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“Dating in the gay world is like finding a job, you either have to do it on the internet or get referred” (need source).

I used to be a jerk about online dating.

“I’d never do that!”

“Looking online for a date is for sad old people.”

“I want an *authentic* connection with someone.”

ETC. ETC.
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I had a bit of a pattern of dating my friends’ lesbian/bi friends. 

And by “a pattern” I mean literally everyone I dated (aside from my first girlfriend) was a friends’ gay friend.

“OMG Krista! You’d really love [insert name here]! She’s really pretty and she’s GAY… well sort of gay, she likes girls and you like girls! So YAY DATE!”

And to be honest my criteria (up until recently) was:

Is she pretty?

Is she gay/bi/queer?

If both of those were met (or at least the gay/queer/bi part) I would date the girl.

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It would without fail lead to these horrendously drawn out relationships or pointless flings that would always inevitably  fail miserably or be super awkward or both.

And then when my last long term relationship failed (as it was inevitably going to) I decided it was time I tried something different.

I created two profiles, one with OkCupid and another with Plenty of Fish.

I would troll through the endless feeds of women and gave out my number a bunch of times and added a few of them on Facebook.

We’d text for a day or two and it would fizzle into nothing.

At one point I’d even asked two best friends out, which was really really awkward and I just decided to ignore it and stop talking to both of them.

One of the advantages of online dating is that, while yes there is someone on the other side of the screen, if it fizzles out you don’t have their best friend asking “Oh, what happened?? I thought you two would be SO great together.” There’s no awkward connection between you and your ex-situation.

After a few weeks of being on these websites I considered giving up. It was boring, time consuming and it made me feel shallow.

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I won’t pretend online dating isn’t shallow, it absolutely is.

You’re scrolling through pictures and talking to the people you find attractive.

I was scrolling and scrolling, I had deleted my OkCupid and was debating deleting POF.

And then I stumbled across this ridiculously hot girl.

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“Oooh, she’s in Early Childhood Education… that means she likes kids!”

“She likes HISTORY?! I’m a huge History nerd!”

“Her dad owns a music store? And SHE SINGS!?”

“Holy crap, she’s so pretty… why is she online?”

And that’s when I decided to message her.

Through some divine miracle in the exact second I sent my message, she messaged me.

After a few hours we exchanged numbers and we chatted each other up and then I managed to trick her into meeting me IRL.
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Because this is my blog and I want to share the story of our first date, I’m going to segway slightly off topic to talk about it.

I was heading home for Thanksgiving and I went to Collingwood. Jamilyn decided she wanted to meet up with me sooner than we initially planned so she drove all the way over to see me. 

I had told her before I met her that so long as we clicked in real life, I really wanted to make her my girlfriend (talk about pressure Batman). 

We grabbed coffee. She absolutely hated hers (because she hates coffee) and I burned the sh*t out of my tongue and tried in vain to hide it.

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I, on the other hand was a complete cigarette and coffee fiend

 

After we left the coffee shop and then we awkwardly walked around the waterfront in Collingwood. 

I was trying to find a semi secluded place to kiss all up on her beautiful face, I failed and we settled on a picnic table.

She sat down on the opposite side of the table from me, nerves combined with poor judgement led me to devise a pretty terrible plan that would lead me to sit next to her.

In this terrible plan, I decided to show her a video on my phone because she said she liked YouTube. Since I was so nervous, the only video I could think to show was True Facts About Ducks because we watched it during D Frosh training and I had told her about Frosh week.

Somehow that and showing her my drag performance gave her enough confidence to sing for me.
After she was done singing all I could say was:

“I really want to kiss you right now”.

She smiled at me and shrugged then the rest is history. (See people, consent *is* sexy).

We’ve been dating for a while now and I honestly think she is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

We’re both weirdos in the exact same way. We have similar values and want the same things in life.

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I don’t have to hide anything from her and she loves me exactly as I am, flaws and all.

She is everything I’ve ever wanted in a partner and I don’t think I would have found her if it weren’t for the internet.

I am incredibly grateful and happy I decided to rise above how judgemental I was and open myself up to a new experience.
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Just a few tips for dating online:

– Always meet up in a public place.
– If the person seems sketchy you should definitely bail.
– Tell a friend that you’re going on a date and where you’ll be. Meet up somewhere you’re familiar with.
– Have fun!
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– Don’t settle. The world is full of awesome people and you deserve happiness.
– Post cute pictures of yourself but include ones from different angles (people assume you aren’t so cute if your pictures are all from your good side).
– Check what kind of relationship they’re looking for. If you’re poly, you may want to look for other folks who are as well. I’m monogamous, so I made sure to only look for other women who felt the same way.
– Less is more. Don’t overshare, let people get to know you.
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– Don’t lie. If you get into a serious relationship and then have to admit that you actually really hate Arcade Fire, it will be uncomfortable for everyone involved.

