Re-educating Conservative Friends & Family

How do I explain to my very conservative friends and family what queer means? xoxo

Oof. Well, it’s not easy and it requires a lot of patience, I’ll tell you that much. What queer means is pretty simple, and could almost be covered in just one sentence, but if we’re talking very socially conservative people the conversation won’t stop there. You probably have to defend why queerness is not a bad thing, why discriminating against queer people is bad, etc etc. It very much complicates something that could be very simple, and it is a very much emotional and continual process. In terms of actual content, “queer is not straight” is short, simple, and to the point. If you’re getting a good response, you can delve into the term as a culmination of intersecting marginalized identities… but don’t use that phrase, because it is super inaccessible to someone who isn’t necessarily involved in these communities. Meet them at their level and build up. With intersectionality, one of my favorite quotes is from Gloria Anzaldúa and very poetically addresses this: ”Identity is not a bunch of little cubbyholes stuffed respectively with intellect, race, sex, class, vocation, gender. Identity flows between, over, aspects of a person. Identity is a river, a process.” How much you want to go into terminology of queerness is up to you and up to how you think the person will respond. Sexuality is way easier to broach than gender and trans* issues, so in thinking about this education as a process, this is something you can maybe build up to.

I’m going to link you a game called A Closed World, it’s a simple in-browser rpg that was made to address queer issues in a beautiful and accessible way. To be honest it lacks subtlety (the character literally fights their demons) but it’s gorgeous and I think really touches on what you’re asking about, in a very personal way. It’s from a queer perspective, and regardless of whether or not you identify as queer I think there are some good parallels you can draw and run with. I’m not saying the game will magically solve your problem here, but I think it’s a good starting point for the hurdle you want to overcome.

The character fights their demons with three different tools: logic, passion, and ethics. At any given time on any given demon, one works, one is completely brushed aside, and one issues a lot of damage. In turn, the demons rattle your composure, insult you, say the things that hurt the most. You can breathe to regain composure and if you need to, you can walk away. For anyone who has experienced coming out or attempted re-education in a somewhat unsupportive situation, this rings very true. I feel like I’m rattling on about the game a little bit too much, and I don’t want you to think that I’m shying away from your question, so let’s segue into the application and action of how to do this.

Come to the conversation prepared. I think it would be best to have one-on-one talks for two reasons: one, it shows the person you’re talking to that this is something very important to you that requires both of your full attentions, and two, different people have different responses and in thinking about self-care, because that’s vital in these conversations, it will be much more manageable for you. You know these people, so I think the best thing to do would be to estimate how you think they would react, and then start with those you think would be most accepting and positive and work your way up. That way, when you get to the most stubborn/bigoted/etc, you will have a support system behind you. I also want to disclaim that this is not something you should feel you need to charge into all at once. I mentioned breaking it up into one-on-one talks, but it’s a really emotionally draining thing to do and it’s something you should take your time on. I know the idea of charging through and just getting it over with is really appealing, but I know at least for me it’s more rewarding to put time and effort into these talks and to be able to decompress in-between. This stuff doesn’t exist in a bubble either, and someone who doesn’t know anything about queerness will probably have a lot of questions that will come up later.

I think the logic/passion/ethics deal rings very true in real life, and it’s important to prepare for that. If your dad is someone who needs hard evidence, research some facts that you think would make the talk more accessible and “valid” to him. Pay attention to the people you’re talking to, gauge their responses and don’t be afraid to change tactics. Be persistent and calm, listen to what they say, and one thing that I actually find to be helpful (under certain conditions) is to affirm that though it is not true (use phrases like this instead of “you’re wrong”; this is an emotional conversation but it’s also an educational one and people don’t like thinking they’re wrong or somehow bad), that is what is taught and perhaps that you understand why and how they came to think that way. My approach to this is very passive and low-key and in a lot of ways keeps the needs of the person I’m talking to before my own and I don’t want you to feel like I’m telling you to abandon your feelings and thoughts in order to placate your family member and friend. A lot of people don’t like doing it that way and that’s not a problem, this is just how I approach it.

