I saw this and nearly died from laughter!! I had to share. – Dr. Harmony
Listen to the women. Listen to the people of color.
The post Opinion: Gottman’s Four Rules and the Need for Diversity appeared first on The Gottman Institute.
Being stuck in quarantine has meant I have lots of free time on my hands and what better way to spend it than on Netflix! When Circus of Books showed up in my recommended list, I didn’t know what to make of it. The cover photo of an elderly couple sitting side-by-side on a couch didn’t quite match the flashing images of pornography in the trailer. I was intrigued.
A Successful Business
Circus of Books is a documentary about Karen and Barry Mason, a heterosexual Jewish couple who owned Circus of Books—a Los Angeles bookstore with multiple locations that carried and distributed a wide range of gay pornography—for over 30 years. Circus of Books explains how the Masons purchased the then-named Book Circus as a business opportunity. (She had been a journalist, and he had worked as an inventor and in television production). They then moved on to producing gay porn videos. And they were successful.
Through it all, they were able to compartmentalize their work at the store from their family, friends and religious community. The Masons did not discuss their business much, and all three of their children grew up believing their parents owned a simple bookstore. Karen in particular struggled to balance her business ventures with her religious beliefs. (The family belonged to a conservative synagogue although Karen was a lot more observant than her husband.)
While Karen and Barry were supportive of their staff and customers, most of whom identified as LGBTQ, things were different when one of their sons came out to them as gay while home from college. Karen especially was forced to do a lot of self-examination about her biases. “I was fine working with gay people,” explains Karen. “But when it came to my own family and what I had absorbed in the religion, I was not fine at all. When it came to my own son, I realized that I had some thoughts about gay people that needed to change.” After a lot of reflection and reaching out to an organization called Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) for support, Karen came to challenge her biases.
Allies and Advocates
Karen and Barry eventually became strong LGBTQ allies and advocates and now work to erase social stigma, negative stereotypes and prejudice around queerness via their involvement with PFLAG. In the documentary, when asked about his relationship with his parents since coming out, Josh Mason says, “I think at some point Mom said that it’s the parent’s role to fight for change, and it’s the kid’s role to have as normal a life as possible and just get on with things.”
Ultimately, Karen and Barry Mason are a great example of an everyday couple who just happen to have owned a sometimes-secret, once-successful shop specializing in gay porn. Karen’s quest to better understand and challenge her homophobic views brings the documentary to life.
Circus of Books does a good job of showing why it’s important not to judge a book by its cover.
The post Circus of Books—How One Couple Became LGBTQ Allies and Advocates appeared first on Sex, Etc..
College and university campuses have long been associated with casual sex, be it in the imagination of people or in what media like American Pie 2 (2001) and National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) have shown us, not to mention what we see in pornography. But due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many higher learning students are having to put their sexual lives on hold.
To talk about casual sex in college life and the effects COVID-19 might be having on it, Scarleteen spoke with sociologist Lisa Wade, PhD, visiting scholar at Tulane University and author of the groundbreaking American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex On Campus (2017).
Scarleteen (ST): In your book American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus (2017) you traced behavior patterns and identities. What were the outstanding findings of your study?
Lisa Wade, PhD (LW): One of American Hookup’s central theses is that hooking up isn’t merely an option on college campuses, but often feels like an imperative. That is, it’s no longer something students feel that they can do, but something they feel like they should do. Hooking up is now [often thought to be] the “right way to do college” and part of the “whole college experience.” Meanwhile, other ways of forming sexual and romantic relationships, including traditional courtship and dating, but friends with benefits-type relationships and open relationships in which couples are committed but not monogamous, are also off-script.
Some students — possibly as many as 25 percent — genuinely enjoy hooking up. A third of students want no part of it; they opt out of sexual encounters entirely, seeing no other pathway. And the remaining students are hooking up, but with mixed experiences and mixed emotions. As a result of so much discontent, scholars argue that the presence of hookup cultures on college campuses are contributing to rising levels of anxiety and depression.
ST: How do race and gender identity come into play in hookup culture?
LW: Any American social hierarchy that you might imagine is replicated in hookup culture. So, the students who are enjoying hooking up the most, who are seen as the most valuable erotic partners, and who have the most control over this social and sexual scene, those students are disproportionally men, white, able-bodied, conventionally attractive, ostensibly heterosexual, and from middle and upper class backgrounds.