That’s about it!
If you’re single and looking, don’t limit yourself!

You could meet some awesome friends or maybe even find your soulmate.

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🙂
Do you have any awkward or awesome online dating stories? Comment below!

I want to start off by saying that by no means am I ashamed of being a lesbian.

I am happy to be in love and living my life as I see fit.

My girlfriend (the cute girl in this picture) is in the red jacket, I'm in the blue scarf.  Isn't she gorgeous?

My girlfriend (the cute girl in this picture) is in the red jacket, I’m in the blue scarf. Isn’t she gorgeous?

I have an amazing, kind, beautiful, smart, funny and supportive girlfriend who brings me a ton of joy.

I am, however, ashamed of the deep fear I have of showing any kind of physical affection to my girlfriend when its just the two of us and when we aren’t in a queer space (by that I mean at a queer event, or a gay bar).

————

When I first came out, I had absolutely no fear about public displays of affection.

I was bold, it didn’t matter who saw me or what they said. I wasn’t worried about what would happen to me or my girlfriends; I didn’t think anything could.

However, that feeling of security began to wear out.

When I had first come out, I had isolated myself. I spent my time either in the village or on campus. I was always surrounded by queer folk or queer friendly folk and if an odd incident happened we could have each others’ backs.

I kind of forgot that the world isn’t quite as open or understanding.

Firstly, the stares drive me nuts. I hate being stared at. People will stare at you when you’re holding hands with a girl. They will stare at you if you’re sitting “too closely” on the subway. They will stare at you if you’ve got your arm around her waist.

Click on the picture for the source.

It’s uncomfortable to be watched, even if it isn’t necessarily for a negative reason.

Next is men making comments.

“Yeaaaah that’s so hot.”

“You want to come home with me/us?”

“Yeaaaah keep going” (That one particularly grossed me out and I would always stop).

“Now I have something to think about later.”

“Hey, we have blow – you should come over to our house.”

“Why are you with her? You should get with a man.”

“You want to make out with my girlfriend?”

“Can you two make out again? We’ll buy you drinks.”

It’s disgusting. It’s totally disgusting.

You know, its one thing if my guy friends are joking with me and I’m joking back BUT these are strangers and those are all things that have actually been said to me in public with my girlfriends.

Last year I was out with one of my friends; she was sexually assaulted and when I stepped between them I was assaulted.

A grown man punched me in the face. It was not a homophobic attack (there was no reason for him to expect me to be gay) but it did shatter my false reality that the world was a safe place. I didn’t really think that people could be so violent with strangers (and that sentiment is coming from a place of privilege).

It made me very aware that people will physically harm people and it can be for no reason at all.

When you pile up the stress of dealing with rude comments with the potential for violence, it makes the “radical” notion of showing affection towards my girlfriend much harder to do.

—————

I feel the need to change and to be less afraid.

I hold her hand at restaurants if we’re out with her mom, I will kiss her at house parties and I will dance with her if we’re at gay bars.

I don’t mind doing it if we have people around us who will help keep us safe.

But if we’re in public and alone, I get nervous. I look around before I kiss her (which kind of kills the romance).

Look at how cute she is? It's hard not to want to kiss her all the time.

Look at how cute she is! It’s hard not to want to kiss her all the time.

My girlfriend doesn’t push me, but I know she would like me to kiss her without worry.

She sent me this video and told me to go to 4:57.

Visibility is super important in our community.

I know it can be really difficult at times, but it helps to show the world that there are many of us and that it’s okay to be who you are. It can help younger queer people see that they are not alone.

It also helps make seeing queer couples more normal. It will help slow down the stares and the awkwardness if people become accustomed to seeing queer couples showing any kind of physical affection towards each other.

Last night we hosted a Coming Out Party at Glendon where we each shared our stories of coming out and our experiences. It was powerful and moving, we had over 20 people speak and it reinforced this need to continue to be visible and to be openly gay, even when its hard.

Be strong and be brave but don’t be stupid. Getting your head kicked in by some homophobic monster is not worth it, but if you can handle the annoyance and deal with some of the BS you will make it easier for other people.

I’m working on it.

To get really cheesy on y’all – listen to Bon Jovi killing it.

Last week I took a nice trip back to my high school – for my readers who are currently in high school, the idea seems perfectly normal HOWEVER I graduated back in 2009 so I’ve been out of high school since before you started it (there’s a scary thought).

