Younger Lesbian vs. Older Lesbian

Just this past weekend I was clearing through my “random/odd-mixed” box of crap. As I was throwing out old junk, I came across rainbow-heart keychains and various buttons (which are all rainbow colors, too) with sayings such as: We Are All Equal, Love is Love, and All Families Matter. This made me laugh out loud. That was the Younger Lesbian.

 

The Lesbian Bat Signal
The Lesbian Bat Signal

Looking at them I remembered my youth, all my curiosity and questions, my coming out, and my NEED to show everyone I was a lesbian. I sported those things everywhere I went; on my purse, my keys (which I used to hang from my pocket), etc. I even had shirts that pretty much screamed I’M A HOMO. For me, I needed to be identified as a lesbian. I finally knew who I was and I needed to show everyone I had figured it out. Even in my appearance, I used to dress quite edgy. I had a tee-shirt with a tie on the front that I used to wear constantly. I made my hair short and choppy. All while showing off my rainbow buttons. Thinking this would make me look “gayer” and give off my gay vibes. Oh, being young…

I haven’t come in contact with any LGBT youth recently, so I’m curious if that need to show your rainbow pride still exists. When I was younger, the LGBT community wasn’t talked about as much as it is today (we’re moving forward, whoop). Don’t get me wrong, I gay myself out for Pride and I do currently drive around with an HRC equality sticker on my bumper. I will always be an advocate. I am part of the LGBT community and equality still needs to be voiced.

As the Older Lesbian, my need to be “rainbow’d out” no longer exists. I look at it as – I am who I am. I like women and I also like chocolate. There’s no difference to me. I actually find all the rainbow stuff now to be quite cheesy and a bit tacky, lol! I still LOVE rainbows, but they don’t need to be plastered on everything I own. I used to want a rainbow flag hanging from my house (whenever I eventually got one), and now I just giggle. I guess I’m a bit more tasteful when it comes to showing my individual pride. :D

Yes, I'm a lesbian, but I've donated the rainbow earrings ;)
Yes, I’m a lesbian, but I’ve donated the rainbow earrings ;)

Please feel free to add your own Young Vs. Old thoughts, I’d love to hear them! This topic just made me laugh. Growing up is such an experience, isn’t it? ;P

The Bully Project

bully-logo

My story:

This subject is very near and dear to my heart. Bullying is something that I’ve had a passion to fight against since I was 10 years old. When I was in the 5th & 6th grade I was a victim to a group of bullies. Girls. Mean girls who had nothing better to do than make my life miserable. I hated school, I hated people, and I felt alone. The worst part was that it got so bad that I didn’t want to live anymore. I wanted to take my own life away to stop from suffering. How devastating is that? A child, wanting to take their own life because someone else made them feel so small, like they already didn’t exist? Sadly, this is something that happens on a daily basis. Children being teased about their appearance, their particular behaviors, their sexual orientation, the list goes on. It’s something that NEEDS to stop!

What I didn’t understand as a child was that getting help was OKAY. I’d come home crying to my mother telling her how these girls would make me feel and she told me she’d go and speak to the school. My response was no. I’d get called a baby or a loser for having my mommy come and rescue me. I’d look even more helpless than I already felt. It was not an option for me. But guess what? It SHOULD have been. I ended up having a breakdown one afternoon, telling my mother I didn’t want to live. That I hated my life. She held me tight and told me everything would be okay. That we would figure it out.

My 7th grade year, my parents decided to pull me out of school. I was home-schooled. That one year changed my life in the most amazing way. My grandmother had suffered a massive stroke and couldn’t do really, anything, for herself. She came to live with us that year. I watched as my mom cared for her. My mom would give me responsibilities – like cooking her eggs. That was my job. I’d sit next to my grandmother and help feed her. In those moments I felt no longer helpless. I realized that I had so much to give just by those small tasks that were given to me. And there sat a woman, who really WAS helpless and I, the girl who felt like she had nothing to give, GAVE. I must admit I learned more life lessons that year than I did school lessons, and I’m okay with that.

A year later, we moved. I found a new power within myself to stand up for what I deserved. I returned to school – a new school, as a new person. I will not lie and say that was the end of my struggles, because it wasn’t. I had to make stronger choices, and remind myself to stand up for what was not right.

bully

The Bully Project & I Stand For The Silent

Bullying is not right. No child/person should ever go thinking that it is either. I knew after my struggles that I wanted to become an educator; to help be a voice for those who thought they had none; to keep that watchful eye on victims of bullies, and to educate those “bullies” who think their actions are okay.