Don’t forget self-care, though. Breathe. Create a calm space. Allow yourself time to think. If someone says something very hurtful to you, tell them that it hurt and why. You care about these people and these people care about you, and that’s something to keep in mind. You can walk away, and you can disagree. If they’re having a really hard time with it, maybe say something like “I don’t want to push this right now, can you think about what I’ve said and we can continue to talk about this later?” It will allow you to get out of a somewhat toxic situation, and it’ll give them time to process what you’re giving them.

Man this is so much word I’m sorry. I hope some of this helps, and again, this is my way of doing it and don’t feel like you can’t change the layout and approach. Good luck, and feel free to come back if you need more specifics than this!


Bodies and Normalcy

I’m a (mostly) cis girl but the last few years I have been growing more and more aware of how much more comfortable I would be if I were male-bodied. I still feel female (whatever that means) but I’ve tried packing and binding and it just feels right to me. I’m really unfamiliar with queer culture, having grown up in a pretty conservative home. Is this a normal thing? I’m just. Really. Confused. Thanks/sorry if this is a weird question.

No question is a weird question my dude, this is a queer advice column! Queer is weird. I want to deviate from the use of the word “normal,” because I think it implies too strongly that there’s one way to do something right, and with something as personal and multifaceted as your identities, body, etc., using that word with that meaning is so far from a place of productivity. I think what you should focus on is something you said in this message: it feels right to you. Whether it’s common or expected or not, the thing that matters most is that it’s something that makes you feel at home in your skin. So I guess to answer your question of normalcy/commonality, I would say that usually people who play with their gender expression and presentation to noticeable degrees identify as trans* in some respect, but that doesn’t mean that you need to and it doesn’t mean that you’re the only person who’s experienced this. The specifics of identity rest completely in your hands, and I know there’s a sense of pressure to pick one term and stick to it but I really don’t think that’s necessary. Identifiers are not as important as your comfort. I’ve definitely run into people who have encountered the same presentation preferences before, and I think that experimenting with this kind of stuff is really healthy and really productive! So keep binding and packing for as long as it keeps you feeling happy and right.

Hope this helped!


Femme Lesbian

I’m a femme lesbian and I don’t know how to express that I’m gay, and don’t know how to figure out if another girl is gay. I feel like this is a very basic problem and I’m the only one in the entire gay community who has never had a girlfriend because of it. It’s a vicious cycle, you know? Can you give me any tips on how to better present my sexuality or recognize it in another girl?

This is a really hard question for me to answer, because I think there’s a problem in the queer community at large in identifying other queer people only through tropes and stereotypes of queerness and that’s a huge discussion that would completely derail a concise answer to this. However. I don’t know if it’s crossed your mind at all, but I want to scream from the top of a mountain: DON’T TRY TO DE-FEMME YOURSELF. Again, I don’t know if it’s something you’ve considered but I know so many people, myself included, who did things like chop their hair off or completely change their sense in fashion to fit their understanding of queerness and in all cases they wound up being completely dissatisfied and uncomfortable. If being femme makes you happy, stay femme. I just really want that on the table because I think it’s important and a lot of people forget it!!

That said, the only real way to figure out whether someone is interested in girls is to kind of test the waters on that yourself. Try to start conversations with people you’re attracted to, try to exude flirty vibes (it’s a learned skill, but it’s not as hard as it seems!), and read their reactions. Watch body language, listen to what they say, keep your intentions on the table. That’s honestly the only advice on that I can give! On better presenting your own sexuality, look into gay symbolism if you want to stay subtle. There’s rainbow jewelry that isn’t horrifically tacky, you can find pins with signifiers, even something like a sticker on your laptop (I have a ton). I like that kind of stuff because it lets people around you get used to the idea that you’re not straight without you needing to start a conversation about it, and it’s not super over-the top. That said, there’s also a lot of super over-the-top lesbian paraphernalia that you can find on etsy and whatnot. Also, I don’t know how out you are/ are willing to be and I have no interest in pushing you into something you’re uncomfortable doing, but whenever I see “Interested in: Women” on someone’s Facebook info, that sticks with me! Also, queer people are going to be around queer spaces, so I guess refer to the last question I responded to as well because it all applies.