I made a similar trip last year where I went and sat with their Alliance Gai-Hétéro (Gay-Straight Alliance [I went to a French high school woot!]) for a chat with the students involved about my coming out experience and gave some tips on TV shows with lesbians for the one out queer girl in the group.

Anyway, what I did this year was much bigger!

The AGH organized an entire afternoon of workshops and a panel discussion, so I headed back to good old Penetanguishene to join in.

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The first thing I noticed was many of the teachers and some of the 12th grade students were wearing these really rad tie-dye shirts with an equality sign on them – just seeing the support for the day from the teachers and students was really powerful.

In the afternoon I helped out with a session called “Plac-quoi?”.

It was about “sortir du placard” OR as we say en anglais “Coming out of the closet”. We discussed how to be a good ally and be supportive. I shared a bunch of my experiences with the students.

Our session included a skit of a student reacting very poorly to their friend coming out. The scene was a frozen and then we had a discussion on how to better react in the situation.

We asked the students to share what they would actually say if one of their friends came out to them.

It was interesting because one of the first things every single group said to ask was “How long have you known you were gay?” and what I had recommended is if you are the first person they’re coming out to – it’s probably best to leave that question for a later date, since it can be a very difficult time emotionally. BUT it wasn’t a bad question.

Many of their comments were about how none of them would really care, many said it may take them a minute to adjust but there was nothing wrong with being gay and they didn’t have a problem with it.

One of the guys said “If you care then you are not really a friend”.

My heart pretty much exploded.

We just reinforced the point of asking who knows and if its okay to talk about it. In my situation, gossip lead to me being forced out of my home – I made sure to be clear on the importance of keeping your mouth shut when someone is coming out.

It was really heart warming to see all of the students and the way they reacted to the situation – none of them snickered or said it was gross or bad.

Sure they were bored, but it was a forced afternoon of sessions (I was one of those nerds who LOVED these kinds of activities, but I know some of my friends would have hated it) so its to be expected.

After doing the sessions, all 160(ish) of the students piled into the cafeteria and we did a panel. It was myself, a guy named Joel (super cool franco-ontarien dude) and then a divorced couple that had 2 children together.

What makes the divorced couple interesting is they were in a heterosexual relationship but the male partner came out as gay at 43 years old and while they had briefly a strained relationship (they were after all, married and then had to go through a divorce), they’ve become friends.

Anyway, once introductions had finished we were asked a few questions and we began by sharing our coming out experiences.

Luckily for Joel and the ex-husband, they shared that they had mostly positive coming out experiences and they said they have not faced any serious discrimination.

His ex-wife shared her difficulty in coming to terms with it, especially because they had been together, shared a life and two children. As she said to him “You had been hiding behind my skirt”. She said what made her realize she had to begin to forgive him was when her son cried and asked if he was going to end up gay and she didn’t want him to think being gay was a bad thing, so she began the healing process.

She shared some of the struggles, including her daughter being unsure of how to tell her boyfriend her dad was gay, so she initially avoided it by staying with her rather than her father who she lived with.

These are some of the struggles of a modern family.

Joel shared that he came out in his third year of university and when he went to speak with his mom she said “I know and I love you” but still cried about it. She was sad not because he was gay but because she thought being gay meant your life would be much harder (as many parents imagine it will be [including my own mother]).

My story is a little different, but since my youngest brother is still a student at the high school, I felt it best to not include everything.

I tried to maintain a realistic balance between good and bad. I wanted the students to be aware of the difficulty of coming out but also to realize how much of a positive and awesome experience it will be down the road.

I wanted them to understand the importance of acceptance, forgiveness and healing in what can be an incredibly difficult time. But this was also just my story, and there are many other roads that are far better and far worse.

I shared that it had been one of the worst years of my life but 4 years later, I am grateful every single day to be who I am, to be out and proud.

My many labels shape me, but they do not define me.

My many “labels” shape me, but they do not define me.

If you know me, then you would know I can get a little passionate (read: intense) when I talk about issues I care deeply about, luckily Joel was there to balance it out and make the students laugh.

It felt really good to come home and be reminded that it was a really great place to grow up and the spirit of inclusion in my high school still existed.

After the day was over, my 20 year old brother came and picked me up from the school. He teased me about the day and grabbed one of the 4 homemade cookies I’d received in my gift bag (perks of coming from a small town – you can trust the baked goods!).

#swag

#swag

Once I was home, I went straight into my room to process the warm fuzzies I was having about the day. I was thinking about how scared I really am of strangers and how my own assumption that the world is a scary and homophobic place may not be entirely true.

Then my brother, who is a student at the school, came in to chat with me.

Him: “Was today like awkward for you?”