So, like in American culture more generally, the students that are both benefitting from and in control of the sexual scene tend to be privileged. As a result, women report less satisfaction with hookup culture than men, as well as higher rates of victimization and lower rates of pleasure. And students of color tend to be more acutely aware of the risks of participation, which include being subjected to racist standards of attractiveness and racialized politics of sexual assault.
ST: How do you define hookup culture? It’s not new to have casual sex, but what would you say is new about hookup culture?
LW: Students certainly didn’t invent casual sexual activity, so hooking up is not new. Hookup culture, though, is new. Hookup culture includes the idea that everyone should be hooking up; a clear and widely known script on how to do it, so students exactly how to hookup; and also “institutionalization”, the process by which hooking up becomes part of the rhythm and architecture of college life. Hence, students believe they should hookup, have a good idea of how to do it, and know where and when to go to do so.
ST: Do you see connections in this culture between narcissism and disposable relationships?
LW: I do think that hooking up is consistent with hyper-individualism and status-orientation that is widespread in contemporary American culture. We teach our young people, from the time they’re very young, that they need to climb our social hierarchies or risk falling in them. So, we push them to get the best grades possible, to get into the best college possible, so as to get the most high-paying job they can. In order to do this, they need to compete with their peers and beat them at whatever games determine their value in society. When students apply that logic to sexuality, hooking up becomes a game of status in which they win or lose and climb or fall in an erotic hierarchy. If that’s the logic they encounter with hookup culture, I’m not surprised that it resonates with them because similar ideas are dominant in American culture more broadly.
ST: Given that with the COVID-19 pandemic, most students aren’t on campus or in class, how do you believe the pandemic is affecting the hookup of students? What’s happening with hooking up right now?
LW: Oh, I think that is a really interesting question! The few students I’ve talked to thus far have given me a mixed impression. Some have said that any pre-virus flirtations disappeared when they went home. Others have said that they and their previous hookup partners have formed a more emotionally intimate relationship; That they got actually friendlier over the phone, talking, texting, sharing their experience of stay-at-home orders. Some women students have complained that they’re doing a surprising amount of emotional work for their previous hookup partners, suddenly acting like pseudo-girlfriends to men who would have snubbed their for getting “too attached” on campus.
ST: Do you have any predictions once school is back in session in-person? What do you think the impacts of touch and in-person social deprivation will be on students?
LW: If I had to hypothesize my suspicion is that, when students return to campuses, they are going to display the same wide range of behavior as Americans more generally. Therefore, I suspect that some students will be extremely careful and try to do everything they can to avoid catching or transmitting the virus and others students will be on the other end of the spectrum and be reckless. They may try to pick up where they left off and maybe even make up for lost time, or seek to feed desires that went unsated during lockdown. In which case, hookup culture may be even more frenzied than before.
It will be interesting to see how colleges and universities respond to that behavior because of course their campuses will want to avoid transmission as much as possible. This may mean that colleges have to police their students level of physical distancing, and that will be interesting to watch. I suspect the primary candidates for violating physical distancing rules will be fraternities, since these organizations were founded on and continue to engage in the flouting of authority and the having of fun, come what may. Until now, fraternity parties have been largely tolerated by campus administrators, even though they routinely serve alcohol to minors. If this role on campus is taken away from them, it also takes away some of their social power. So, this may lead to quite different social dynamics on campus, ones with implications for the dominance of hookup culture.
ST: How do you think Coronavirus might change hookup culture for good?
LW: I can see it going to at least two ways. In one hand, I can see young people, and people more generally, responding by focusing on the fleeting nature of pleasure. Some of us may feel more like grabbing life by the horns and grasping for whatever experiences we can get in the moment. We all know now that it can all be taken away in an instant.
So, Coronavirus might make students reach out for momentary pleasures even more aggressively than before. On the other hand, this pandemic is also making us realize how important other people are in our lives and not just as objects or acquaintances but as meaningful connections. So, it is possible the pandemic will make us value intimacy and interpersonal kindness more than ever before. Then, that might lead us as a culture to be more interested in deeper and more long term emotionally intimate sexual connections.
And, undoubtedly, there are many possible impacts that I haven’t yet imagined. Nobody quite knows exactly the impact this experience will be.
Being single or otherwise on your own during the pandemic can for sure be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be awful or without benefit to you. There are probably lots of things you can do right now to help yourself cope and make the most of this time. Here are seven ideas to get you started.