I hope some of this helped, and good luck!

Oly


Where are the Gay Guys?

Where do I meet other gay guys on campus? College is supposed to be about experimentation and yet all I see are legions of straight couples.

While I can assure you that you’re not alone in this frustration, there are definitely ways to find what you’re looking for! That said, it depends on what exactly you’re looking for. There’s a fraternity here called Delta Lambda Phi that exists solely for gay/bisexual/etc men if you’re interested in community building. And while I’m not here to show the Q Center off, that’s why we exist in the first place; to have a space for queer people to be queer where they otherwise don’t feel safe doing so. And there’s always Grindr and OKCupid. Don’t knock ‘em till you try ‘em. I’m not in on that scene but advice from a friend on Grindr (which, if you don’t know, is a location-based hook up, and I want to stress that, app for gay men, essentially) is “it’s not craigslist, don’t be creepy, use full sentences, don’t put something like ‘masc4masc’ in your profile”. I do, however, have experience using OKCupid and I honestly really recommend it. One of the options you can take advantage of is, if you sign up as a gay/bi member (it’s free, by the way), is to check off “I don’t want to see or be seen by straight people”. Also on OKCupid you can specify interest in long term relationships, casual relationship/hook-ups, or even just making new friends, I’ve made a few queer friends in the area by starting to talk to them through OKC so I’m all about it. Also it’s super easy to block creepy people and make it a nice experience for yourself! Capitol Hill is really close (just take the 49 bus from 15th up to Broadway) and it’s kind of the center of gay/counterculture communities in Seattle, though it’s become hella gentrified which blows.

That’s all I can really think off off the top of my head, but remember that it’s the beginning of the year. People definitely use college to reinvent themselves, explore new aspects of themselves, etc., but it’s a major adjustment to make and it’s going to take most longer to be out and open. Your patience will pay off!!

Good luck dude!


I’m Here, I’m Queer, I’m Ready to Lend an Ear

Hi! My name’s Oly, and I’ll be your confidant for the year. I’m here to answer questions, give as much advice as I can offer, and steer you through the challenges present for queer folk transitioning into a new part of their life. While your identities will remain anonymous to me, I want this to be a relationship built on trust, so here’s a little bit about me:

This selfie was taken in a bathroom and the fact that it turned out so well gives me hope.

I’m a 19 year old CHID major who is interested in the way beings interact with one another in the world and in new worlds they create. I work at the Q Center, I’m a volleyball coach, and when I’m home I’m usually mass-consuming some form of media, drawing, or using one of my roommates as a pillow.

I began to identify as asexual in eighth grade, and it’s lead me to take a very critical look at sexuality, how it’s taught, how we think about it, etc. I consider myself to be a sex-positive person and honestly, I know more about sex than my friends who actually want to have it.

I can’t place a date on when I came to terms with my non-normative gender identification, but when I was six years old I asked my mom when my hot dog would grow in, so she was never much surprised. I’ve struggled long and hard with how I want to express my gender, and have resolved into a state of pleasant feminine apathy.

I have spent a lot of my life exploring different aspects of myself, finding ways that my identities fit together, have shifted over time, have been rejected by me and those around me, etc. I’ve also spent a lot of my life talking other people through their developing understandings of self, and while I will try to make it continually clear that I am not a professional, that I make mistakes, that I still have a lot to learn about myself and the world around me, I think I do a pretty good job with it. I don’t have the answers to everything, but at the very least I want you to know that you’re not alone and that there are people here to help.

But that’s enough about me, I want to know about you. What do you need, and how can I help?