The ButchFemmeinist: Out and Proud Edition

Bren: Hey Maddie, have you picked out your purple outfit for Spirit Day yet?
Maddie: ACK WAIT what? Can I wear lavender? Will that count?
Bren: I think so! I mean, it’s purple…right? I’m too butch to understand nuanced colors like “lavender.”
Maddie: Well, great. I’m all set, then.
Bren: Well, just to recap, Spirit Day is to show support for LGBT youth, many of whom are struggling with something that we recently had another theme day about: National Coming Out Day.
Maddie: Right. That’s a tricky one.
Bren: Tell me about it. It seems like just yesterday that I was peering through my glass closet door.
Maddie: Just yesterday? But you’ve come so far in making an Out, Loud, Proud gay life for yourself!
Bren: Well, it’s been about 9 years now, so I guess it wasn’t exactly yesterday. But then again, coming out isn’t really an event – it’s a continuous process, isn’t it? Every time somebody new enters our lives, the process starts all over again.
Maddie: Truest words ever spoken.
Bren: Sometimes I wonder how the coming out process works for butches vs. femmes. It’s been said that femmes come out everyday of their lives, because they don’t always set off the Gay Alarms that us butches usually do. Would you agree with that?
Maddie: Well, yes and no. I’d agree that we come out every day of our lives that we want to come out.
We also have the option of ‘being out” in the sense that we’re not deceiving anyone or hiding anything, yet without coming out – just not disclosing aspects of our sexuality and romantic relationships unless the subject is put very clearly on the table. Coming out, for us, is usually a deliberate decision and we often are in the position of choosing the where/when/to whom. That brings certain privileges and also certain disadvantages.
Bren: I get the privilege part – passing can certainly be useful in certain sitches – but what are the disadvantages?
Maddie: Well, to give one example: imagine you work in a straight-dominated but not outright homophobic workplace.
Bren: I do, actually, work in such a place!
Maddie: A very visibly queer person may be clocked as such by coworkers without ever having to say anything. Since we’re assuming these coworkers aren’t hostile towards the queers but may have that straight person problem of not knowing a lot of queer folks, they might just accept this queerness without further discussion, without a word ever having been spoken on the subject.
Brenda: I think that’s the case in my workplace.
Maddie: But if you are not so visibly queer, making a point of your (possibly quite surprising) sexuality around someone who isn’t used to queer people can seem like all of a sudden you’re talking about your sex life in an inappropriate context. Queerness is about so much more than having sex, but when you surprise people with it, they don’t always make that connection.
Bren: TOO TRUE. And all the right-wingers always make the queer=constant depraved sex, in public, with animals and children association.
Maddie: Either I have to make an announcement about my personal life, or deal with the fact that people who see me every day most likely have misread me in this rather fundamental way.
Bren: Does it bother you if everyone around you – here, I guess, meaning coworkers – doesn’t know you’re queer?
Maddie: The balance that I’ve struck at this point in my “out” life is that once people get to know me at a certain personal level, I feel they should know I’m queer pretty quickly. But if I have a relationship with someone, even if it is a long, ongoing one, wherein we never discuss anything personal ever, it feels out of place to mention it. Still, I feel strongly about not hiding my queerness, even if I don’t proactively disclose to everyone who has ever met me.
Bren: Right there with ya, bud. Though in my case, my queerness is pretty terrible at hiding.
Maddie: You know, that makes me think of something that happened not too long ago.
Bren: Do tell!