Go Wilderness Camping
Head out into the wilds if you can and find yourself a place to fall in love with nature. Camping by yourself can be a gateway to wonder. Opportunities for serene communing with the out of doors may lead to deep revelations, or just some sweet rest and relaxation. No matter what your goal, be ready for some quiet times that become an auditory tapestry of birdsong, frog croaks, and cricket calls as you drop in and listen.
During the time of COVID-19, boondocking or wildland camping might be what’s safer (fewer folks in the area and therefore less chance of exposure) and more available (fewer restrictions on camping on federal lands). It is likely to be remote and rugged, so make sure you bring water, a camping shovel, a strong flashlight, and a camp stove at bare minimum – in addition to the obvious. (A tent or sleepable vehicle, sleeping mat, sleeping bag.)
Bring a book or two if you like to read. Bring a musical instrument if you like to play, or art supplies if you like to create art. Find a quiet place to sit and commune and create and play!
If you don’t own camping gear perhaps you can source some on a local buy-nothing group, or borrow some from a friend. If you’re urban and not able to access the wilderness, perhaps you can make a day trip of it to the biggest local park you can locate. While it’s not the same as wilderness camping, even a few hours of submersion in nature can be a healing experience.
Cat Around – Online!
While being in a relationship doesn’t mean you can’t play the field (hello, open relationships!), there’s nothing quite like the freedom of being single as far as exploring your individual sexuality goes.
You’re single; you can still play the field if you want! Just because you can’t meet up with people in person doesn’t mean you can’t engage with your sexuality or romantic interests. You can take this time to explore your sensual and sexual identity, desires, quirks, or kinks. During COVID-19, for the sake of everyone’s safety, this activity should be restricted to online fun – but that doesn’t need to infringe on your explorations.
A few ways to stretch your sexual and sensual edges while sheltering in place are:
- Masturbating alone
- Masturbating with a friend while sexting, or over a video platform (if that’s safe and within the law for you to do)
- Exploring erotica or porn and seeing what you like or don’t like
- Meeting new friends virtually on dating apps, and playing with them over text or video chat
- Negotiating play scenes with lovers for after isolation is no longer needed
There are plenty of reasons to invest some of this solo time in sexual self-exploration. Taking this time to learn about what makes you hum will serve you well in both the short and long term, with or without a partner. Orgasms are also good for your immune system! They reduce stress levels and increase good feelings for many. And a handful of orgasms for sure helps to make the time in isolation go by more quickly.
Build Solid Friendships
Just because we’re sheltering in place doesn’t mean that we can’t work on building our interpersonal connections. Your friendships are going to get you through thick and thin. There are many ways to build and nurture community and connection while in isolation.
Some simple ways to build your connections while practicing safety include:
- Zoom or FaceTime coffee dates
- Take a walk and talk with a friend over the phone: enjoy a phone chat while you get outside and get some movement in
- Dance parties with your besties on an electronic platform
- Find or create a specific online support group for yourself and those with similar concerns, interests, or cares as yours
- Accountability buddy agreements: these may be about any kind of self care (exercise, eating, taking a shower), work goals, or creative goals, and can be conducted by phone or text or chat. Choose a buddy and agree to an accountability check-in schedule. Whether daily or weekly these simple arrangements can really increase traction for sticking to your goals and commitments
We all need each other right now. Reach out! Support others and find yourself supported in the process.
(Learn To) Cook!
Maybe you never had a real interest in cooking before now, or maybe you were interested but never felt you had time to learn. Well, now not only is there more time available for many of us, there are also fewer opportunities to eat out.
To start, find YouTube tutorials – or better yet, have a community elder talk you through a recipe you have always loved. Ask your mama to walk you through the recipe for your favorite childhood comfort meal. Ask your uncle how to make his favorite. (Build community while learning new recipes!)
Feeding yourself can be a nourishing and empowering act. Embrace it. Explore it. Enjoy it!
Solo Date Night/Day
What do you love to do, but rarely get around to doing? Set aside some time to rediscover and enjoy it. Dinner and a favorite movie is an easy one, but why not get creative and enjoy a guided art session online, or a hike and picnic, or a long bath and self-massage?
It’s easy to let one day bleed into the next in isolation, but there are things you love to do; schedule them in. Pick up that instrument you love to play and sing some love songs to yourself. Write in your journal as you savor a glass of sparkling wine or water.
Solo dates might seem silly at first, but give it a try and over time you may come to cherish the time devoted to nourishing your connection with yourself.
