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


Pride Month: Me

I wrote this post a couple of months ago for a friend’s zine (check out Jvmp The Gun and Orenda Lou…it was their zine). These were feelings and emotions I have wanted to share for a long time, but as I began to write, I realized it was more difficult than I thought to find the right words for the ideas I wanted to convey.

It’s weird to say that though. You would think it would be simple to write a piece about yourself. Who knows you better than you, ya know? But when it comes down to it, it’s more difficult than it sounds to sum yourself up in a combination of words. 

After I wrote this, I literally panicked about actually sharing it. Not so much for fear of judgment, but for fear that I didn’t fit the way I defined myself enough. I think at the root of it, that’s always been my biggest concern. I’ve never felt like I actually fit in any one box. I never felt extremely feminine or extremely masculine or extremely straight or extremely gay. But then to say I’m somewhere in the middle scared me too. What if I wasn’t in the middle enough? What if people see me differently than I see myself? 

I think that’s a big part of why I wanted to do this collaborative project though. Because at the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter what box you fit into or where you fall along the spectrum. If you identify a certain way, others should respect and accept that. You are exactly who you feel like you are, and no one should tell you otherwise. There is an infinite amount of people in this world that identify an infinite amount of different ways. No one way is more right or more wrong than another. 

With that said, here is my piece:

Dear Younger Self,

Right now, you see the world as black and white, this or that, good or bad. In all honesty, the simplicity is beautiful, but within that beauty, you will also realize great flaws. You will grow to learn that life is so much more than just one or the other.

I can’t blame you that right now you dream of fitting in. Kids are harsh, man. I feel your pain. You spend countless nights picturing what it would be like if the kids at school stopped picking on you. You literally have dreams of what it would feel like if the boys had crushes on you. Nothing seems to matter more than feeling like you’re accepted. I get that, you’re not wrong. I mean damn, right now you can’t stop begging your mom to buy a minivan and join the neighborhood social circle of stay-at-home moms. You’re just clinging to any “normal” ideals that you can think of, and it’s okay. I know you think that you would do anything to look like that girl in the denim miniskirt that you see in the hallway every morning because she always has the boyfriends. You are dying to be more feminine, more generic, more binary.

Just to calm your nerves, I’ll tell you now: You make those friends, you buy those clothes, and you attract a lot of those boys. But I’ll let you in on a little secret, too: You lose yourself in the process.

I can’t wait until you’re older and someone calls you “fluid” for the first time. I can’t put into words how understood you’ll feel.

If I could give you any bit of advice, I’d actually tell you not to do anything differently. You need those experiences, those friends, those fights, the kisses, the late nights, the drunk memories, the tears, the beautiful joy, and the gut-wrenching pain. You need it all to get to where you are now.

You need to feel as generic and accepted as possible to realize it’s not what you want or who you are. Don’t beat yourself up when you’re 21, 22, 23 years old and still figuring everything out. You are doing it all exactly right.

When you learn what fluidity is you’ll feel afraid to let your guard down. You’re going to spend a lot of time denying that you could possibly identify with such a term. At first, you’re going to still wish you were hyper-feminine. Once you let that idea go, you’ll beat yourself up for not fitting the term enough. You’ll still feel misunderstood, even by a word that is so all-encompassing.

Let me remind you now, so you can remind yourself a hundred times over as you grow: It is all just a spectrum. You are part of the spectrum and you will find so much pride in that.

I know you feel confused. How could you have spent two decades trying to perfect yourself only to realize everything you grew into is the opposite of who you are? You will search for so many answers within strangers because you will feel too lost to even ask your friends.

But hey, stupid, guess what? Your friends know you better than you think they do, and they accept you wholeheartedly. I know you’re just scared, but how could you ever doubt that? They will call you fluid before you even say it yourself.

There is so much beauty in the in-betweens. There is so much relief in all the grey.

You may not always feel true to it, but you are fluid in every sense of the word. The more you embrace it, the more confidence will bloom inside of you.

Life will ebb and flow. You will feel just as masculine as feminine some days. You will realize that love knows no gender. Sometimes you will feel so painfully low that you won’t leave the house, and so flawlessly high that the world seems technicolor.

Wear that fluidity like a badge of honor. Let yourself dance along the spectrum. Feel and love and experience all of the changes. Allow yourself to be a new version of who you are every day. Let it drive you, inspire you, and teach you. Experiment. Let go of the fear. Connect with yourself. Realize that your differences radiate like beautiful bouquets from within you.

I know you won’t always feel unapologetically confident. No one does. You will still hide behind a lot of facades. Just don’t let yourself feel like you’re taking steps forward just to take those same steps back. You are progressing, even when it’s not linear. Cut yourself a break and embrace the grey of it all.

Pride Month: Pidgeon Pagonis

Today is all about being intersex! Personally, intersex is an identity on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum that I still don’t know a whole lot about.

I remember being introduced to the topic as a young kid,  but with the term “hermaphrodite”. It was always, without fail, used negatively and condescendingly. I vividly remember this huge rumor about the singer Ciara being a “hermaphrodite” and how that made her so weird and different???