I came across The Bully Project the other night on CNN. Right away there was an advisory about violent material that would be shown. They weren’t kidding! I saw this poor child getting beat on while riding the bus to school. My heart sank! I will not give away all the details of this film, but I do urge you to please go and check it out. Spread the word. Become an advocate against bullying. This film is EYE-OPENING! It should be mandatory for any person working with children to watch it. Bully” also follows the life of a man and his wife who began an organization called Stand For The Silent”The T and the S are blue to symbolize their son, Ty Smalley, who was a victim of bullying and took his own life at the age of 11.

Here is the trailer for Bully:

I hope that from this blog you’ll feel empowered and want to make some bit of difference. Even if it’s small. Every bit counts! As the website states: Become an “Upstander”: 

An “upstander” is someone who recognizes when something is
wrong and acts to make it right. When an upstander sees or
hears about someone being bullied, they speak up.
Being an upstander is being a hero: we are standing up for
what is right and doing our best to help support and protect
someone who is being hurt. In many ways, this is another word
for being socially responsible.

The Bully Project: http://www.thebullyproject.com/?recruiter_id=53378

I Stand For The Silent: http://www.standforthesilent.org/index.php

To BUY “Bully”: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0059XTUJU/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0059XTUJU&linkCode=as2&tag=bully0b-20

Cover video of “Pumped Up Kicks” by Dani Shay

Can I just start by saying, holy wow! Dani Shay gave this song a whole NEW meaning! It’s incredible. I was watching the original version by Foster The People, and it really isn’t in-depth and doesn’t send a strong, important message to viewers. Dani Shay, Justin Chase, and Sierra Joe took this song and turned it into a brand new hit. They exposed the topic of being bullied and how it feels to be in so much pain. Especially if you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.

It takes one person to stand up for someone who’s being bullied. That one person can change their entire outlook and also send the message to the person who’s being the bully that it is NOT okay! There’s actually this children’s book that we have read to my Kindergarten class before and it’s called, “It Only Takes One.” It talks about bullying and how it only takes one person to step up and say No, and that courage spreads to more people who eventually shut the bully down. This book should be in high schools, I swear lol! The author is by Kathryn Otoshi. Check it out!

Back to Dani Shay – her message now is to Be More Heroic. She created this new non-profit organization to help “inspire individuals and communities to stimulate positive, proactive and courageous action in their daily lives.” (Tweet #BeMoreHeroic to spread the message to others).

http://www.facebook.com/BeMoreHeroic?sk=info

Now for the video:

Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/WHOF1

I came across this Facebook page through a friend and was curious to read more about it. I think it’s wonderful! You MUST read their “info” page and see how it all began. It’s motivational and very inspiring. Here is a few parts taken from the page:

“Thank you for taking the time to visit us here at WHOF, WHOF stands for Wipeout Homophobia On Facebook, and yes I know that technically wipeout should be two words, however I thought that it would be something a bit different, as in a “Total Wipeout” when someone is knocked sideways from a surfboard by a giant wave, I see WHOF as that wave and homophobes as the surfer, surfing the internet spreading hate and bigotry.

I suppose I should start with a brief history of WHOF, it all started one Sunday afternoon on the 9th May 2010 when I was flicking through Facebook as I quite often do. During one search for a local gay group I found a lovely little Facebook group called “All gays must be burned alive” and another called “Slit a f*ggo+s throat today”. The two groups only had a few members , about 30 or so, but all I could think was what if one of my nephews or nieces found this page and read some of the homophobic hate speech it contains.

I decided to click “report” on both pages, and for good measure I flagged and reported the individual hate speech comments. Hate speech is illegal in most of the free world and is also against Facebook’s own terms of use. Hate speech and free speech should never be confused with each other, as hate speech can and does kill.”

If you have Facebook, PLEASE take the time to read about it, LIKE the page, and SHARE it with others!

Being “out” at work

I’ve written previous blogs about when you realize you have a rainbow soul, coming out, acceptance, etc. What I haven’t covered is once you’ve come out to family and friends, what happens in work settings? And what happens when people start asking you those fun questions that can feel like they are prying you open. I want to write about this because it’s been happening to me lately.

I’m proud to be a lesbian and I normally don’t have a hard time coming out to new people, but one must assess the situation first before jumping in head first screaming, “I’M A HOMO!” Let me clarify; depending on your work setting (meaning what you do exactly), how close you are to your coworkers and how lenient the environment is determines how your job could possibly be affected by your coming out. It’s sad to even say that, but homosexuals lose their jobs all the time because they are gay.

When I started teaching at an Elementary School I would ask myself, “do I tell these people about me? Should I just lie about it?” I drove myself insane with all the questions. The last thing you want to feel at work is weird and uncomfortable. Recently one of my coworkers has been asking me a lot of personal questions and I feel a little wary because she has that “old-school” outlook on life, from what I’ve gathered of her so far. Yes, I want to tell her I’m gay, BUT at the same time I know I will be working with her all the time and her knowing could change the environment where I work.