Get Some Therapy
Many therapists have moved their services to telehealth sessions during COVID. There’s no time like the present to dig in and start working on healing or dealing. When solo, you can commit to doing the work for you, and you alone.
- You are hiring them. Interview your prospective therapist. Have a list of questions that are important to you and see how they respond. (Is it important to you that your therpist is anti-racist and intersectional? That they are gender literate? That they understand the concept of solo-polyamory or relationship anarchy?)
- You don’t need to work with someone you don’t like. And you don’t need to have a reason to move on to a new therapist. If the fit is not good, there are others out there.
- Different therapists have different strengths. Figure out what modalities you might want to try, and what your goals are, and take it from there.
- You can decide the pace for your therapy, and if you need to go deeper or stay more surface, it’s up to you. It’s your process.
- Therapy may stir things up for you, but what better time to invest in some deep healing than when you are sheltering in place? For many of us, things are stirred up anyway at the moment. Prior traumas may be activated, or even just the stress and anxiety of dealing with the unknowns of coronavirus may be destabilizing. There’s no reason not to reach out for support.
Now is the time to love yourself in all the ways you can. Build more trust in your intuition. Do some self inventory, and see if you can’t begin to allow identity factors that don’t serve you to fall away.
Where you can’t allow them to fall away, practice acceptance. We can’t always get to loving ourselves, but we can often at least get to accepting ourselves. Love and nurture your broken parts as well as your strengths. If it works for you, practice simple affirmations, like, “I love this part of me too.”
Give yourself hugs, little self massage sessions, and treats. Move your body, and when you can’t do that practice even more acceptance. Reward yourself for completing what under usual circumstances you would consider a minor victory, like getting out of bed and brushing your teeth.
For many of us these times are not easy, and being alone in isolation is a great challenge. Offer yourself as much grace, love, and acceptance as you can muster, and this may become a time of sweet self-nurturance.
Before I dive in, I want you to repeat the following three statements:
I am more than enough.
I am doing a great job.
I am allowed to ask for help.
Terrific. I am going to ask you to repeat those statements again later on. Probably more than once.
It’s hard to do it all these days. (Okay, it’s hard to do it all when there’s not a pandemic.)
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during this time, but I promise, you are not alone. There are many people trying to juggle parenting, work, life, love, while not completely losing it. While I’m not sure if we share the same parenting stories, I can promise you that I am trying to juggle these things, too. I’m sure that I am not doing it perfectly, but perfection is overrated and quite frankly, perfection has absolutely nothing to do with parenting, so set those tired expectations aside.
Sometimes we just need to find our people, you know, the ones who we may or may not know IRL but can help us find strength and support during complicated times.
Who are those people to you? Are they family? Friends? A group that you met on the Scarleteen boards? Are they a group of people online who share similar experiences and aren’t judgmental? Those are your people and the likelihood is that they, too, are experiencing the highs and lows of managing it all while staying at home or being an essential worker and taking care of everyone else except yourself. Hopefully, this will reframe some of these challenges for you.
Most people didn’t voluntarily sign up to be a full time homeschool teacher.
If you’re doing virtual school or homeschooling, don’t worry if you can’t do it all. Classroom teachers are trained. No one is expecting you to operate pandemic home schooling as if you had graduate degrees in education. So you forgot to turn in the homework. You forgot your kid’s Zoom session. Big deal. It happens.
Turn screentime into your ally.
If your kids are on screens more than you’d like (mine are!), take a breath. Most people have given up on their stringent screen time rules during Covid-19.
If you’d like to mix it up for them, instead of shows and TikToks, try putting on an art video. For example, Mo Willems (“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”) does a great lunchtime doodle for kids and families, Sparketh has free classes for 30 days, and The Kitchen Table Classroom has free crafting and art classes. Virtually visit a museum or tour a place you’ve always wanted to go. There are so many places with online “tours,” including the San Diego Zoo, which has live webcams to watch the animals and the Georgia Aquarium.
Time to repeat those three statements again. I’ll wait.
I am more than enough.
I am doing a great job.
I am allowed to ask for help.
Okay, moving on. We often like to work things out ourselves and not bring anyone else into our problems. That’s nice, in theory, but it isn’t helpful. No one can do it (and by it, I mean parenting) totally alone. No one knows how to gracefully navigate these complicated times. It’s not something that comes naturally to us, so sometimes it’s important to call in for reinforcements and reinforce others.