Maddie: My girlfriend met me at my workplace for lunch. I get a short lunch and we don’t really have a break room, so she parked in the area and I met her outside for a sidewalk bench picnic. I should mention that I only work with a few rather stiffly decorous people with whom I never, ever discuss personal things. So, they fall into that category of Probably Have No Idea. Anyway, after we ate, she walked me back to my building and gave me a sendoff kiss. Or she waited respectfully for me to kiss her. I can’t remember.
Bren: Sounds like a true gentleman/butch!
Maddie: Either way, we kissed right in plain view of the security guard – no one I work directly with, but someone in that “work world” sphere in which I am used to having my queerness be invisible. And, the shameful truth? It was kind of terrifying for me.
Bren: What did you think would come of it?
Maddie: Nothing. I knew nothing would come of it. I just felt exposed. And it gave me some food for thought about that inadvertent visibility that I sometimes envy.
Bren: And what did that food taste like, I ask awkwardly?
Maddie: It tasted like privileged naiveté!
Bren: I can’t imagine that tasted good.
Maddie: It was a complex flavor, full of subtlety and needing to listen more to the experiences of others. Which I’d like to do now, if you don’t mind.
Bren: Not at all! Well, I guess in some ways, being visibly queer and out takes a lot of the “work” off my hands. All I have to do is step outside and, most of the time, there’s my coming out. I don’t really worry about the “should I or shouldn’t I tell?” question, because I assume everybody already guessed and, if not, they’re too clueless to be worth my time. As gay-snobby as that sounds. But, let me tell you, there are certainly times when I wish my queerness wasn’t so glaring neon-sign obvious. When I’m walking by a group of strangers at night in an unfamiliar part of town, I wish I weren’t so visibly queer. Or when I have to pick up the (TMI alert) birth control I use to, well, control my awful unwanted monthly visitor, I wish the pharmacist didn’t look so confused. Or when I walk into a public restroom, I wish I didn’t worry about whether somebody was going to scream at me this time.
Maddie: Right.
Bren: And there are people out there – also known as “assholes” – who would consider my very bold act of walking down the street looking the way I do to be “flaunting my lifestyle.” Pretty sure they want people like me to disappear.
Maddie: Ah, the old “Being yourself is making a grand show of your perversity!” argument. Well, have you learned any particular tricks for navigating this always-out-ness?
Bren: Look people in the eye and smile. Sort of like staring down an angry grizzly bear. You have to show you’re not afraid – even if you’re secretly soiling your boxer briefs.
Maddie: That sounds pretty effective: call the bluffers’ bluffs, and be ready and alert to see right away if they aren’t actually bluffing.
Bren: Indeed. Stay alert, stay aware, and stay queer ‘n proud. Keep in mind that this didn’t happen overnight. This takes years of practice, being out and a giant gaymo, to perfect. So any babydykes out there shouldn’t feel guilty if they feel the need to duck their heads back in the closet in certain situations.
Maddie: Absolutely. And also remember that your presentation is something you can experiment with – for me, it is a negotiation. There are certain presentations that feel false and uncomfortable, but even after chucking those out there’s a pretty big universe of THIS PRESENTATION FEELS LIKE ME! out there. So in recent years, I’ve definitely figured out a thing or two about how to walk down the street with a certain This-Is-For-The-Gaydies strut that turns an Alternative Lifestyle Haircut head or two, but without feeling like I’m playing at something I’m not just for the sake of visibility.
Bren: This is excellent, because I hear about so many young femmes who feel like, if they don’t butch things up, nobody will take them serious as Actual Queer Folk. Which hurts my femme-lovin’ heart to think about.
Maddie: I will concede that since my earliest days as a drama-camp-goin’ kiddo, I’ve been rather fond of outrageous, attention-grabbing outfits and performances, so my solution of shave half your head and wear frayed denim whenever you can get away with it might not work for everyone who inhabits the femmey side of the queerverse. But I do believe the point holds, that experimentation on your own personal horizons can be your friend – find your range, and make the most of it.