Me: “Not really, was it for you? I was trying not to share too much about the family.”

Him: “No, I don’t really care. When they asked what your worst reaction was, I remembered what happened because I was there – but I figured you weren’t going to share it.”

Me: “Yeah, I thought it was best not to. Did you enjoy the day?”

Him: “Yeah, I mean like it was kinda boring to sit in the cafe for an hour and listen to you talk and stuff. Plus none of us really care anyway, the guys kept saying how they didn’t care as long as it didn’t affect them.”

Me: “True, that makes sense.”

Him: “By the way, what’s your girlfriend’s name? You should have told me sooner I shouldn’t be finding out a month later!”

I was going to try to come up (ah – see what I did there… sort of?) with a clever title for this post.

But it’s looking like I’m going to launch it with the working title.

I came out almost 4 years ago. It was one of the most difficult times in my life and I had no one I felt comfortable asking for advice.

I learned everything as I went along, but I wish someone had been there to tell me what to expect – I just kind of fumbled my way through.

So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to write down the advice I generally give to friends, colleagues and younger students.

It’s a “best practise” of sorts as you go through what could be one of the most challenging and freeing moments of your life.

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1. Come out to yourself first.

Yo – realizing you’re gay is scary as SH*T.

I grew up in a somewhat homophobic family and the idea that I may be a lesbian really freaked me out.

I was definitely queer, in retrospect, but as a teenager I was so deep in the closet I wasn’t even aware of it.

I played lacrosse and hung out with guys all the time. I got somewhat awkward around pretty girls. I would feel (what I now know is) jealousy when guys would talk to some of my prettier friends and play it off as being “protective”. I even did this idiotic thing where I would drop my voice around girls and offer to lift things for them – but yeah… I was totally straight 😉

One morning I was sitting on the school bus listening to Pink and I was thinking “Maybe, I could be gay…” I instantly felt so uncomfortable, I’d let my internal wall down, I freaked out and thought “No, no way. Maybe like emotionally, but sex with girls… no.” After that little conversation I decided not to think about it for a while. (Yeah, I totally have internal monologues – judge me).

I saw a scholarship for LGBT* students when I was applying to university and I turned to one of my friends and said “I should totally just lie and apply to that” Haha…ha.

I left for Glendon a few months later, and during Frosh I actually walked into the LGBT* reception and ran out three minutes later…

I was constantly afraid of people thinking I was queer , which is generally the first sign that you are ONE OF US.

After that, I eventually met a girl and decided to give dating women a try – I haven’t looked back since. (When it comes to dating women, that is.)

Dating a girl didn’t instantly make me okay, in fact she had to deal with a lot of crap I probably should have tried to do on my own.

But, I did what I did – I just decided to come out because I felt like if I was comfortable enough to be intimate with a woman, I was comfortable enough to admit it.

2. Start by telling people who you know won’t freak out

This is key, the first person you should tell should be someone you are absolutely certain isn’t going to lose their minds, throw a bible at you or run away in fear.

Coming out can be hard and you want to have a solid support net built for you.

I started by telling one of my cousins. There was no fear there, she had gay friends, we were family so no fear of her having some kind of weird homophobic freak out.

I told my English teacher who gave me Angels in America to read and opened my mind to queer art. She’s one of the best allies I know.

When I started coming out to friends, I started with the guys.

I was less afraid of their reactions.

I think it was because I was telling them we had something in common. Whereas with my girl friends, I would be sharing something that made us different from each other.

I was lucky with my friends, because none of them were homophobic and they had pretty positive reactions.

I was not at all lucky with my family, but it felt good to know my friends had my back and could deal with my sadness.

I had lots of beer that summer, too. I don’t recommend dealing with things in that way – but it happens.

3. No one is going to keep it a secret

I know you’re dealing with heavy stuff and you want your friends to keep it a secret.

Unless you know for a fact that this is a solid, ride or die type of friend – they’re going to tell someone.

Guaranteed.

Most people have good intentions and are kind hearted. They may not be doing sharing your personal information to be malicious. But they love to gossip and you’d better believe they will.

Let me tell you a little story.

I only officially came out to my mom and a few close friends at home when sh*t really hit the fan.

My brother Mitch found out I was gay through one of his friends.

So Matt*’s mom told Jordan* I was gay, he then asked Mitch about it.

Yeah, some random f’ing woman from my town – who I did not know personally, who’s son was friends with my younger brother, had the audacity to run her mouth about my personal business before my family even knew.

Also, at that point I wasn’t really ready to tell the rest of my family, but I had to because I knew after that it would eventually get back to the people I didn’t want to tell and it would be far worse if it didn’t come from me.

