Until Next Time, my Loves

“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means keep moving.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

My dear queer children,

This is my last blog post for awhile. As I mentioned last week, I am taking on the force of the last couple weeks of classes and finals. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and reflect on the fact that an entire semester has already passed. As I have said many times over the last few weeks, please remember to take time for yourselves, my loves. As I was reminded these past few days, we only have so much time in our lives, and our time can even be cut short. We need to make the most of our time and be aware of what we are doing.

It can be easy to go on autopilot, especially when you face a lot of stress. I’m sure you all understand this. Balancing your academic work with extracurriculars, jobs, internships, social groups, and so many other obligations is inevitably stressful, and most likely overwhelming. On top of this, being LGBTQ+, especially a queer person of color, on a college campus can be taxing. It can all be a lot.

So, for my last post for this semester, I decided to share some final tips with you all. That is, until we meet again. So for now, here is what I want you to know.

1. You are your most important consideration. Yes, being involved on campus is good. Your academics and responsibilities are important. Work may be necessary for your survival in a world designed to oppress you. Your friends and family definitely matter. And I am not saying to abandon these at any inconvenience, because I know that is not realistic. However, please remember that your mental and physical well-being are contingent on you taking care of yourself and that you cannot perform your best in these areas if you are not well yourself. If you aren’t in a position where you can do so, and if you are able to, reach out to those you trust for support. If you feel lost and without resources, know that I will always be one for you. Just contact me and I will try to do what I can to help you.

And on that note of you being your most important consideration:

2. No person deserves anything from you. I’m giving this advice with more of a romantic and sexual emphasis, but this can be applied to other areas of your life. While you should carry out your responsibilities that you sign up for, you should not feel that you have to oblige anyone for a date or a hook up or whatever they want from you sexually or romantically. In my experience, men sometimes believe that they can ask anything they want from me just because I’m on a certain dating app or looking for a particular kind of experience. These men have often asked me for sexual favors in exchange for money. They have demanded nudes from me because they believe I owe them for their unsolicited pictures of their genitalia. They have attempted to dehumanize me in various ways, and it has taken a toll on my self-esteem. So, my loves, remember that no one deserves anything from you. You are the only person who can choose what to do with your time, energy, effort, and body.

3. Your identity is fluid. It’s important to consider that your identity is always in flux. What I mean by this is that you may identify as a gay, cisgendered man now, but later on you may discover that you are a genderqueer person who doesn’t quite understand their sexuality. Or you may remain a gay, cisgendered man, but you may also realize that you are religious/spiritual or that your ethnicity or race intersect with your sexuality. Other parts of your identity may become so salient to you later on that they end up informing or intersecting with your sexuality and/or gender identity. No matter how you identify or what aspects of your identity are most important to you or how this all changes, who you are matters. Just keep an open mind when it comes to your identity. You never know what might happen!

And finally:

4. Be brave. This is me telling you know to take that chance that you’ve always wanted to take. Unless it puts you in a compromising situation or threatens your well-being, take that chance. Text that person you have a crush on, dare to be great, and know that these risks will only make you stronger.

That’s all I have for you, for now. Just keep living your truth, and let the rest follow.

Until next time, my loves.

Love,

Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

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We are Human, too

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“It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.” – Laverne Cox

My dear queer children,

As my semester comes to a close, I will be taking a hiatus from this blog in order to rest from this semester. While I have enjoyed this semester, I have also been busy with classes, meetings, organizations, social groups, and whatever else. It has taken a toll on my physical, mental, and spiritual health, so I will be taking some time to recover from the semester. As such, this is my second-to-last blog for the year. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t be here. Please still feel free to reach out to me if you need any advice or support.

I wanted to first share with you an advocacy project that I created in coordination with the LGBTQ+ organization I am a part of to raise awareness about trans and gender non-conforming students on campus. I encourage you to watch the video to hear the stories about our queer siblings and to share the video to share their voices with your friends and family. To watch the video, click here.