I feel like a work environment should always stay somewhat “professional”. Again, it all depends on what you do and what the environment is like. Not everyone needs to know everything about me. And not just that I’m gay, but other personal things I may not want to share. Get what I’m trying to say here? Assess your situations first. I’m not saying be scared and never come out, but obviously if it’s going to make your work environment uncomfortable, why do it right away?

Please feel free to write your own thoughts & experiences. I’d love to hear them! :)

Real Talk

I’m going to make this short and sweet.

Today on All My Children, Bianca said the most encouraging words to her girlfriend, Marissa (to read more about them, look under my Pages on the right side of my blog). Bianca has been through the coming out process already and knows what to expect when it comes to people’s disapproval. Marissa asks her how she deals with all of it…

This is what she said:

“I just remind myself that we’re not the ones hurting anyone. I just want what everyone wants, to love who I want to love and without feeling shamed or judged for it. And I deserve that! And you know what so do you.”

I honestly felt these words within my bones. I know what it’s like and this was even a great reminder to myself that I deserve happiness just as much as the next person. This is something we should always take with us through life.

Parent Support

We already know how tough it is when we are dealing with coming out, but what we don’t realize is that our parent’s and families have a coming out process as well. My mother recently told me she wanted to write about her experience when I was coming out, how hard/easy it was to accept, what the adjustment was like, etc. Luckily my mother accepted me with open arms. Sometimes parent’s and families aren’t very open and can possibly shut you out because they ran into the same closet you just came out of. Right? It sparked my idea to inform parent’s and families that there ARE support groups, websites, and books to help you through it and to give you a better understanding of your children.

http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=209

PFLAG which stands for Parent’s, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. This website is very informative. It has extensive support, advocacy &  issues, education & programs, an online news room, and also a place for you to take action. This website even has a page dedicated to LGBTQ terminology. This site is one of my favorites and one I hope you take the time to read.

http://www.gayfamilysupport.com/

This website was created by a woman and a mother of 2 gay children. She writes from her own experience, what her children went through, and how she felt during the process. I love that her website has many links to different books you can read. Whether you’re a child getting your parent a book for extra support, or you’re the parent looking for support, there are many options for you to look into. She has a link to personal family stories which lets you know you’re not alone. Other parent’s are right there with you feeling the same way. You can even see what famous people are gay/lesbian! Check it out.

http://www.kidspeace.org/healing.aspx?id=1186

This is an article that I came across and really loved. The woman who wrote it has been a teacher and counselor for over 20 years and a therapist for 25 years. Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Parenting gay children can be challenging, rewarding and ultimately life changing. The level of acceptance of sexual orientation and gender identity by fathers and mothers can detract from or expand a child’s healthy growth and development in countless ways. Too many of our LGBT (lesbian, gay bisexual, and transgender) youth face emotional isolation, rejection, and complete withdrawal from parents that lead many to depression, drugs and alcohol and even homelessness.”

These are just a few of the resources out there. Parent’s, please take the time to check out these websites. And if you’re a child who has a parent(s) or family that needs support, help them out. Go out and get them a book, or maybe print some of the information off of these sites and leave it for them to read. Let’s support each other!

It Gets Better Project

Being a teenager is hard, having to experience your bodies and voices changing. Hormones raging and sexuality starting to show. It’s a very confusing and difficult time in life. It’s a time when you’re trying to find yourself. Your true colors (so lesbian of me, hehe). Do you remember a time when you just wanted to fit it but you didn’t know exactly where that was? Yes, we all go through it.

What if you’re a teenager AND you’re having feelings about the same-sex? Uh oh, it just got harder, didn’t it? This is where the It Gets Better Project comes in handy! This project didn’t exist when I was a teen, but I’m glad it exists now.

An overview of the campaign:

In September 2010, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage created a YouTube video with his partner Terry to inspire hope for young people facing harassment. In response to a number of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school, they wanted to create a personal way for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get better.

Two months later, the It Gets Better Project (TM) has turned into a worldwide movement, inspiring over 10,000 user-created videos viewed over 35 million times. To date, the project has received submissions from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians and media personalities, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Adam Lambert, Anne Hathaway, Colin Farrell, Matthew Morrison of “Glee”, Joe Jonas, Joel Madden, Ke$ha, Sarah Silverman, Tim Gunn, Ellen DeGeneres, Suze Orman, the staffs of The Gap, Google, Facebook, Pixar, the Broadway community, and many more. For us, every video changes a life. It doesn’t matter who makes it.

