Chechnya On My Mind

While I do believe that positivity is vital, I also acknowledge that there are times where it is all but impossible. This week, following Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 27th, I am somber, but also fearful. Despite what claims based upon evidence have been made, the Chechen government refuses to admit to the atrocities they are rendering against LGBT+ people. Their hate-fueled bigotry is reminiscent of the Holocaust, and I cannot help but worry for those innocents involved, and others who may one day find themselves victim to the worst sort of humans that our world has to offer.

Last year, I became aware of the cruelty in Chechnya, and it crushed me. One of my favorite authors of all time, Jodi Picoult, said to write about what scares you most. This, right here, is what terrifies me more so than anything else. This blind ignorance that those committing such atrocious behavior are engaged in, is only one part. The other is that by a vow of silence, certain portions of the world, are turning a blind eye, which denotes compliance. What does that say for the future of humanity? Sometimes, I fear the worst.

Despite my fears, condemnation of the actions of certain individuals in Chechnya is gaining traction. From the news, I have gathered that in London there was a protest filled with activists and allies alike, who took to the streets to put pressure on Theresa May, other governments, and the United Nations to take action, rather than remain complicit in the silence. As far as I know, here in the states, we have had nothing of the sort, but I wish we would. Likewise, there was a Twitter hashtag, eyesonchechnya, and a growing number of people who have tweeted it to inform others of what horror has been happening beyond the Chechen borders. Unlike last year, the word is spreading in rapid time now, as more information is brought to the forefront.

This is not my typical blog post, but I cannot remain silent when there may be a slim chance of my spreading the word helping others. It is my hope that one day, such violence as this will be obsolete, and should it take place in the future, the entire world will then condemn it the second it occurs. Until then, I will continue to speak out against any and all forms of it, because we are all people, and deserve to be treated as such.

There is a petition here that is well over half full, but it could still use more signatures.

There is a campaign to raise money for those needing financial aid to flee from this cruelty.

For those who may need it, The Trevor Project LifeLine number is 1-866-488-7386.

To See and Be Seen

Imagine viewing a show far removed from your comfort zone or interests because you had been searching for months or years, and it was the only one, or one of a small handful of options, that had the exact plot line you hoped for. Perhaps this occurred because it portrayed it well, or maybe happened to include it at all. Such is the life of at least a portion of the marginalized around the world, who aspire to see themselves in all forms of media, including television or movies.

While I know I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, as a person who is a part of the LGBT+ community, up until the past few decades alone, an infinitesimal blip on the life span of chronological time, there were slim pickings for content that did not demean who I am, or exclude me at all. Furthermore, despite inclusion within certain current series or films, there have still been cases of mediocre or damaging forms of diverse representation for the sake of feigning relevance or enlightenment. It is disheartening, and depending on the character depiction, can be dangerous to our community, or others that I am not a part of, as a whole.

To add insult to injury, there are certain shows or movies that have committed egregious acts, such killing off the single person of color or queer character, as well as, queer baiting the audience to drum up ratings. These sort of habits only add to the dwindling list of media that would have drawn more viewers of all identities and shades, were it not for the fact that the marginalized were treated as no more than token accessories, or punch lines to jokes that only bigots would laugh at.

Nevertheless, since the turn of the century, and certainly within the last decade, there has been progress. But, to those of us who are similar, but have separate experiences, depending on who we are, the options may still be limited. Whether that be because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or skin color, despite the advances that the film and television industries have made, there is room for much growth.

To be seen in media is to be seen by the world. By the deliberate exclusion of those of us who have been relegated to the blanket term of “other” or “wrong” by society, this can be isolating, when it seems on all fronts elsewhere, we are already fighting to be heard by those who do not understand or care about us to begin with. In the future, I look forward to reaching a point where those of us who hope for our own brand of good representation, will not be forced to watch something simply because that is all there is to choose from.

Greener Pastures Still Have Crap In Them

I remember the anxiety of the day I had selected to out my gender identity to the majority of those I knew. The act of doing so was an event that I had anticipated for some time, once I realized my own truth. That was a silent war of its own, but I had conquered that vast terrain of self discovery, so I was ready for everyone else to know. It was supposed to be the last major step, right? Spoiler alert: it was not.

In July of 2018, I wrote a lengthy Facebook post for those that had not been made aware that I preferred to be called by a different name, and my reasons behind that choice. While some might scoff at that, I am a shy person by nature, and discussing it was a huge milestone in itself. That I chose the medium of Facebook did not diminish the anxiety or fear that I experienced over this time regarding the next phase of my life. On the post itself, I received only positive reactions and supportive comments. However, I knew that would not be the end of it.