I decided to plug the video into this post because I want to remind you all that who you are is human, and who you are is beautiful. So, this post is to simply be a moment of reaffirmation and support for you all. I know this time of the semester is stressful. You have your final papers, projects, and exams, and some of your relationships may be tense. You are being asked to do so much, and yet the time and energy you have is so little. So my queer children, whether you are completely relaxed or exceedingly overwhelmed, I”m asking you to take a deep breath right now.

Take another deep breath.

And now one more.

I promise you that even though everything that is happening right now does not seem like it’ll get better, you will be okay. And you will be the one who becomes better and stronger. These words aren’t enough to do this for you, and I truly can’t provide you with a five-step guide to being okay when everything around you isn’t. But I can point you to the direction of some resources, such as hotlines specifically for LGBTQ+ youth. Follow this link to get connected to hotlines that will help you with what you are experiencing. It may also be helpful to look back at my self-care post or my post on embracing your queerness as an individual.

But what I really, really want to tell you is this: you matter, you are important, and you are loved. Your experiences and emotions are valid. Your struggles are seen, and your voice is heard. You are just as human, just as beautiful, and just as important as anyone else on this earth. You belong here. And nothing about who you are will change any of these truths. No matter what your peers, professors, or parents may say, you are who you say you are.

Please take another deep breath.

Process this moment of existing, and remember these truths.

Read over those words again. You matter, you are important, and you are loved.

I am leaving this post at that, and nothing more, so that you can sit with this message of love.

I am your advocate. I am your godparent.

Please reach out to me if you need anything.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

Remembering our Roots; Being Aware of Behaviors

“What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?” – Amandla Stenberg

My dear queer children,

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been becoming more aware about how my identity as a queer person interacts with my identity as a mixed person of color. I love who I am and where I come from, and I wouldn’t have experienced some of the best moments that I’ve experienced if it weren’t for my identity. However, I also am oppressed as a queer person of color. People (mostly white, cisgendered, upper-class individuals) both within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community tend to create their LGBTQ+ spaces to be only for people who look like them, which tends to, again, be white, cisgendered, upper-class people. Queer people who don’t fit into this category are excluded from these spaces and also don’t feel safe around these highly selective areas.

I will preface the rest of my post with this: when I say white people, I do mean all white people. While I know most of my white readers probably do not engage in this cultural appropriation, white people as a whole have racist tendencies. I don’t say this to offend you or to make you feel guilty. But I do say this because it’s important to be consciously aware of how you may be biased and how your behavior may contribute to our racist culture. I’m not going to lie, because of my upbringing, I’m sure I have racist tendencies that I must be conscious about and subsequently dismantle. And there are people of color who have racist tendencies as well. However, white people as an institution have much more pervasive and stronger racist tendencies than people of color. In short, this post isn’t meant to alienate my white audience. It’s to help all of us be critically aware of potential biases that we may have and to change these prejudices.

The quote I used for this blog post speaks to how racist the LGBTQ+ community can be. While most white LGBTQ+ people avoid including brown and black LGBTQ+ in their spaces, they love to take their cultures and call them their own “trends.” I’ve seen way too many pictures, videos, and social media posts by white LGBTQ+ people that appropriate the culture of brown and black people. I’ve seen them wearing makeup that appropriates Mexican people’s Dia de los Muertos, and I’ve seen them pretend to be black by acting in disrespectfully outlandish ways and by wearing dreadlocks and similar black hairstyles. Some may claim that white people are actually appreciating brown and black peoples’ culture. However, if they really appreciated it, they would help create spaces that included people of color and valued their personhood, instead of just using them for the culture.

I bring this issue up with you all because we need to be cognizant and reflective of the habits that we pick up from those around us. While we are independent, young adults, we still have a tendency to observe those around us and pick up their mannerisms after being surrounded by them for a period of time. As such, we can be exposed to and contribute to racist behaviors if we are not aware of them.