The website http://www.itgetsbetter.org is a place where young people who are lesbian, gay, bi, or trans can see how love and happiness can be a reality in their future.  It’s a place where our straight allies can visit and support their friends and family members.  It’s a place where people can share their stories, take the It Gets Better Project pledge, watch videos of love and support, and seek help through the Trevor Project and GLSEN.

http://www.itgetsbetter.org/pages/about-it-gets-better-project/

I’m proud of where we are at now and that these organizations exist. It’s important to never feel alone in your battles. You always have support and I can say that, it DOES get better! I promise. I took the pledge on there website and I’d love it if you did the same. It takes a minute or two. You’ll be pledging to help spread this positive message to friends, family and neighbors. Speak up against hate and intolerance and give those teenagers a sense of hope and that they can get through it! 

http://www.itgetsbetter.org/page/s/pledge

For more information, click the link I provided above. They also have shirts you can buy to help support the cause. Thanks for reading!

Think Before You Speak Campaign

We always hear people say, “think before you speak,” in regards to anything, right? Even if we say something that just came out all wrong, or we really don’t know what we’re saying. Words can hurt, it’s been proven. This campaign was created through GLSEN which stands for Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Have you ever heard someone say, “that’s so gay!” Most of the time whoever uses that phrase has no idea what they are saying. That’s why it’s important to step in and help educate them. When you say, “that’s so gay,” the word gay replaces a word such as stupid or dumb. If by some chance you say that phrase and you happen to be around someone who could possibly be gay, how do you think they will feel? It will make them feel insecure, lonely, depressed, and even unsafe.

My own family members and friends have used this phrase before and I’ll say, “that’s so straight,” and ask them how it makes them feel. They don’t realize the impact it has. It can be toxic. Studies show that bystanders to acts of harassment experience feelings of powerlessness and can develop poor coping and problem-solving skills.

www.ThinkB4YouSpeak.com

Parents/Teachers/Professors/Educators (Read!): This website has an Educator’s Guide to help assist you in bringing this campaign into the classroom. Help your children, students, friends and family learn what they are saying and the impact it may have on someone. The core of the guide consists of six educational activities that increase awareness and knowledge of the issues, develop skills for addressing them and promote social action.

Coming Out

When I say those words, “coming out”, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Do those words make you smile? Feel scared? Maybe horrified? What heterosexual’s do not understand is that we have to go through this whole “coming out” process. Which personally I think is stupid. Straight people do not experience anxiety telling someone they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Why should we? Well – society of course! We are the ones out of the “norm” so we must “come out” as being different. Regardless, coming out can be one of the most difficult times for someone and for others be extremely easy. To my LGBT community: Are you thinking about coming out? Have you already? If you have, what happened? Was it hard, easy? Please feel free to share your own stories.

A lot of the time it’s easier to come out to people you’re not very close to. The first person I ever came out to was a friend of mine who is bisexual. It was easy because I knew she wouldn’t mind. But as the time went on, I got tired of hiding. I started feeling depressed and constantly feeling like I was a fake when I was around my family. I think more so because I had a girlfriend at that time and she was a complete secret. So in 2007 (I was 20), I came out to my mom first and my sister 2 months later.

My mom knew something had been going on with me. One afternoon it was just her and I at home. I was in the kitchen and she was in the family room. I hid behind a wall that divides the two rooms. I said, “mom, I need to tell you something…” She said, “okay, what?” Right when she said that I freaked and couldn’t say a word. So my mom being her wonderful self started asking me questions. She said, “okay well, you did drugs? You smoked? You had sex? You’re gay?” I almost threw up I was so scared. I started crying. She continued to ask me those same questions, but asked them one at a time. They were all “no’s” until that last question. I was silent. I shook my head yes and cried harder. She was calm and came over to me and asked if it was a phase. I said no. She asked about my girlfriend at the time and asked if she was also gay and if we were together. I said yes and all she said was okay. She hugged me, wiped my tears, and asked if I could take her to the store – lol. The atmosphere was awkward for about an hour. When we got back home my mom said, “well I guess you don’t want those calendars with boys all over them now,” and giggled. Then proceeded with her joke of, “I know your favorite flower now! Tulips! (two-lips, she’s so dirty haha). We laughed and after all that stress and anxiety it was okay. My sister was easy, when I told her all she said was, “Katie, c’mon now, it’s 2007, do you think I really care?” LOL!

Now in some cases, coming out can be extremely difficult. Some parents can be strict or religious and may even tell you that you’re going to hell. I’d advise you to wait until you can stand on your own feet and feel strong enough to do it. I only came out to my dad this year because it was too hard when I lived at home. He’s a very strict man who is stuck to his middle-eastern culture. He was shocked when he found out and was trying to come up with any reason that could have made me this way. He believes that it’s a “choice” that I made. Whenever I see him we do not discuss it and he acts as if nothing happened. Some people need to deal that way. Parent’s have their own coming out process as well. They need time too. Whatever choice he decides to make, either accepting me as I am or not, that’s on him. Not me. It will not affect my life or my happiness.

Can you relate your own experiences? How can you help someone else struggling with their own coming out?

-Katie