself. I had to get right with myself.

It’s been 6 months since I came out, and while some things have changed, the important things have remained the same. The people who matter couldn’t have been more supportive, present, and encouraging. I’m talking rock stars. The night I told one of my best friends, Cat, she replied with: “Damn. Donald Trump was just elected President and my best friend’s gay. Today is officially the most shocking day of 2016.” We both fell into an instant heap of laughter. 6 months later, and I still crack up telling people her response … like I said. Rock stars.

I realize that not everyone has the same outcomes though. Some people don’t have the people; some people don’t have the support. That’s why, now more than ever, we have got to love ourselves and practice being true to ourselves every day. It’s not easy and it’s something we’ve got to work at. When you’re true to yourself you glow, and you simultaneously give other people permission to do so too.

In the end, nothing is more important than being true to yourself. No image, no idea, no preconceived notions about what you should do with your life, who you should love, who you should be, should come before being true to yourself. I won’t act like I’ve got it all figured out, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m on the first step of a thousand-ringed ladder. But for the first the first time I feel like the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

About a year ago I stumbled upon a post about coming out, and I thought, “damn it, I wish I could just talk to this person anonymously. I don’t want to open a whole can of worms, I just need someone to listen.” If you’re feeling like this, don’t do what I did, and put it at the bottom of your to-do list. Come talk to me. Doesn’t matter who you are, if you know me, if you’re feeling just a hunch, or you’re like WOW IM AS GAY AS SUNSHINE. It’s 2017, but it still takes a heap of courage. The more we can help each other out the better off we all will be.

Special Thanks to you Krump, for asking me to write this blog. It’s one thing to be brave enough to put your stuff on the big bad internet like she does every month, but she takes it a step further and gives other people the opportunity to share their voice too. Hats off to you my friend.

Check Carrie out on Instagram: @carriebrennan

 

Perceived Confidence

alexkrump:

I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence recently, or at least perceived confidence. As I’ve mentioned multiple times before, I have a problem with being passive and letting my social anxiety take control. For a long time I think I just assumed the two went hand in hand. Being socially anxious does sometimes make me passive. I avoid conflict. I avoid conversations with people I’m not completely comfortable with. I avoid anything that makes me vulnerable and that could potentially make an interaction become uncomfortable. I let others determine every aspect of how my social interactions will go. I, by definition, am pretty fucking passive. But if New York has taught me anything, it is that being passive is not only not going to get me anywhere, but its ultimately going to eat me alive.

I let my perceptions of myself be defined by other people’s perceptions of me. When my dad was arrested last year I let my shame determine how I handled all of my interactions. I always found myself making excuses for people that started treating me differently because of it. I was always walking on eggshells hoping not to offend anyone with my presence. I literally remember apologizing to so many people as I opened up to them about my dad. As if my personal struggles were in some way something I needed to be sorry for? ? What I failed to realize at the time, was how often I was offended in the process and how badly my emotional stability was suffering as a result.

This weekend I went out to a bar in my hometown for the first time in a very long time. (Backstory: I haven’t truly lived in my town since high school, but until recently, my mom still lived there and I visited often. My relationship with my “home” is complicated… maybe I’ll elaborate in another post sometime. But for all intensive purposes, I really like it there, regardless of some of the negative memories I have associated with it.)

Anyway, I’ve always been a little hesitant to go out to bars in my town. But I have some awesome friends from home still, and I don’t see them as often as I should almost entirely because I am afraid that I’ll be put in uncomfortable social situations with people that will judge me based on my family.

So on Friday I decided to go out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. While at the bar, I ran into a lot of people I used to know/be friends with that I haven’t seen in years. The idea of seeing these kinds of people in this type of setting usually TERRIFIES me because 1) my anxiety makes the thought of small talk with acquaintances seem literally crippling sometimes, but more importantly because 2) almost everyone in my town thinks they know about my family due to all the publicity my dad’s arrest got and all the gossip said publicity created over the past year and a half. This aspect of the situation alone is usually enough to keep me far away from any social situation at home.

This time I faced my fears head on. I threw caution to the wind and spent my night divulging a LOT about my life to a lot of people who definitely were NOT expecting it. Granted, I was drunk so I had a lot of ~liquid courage~ but that’s never helped me to be more ballsy with anything like this in the past! I went on and on about my dad being arrested, my mom hooking up with guys I graduated with, my brother being bullied after the arrest, my own mental health, etc. Basically, when it came to anything that people could and have read or talked about over the past year – I was an open book. It was a RUSH! AND I’ve never had such positive responses! I felt like the most confident girl at the bar.

Now listen, don’t get me wrong, this shit still hurts. These things still get to me and clearly I’m not all that confident with any of it yet. But if I can act like I am, and open the dialogue on MY terms, then I finally can be in control. I finally feel like I don’t have to be seen as someone begging for acceptance, but instead someone promoting understanding.

I think it opens people’s eyes a bit to see someone acting visibly confident about something that can be seen as controversial. And honestly, even more-so than that, I feel like opening up about personal issues allows people to be more comfortable vocalizing their own. Everyone has something they’re struggling with. I’m a strong believer in the fact that there really is no such thing as “normal”. 

The experiences we go through in life, both good and bad, make us who we are. I’ve always been willing to accept that about others, but It’s pretty liberating to finally be accepting that about myself too.