This is all important because we need to remember that black and brown people were such a powerful influence on queer activism. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were black and brown transgender women who threw the first stones at the Stonewall riots. Many of the demonstration and protest tactics used by the gay and lesbian (GL) civil rights movement were from the African American civil rights movement; peaceful protests and sit-ins are just two of the tactics that the GL civil rights movement used.

Our community is where it is at today because of the efforts of black and brown LGBTQ+ activists. And despite the racism and transphobia that modern QPOC activists have experienced from their own communities, they continue to be activists in the fight for human rights.

Thus, my queer siblings, we must remember the impact that people of color have had on our rights and how they have given their lives for us. We must be critically aware of our behaviors and make sure that they are not racist ones. In addition to this, we must be aware how our identities intersect. For example, I will never have to understand the issues that a black trans woman will face. White, cisgendered gay men will never understand the erasure that I experience as a brown, queer person. Thus, we also have to understand how some identities, particularly queer and trans people of color, experience so many more hardships than their white, cisgendered counterparts. In short, we just have to be aware of the systemic issues that people of color in our community faces.

That’s all for this blog post. As always, please let me know if you would like me to write on a specific topic. I am always a resource for you.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

Smart Shopping for the Queer Student

“We believe in putting people first.” – Goodwill

My dear queer children,

I think that individuals from both within and outside of the queer community, havethis stereotype of LGBTQ+ people being fashionable, trend setters, and up-to-date with all the current styles. People will watch Queer Eye or follow LGBTQ+ celebrities and see that they wear cute outfits, live fancy lifestyles, and have their lives together.

However, I don’t think these people see the reality of LGBTQ+ people. Compared to our heterosexual, cisgendered counterparts, our people are more likely to live in poverty. Many in our community are homeless and suffer from food insecurity. Others in our community may be slightly better off, but they still have low incomes and a worse quality of life compared to non-LGBTQ+ people.

As such, I’m sure many of you have felt the pressure to be like these upper class LGBTQ+ people and celebrities, but really can’t afford such luxuries because of systems in place that perpetuate the marginalization of minorities. So, I’ve decided to write on a few ways in which you can wear the styles you want and have a better quality of life in a world that doesn’t seek to elevate the status of our community.

Survival is clearly more important than comfort, so those who have low incomes sacrifice the luxuries of choosing clothing styles that interest them. Unfortunately, non-LGBTQ+ people tend to subtly criticize LGBTQ+ individuals for not wearing outfits that don’t make them look “queer enough.” So before I give this first piece of advice, I want you to know that you don’t have to look “queer enough” for anyone, and you certainly don’t need to follow any styles that other LGBTQ+ people follow. This next tip is really for you to have clothing options and are able to have a greater selection to choose from. It is not to manipulate you into wearing “current” styles.

The first tip I have is probably one of common knowledge: check out your local thrift stores! I think a popular classist narrative is that clothes at thrift stores are gross and disgusting, when in reality, these clothes are truly just clean clothes that have been worn before. There’s really nothing wrong with them, and thrift stories do inspect clothing before putting it out for sale. In fact, you can find some quality clothing at thrift stores for prices that are much cheaper than the same clothes at higher end stores. Also, thrift stores may have deals and sales that you can ask about, and sometimes you can even inquire about reducing the price of clothes that you are interested in.

Also, consider checking out your local non-profit LGBTQ+ organizations. LGBTQ+ people and LGBTQ+ allies often donate their clothes to these groups. These clothes mostly go untouched, and after a period of time, there organizations take the clothes to thrift stores such as Goodwill. See if you can check out the clothes at these organizations. If you can, I encourage you to look through them and see if any interest you! They are usually washed before they are donated, but if you do take any clothes with you, be sure to wash them just in case, as the LGBTQ+ organizations may have different regulations when it comes to accepting clothing donations.