My brother Owen’s friend Tyler*, ran up to him in the schoolyard and said “Your sister is a lesbian” the day after he had officially found out.

It still makes me really mad that people were gossiping about me in my home town, that I was clearly a topic of local conversation.

They’re a big part of the reason I wound up living with my grandma, they put me in a really terrible position.

It also reminds me that when people say “You’re shoving your lesbian-ness in everyone’s face” that in fact, other people were talking about my gayness before I even told them – so they were actually rubbing it in each other’s faces without my consent.

I do know some folks who are essentially only out at Glendon, so its self-contained.

What I mean by that is, they’re safe to be out at school, so they are, but they choose not to be out at home and the two are separate enough that they feel comfortable being themselves.

Just make sure you’re really ready for everyone to know if you’re going to tell one person. If you’re not  ready – maybe talk to a counsellor or a teacher, someone who’s confidentiality is legally assured.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

If you’re an ally/friend/queer person reading this – you could help curve the problem!

When someone tells you they’re queer or questioning.

KEEP IT TO YOURSELF.

Just because someone is out in one place or with one group of friends – does not mean that they are with out with everyone.

People are entitled to their own levels of privacy and personal security, you have no right to mess with it.

I made that mistake once and I know I wound up hurting someone really badly, so with people’s dating situations/sexual preferences/gender presentations – check with them before you say anything.

*Names have been changed for obvious reasons.

4. Only come out when you’re safe

Don’t put yourself in danger.

Make sure you are stable and that you have some money put aside. You also need to be sure you have somewhere to live.

I only say this for those of you who know it’s going to be bad.

To be honest, right before I came out I was looking into youth shelters.

I know it can be painful to keep your truth a secret. Its exhausting.

But,

We love you and want you to stay safe and alive.

I’m being very serious.

This is why I think people need to work on their gossip/lack of self control when it comes to their knowledge of a person’s sexual orientation.

It could be a safety issue.

But again, don’t assume everyone is going to be a homophobic jerk, some people will surprise you.

5. People will get invasive and ask you personal questions

This seems to be one of the reasons why people are reluctant to come out. It looks like you’re inviting people to ask about your personal life.

You aren’t.

But, people will still say things like:

“OH MY GAWD I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO HAVE A GAY BESTIE – YAY!”

“How can you be sure?”

“So what kind of girls do you like?” My answer was always: “Pretty ones.”

“Are you sure you’re gay?”

“When did you know you were a lesbian?”

ASK ALL THE QUEER QUESTIONS

ASK ALL THE QUEER QUESTIONS

“I think girls are pretty, does that make me gay?” This one makes me want to face palm.

“You don’t look gay.”

“You’re too pretty to be a lesbian.”

etcetera

Just be ready for it, most of the time people aren’t trying to be mean.

They’re just genuinely curious because its something they don’t understand.

I personally choose to be really patient and nice with these people – but you don’t have to be.

It’s not your job to educate the world on what queerness is about and if you’re uncomfortable talking about yourself, being out isn’t going to change that.

These questions and comments become less frequent the longer you’re out, people have a tendency to get over it quickly, sometimes they just don’t know what to say once you’ve said “Hey, I’m gay” and they’re trying to be nice.

6. It may get better

It is SO much better for me now.

I feel very lucky.

I’ve made some amazing friends.

At this point, it no longer bothers me if people tell each other that I’m a lesbian – I’m no longer living in fear.

But, for some people I know – nothing has changed and things won’t get better.

It can be hard but I know for all of us, being honest with ourselves has given us a personal freedom that we didn’t have before. 

K, now for the fun part.

HOW TO ACTUALLY COME OUT:

Option 1: Just say it

I mostly just told people. “BTW I’m gay.” Sometimes I framed it with “So, this isn’t easy for me to tell you” or “I don’t know how you’re going to react to this, but I trust you” and then I would tell them. It’s hard, but then you get a chance to actually see their reactions and explain yourself.

Option 2: Write a letter

If you don’t feel like being in the same room as the person you’re telling, a letter is a great option. It will allow you the time to properly think about what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Option 3: Write a song

Option 4: Update your Facebook status or tweet it

Well, that one is pretty self explanatory, the bonus is you don’t have to individually tell people.

Option 5: Bake a cake!

Cake + Letter!

ETC. ETC.

I’m old school so I wanted to tell everyone in person. My friends/family who weren’t in Ontario were the only ones I told over Facebook, MSN and Skype.

But do you and say it however you’d like to.

In conclusion, take all of this with a grain of salt and do things your way. This is just my most recommended path and things to be ready for – because it can be a big scary homophobic world out there.

You are now ready to strut your stuff out of the closet!