Would you be your own friend?
When I teach, I often ask my students to think about whether they would befriend themselves. What I mean by that is: are we the kind of person that we would want to rely on? This is a time to remember that we can be for others the type of support that we really need. So what do you need? Chances are, you are not the only one.
Make a deal with a friend to do a daily check in. Set a reminder on a phone or even put a Post It somewhere to remind you to call/text/videochat with a friend at the same time everyday. Sending someone a “You’ve got this” note can make a huge impact. (You can have that person call or text you the same affirmation, too.)
Take a break – even if it is only for 5 minutes.
There are lots of free health and wellness apps that give you the ability to take a 5, 10, 15 (you get the picture) “class.” Maybe you need yoga, strength, meditation. Maybe you just need five minutes to dance. Put on your favorite song and dance it out alone (or with your kid). A little break goes a long way. Just as an example: Yoga for Beginners is free, Peloton has a 90 day free trial of hundreds of classes you can do at home (no bike needed), and Calm and Headspace have free meditation.
Conflict resolution stay-at-home style.
Whether we like it or not, conflicts are going to arise. Parenting is tough is the best of scenarios. Trying to do it while under the microscope that is a quarantine or stay-at-home order increases the difficulty tenfold. Coming up with strategies to combat feelings of self doubt or frustration is critical, as are finding language and tools to reply to the people in your life who may (or may not) have the best of intentions and insist on giving you feedback.
While I know that you want to scream at times, keep in mind that it only creates a more volatile and uncomfortable situation for you and your child(ren). Owning your feelings but doing so rationally can be very powerful for you (and ultimately very frustrating for someone else). Now, that shouldn’t be the reason for a rational come-back, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. We need to know how to ask for help and also let someone know when we’ve got this and don’t need the added criticism.
“I am working really hard to do trying to do this. I feel frustrated and overwhelmed. It would be great if you could help me with ____________.”
“I know that you have experience with this and I promise that if I need help, I will ask for it.”
“I am really trying to do this well and it may not be your intention, but sometimes I feel like you don’t trust my judgment.”
And if you really are having trouble communicating with the people you are sheltering in place with, walk away for a few minutes if you need to calm down. Sometimes taking a moment to compose yourself is better than escalating a fight or argument.
You have the right to find resources.
Perhaps the greatest part of a digital world is the ability to connect and gather information from people and organizations all over the world. You are not alone, and plenty of people are looking for tools to assist them. Sometimes, you are not looking for advice, you may be looking to hear someone else’s story. We always have an ability to learn from others. And know, sometimes, you really are looking for help and you are entitled to it.
- Hip Mama
- Healthy Teen Network
- Colorado Teen Parent Collaborative
- National Parent Helpline
Okay, one more time. Repeat the lines.
I am more than enough.
I am doing a great job.
I am allowed to ask for help.
It’s easy to be so consumed our feelings of inadequacy that we forget the most important fact. Our children love us for us. They don’t care about all the little things that we worry about. They just want to know that we are there to love them unconditionally. That love is a two way street.
Feeling frustrated that you can’t kiss your significant other right now? Imagine if you were told that you could hang out…but not touch each other? Well, that’s the main idea of Netflix’s current reality show, Too Hot to Handle.
Creating Emotional Bonds
The show is popular, and I, too, couldn’t resist. (I love reality shows with a dramatic flair!) It gathers people who signed up for a reality TV dating experience at an island retreat. The contestants arrive thinking they’re part of a dating show where they can have meaningless hookups. But, as they soon find out, according to the “rules” of the show, they’re not allowed to engage in any sexual activities, including any kind of kissing or touching. They’re also not allowed to masturbate. I do think this last rule is a little ridiculous, and people have the right to give themselves some self-love if they choose to! If any contestants break the rules, money is deducted from the grand prize of $100,000. Each “offense,” or level of contact, is worth a different amount of money. For example, if two contestants kiss, $3,000 is deducted.
I think the point the show is trying to make—besides being pure escapist entertainment—is for the contestants to create deeper, emotional bonds with one another and not just rely on physical relationships. For instance, there are several workshops provided to help them develop emotional connections with each other.
How a Reality Show Can Help Deal With Reality
I love watching reality dating shows, like The Bachelor and Love Island, to escape my own reality through the ridiculous drama of these shows. And Too Hot to Handle falls into the same category. I enjoyed it. While I thought the premise was interesting, I was mostly there to see what happened when the rules were broken! It gave me a few laughs and kept me entertained, which has definitely helped me get through everything right now with the global pandemic and quarantine.