Needless to say, I, like many, was very uneducated when it came to the term intersex and what that actually entailed. Until I was introduced to Pidgeon.

I first saw Pidgeon in a Buzzfeed interview in 2015. The video did an amazing job at explaining what it truly meant to be intersex and the experiences/struggles that come along with that. Before I move forward, you can watch that video here:

As you can see, not all intersex people are alike. Each person has their own unique experiences and identity.

I then saw Pidgeon again, a few months ago, in a second Buzzfeed video. In this video, Pidgeon interviews different strangers on the streets of Manhattan to see what they know about being intersex. Check it out:

To no surprise, most people didn’t know very much!! I can’t blame them, I didn’t know very much until recently either.

Although, like Pidgeon says in this video, not all intersex people identify as LGBTQ+, I still really felt the need to include it in this Pride Month blog. Like many other identites, it still has a massive stigma attached – a stigma that is mostly perpetuated by a lack of knowledge and information. So, although I am not the most well informed person on what it means to be intersex, I felt it important to share regardless.

Pigeon also has their own Youtube channel! Here are a few videos where they explain, in more detail, what their experience with being intersex has been like. I highly suggest watching. They’re informative and interesting (and Pidgeon is clearly just cool AF).

Being able to put a face and a name to a concept you know little about, in my opinion, also really helps new knowledge resonate with you. I am in awe of Pidgeon’s willingness to be vulnerable, honest, and unapologetically open for the greater good of others. Content like this is so so important, and I’m extremely happy there are people like Pigeon out there willing to create it.

Pride Month: Rain Dove (ft. Kate Bornstein & María José)

I’ve spent the past couple hours trying to find the right words to describe Rain Dove, and I still am at a loss, but honestly I think that’s exactly why I wanted to write about them.

Check this video out before I go any further:

Rain is everything I love about the idea of a gender spectrum. I know there are definitely (many) people in the world that have a difficult time understanding Rain’s gender identity, but that’s exactly why Rain is great. There are so many more people out there like Rain than most of us realize, and I think by exposing us to the very real idea that gender is not binary but rather a spectrum, more people will be willing to identify somewhere along the spectrum as well.

Here is Rain talking about how they consider themselves a “Gender Capitalist” and what that means:

Needless to say, Rain is powerful, beautiful, extremely talented, and confidently themselves. Just to note, I find it important to use they/them pronouns when talking about Rain. In a recent interview I read, Rain says, “I’m not transgender because gender doesn’t exist in my book.” Because of this, I don’t think it’s fair for me to assume Rain goes by she/her (or he/him for that matter). Plus, in case you couldn’t tell, Rain is killin’ it as an agender model and deserves recognition as such.

I wanted to end this post with a video of not only Rain Dove, but Kate Bornstein, and María José as well. Three flawless and very influential people that identify three different ways within the gender spectrum.

For those of you less familiar with identities outside of the gender binary, this video (as well as the two above) may have been a bit confusing/eye-opening/interesting/perplexing to you. I understand that. There are so many terms for so many identities that take time to truly grasp and recognize. But my point with this video is that these identities are just as real and just as valid as the cis-gendered male and cis-gendered female identities are. Sometimes it just takes getting to know people along the spectrum to really comprehend it.

Like Rain says in the last video, “my state of being is just unique”. Now that is true beauty.

Pride Month: Ryan O’Connell

Today is all about the writer, Ryan O’Connell. First and foremost, you can find some of his work on Vice and ThoughtCatalog. He also released a “part-memoir, part-manifesto” in 2015 titled I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves.

Now that I just gave him some serious promo, I realize that I haven’t even touched on why he is today’s Pride Month ~inspiring person~. (Side note: I really need to think of a better tag line for these featured peeps that has a better ring to it…..hopefully more progress on that later).

I was first introduced to Ryan O’Connell when I watched his StyleLikeU interview from 2015. To put it lightly, I was immediately obsessed. Before I go on ranting and raving about why I appreciate Ryan, just please watch his interview. I promise you will be captivated too:

Needless to say, he’s fucking hilarious. On top of that, I love the way he talks about the stereotypes surrounding gay men, and the struggles associated with being both gay and disabled. Ryan just has this ability to articulate his experiences in a way that connects with everyone who watches. I personally cannot directly relate to many of the things he discusses, yet somehow I still find myself nodding along and laughing to every word as if I have been in his shoes.

I think what makes him most inspiring, is the way he vocalizes the paradox within all of us. We’re all living in this limbo of simultaneous insecurity and confidence, right? Ryan puts words to those contradictory feelings in a way that I have never been able to.

Next up are three more videos. They touch on his coming out story, an experience at a gay bar, and some advice for 20-somethings. I know I keep saying it, but you just have to let these videos speak for themselves. My words wont do them justice. Ryan is the kind of person that, when he tells a story, you never want it to end. You’re just whole-heartedly invested from start to finish.

When I considered this project for Pride Month, Ryan was one of the first people I knew that I wanted to feature. I think that, by just being himself, he teaches so many people about love, acceptance, and confidence. In my opinion, we can all learn a little something from him, while being thoroughly entertained in the process.