Bren: Also true for butches! I’ve experimented with many clothing styles, haircuts, and general presentations over the years. I’ve really only quite recently found a place where I feel comfortable enough to say, “Yeah, this one’s a keeper.” It’s difficult to navigate masculine expression when you were raised with and constantly fed only feminine options growing up.
Maddie:  A fine point!
Bren: Along those lines, something that always warms my heart – and hurts it, just a little – is when I see a super-awkward newly-hatched baby butch, trying and struggling to figure shit out. And I’m so grateful that we have the internet as a resource, because the olden days of old butches taking babydykes under their flannel-covered wings in smoky lesbian bars, they’re way over, sadly.
Maddie: Well, just think of all the people who have access to the internet who wouldn’t have found their beflanneled butch mentor in the Olden Dayes.
Bren: Very true. Still, all the technology in the world can’t make up for real, human contact.
Maddie: But it’s not always a replacement for contact that would have happened otherwise. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it fills what would have been a complete void. Sometimes it enables real human contact.
Bren: Yes, yes indeed. That’s why I would strongly urge anybody who’s new to the coming out process to use these interwebs to find local queer groups.
Maddie: Absolutely! Community, community.
Bren: These can be support groups, student groups, social hours, sports teams, whatever. Just get out there and meet and greet real live queer folk. When you’re in high school, especially in small town (or, as Sarah Palin would call it, “real”) America, it’s easy to feel like the only gay in the world. That sense of isolation can be overpowering.
Maddie: True! Or even like if nobody can see the queer, maybe it’s not actually real. It’s not just that I’m so hushed about my queerness in more heteronormative contexts, it’s that being around other queers is so affirming and enriching for my little queer soul. I’m more out because I’m MORE.
Bren: I love that. Love. It. Is there anything you wish you could go back in time and tell babygay you about coming out?
Maddie: Oh, my. It’s harder than you think. It’s not as big a deal as you think. You will discover that the most rewarding, critical part of “being out” is realizing the full potential of your queerness in your everyday life, not about making announcements to everyone in your life, one after the other. That said, starting with an open declaration of self-identification is hardly the worst place to start your journey towards Fully Realized Queer Potential. So. You know. Go on, take that plunge, and then get to exploring the unspeakably cool world you will subsequently find yourself in. ….But don’t be fooled into thinking that your place in that world is anything you could have seen from the outside. There’s so much more to it than you realize.
Bren: Beautifully said, my friend.
Maddie: AND YOU?
Bren: Once you’ve figured out the truth of your life, start living it ASAP. Go out and get the clothes, the hair, the peer group you always wanted. Be the master and commander of your own ship, but also be aware that many other will try to highjack your ship throughout the course of your life. Don’t let them. Remain in control. Be you, boldly and unabashedly. Don’t change a damn thing to satisfy your family, neighbors, colleagues, friends, roommates, congregation, dog, whatever. Once you start living an authentic life, you’ll see how much more vibrant the world is. And always remember this: Anybody who can’t accept, handle, embrace, appreciate, love you for the amazing queer person you are is a waste of time, energy, and tears. Don’t give them that. There are so many people out there who want you, all of you, exactly how you are – go find them.
Maddie: HEAR HEAR, QUEER. Beautifully put.
Bren: Why, thank you. Happy Spirit Day to you, Maddie, and to all our readers! Wear that purple with pride! Werq!
Maddie: GET IT, GAYBIES!