I also want to caution you about shopping at popular retailers. Even though they may seem to have cute clothes and even LGBTQ+-themed clothing, these retailers often show their support for the LGBTQ+ community when it’s convenient and profitable. For example, you’ll see a lot of Pride merchandise come from these stores before, during, and after June, but you won’t see it the rest of the year. Also, you often won’t hear them supporting our community when our community comes under attack. Did you hear any popular retailers speak out against the Trump administrations’ attack on transgender lives through changes to Title IX? I sure didn’t. So please just be mindful of shopping at popular clothing stores.

Another tip I have for you is to use apps such as PocketPoints that will give you points for every minute that you are on campus and that you have your phone locked. The purpose of the app is to help you study by having your phone locked. You can use the points you earn for coupons and discounts for food, clothes, and other stores. Here’s a list of apps that help students save money.

Also, if you have the ability to store food where you are living, take advantage of farmers markets in your area. Their prices are usually cheaper than grocery stores, and you can really get a lot for your dollar. I was able to serve breakfast to a group of my friends for less than $10 (I already had the seasoning and necessary cooking appliances and tools available to me, though). I made roasted potatoes with vegetables, bacon, and eggs for about eight people, so take advantage of those farmers markets.

In short, I’ve found that it’s always best to save money by shopping local; your thrift stores, farmers markets, and local shops are all great resources for you to save money. Corporations and popular retailers may always advertise great deals to help you save money, but in reality, these deals are designed to draw you in and make you spend more money than you actually want. Just be mindful of this the next time you go out and shop.

That’s all for this blog post. As always, please let me know if you would like me to write on a specific topic. I am always a resource for you.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

Okay, Here it is – Let’s Talk about Sex

“In fact, I believe that we need better sex education in our own culture, here in America, so that young folk learn about things like STDs before they encounter it.” – Piers Anthony

Trigger Warning: rape, sexual assault

My dear queer children,

I feel that this may be one of the most important posts I write for you because of how inaccurate and unreliable sex education may have been for you. On top of this, if you received any sex education, it was most likely made for heterosexual people and not for people like us. Thus, I’m writing this post to in response to the lack of or inaccurate sex education that you may have had and to hopefully prepare you to practice sex safely.

First and foremost: consent. Consent is key to any and all sexual activity. Consent occurs when those who are engaged in sexual activity actively agree to the said sexual activity. They agree without coercion and with their own free will. Consent can also be taken away at any time. That’s completely okay, and that decision should be respected. Thus, sex is not sex if there is no consent; if there’s sexual activity and no consent, then that’s rape/sexual assault. Without consent, sexual activity becomes a violation of human dignity and respect. Rape and sexual assault bring about trauma and physical/psychological harm to victims. So if you and/or your partner do not consent to the sexual activity, then don’t engage in it. If you’re looking to understand consent a little more, this video describes consent really well.

Now after you and your partner have consented, you may be thinking that you are good to go! Wrong. You may have consent, but are you prepared for what you and your partner about to do? And no, I’m not talking about experience with sex or having watched how-to videos on sex or anything of that sort. I’m talking about having the tools needed for safe sex.

What are some of the tools you need for safe sex? Well, condoms are a great place to start. There are condoms for both oral and penetrative sex that will help protect you and your partner from HIV, STDs, and STIs. And please, please, do not listen to the mainstream culture that says that condoms only inhibit sexual experiences. I guarantee you that it doesn’t and that it will give you a greater peace of mind knowing that you protected yourself and your partner. If you’re worried about not being able to financially afford condoms, fear not. There may be sex education student groups on campus that provide free condoms to students. Also, you may be able to get free condoms from HIV/AIDs testing centers.

This brings me to my next point: regularly check your sexual health status. It’s important to know what your status is at all times so that you can not only treat your infection or disease, but so that you can also inform your sexual partners about the status of your sexual health. For gay men, it’s recommended to get tested for HIV every three months if they are sexually active. Personally, I would get tested for HIV two to three weeks after a sexual experience because that is usually the time frame that HIV develops. For other STDs/STIs, it’s important to be tested as soon as possible. Free HIV testing clinics are becoming common, so doing a quick Google search can tell you where the nearest center is.