Since then, I have come out to various people, such as those who I had not known in July of 2018, people who don’t pay attention to Facebook, or others who chose to ignore what I had written. Some of them were easy, while a handful of interactions left much to be desired. Overall, it has gone better than I expected so far, to say the least. However, that, was only the first hill to conquer in my newly found journey of transparency, even if I did not know it then.

From my time on certain sites, such as Tumblr or other LGBT+ spaces across various platforms, misgendering, utilizing the wrong pronouns for someone, or dead naming, are held up as prime examples of being a terrible ally, etc. In my experience, it is not always so, no matter how frustrating or soul crushing it can be when it happens. In truth, I had not anticipated encountering these sort of situations when I began coming out, because I assumed that given the amount of positivity around me, it would have been like a light switch to flip, right?

Wrong, again.

For people who have known an individual for any length of time in various capacities, especially in closer platonic or romantic relationships, it can be difficult to shift away from years of ingrained habits. I am aware that this opinion contradicts expectations that I have found in other LGBT+ people I’ve known, but it’s realistic in some circumstances. In the beginning, I fell prey to the assumption that if the switch was not automatic, then that meant they cared less about my feelings, and more for their own complacency. However, in some cases, it is not an indication of whether or not your friend or family member cares. The slower reaction to requested change is merely a product of having known someone else by one way for so long.

This is not to say that people should get passes for inaction, because anyone who elects to feign ignorance should be afforded no lee way. However, for those being proactive for the sake of respecting you and how you wish to be identified, but occasionally slip up? They’re the ones worth the time and effort. Despite popular belief amongst some, it is not quite as simple as each of us wish it could be, as past events in my own life have shown.

So, where does that leave me in all of this, and how do I feel now?

Well, I can say that who I am has not changed, but how I present myself has, especially around people who know me. I feel more confident in who I am, because I can be real with the people in my life that matter. For so long, I was unable to do that, and it made me into someone I could not stand seeing in the mirror every single day. Now, whether that be for my actions throughout the previous day due to residual anger, or the depression and anxiety that wreaked havoc on my existence throughout those times of suppression, it all played a part in the loathing of my physical and self images. Since I have been allowed to let everyone in on my secret, that has abated, for the most part. The times it hasn’t, well, that’s a topic for another day. Overall though, coming out to the vast majority of those I interact with on a social level has largely changed my life for the better

With that being said, as I mentioned before, and Jackson Bird did in a video he made a while back, “No matter how it went, I bet you’re relieved it’s finally out there and done with. A big weight lifted off of your shoulders. Well, get ready to do it all over again. And again. And again. And again. For the rest of your damn life.” This, as I have learned over time, could not be more accurate.

In stark contrast to that statement, I feel it is worth acknowledging that regardless of political climate or your confidence in yourself, there will be places or people that are not safe to out yourself around. As hard as that is to face, no matter how open you are in specific portions of your life, there may be others where you cannot be. This may depend upon, but is not limited to, where you live, who you live around, who you are employed to, or how such a revelation could affect you or those around you. It’s heart wrenching, and unfair, but necessary in some cases. However, each person and how they choose to reveal who they are in each setting is up to their discretion, because safety is priority.

In that same vein, I too feel the pressure to conceal who I am at times, for my sake or my family’s. I hail from the Southern portion of the United States where identifying yourself as someone outside of the expected is met with harsh criticism from a good portion of people. In some cases, it is mere hostile words or glances, but in others, hate fueled ignorant rage has led to torture and death for some LGBT+ individuals. I am also a military spouse. These two factors have contributed to my reluctance of who I out myself to, because it does not just affect me, but our entire family. The military in recent times has become more accepting overall, and I am just a spouse. However, given that there is still the possibility of travelling to states that are not as friendly to LGBT+ people as the one we live in now, as well as the fact we interact with people from everywhere across the U.S. and political spectrum, I choose to withhold my identity past my social circles, for the time being. In the future, should it be available, I will change my driver’s license and possibly even my birth certificate. Until then, this is what we have chosen, and I am more than happy to comply.

In conclusion, my experience with coming out is mine. Each person who discovers that it is inevitable for themselves may have similarities, but we are all as unique as each color of the rainbow, and our experiences will reflect that. My expectations leading up to the actual event, and the subsequent time after, were different in contrast to what occurred, but that does not make them wrong. I am grateful for the support network I do have in my life, and even if it’s not exactly how I imagined it, coming out was the right thing to do, because looking back from this side of the fence, I could not imagine going back.