You are now ready to strut your stuff out of the closet!

Just remember that you’re fabulous and I love you!

Basically.

Here’s what wikipedia has to say on the subject: “Lesbians often attract media attention, particularly in relation to feminism, love and sexual relationships, marriage and parenting. Some writers have asserted this trend can lead to exploitative and unjustified plot devices.”

I’m not really sure what any of that means (it sounds like a line you put in your first year Women Studies paper, [that you didn’t edit]) – but lesbian characters are the best parts of any television show, in my (extremely) gay opinion.

Naya Rivera – please be mine.

It’s no real secret that I love women, but this transcends a simple attraction – it’s really awesome to see lesbians and lesbian narratives in mainstream television. It helps with public support for queer people and it’s nice to be (sort of) allowed to play in the sandbox.

One of the problems is that many of the women who play lesbian characters on tv are thin, light skinned and femme.

While there are obviously women who are thin, light skinned and femme, by only representing these types of women, you’re feeding into the unrealistic standards of beauty that we have in Western society.

Now here comes one of my biggest complaints:

And yes, some femmes date femmes and it’s great to represent that – but there is  a serious lack of butch lesbians!

Seriously – where are all the butch girls at?!

It seems like the mainstream media is trying to block out the butch identity. It’s as if those women don’t exist IRL.

Sometimes shows will play with androgynous/butch characters (more so on lesbian television shows, like The Real L Word and The L Word) but there are rarely story lines with butch women. Well there was Tasha  (that uniform <3) but as that article I linked shows, there is always intersectionality and we cannot ignore the lack of racially diverse representation in media. Nor can I continue to write this blog post without addressing a horrible under-representation of people of colour in every facet of mainstream media.

Or Tasha, you can also be mine…

I mean I love Santana and Arizona (awesome, strong Latina characters) but come on!

Lesbians are rad and we come in all shapes and sizes.

How do you feel about this? Have I missed anything important?

I haven’t  gone after many of the systemic problems – this is more of an overview but if you want to add that to this discourse, please do in the comments! 🙂

It’s exhausting because every introduction goes the same way…

Me: “Hi, my name is Krista”

Random: “Oh, hi! I’m [insert generic name]”

Me: “Oh awesome! We should be friends…”

(How the person I’m talking to sees me)

(Option 1)

Random: “So do you have a boyfriend?”

Me: “No, I don’t date men. I’m a lesbian.”

(How the person I’m talking to now sees me)

At this point the conversation takes one of five turns:

1. “OMG you’re a LESBIAN – that’s so cool! I never would have guessed – you don’t look like one! Tell me what that’s like?!”

(Problem: You’re assuming what a lesbian is. Then you’re Othering me, it’s cool to want to get to know someone and their experiences,[in fact it’s great that you’re so positive about it!] but it’s not cool when you’re making me feel like an alien.)

2. *Conversation ends awkwardly*

(Problem: This just sucks and means you don’t want to be my friend because I’m gay OR you were a straight dude trying to hit on me – in that case I’m sorry to disappoint [not really though])

3. “Um, would you make out with my girlfriend in front of me?” “Would you make out with your girlfriend in front of me?” (Or another inappropriate sexual advance)

(Problem: Whether you think it is or not, this is a form of sexual harassment – it’s completely unacceptable. To make the assumption that because I’m queer, I want to kiss your girlfriend is offensive, ridiculous and you’re minimizing me as a human being. It is incredibly degrading to have someone ask you to display your affection for your partner for their entertainment or gratification.)

4. “Why do you hate men?”

(Problem: This is a negative/Hollywood stereotype and an assumption. I’m not even going to answer you if you say this to me – it’s super annoying)

5. “You’re going to burn in hell – that’s disgusting.”

(Problem: You’re just a jerk. I feel like if your god exists, s/he’s going to like me a lot more than you.)

(Option 2)

Random: “So what’s your background?”

Me: “I’m Metis

Random: “What does that mean?” (*BONUS POINTS if they don’t ask this*)

Me: “I’m an aboriginal person.”

(How the person I’m talking to now sees me)

At this point the conversation takes one of three turns:

1. “OMG YOU’RE NATIVE! THAT’S AMAZING – TEACH ME EVERYTHING! I LOVE YOUR PEOPLE, SO STOIC AND WONDERFUL!”

(Problem: assumptions and othering – I guess it’s cool that you’re excited to meet someone who’s part of a collection of peoples who have been (/continue to be) oppressed, but I’m also just a person. I’ve been going through a personal reclaiming process for the last 3 years, so I don’t know everything – nor can I teach you. I’m 20 years old, I don’t have magical life secrets. Plus each of the First Nations/Inuit/Metis communities have different teachings, realities and experiences.)