Speaking of which, I connected the contestants’ experiences of trying to create deeper, emotional bonds to all the teen couples out there who are most likely not able to see each other in person right now, much less have physical contact. The quarantine could be a great opportunity for those in relationships to strengthen their emotional bonds, as they’re most likely not being physically intimate at the moment. Emotional intimacy can always be deepened, and I think it can make the physical attraction to your partner even stronger.
Overall, I enjoyed watching Too Hot to Handle as an escape and to see how a reality show could be made into one big workshop on how to connect emotionally and not just physically. It might make you laugh…and also think a little.
The post Too Hot to Handle—Solely a Source of Drama or Helpful, Too? appeared first on Sex, Etc..
Tips for Queer Youth Stuck at Home With Trans- and Homophobic Parents
The global COVID-19 pandemic has put a huge amount of pressure on a huge number of people. In many households, the strains of closed schools, lost jobs, health issues, and close quarters mean that tensions are high, tempers are short, and privacy has become a luxury.
If you’re a young queer person who is now isolated with trans- or homophobic family members, you probably know that better than anyone.
Maybe things are normally okay at home, but now it feels like everything you do is under a microscope. Maybe an environment that usually just felt tense, now feels unsafe. Maybe you’ve been holding everything in for so long that you feel like you are about to burst and have nowhere to go let off steam. Whatever your situation looks like, the fact is, you could probably use a little support.
So here are a few ideas to help you stay as physically and emotionally safe as possible during these difficult days.
Stuck at Home
During high school and college, there were plenty of times my parents and I butted heads, or got under each other’s skin, or found ourselves in epic screaming matches. One of the things that helped the most was getting some space.
These days, many of the self-care strategies that you probably use to manage everything from dealing with microaggressions to flat-out dangerous situations just aren’t going to be possible. Those might have been things like escaping to a friend’s place, being at school, participating in your GSA, going to a movie or a coffee shop, staying at your grandma’s, or even just taking a walk.
So what can you do?
For Darid, a high school senior who’s a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council, what has helped most has been staying connected to the outside world. They say, “I am fortunate to have my own space and my own room in the house to get away from everything, and just focus on myself. I’ve been keeping in contact with friends. We FaceTime almost every day. We even developed a routine; every Saturday, we get together virtually and have movie nights through Netflix Party. Finding a group of friends and starting a mini routine or picking out an activity to do together virtually has been helping me hold on to some type of normality.”
That will resonate for a lot of young people. But for others, connecting virtually is going to be a bigger challenge since it is estimated that almost half of all Americans don’t have reliable Internet. That can be tough under normal circumstances. But as everything from school to socializing has moved online, it can make you feel even more isolated.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to borrow a device or get online via your school. WiFi may also be available through a public place, like outside a library or a McDonalds. Some young people have also been given the okay to safely connect in real life by doing things like taking a physically distanced walk or bike ride, or having a distanced picnic with friends.
If you are like a lot of people, your home self isn’t identical to the self you share with friends, teachers, or at your job.
For some of you, being at home might actually be a relief and a nice break from the stresses of your regular life. I teach middle and high school health and I was surprised to hear from one of my students who said they were actually happier at home than at school because they weren’t dealing with daily drama.
But for a lot of young people, especially LGBTQIA+ youth who have trans- or homophobic parents, home is anything but relaxing, especially if you need to constantly think about how you are acting, talking, or presenting yourself in front of your family. That is often called code switching and it is a crucial survival tactic for a lot of queer youth. But it can also be an exhausting and stressful one, especially if you have to do it 24/7.
As Darid says, “I am a senior in high school, so I currently live with my parents. At first, it was difficult to adjust. For me, I code-switch a lot. The way I act and express myself with my family is completely different from the way I express myself with my friends. So it was hard, not having supportive and queer spaces that I often occupy.”
If you are modifying how you present yourself to avoid triggering hostility from your family, it is also a good idea to try to find ways to express yourself authentically. That can be with friends over a video chat, dressing up alone in your room, writing in a journal, or even watching a movie or listening to music that speaks to you.
Coming Out and Being Outed
Coming out should always be your own choice, done on your own terms and timeline. But being isolated with your family, especially if you don’t have any privacy, can increase the chance of being outed before you are ready. Your sibling could pick up your phone and see a revealing text. You could get overheard on the phone. Your parents could be watching your every move looking for “signs.”