Another safe sex tool is PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) medicine. While PrEP cannot prevents some STIs or pregnancy, it can reduce the risk of getting HIV-1 through sex by ninety percent when it is taken every day and used with other safe sex practices. However, PrEP costs about $1300 a month without insurance. Most insurance plans cover part of the costs since it’s cheaper to prevent HIV than to treat it, but just be aware that his option is unfortunately expensive.

Those are some of the main tools that you should use to have safe sex. Again, I can’t say this enough, consent is key to any sexual activity. If you don’t receive consent from your partner, then you cannot engage in sexual activity because that is a violation of your partner’s free will, autonomy, and dignity. So consent is always the first step to safe sex.

That’s all for this blog post. As always, please let me know if you would like my to write on a specific topic. I am always a resource for you.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

A Queer Student’s Guide to Self-Care

“Carve out and claim the time to care for yourself and kindle your own fire.” – Amy Ippoliti

My dear queer children,

This is the time of the semester when you’re probably most stressed. You may have a few days off for a break, and then as soon as you get back, you’ll have countless different assignments, projects, papers, and finals due. I know that when I get back to school on Sunday, I’ll have three different papers due within the next few days. In light of how ridiculously busy these next few weeks will be, I decided to make a post on how to practice self-care. There are a two areas of self-care that I’ll go over: physical and mental care.

First, let’s consider physical self-care. At this point in the year, you may have broken your promise to go to the gym every few days, or some other beginning-of-the-school-year promise in order to maintain your physical health. Right now, if you’re pressed for time and energy, the thought of taking care of your health may be even more stressful. However, I strongly recommend that you consider going for a walk or run, or performing some other physical activity, for the sake of your mental health. There has been research that shows exercising can actually increase your productivity by making you less stressed and supporting your cognitive abilities. If you’ve ever had writer’s block or just felt that all your productivity has hit a wall, then taking an hour, or even just thirty minutes, to let out your stress will help you overcome those mental obstacles.

Also, please do not skip meals for the sake of trying to get more work done. There’s a popular notion going around that skipping meals and staying up late to get more work done is “heroic.” There is nothing heroic about not sleeping or eating. These habits will only hurt you more and prevent you from doing the work that you need to get done. My darlings, please eat and sleep to take care of your body. The undergraduate degree that you are working towards will not matter if there is no person left use that degree. If you think you will struggle with eating meals during this time of year, pre-make some meals to eat throughout your day, such as a sandwich or a salad. You can do this by investing in some plastic food storage containers and filling them in your campus dining hall. If you have access to a microwave or a handheld water heater, and if you’re able to invest in a carton of eggs, you can make scrambled, poached, or boiled eggs to eat for breakfast or throughout your day.

My last little bit of advice for you in terms of physical self-care is to drink water and stay hydrated. You need water for muscular and cardiovascular functions and cleansing your body from toxins. Also, it’ll help you focus and prevent you from succumbing to any sickness that may be going around on your campus.

Now, let’s consider mental self-care. These days it may feel that your brain is running a marathon from the moment you wake up to the moment you lay in bed and fall asleep. When you reach the weekend, you may feel that you can’t rest because you have so much on your mind. If this is true for you, I invite you to take a deep breath right now.

I know that on top of all of this, the stress of your identity and your struggles with your sexuality and/or gender identity may also be on your mind. I just want you to know that all that you are experiencing and feeling is valid. Despite all that may be going on around you, you are important, and you matter.

To take care of your mental health, surround yourself with people who genuinely care about you and who will kindle your own fire. Engage with the communities that you have integrated yourself in and draw upon the comfort and care that they can give you. Oftentimes we get caught up in consumerism to take care of ourselves. While buying a massage or expensive candy or drink may be nice, they can only fulfill you so much. However, sharing your burdens with those in your communities will help you deal with the stress and give you the strength to continue on. This isn’t to say that you should greedily capitalize on those in your communities for your own gain. But inherently, your community is there to help sustain you and provide you with a space to rest.