Message From a Future You Cannot Imagine

More thoughts on It and the Getting Better thereof. To the proto-femmes and others for whom conformity is an option, but a treacherous one.

Right now, you do not know that it will get better. Partly, this is because the worst things have a way of seeming eternal. Partly, this is because you do not even realize how much you are suffering.

Your pain is somewhat invisible to you. To you, it seems like the natural order of things: logical, inevitable, appropriate. You think your loneliness is nothing but evidence that you are unattractive and unrelatable and uncool. You think that people who scorn you are showing their good taste. You think you have nothing to give.

You think if you ask for anything you will be denied and humiliated, so you refuse to want more than is offered. You believe that what is offered is an indisputable indicator of worth. You have concluded you are only worth the cast-aside scraps of affection you can scavenge.

You believe that anyone—everyone—has the authority to determine your value. That a single rejection proves you are not good enough. That one person not wanting you makes you a failure. You need to be every person’s every fantasy, and have no idea how much injury it is doing to your soul.

You do not yet know about butches. God, I cannot wait until you find out about butches. You do not yet know about the chest-achingly, gut-meltingly, knee-tremblingly sexy people out there—some of whom are giving, are understanding, have also been through the fire, who treat their partners as allies and not adversaries, some of whom will complement you on more levels than you currently know exist. (And—to the dear butch, genderqueer, transmasculine, masculine-of-center, gender-non-conforming, beautiful beautiful people: please live. Please. We need you. You: we need you. We will discover so much more beauty when we discover you. We will recognize so much more of ourselves when we meet you. We will understand just how much we have to give when we find you.)

You do not know how right it will feel when you become subversively, defiantly queer. Same-sex attraction is a thing you acknowledge, but it does not interrupt your need for patriarchal approval. You think that not-straightness does not have to mean queerness. You think queerness makes everything worse, is the problem. You cannot imagine that it is the solution. That it is freedom.

You think that rejecting those authorities, defying those norms, means giving over to all the parts of yourself that you find despicable. You think that toeing their line keeps you from being a revolting version of yourself, unlovable through and through. You do not realize that freedom will allow you to unfold into your best self. You do not realize that rejecting the systems that oppress you will ignite and fuel something inside—will illuminate you irresistibly.

There is bad news.

First, it gets worse. First, you will be battered and distorted and minimized by these forces you are begging to love you. You will be crushed and twisted. You will be beyond recognition. It will be nauseating and bleak and confusing and hopeless and everything will feel more wrong and unsalvageable than it ever has before.

But. When that happens—in amongst the wreckage, you will find the core, the pit, the tiny, irreducible kernel that refuses to yield, that has been buried somewhere all along. It is then that it takes over. It is then that you recreate yourself: it is then that you finally become yourself.

That is when it does not just get better, but when you begin to make it better, fiercely, by your own hand, day after day. The process is quiet and slow and unmistakable.

And then one of those days you are going to notice that you are THERE. That it would take you hours to name all the people who love and understand and value you. That you love and understand and value yourself. That your body is hot as fuck, as much for what it can do as for how it looks. That your mind is original and sharp and ever-expanding. That you can put together a killer look on a nothing budget, and cook and write and dance and resist. That the love you offer others is accepted and cherished. You’re going to think about your community of courageous friends, and the fabulous older femme who wants to take you under her sequined wing, and the acquaintances who admire you, and the strangers who relate to your words, and the sexual partners who made you feel like more of a human being, not less of one, and the people you trusted with your heart and who hurt you in unimaginable ways but did not break you, did not reduce you—and you will sit on the deck of the house you share with your radical queer co-matriots watching spring in its very moment of arrival and feeling like you are in the center of all the love of the universe: that all of it, ALL of it is rushing towards you, that all of it, ALL of it is radiating from you and beaming upon all creation, and you will not be able to breathe for joy and for gratitude and for wonder that this is your life. You will.

You will still share the world with many forces who seek to diminish you, but you will call out their bullshit and will not internalize their oppression. You will spit fire and hold your ground.

You will discover that beauty, sexiness, femininity, charm—all those things you worry you do not possess—are not things at all, but performances to be mastered. You will perform that shit like nobody’s business and come to understand that even when a performance is not constant it is still very real.

You will begin walking away from the bad and walking towards the good. You will begin building on the good. It will still be hard. You will be up for the challenge. You will remind yourself thousands of times that every failure is a step toward success.

You will find your people. You will become all the things you once admired and envied. You will live the fucking dream. You have no idea. You have no idea. It gets so much better.

Guest Post: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Being Bi

Bren’s note: Ladies and gentlebutches, I’m very happy to introduce our first guest post! This one’s from bad ass femme la.donna.pietra and continues the It Gets Better theme that started yesterday.