Pride Month: iO Tillett Wright

Like I said before, throughout Pride Month I am going to be sharing some awesome content written by some very talented people. But along with that, I’m going to introduce you all to some very powerful people that inspire me by just being themselves. Hopefully some of you already know some of these people, but if not, you will now!! This month is just going to be filled with a bunch of peeps that inspire me. Without further ado, here’s the first of many……

iO Tillett Wright – American author, artist, and activist. I’ve been following iO on social media for quite a while now, and I have learned quite a bit about their journey with gender. iO currently identifies as he/him, but didn’t always.

The video below is iO’s Ted Talk speech in 2012. I find this speech to be especially powerful because it discusses the idea of the boxes we put each other in, the ways we bond, and the environments we grow up in that impact our views on the world. Although you may not be able to directly identify with iO’s experiences with gender, you can, without a doubt, still identify with so many aspects of this Ted Talk. My summary clearly cannot do it justice, so I highlllllly suggest watching the whole talk. If nothing else, it will leave you questioning ideas you’ve probably never questioned before.

Along with that, iO’s Ted Talk touches on the Self Evident Truths project (link to the website here). A big reason why I wanted iO to be my first Pride Month post is because of this project. The basic idea behind it is that there is an infinite amount of people in the world that identify as “not 100% straight”. All of these people are just as equal, just as beautiful, and just as valid as any “100% straight” person is. iO puts it best in the Ted Talk by saying, “Visibility really is key. Familiarity really is the gateway drug to empathy. Once an issue pops up in your own back yard, or amongst your own family, you’re far more likely to explore sympathy for it or a new perspective on it.”

Check out the most recent Self Evident Truths “We Are You Campaign” video below. It is beyond powerful. To call this campaign inspiring is putting it lightly.

Along with this, iO is a published author. His memoir, Darling Days, can be best summarized here:

“Born into the beautiful bedlam of downtown New York in the eighties, iO Tillett Wright came of age at the intersection of punk, poverty, heroin, and art. This was a world of self-invented characters, glamorous superstars, and strung-out sufferers, ground zero of drag and performance art. Still, no personality was more vibrant and formidable than iO’s mother’s. Rhonna, a showgirl and young widow, was a mercurial, erratic glamazon. She was iO’s fiercest defender and only authority in a world with few boundaries and even fewer indicators of normal life. At the center of Darling Days is the remarkable relationship between a fiery kid and a domineering ma—a bond defined by freedom and control, excess and sacrifice; by heartbreaking deprivation, agonizing rupture, and, ultimately, forgiveness.”

Here is iO speaking about writing Darling Days:

Check out Darling Days on Amazon and check out more of iO’s work on his website.

Andddd if I haven’t promoted iO enough, you should also follow his Instagram!! Trust me, I follow it and it is v cool (he posts a lot of great instastories, ok).

Like I said, I’m not sure how well my summary of iO’s work, life, and current projects can really do iO justice. For the most part, you just have to let these videos speak for themselves. iO can teach and influence just by being, and for that, it is no surprise that he is the first of many inspirational people I wanted to share for Pride Month.

A Cool Announcement (Not Clickbait This Time ha)

Okay so I apologize for mentioning yesterday that I had cool news and then not really acknowledging it at all ….heh. I just really felt like I needed to make that “thank you” a priority because I just CAN NOT get over how amazing Mental Health Awareness Month was and it was seriously all because of you guys. Just as an FYI side note, I’m obviously going to continue to write about all of those things (and I’m going to continue sharing other people’s ideas on the topic too). 

But my big exciting news is: I’m doing a similar collaborative project for this month for Pride Month! 

As I’ve tried to express in the past, my main goal with this blog is to show that we are all just human. We have things about ourselves that make each of us unique, but when it really comes down to it, we all share far more similarities than differences.

I’ve always been taught to have a very liberal and accepting view of the LGBT community (as I believe everyone should). I spent a lot of time assuming that, because of this, I was simply a very open-minded ally to the community. But as I have grown and learned about myself and others, I have come to realize that the world isn’t just black and white like that. People aren’t just straight or gay, or female or male. Sexuality and gender is all a spectrum. There is an infinite amount of people that fall somewhere along the spectrum, and there is an infinite amount of reasons why all of those people deserve equal love, appreciation, and acceptance. 

So for this month, I wanted to do what I can to celebrate everyone that identifies somewhere along that spectrum! 

I’m going to be honest, I don’t know everything there is to know about this, and because of that, I was a little intimidated to approach this project. But the more I thought about it, the more I noticed that literally no one knows everything there is to know. That’s part of the beauty in it. No matter what you identify as, we’re all just figuring it out as we go. 

I’m going to be sharing words and videos by advocates that I find inspiring, as well as content from friends about their personal experiences and beliefs. 

Hopefully this month teaches us all something. Whether it is about ourselves, or someone else, we all have room to learn and grow and love harder. 

If you’re interested in sharing your ideas this month as well, feel free to reach out to me! 

Happy Pride Month & more to come soon!!