This past weekend my girlfriend and I moved into a larger, much better place.
Empathy was one of the earliest lessons I remember my mom teaching me. “How would you feel if someone did that to you” or “What do you think someone in their shoes would do?”
I can say with 100% percent certainty that without that crucial lesson from an early age I wouldn’t be the person who I am today. My mom taught me the gift of empathy and I’m forever grateful. It’s lead me down a path of activism and knowledge, compassion and a drive to do better. Always thinking how my actions affected other people for better or for worse.
I’m very lucky to have the mom that I have. I know that some people today have bitter or bittersweet memories of their own mother – including my mom. My grand mom wasn’t the most loving towards my mom, and my grand mom definitely lacked any ability to be empathetic towards my mom, or really anybody else.
My mom could have very easily reflected what she experience (or didn’t experience) from her childhood onto her children. It actually would have made a lot of sense. Luckily, however, it made her determined to instill in her children the importance of thinking of others. Of trying to think like others and trying to understand how they would feel.
My brother teaches math in under-served communities, my sister is focusing on bullying prevention in doctoral work, and I created my own non-profit organization. Yes we could have done all of these things without the kind of mom that we had, but her emphasis on trying to understand others, even if they didn’t think or look like us, was quintessential.
My mom has given many great gifts over the years, but the most important has been the ability to see the world outside of myself and drive to try to make things better than I found it.
Happy Mother’s day Mom, I wouldn’t be where I am without you.
My cake looked a lot better
I’m a little behind, but I figured I would dedicate a post to my 27th birthday.
Language can be a tricky thing. When I came out to my great-aunt several years ago, I could see her struggling to find the right words throughout our conversation. She was an extremely progressive woman, but she wasn’t equipped with the resources that we who have an internet connection have so readily available. I realized that I’d taken for granted the access to a LGBT-centric vocabulary that I’ve found on the internet.
Now, when I came out to my aunt she didn’t seem to get it at first. I kept saying “my girlfriend” but she definitely thought I was referring to a girl who was also my friend. Which is sort of funny in a strange way, because now that she knows I’m a lesbian with a girlfriend, she constantly asks how my ‘friend’ is doing.
This is the same aunt that I had nightmares of her chasing me around the house with holy water. So I see it as a victory that she actually asks how my girlfriend is doing. Of course it would be nice if she actually referred to my girlfriend as ‘my girlfriend’, but I think there is a language barrier stopping her. I don’t know for sure, but this might be the first time that she had to talk about a non-heterosexual relationship.
I’ve had many opportunities to correct her, but honestly, sometimes I just don’t have the energy. I don’t want to be the walking encyclopedia of queer language, especially for my family. Is it terrible that I want people to just get it? Or if not get it automatically, teach themselves?
I just had Uber driver who had only known me for 10 minutes refer to a possible romantic partner as a ‘significant other’, because he didn’t want to assume either way. If this random guy can take a couple of extra steps to be inclusive without knowing my sexual orientation why can’t a family member who knows that I’m a lesbian put forth the same effort?
Really I just want straight people to try. You aren’t going to get it right all of the time. And for me, that’s okay. Because I would rather see you struggle to find the right word than stay comfortably ignorant.
Online spaces have fascinated me for a long time. Humans using technology to create a virtual space to interact with each other in a way that wouldn’t be possible without the internet.
There are many people who argue that the increased usage of the internet and technology is killing imagination, innovation, and social interaction.
I would like to call bullshit on this notion.
The idea of the internet itself exhibits imagination. We can’t touch, smell, or hold the internet, but yet creativity flourishes through vines, Youtube, and fan-art. We can collaborate with people half-way around the world. Innovation is happening every day, through new apps, fan-fiction, online fund-raising campaigns, and so much more.
I really want to focus on the social interaction aspect of technology and the internet.
I’m extremely tired of people saying that Millenials are depriving themselves of social interaction because we are all attached to our computers and smart phones. What people are ignoring is that some virtual spaces are in fact healthier and richer than any physical space that a person can access.
I went to Catholic school, and obviously conversations about sex and sexual health didn’t exist. There wasn’t a space to explore, learn, and ask questions. And then I found the internet. Obviously there is some terrible and false information that exists online, but it was no more false and terrible than the information I was receiving in ‘the real world’. I was able to search and explore at my own pace. There were sights that gave advice to teenage girls, run by women. It was like Seventeen magazine, only it solely focused on what the community and users wanted to talk about.