2. “Did you grow up in a reserve?” “What’s it like living on a reserve?”

(Problem: You’re making an assumption. Not every aboriginal person has lived on a reserve, it doesn’t make you “more” or “less” aboriginal to have lived on one.)

3.”Why are you in university… am I paying for you to be here?” “No offence – but you look white, are you sure you’re aboriginal?” “What percentage are you?” (Or another racist comment)

(Problem: You’re making more assumptions and straight up being ignorant and racist. I’m in university because I did well in high school – no your dbag tax dollars aren’t paying for me to be here and if you understood anything about the PSSSP you wouldn’t be being saying something so ignorant. The tone of my skin does not make me “more” or “less” aboriginal. My “percentage” is none of your gosh darn business nor does it matter, don’t you dare try to tell me who I am.)

It’s just exhausting, every time I share anything personal it turns into a lesson where I often end up having to defend myself. Or I’m asked to speak on behalf of all lesbians or Metis/aboriginal people and give that perspective.

It’s especially difficult when I’m talking about my race/background, because it carries a long and complicated history that I don’t always feel like getting into (in that moment).

Truth be told, people generally give me option #1 and it’s great that they want to educate themselves but I often feel myself becoming their token aboriginal or lesbian “friend”. I could just lie and hide it, but these are parts of me. I’m proud to be a queer aboriginal woman and I shouldn’t be shamed for it.

I have some really great friends who make wonderful allies, but they didn’t approach me abrasively. They didn’t come at me with their preconceived notions of what it “means” to be a lesbian, nor what it “means” to be aboriginal. If they had those ideas, they kept them to themselves and approached me with an open mind.

It’s important to want to learn about other cultures, experiences, identities and realities – it’s what can make you a strong ally and good friend. I’m happy to share my experiences, I just prefer approaching the subject on my terms – after all it is my life.

(Who I have been throughout the conversation and will continue to be)

Just try to think about what you’re going to say before you say it and then ask yourself these three questions:

“Am I being racist/homophobic?”

“Am I assuming something?”

“Is this the right way to approach the subject?”

Just be considerate, we have feelings too.

PS: I will not immediately hate you if you’ve said/done any of those things. Just think about it next time. 

RESOURCES!

There’s a lot of other really great ways to learn about queerness, aboriginal peoples, etc. that don’t involve asking an individual every single question you’ve ever had on the topics:

1. The Internet! You can always Google it.

2. Queer student groups, check out Juan’s post on queer student services at Glendon/York!

3. You can drop by the Aboriginal Student Association at York to pick up pamphlets or even drop by one of their events.

4. Me. Yes this is ironic (if you didn’t understand the intent behind this post anyway). I am the Infinite Reach Facilitator for Glendon/York; so I will be running events on Metis culture/heritage that anyone will be welcome to join 🙂 Plus I have a ton of previous experience working with Glgbt* (check Juan’s post) so I don’t mind it when it’s in that context.

This isn’t about being afraid to ask questions – it’s about considering how you frame them. 🙂

Krista in high school was always tired, she hardly slept. She went through a few bad bouts of depression but she was excited about the future. She would watch  hours of tv, especially shows with gay people – but she was so ashamed, she’d never tell anyone. She wasn’t gay – she even wrote a letter about it. She had a hard time at home, so going to school gave her an escape. She’d come home and sit in her room for hours, alone, writing poetry and listening to music. She hated her body – she felt fat and ugly. She had scars on her forehead, big hands, big feet and crooked teeth. She would look in the mirror and cry. She would ignore her family knocking at the door – unless they were fighting. She had a lot of friends and was generally well liked – she even managed to become Prom Queen. No one knew that she’d tried to kill herself, nor that she thought about it every day. No one knew about the starving herself and then binge eating. No one noticed a 15 lbs weight drop. Some of the teachers did notice, but Krista was smart enough to convince them not to tell  her parents. She was even pulled aside by the guidance counsellor, but she likes to forget that that happened because she is embarrassed. She hoped through all of the extra curricular activities and academic accomplishments, everything would be okay – everything would look okay. But she kind of wished people would notice.

This is from my journal – I’ve shared this with a few friends (forgive the uninclusive language and spelling mistakes – I was 17)

When Krista started university, she tried to give off the vibe that she was too cool for everything. Her friends in first year had never really drank or partied, knew no drinking games and were all virgins so she felt like the baddest MF on campus. She got her lip pierced and her first tattoo a few months later. She thought she was cool; but she then got a girlfriend so she stopped going out. When she came out to her parents, her father reacted really badly (here’s her It Gets Better video). She was confused about whether or not she was straight, bi or a lesbian, she took all of that stress out on her girlfriend, which made her feel even worse about herself. She gained 30 pounds and didn’t even notice. Her depression worsened and she was miserable – she just made her girlfriend do everything for her. She would lie in bed all day – skip class and feel a cold mix of sadness and numbness. She tried to use sex to cover all of her feelings. She no longer wanted to commit suicide, but the thoughts still haunted her.