I grew up in a teeny little town in the mountains between California’s Central Valley and the Mojave Desert. Up until about six months ago, hardly anyone in GLBTQ circles had ever heard of Tehachapi; now, unfortunately, lots of people recognize the name in the wake of Seth Walsh’s suicide. I can confirm that it was not and is not a welcoming place for anyone who is even slightly left of “normal,” however one defines it. I didn’t meet the definition on a whole bunch of levels:  I was hopelessly insecure, spent most of my time with my nose in a book, had zero social skills, was devoid of any discernible athletic skill, and was really damn liberal. I was also very confused, because I liked girls. I really liked girls. I had hopeless crushes on several of my friends, but I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to be them or be in love with them or do… something… with them. I couldn’t talk to them or anyone else about how I felt, because I didn’t even know what I was feeling. See, I liked guys too. I dated some of them and had crushes on them, so I couldn’t possibly be a lesbian, but what else was there? My Health class vaguely mentioned this thing called “homosexuality,” but it was mostly for men (as far as I could tell), and was also quite bad (as far as I could tell). This was in 1992, by the way. The handy book my mom had bought for me so that she wouldn’t need to talk to me about sex or menstruation said that there was a thing called lesbianism, and it was okay, but as there was one paragraph on the subject in a 300-page book, it couldn’t be THAT great or normal. Clearly, I was hopelessly messed up and fundamentally confused. I read a lot of Anne Rice around this point and concluded that life would be much simpler if I was a vampire.

About halfway through my senior year, my hormones finally took over and beat my confusion into cowering resistance. I started making out with a good friend of mine. I was convinced that we were madly in love and that whatever I was, it was okay if she liked me. I asked her if she wanted to go to the senior prom as my date. She said yes.  I proudly bounced on up to the office to buy tickets the next day. My school, in an attempt to maximize any and all humiliation and/or social conflict, required that prom tickets be purchased in pairs. The person buying had to give the name of his/her date, and if the date was not a student at the school, then the person buying had to fill out a form to get permission for the presumably evil older lecherous date. My good friend had gotten her GED the year before, so she wasn’t a student. Point being: my high school processed all of this without batting an eyelash. It’s pretty bizarre to think about in this day and age of Constance McMillen and other GLBTQ prom rejectees, but I don’t think my high school realized that I, a girl, was taking my girlfriend, who was also a girl, to the senior prom, largely because I wanted to get into her black velvet strapless dress.

However. Custom also dictated that the names of all couples be written in glittery ink on a huge piece of butcher paper that was then strategically placed in the hallway so that everyone could ooh or ahh or sneer at who was going with whom for at least two weeks before prom. So everyone in the entire high school knew that la.donna.pietra was taking pietra.girlfriend to the prom. There was some buzzing at this, but I didn’t care, because DAMMIT SHE WAS GOING TO PROM WITH ME AND I WAS HAPPY!!! (My parents were delighted that I was going to the prom with someone who definitely wouldn’t get me pregnant.  They were slightly unclear on the subject.)

We went to the prom. She had a migraine, so we decided to leave early. I also realized that marching into a room full of super-conservative high school students with a hot woman on one’s arm was not, in fact, the great blow to the establishment that it might have seemed, but was mostly a way to piss a lot of people off. This was confirmed when we went out into the parking lot and discovered that my tires had been slashed. My mom came and drove us home. Two weeks later, my girlfriend announced that she was engaged to my first boyfriend. Confusion levels reached an all-time high. School was terrible, but there were only three weeks left of it. It had been terrible before, too, so not much had changed.

I got back together with an ex-boyfriend that summer, got turkey-dumped after leaving for college at UC Santa Cruz (GO SLUGS!), and spent the rest of my freshman year miserable, lonely, depressed, and confused. On the plus side, if you’re going to be confused about your sexual identity, the Bay Area is just about the best place to be.  Eventually, I started coming out of my shell (and my dorm room). I met some awesome people who made me realize that there was such a thing as bisexuality and it was just fine. I also realized that the only people I should avoid being attracted to were jerks, but it took a while for that to really stick.