Becoming Nicole: A Book Review

Becoming Nicole: A Book Review

I’ll admit that I was skeptical about someone other than Nicole Maines writing about her experiences, as well as her family’s, and then publishing it into a book. However, after completing the novel Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family this January, those fears have since been allayed.

Within the confines of the pages of the aforementioned novel, there is much to process. We learn not only about Nicole and her family, but also the science behind certain socially taboo topics; namely being transgender and what that can mean. There are facts and statistics, but also heart within each page. Also, in accompaniment to Nutt’s words, are some of Nicole’s and Jonas’ as well, which were taken from snippets of past diaries, art, and social media posts, as well as photos of the family over the course of the time that was spoken of in the book. Other than the family themselves, of course, I feel that there may not have been another person better than Amy Ellis Nutt to have written this narrative.

The book itself encompasses a time frame that began before the birth of the twins up until just after Nicole underwent sexual reassignment surgery. Despite the span of over two decades being written about, the book did not lag. Each part of it seems to have been carefully chosen to illustrate the narrative of a family in emotional distress, transforming into one that would become unified around Nicole, as well as important in the LGBT+ community for activism. Through the narration of identity struggles, bullying, and court cases, this biography showcases what it can mean to be not only LGBT+ or an ally, but also, a family.

Despite my disappointment that it hadn’t been written by Nicole herself, throughout the book it became apparent that the author had worked hard to accurately portray not only Nicole’s struggles, but also those of her mother, father, and brother, Jonas. This story is theirs, and that leaps off of the page right from the get go. That in and of itself is a gift all of its own.

Overall, I am grateful that this book exists. As a biography, it read as a story of triumph, despite struggle. In the face of adversity, and the increasingly dangerous political climate of casting off those as what some deem to be as “other”, this also felt like a love letter to those who have been forced to endure varying degrees of scrutiny and hate for simply attempting to live as who they are. Moving forward, I think it is an important one for not only making transgender and LGBT+ issues visible, but also, because it is just another resource for those of us who might be searching for answers, questioning, or just need a reminder that we matter too.

On Goodreads, I rated this book a 5/5 stars.

Just a disclaimer: I receive no benefits, monetary or otherwise, from this review, or the link that I have included to the book above. These opinions are all my own.

Uncovering My Truth

I was 14 when it became quite apparent to myself that I was different. Different, in the sense that I lived in a small town, where heteronormativity was abound, and I knew from an early age that I did not fall into that category. It was social suicide to be seen as “other” though, and when I realized I might have been part of that gray area, it didn’t take long for me to become depressed and suicidal. Still, I suppressed my urges, as if they didn’t matter, because lying to myself was what Jesus wanted, right?

I was 16 when I partially admitted aloud to others that I found people with female reproductive parts attractive. It was a new school, and a safer time for the most part; Obama was in office and I was no longer surrounded by so many small town minds. Still, I was anything but sure footed, and I had only scratched the surface of who I had always been. But, hey, progress is progress, right?

I was 19 when I married my spouse, and subsequently became pregnant. I was scared, and ashamed, but for reasons that my brain still refused to consider. It was yet again a time of depression and denial.

I was 21 when I miscarried what would have been my second child. Although a majority of my time after was fraught with depression, I also felt guilt. There was guilt, because what I secretly experienced in the initial aftermath was relief.

I was 23 when I admitted to myself, and then later a few close people, that my gender identity does not match what my genitals have supposedly relayed to society that I am. The dysphoria I felt had reached an all time high, and I could no longer pretend that I am not who I have always been. It took over a year of research and education after this initial admission to become aware that I am non-binary.

I was 24 when I publicly came out to everyone I knew. Well, almost everyone. But, that’s another discussion, for another time. The point is that 99.9% of people I interact with now know that I am gender fluid.

I bet you’re reading this, and wondering why on earth is this important. Who cares? Well, even though you in particular may not, there might be others who will. Mainly those who are looking for themselves in the writings of others like them, because representation matters, and when someone is still searching and speculating, it can be helpful to know that they are not alone.

Now, more than ever, when bigots are determined to squelch our channels of exposure, pretending as if we do not exist, the importance of visibility has mounted even higher. To be able to post this blog and write a glossed over version of the years of struggle that I went through is monumental. I can only hope that for those questioning, and wondering if they’re normal, that it might help one person. Every beacon of light, in the murky storm that is uncertainty, helps. This much, I know from experience. So if I can shed some light for another, then I will gladly take up that torch.

With that being said, going forward, I will be writing not only about writing and the craft itself, but about LGBT+ issues as well. It is something close to my heart, and as previously stated, now more than ever, it is important that #OwnVoices authors have a voice. We must speak up, when we are able. Now, that I am in a place to do so, I shall.