A year later they broke up and Krista became even more of a “badass”, she started smoking cigarettes and “exploring” being a lesbian. All she remembers from that year is being drunk, laughing, meeting strangers, throwing up on her 19th birthday, being sad, being angry, fog machines and strobe lights, getting hurt, being a bad friend to good people, going out 3-4 nights a week, being friends with people who sucked and going to class just enough to get by. She sat in her room in residence and cried. She punched walls and she even cut herself again. All the while she applied to be a don, was running for an executive position with the student union and trying her best to make light of the situations and make jokes to hide it all.

Last year, she went through the most horrendous heartbreak imaginable (at least it felt that way at the time) and then went into a terrible depression. She got a few more tattoos and considered the choices she’d made in her life. She was really sad, she hardly ate or slept, she couldn’t keep her room clean and she hated her whole life. She spent 2 weeks in bed. She only got up to do her job. She and her father had reconnected and she’d call him crying at 6 am. She still went out to parties – but it was not nearly as often. She wasn’t drinking as much, but she couldn’t do any of her jobs properly, she dropped a ton of classes. She was too exhausted to think of suicide. She tried to hide it all. She left school feeling like a failure. She lost a job she could have been great at and even failed a course.

This is from March 23rd 2011 – another page from my journal

I think that was rock bottom.

Things started getting better after that.

I went into the summer wanting to clear my mind. I wanted to break free from my sadness. It didn’t completely leave, but I was ready to change. Maybe I’ve just gone numb after all of the pain or maybe I’ve begun to heal. I didn’t perform well at my job over the summer either – but waking up in the morning didn’t feel like a burden (if any of you reading this have gone through depression, you understand how much that means). I was happy to see my friends – things were lighter. I enjoyed the sun a bit more. I wasn’t drinking as much or partying as much. I didn’t get into as many fights with my family. I did have one bad day where I thought about suicide – but the thoughts are more like shooty (yes this is me not swearing) commercials. Then I met this girl who made me genuinely happy – something I’ve rarely felt over the last 4 years. She has brought so much happiness and comfort into my life. She’s some extra light in what is becoming a much brighter life.

This year I haven’t felt as sad, I’m trying to clean up the bad habits I gained while going through my depression. I’ve been working on: attending class, being more motivated about work, trying to try to quit smoking, keeping my room clean (I’m failing at that one right now) and following through with promises.

I won’t say it’s because “I decided to feel better” or that “I finally wanted to change” because that’s untrue. I just reached a point where my mind was ready and able to start trying to heal.

I think I may go to counselling soon – I keep trying to but I always back out. I still feel embarrassed about everything that has happened. I guess that’s part of it. There are lighter and funnier parts to my story- not everything I’ve gone through has been a horrible dark little cloud.

I will write about those, rest assured.

I just feel like we need to break the stigma of mental illness and our silence around it. I’ve never shared my whole story or my experiences with anyone – I haven’t even been able to tell my girlfriend so she’ll be learning a lot of this when she reads it. I think a lot of people will learn things about me as they read this.

I didn’t write this for pity – or to make anyone sad. I take ownership for the mistakes I’ve made and the people I’ve hurt. Trust me, there have been plenty. I just hope that someone else, going through something similar, will know they aren’t alone.

If you are currently going through depression and you’re in high school – go talk to your favourite teacher. My guardian angel was Mme Fisher – my math teacher. I also had KP, my English teacher. They literally saved my life.

If you’re at Glendon, you can talk to your don in residence or see Counselling & Disability Services, they’re good people.

There are alternate counselling services too – CAMH, Youthline (especially for Queer youth and young adults), Kids Helphone and here’s a list of hotlines you can call.

If it’s really bad – call 911. Get yourself to the hospital.

Remember that you are loved and that someone cares. People would be devastated to lose you. Things will change and get better. I remember when I was really going through it, I’d tell myself “One happy day is worth forty terrible days”, I would live for the few happy days I got.

The reason I wrote the first part in the third person is to distance myself a bit from what happened – it makes it easier to talk about. Plus I feel like two different people, depressed-Krista and not-depressed-Krista. I like being not-depressed-Krista and that’s who I am right now. I’m very grateful and lucky to have the love and support I do in my life.

Take care and don’t be afraid to reach out.