And then!  I started going to all kinds of social events geared towards LBTQ gals! I even managed to get sneered at by REAL LIVE HOT BUTCHES for still dating guys, but I didn’t care, because I was having lots of queer-centric arguments with hot womyn about things I hadn’t ever dreamed I would ever be able to talk to anyone about, much less hot womyn, and some of them stopped sneering at me and turned out to be totally awesome. I chopped off all my hair, discovered I had a ton of cowlicks, grew it back out again, got better at hitting on women, got better at hitting on men, discovered the Internets, met a whole ton of interesting people, and got a lot more comfortable with who I am. I came out to my mom. She pretended she hadn’t heard me and kept right on treating me the exact same way, which may or may not indicate progress. I got a degree, a job, a husband, a lot of caring friends, and a bank account that gives me the opportunity to donate money to the Make It Better Project on a regular basis. Life got better.

It Got Better For This Butch

I know this is only my second post, but I’m already about to get all after school special on you. Bear with me, ok?

Tonight I finished the It Gets Better book, 352-pages of awesome inspired by Dan Savage’s groundbreaking viral video project. This project launched last September, in the midst of some seriously dark months for the LGBT community and really, for anyone who cares about the well-being of our youth. The news was dominated by a sickening string of suicides by gay or perceived-as-gay teens. There was so much grief, so much loss, so much helplessness. When I heard about Dan’s mission to show the world, via YouTube, that queer people can and do lead happy, successful adult lives, I was stoked. While bullied kids may hear “hang in there,” “you’ll get over it,” and “things will get better” from the grownups in their lives, these videos showed just how much better it can get. Like Dan, I wished that something like this had existed when I was a confused and depressed babydyke.

In that spirit, I want to offer my own It Gets Better story for any young (or not-so-young) queer (in all senses of the word) soul who stumbles upon this blog.

I knew I was profoundly different from most kids my age long before I understood the why behind it. I hated wearing skirts and dresses and felt awkward in most feminine clothing. I was a short, pudgy kid with glasses, a Jewfro, and a tendency to stutter when I got nervous. Oh, and I played Pokémon. Basically, I was a bully’s wet dream.

My first crush was a girl in my tiny Catholic school seventh grade class. At the time, I don’t think I even knew what lesbians were, and I certainly didn’t think that I was one. Nope, I just really wanted this girl to like me and be my best friend and be around me all the time and think I’m funny and smile at me and let me hold the door for her and maybe-just-maybe I had daydreams about saving her from nefarious villains. Nope, nothing gay there.

Middle school wasn’t just a time of budding sexual awareness, but self-awareness as well. What I was becoming aware of was this: I was a freak and almost nobody liked me. I had a couple of friends outside of school, elementary school buddies who went to the public middle school during my failed experiment in parochial education. There were a few kids in my new school who took pity on me and gave me someone to talk to at lunch, but for the most part, I was an outsider, a half-Jew dyke in a hetero-Catholic world, who got teased for being fat and closely resembling the SNL character Pat.

As bad as middle school was, it was a spring picnic in a field of daisies compared to high school. High school was the worst four years of my life, plain and simple. I returned to the public school system and, thankfully, my friends, but even they couldn’t save me from the bullies who were delighted to find such fresh new meat to tear apart.

I’ll spare you the gross details, since if you’ve ever been the target of bullying, you already know them. Name-calling, spitting, sick rumors, cruel graffiti in the bathroom, trashed lockers, garbage shoved down hooded sweatshirts, bus rides from Hell, etc.

In the midst of this, I was coming to a new, terrifying realization: I liked girls. I think my mother came to this realization long before I did, years before I would finally come out to her. One day in 10th grade, she cornered me in the kitchen and demanded I tell her if I were gay. I said no, which wasn’t quite a lie, since I wasn’t sure of my sexuality yet. She said, “You better not be” and walked away. Needless to say, it wasn’t an encouraging moment.