For one college student, being home from school right now meant being pushed to come out by religious parents. As she wrote on Reddit, “A couple of months ago my mom asked me if I was gay and I said I wasn’t because I did not want to be forced out of the closet.” However, being at home has changed the dynamic and after being asked and confronted repeatedly about her sexual orientation, she came out. The result? “My parents are not really taking it well,” she wrote.
While some of you are probably terrified that your families will find out about your identity, others of you might be desperate to come out to them. That can be the case if you feel overwhelmed by the difficulty of keeping everything inside.
Coming out can definitely be an amazing experience. But it can also be a risky one. So if you are leaning in that direction, you really need to think about whether or not now is the best time.
Here are a few things to ask yourself:
- How do I think my family will react?
- How will coming out impact my situation at home?
- Is it safe, physically and emotionally, for me to come out to my parents?
- Do I have resources available (both emotional and financial) if coming out changes my situation at home?
- Do I have people whom I can talk to before I come out to my parents?
- What will waiting to come out until after the pandemic ends do to me? What are the upsides of waiting? What are the downsides?
If you go through this list and decide that coming out at home it isn’t the best choice right now, you should know you still have options.
For example, there might be a friend or family member whom you could call and talk to. If your school or college has a GSA, or something similar, you could also reach out to the person who runs that. Many communities have LGBTQIA+ community centers that have programs for youth. You can find your closest one at Centerlink. If you have privacy online privately, there are also a lot of places you can find support. For example, you can ask for advice on the Scarleteen message boards, live chat or via text. There are also groups like the Trevor Project or the LGBT National Youth Talkline which are geared towards queer and questioning youth in crisis, and sites like Q Chat Space, that can help you connect with LGBTQIA+ peers.
If you hadn’t been involved with the queer community before the lockdown, getting involved now could actually be a good way to ease in since there are more virtual spaces around than ever.
When Life at Home is Unbearable
Sometimes a person’s family of origin is just so toxic or abusive that being at home is unbearable or unsafe. Some young people suffer verbal or physical abuse. Others are forced into conversion therapy. This practice, which falsely claims to be able to change sexual orientation and gender identity, had been banned in almost half the states. However, minors are still being put into these dangerous programs by parents.
Getting help from a supportive community, an affirming school guidance counsellor, an understanding family therapist, or an LGBTQIA+ – friendly religious congregation can help families work through many of their issues.
But there are plenty of situations where needed help isn’t available, or it just isn’t safe for a young person to live at home. As a result, some choose to leave. Others are removed by the state. Far too many get kicked out by their parents. That generally isn’t legal if a person is under 18. But, sadly, that doesn’t stop it from happening.
Whatever the reason, if you can’t live at home, the first thing to do is to see if you can stay with a friend or family member. That option is really going to be impacted by the state of the pandemic and by the rules about physical distancing where you live.
If finding someone to live with doesn’t pan out and you are facing homelessness, or if you are already unhoused, try to locate LGBTQIA+-friendly services. When dealing with a crisis like losing your home due to trans- and homophobia, the last thing you need is to hit up against the same prejudices in the outside world.
These days, you can find LGBTQIA+ focused services for youth in cities around the US and Canada as well as in many countries around the globe. Lambda Legal has a good list of resources for LGBTQ youth by state. In some areas, there are even LGBTQIA+ shelters and residences. One of those is the Ali Forney Center in New York City, which is committed to staying open throughout the pandemic. They also have a list of resources specifically for youth facing homelessness around the country.
In extreme cases, teens can seek legal emancipation from parents. This gives minors the legal rights and responsibilities of adults. But with courts closed, jobs hard to come by, and schools shut down, this probably isn’t the best bet for most people.
What it All Comes Down to
Being a young person queer with trans- and homophobic family can present challenges during the best of times. But right now, living with parents who are hostile to your identity is probably just about one of the hardest things around.
So it is crucial that you find ways to stay safe, honor yourself, and get support. Sometimes talking to a friend you know in real life, finding your people online, or reaching out to an organization that supports queer youth is a good option. Other times, just being able to step outside your front door by yourself can give you the headspace you need to get through the day.
This isn’t going to end overnight. But try to remember that what you are experiencing right now, and whatever you are doing to survive it, also isn’t going to be your forever.