When I came out to myself at college, I was in a more supportive and open environment, but I really didn’t know that many LGBT people, especially women who I felt comfortable talking to about my queerness. What it meant to be queer, relationship advice, and sexual and general health. The internet had spaces like Autostraddle and Tumblr where I could once again explore how I could shape my queer identity, learn about myself, and learn about LGBT history that I never had access to before.
I was luckily enough to grow up in a fairly supportive environment, and I still needed those virtual spaces. Think of the 13 year old in the rural south who is figuring out she’s a lesbian and doesn’t know any out LGBT individuals. Would she be better off without the internet, living in the ‘real world’ where she has no access to a support network and community?
People are creating in ways they never could before in all of human history. People are sharing their stories and experiences that never had a voice before. Connections are being made worldwide, which are expanding worldviews and spreading information and ideas.
There are obviously downsides to the internet, but there are downsides to every new innovation. It is important to be critical of new technology and how it is being used. That being said, criticizing a medium should not involve completely ignoring all of the good it creates.
Online spaces are crucial for us to expand and grow. Without them, finding like-minded people and people who challenge us might difficult to impossible to find. And that can be a lonely existence. The connection formed online can be some of the most important ones we make. No one has the right to say that interacting with people in your town is more real that a heart-felt conversation with a friend who lives hundreds of miles away.
The internet lets us shape and create a world that is not defined by physical boundaries, that lets us explore new ideas and talk with people that we never had access to before.
It’s human, and it’s beautiful.
This past week I was invited back to my high school to speak at their Career Fair. Getting the chance to talk about my organization is a great opportunity and hopefully it will be a great chance to build a long-lasting and sustainable partnership.
I should be excited but instead I’m filled with dread and experiencing flashbacks from my adolescence. Most of my stress dreams from the past several years involve me having to go back to high school to take classes and being completely lost.
Like a lot of people, high school was a difficult time for me. I wasn’t out to myself yet but I knew that there was something ‘different’ about me. This made me a target for teasing and general meanness. For an all-girls Catholic school there were some progressive teachers, but we still had groups come in to say that Gay people didn’t exist because God didn’t make mistakes. And I won’t even get into the terrible abstinence only sex education I got. There was a lot of stress at school and at home – ten years ago I was dealing with self-harm, ignoring my depression for several years, and living with a recovering addict in the family.
Going back in its self is scary. Going back and being out is terrifying. I’m not going to be waving rainbow flags as I go through the school, but I can’t honestly go back and talk about my non-profit experiences without putting it in a queer context.
How I operate in the United States and abroad is greatly influenced by my sexuality, but honestly just the thought of being completely open around a bunch of nuns is giving me massive anxiety.
However, I know how oppressive that school can be if you think you are the only strange or different person pressured to follow a set of rules that just doesn’t fit who you are. It’ll be worth it if there is just one queer girl who knows that someone before her survived, and then thrived after leaving high school behind.
There are so many queer narratives that are blatantly ignored in Catholic high schools (and schools in general). Hopefully my presence and my stories can at least spark the smallest of positive conversations.
When it comes to my nonprofit sometimes I have too many good ideas. Let’s build wells at the schools… and playgrounds! Playgrounds would be great. Except for… one small problem. That those ideas would mean giant program expansion outside of the mission. Even if these ideas fit into our mission, my organization certainly doesn’t have the funding for these projects.
I pride myself on being a creative person who can come up a lot of interesting ideas for my organization. There are a lot of people who involved with my non-profit. So what do we do when we acknowledge that an idea is good, but it just doesn’t work right now?
My organization has come up with the “Back Burner” method. It’s really simple and it helps acknowledge great, creative ideas that might not work now, or ever.
Say you have an idea comes along and a lot of positive ideas are exchanged building it up. Then, whether it is a board member or someone who leans towards the more realistic side, points out the issues of implementing said idea.
These ideas officially go on our organization’s “Back Burner”. It’s a nice way of saying ‘hey awesome idea you came up with, maybe we can revisit it later’. Most ideas that have been put on the back burner never return to the front, but some seem to creep their way into new programs and ideas that are more in sync with our mission.
I don’t like the idea of completely nixing ideas. A lot of them may never come to fruition, but it’s hard to tell how these ideas will evolve over time and circumstance. Sometimes the best idea for a new program is something you thought of six months ago, but it just needed to sit for a while before it transform into something that flushes perfectly with your organization’s mission.
You never know… your ideas may surprise you.
In April, my best friend and I going to go see a concert in Toronto. We’re both traveling from different countries to Canada, so this will be the first time I’m traveling to another country completely on my own.
It’s hard for to keep a positive mindset.