Last fall, when I was reading about Billy Lucas and Seth Walsh and Asher Brown and all the other, too many, teens who killed themselves because of bullying, one thought kept running through my mind: That could have been me.

Of all the years, 16 was the worst. I was at my lowest, my angriest, and my most self-loathing. I had no patience for anybody – parents, teachers, friends, myself. I wore spiked bracelets. I listened to a lot of Linkin Park and Staind. I wanted to die.

I realize that “I wish I were dead” is probably a phrase that most teenagers utter at some point, usually whilst being grounded or playing dodgeball in gym class. But some (too many) teens, gay or straight, really mean it. For them, the burden is too heavy and the road is too long. I get it. I’ve been there. When I realized I was attracted to girls, my first thought was, “Great, something else about me is fucked up. Something else about me is wrong.”

Here’s one of my starkest memories of 16: Me, locked in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the tub with a razor blade pressed against my wrist. I was ready to give up. I couldn’t visualize a future where someone as fucked up as I was could be happy, so what was the point? But try as I might, as much as I cried and cursed myself and my 16-year-old world, I couldn’t press down. I couldn’t make myself open up my own vein with a cheap razor I bought at the local pharmacy. Whatever final push was needed to finish what I started, it wasn’t in me.

I hated myself for being weak. That’s what I thought it was at the time, weakness. I thought I was such a loser that I couldn’t even do the one thing it would take to make all my hurting go away. It’s incredible how wrong I was. Today I know that what I had mistaken for weakness was actually strength, a strength so great that I didn’t even realize I had it: the strength to live, despite and in spite of all the abuse being thrown at me. Dying would have been easy. Living? Now that took some hardcore work.

You know how everyone says that life gets so much better after high school? Well, that old cliché is so damn true. The second I left those four walls and entered college, the world was a new place. I moved to a city full of weirdos like me and weirdos who were different from me and everyone was welcoming. I came out slowly, first to myself, then to my friends (who were 100% awesome about it) and, after college, to my parents, who are getting better about it every day. I joined my school’s GSA and shared my experiences with fellow queers. I went to drag shows and sex toy workshops and dyke nightclubs. I graduated and got a big person job and a big person apartment. I flirted and dated and felt joy and had my heart broken and then did it all again and again. I found a wonderful lady and wonderful friends and a wonderful cat and a wonderful, diverse community. I became comfortable in my skin as a lesbian and a butch and a human being. I lived (and continue to do so).

Don’t worry, kids, the after school special is almost over; I just want to leave you with a few self-evident truths to hold. The first is this: Those bullies, douchebags, asswipes, etc. that are making your lives suck? In a few years, they won’t matter in the slightest. Seriously. You’re going to be off being the best version of yourself possible and having these great adventures, and those losers are going to be doing the same lame stuff with the same lame people in the same lame places. You might even feel sorry for them someday. Maybe.

The second truth is this: Throwing away the future is no solution to the present. There was a time when the idea of ending everything sounded pretty good to me. That was before I realized that it meant ending everything – not just what was, but what could be. To give up at such a young age, before life has a chance to really become something substantial, is like closing a book before you get to the really good chapters. What a waste of material!

The third truth is this: No matter how alone you feel, you are surrounded by people who want you to be happy. Maybe you know them already, or maybe they’re still waiting to meet you, but trust me, they’re out there. There’s always someone to talk to about whatever you’re feeling. There are amazing organizations dedicated to helping queer youth, including the Trevor Project, GLSEN and the Give A Damn Campaign. There are adults in your school, community, church, internet forum, Warcraft guild, or wherever that will listen. I’ll listen. Seriously. If you’re feeling alone and need someone to talk to, you can post here or, if you prefer, email me directly at prufrock1019@gmail.com. If you write, I promise to respond. Butch’s honor.

The fourth truth is this: You are perfect. You are exactly who and what you are supposed to be. Don’t go changing for anyone, deal? Good.

It gets better? Hell yeah it does.