Also, when you take breaks, instead of scrolling through social media (which could possibly be a good mental break), maybe try journaling, meditating, deep breathing techniques, calling a loved one, or some other activity that takes your mind off your stress and helps you re-energize. If you keep thinking about your classes and other obligations during your breaks, you will continue to stress out and not give yourself the time and energy to kindle your fire. Thus, it’s so important to carve out time and space for meaningful rest and self-care.

That’s all for this blog post. As always, please let me know if you would like my to write on a specific topic. I am always a resource for you.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

On Religion, Spirituality, and Being LGBTQ+

“So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.” – Tim Cook

My dear queer children,

I chose today’s topic with some hesitancy because of how difficult this topic can be to talk about for some LGBTQ+ people. Religion is usually a source of pain and trauma for LGBTQ+ people because of the homophobic beliefs of major religions. LGBTQ+ people come from families who harass, abuse, and disown their queer children in the name of religion. They selectively use Bible verses and invoke the name of their god in order to justify their queerphobic actions. As a result, LGBTQ+ are more likely to reject religion and have atheist or agnostic beliefs about religion.

This post isn’t going to tell you what to believe. I won’t tell you what may be the best path for you when it comes to religion or spirituality. But by the end of this post, I hope you feel that you have many options to explore for religion/spirituality.

If you followed my blog series on dating, you may remember my emphasis on you being the most important consideration when it comes to dating and being in a relationship. This is the same for religion and spirituality. No matter which path you choose for religion or spirituality, your decision should be because that chosen life heals, strengthens, guides, supports, and fulfills you. This choice should be the one that makes you happiest.

Another important consideration is the fact that, if you choose to explore religions and being spiritual, your queerness and your religion and/or spirituality are not mutually exclusive. Both of them can coexist without being a detriment to the other. I struggled with this concept for the longest time when I was first figuring out my sexuality and spirituality.

During the summer after my freshman year of high school, I went on a religious conference and became a devout Catholic. I began having a strong relationship with my faith. However, afterwards I believed that my homosexuality was evil and that it prevented me from being the best Catholic I could be. As a result, I put myself through conversion therapy a year later to try and change who I am to be a better Catholic in the eyes of the Church. Now I realize that I can be both spiritually Christian and a queer person. I don’t have to have one or the other. In reality, both of them complement each other in ways that give me a lot of joy, comfort, and healing.

I want to emphasize that this isn’t the case with everyone. For some queer people, religion and/or being spiritual only brings pain. To those of you who experience this, your pain is valid, your experiences are valid, and you are valid. Please do not feel the need to engage in religion or try to be spiritual if it will only hurt you more. Also, know that there are so many other outlets and resources for you to explore the different facets of your sexuality and/or gender identity besides religion and spirituality. Remember how your identity intersects with your queerness, and use this as a starting point to find resources to help you in your journey.

For those of you who feel some sort of connection to religion or spirituality, know that regardless of what queerphobic religious and spiritual people may say, you are not damned, and you have every right to explore religion and spirituality as anyone else. To help you in your journey, I suggest checking out some of the following religions that are LGBTQ+ friendly: Metropolitan Community Church, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church, Reformed Judaism, and Unitarianism. There are also local churches throughout the country that do not follow a specific religion, but are still a religious space that welcomes LGBTQ+ people. When you are exploring these religious traditions to find out which one may be best for you, remember that you have no obligations to any religious tradition and that you can come and go to those spaces as you please. This journey, as always, is about you and what is best for you. It will take some time and effort for this part of your exploration, but I promise that regardless of what the outcome is, you will learn more about yourself and be more comfortable with your identity.

And for all of my dear queer children in general, do not listen to what queerphobic religious and spiritual people have to say about you and your sexuality and/or gender identity. There is no truth to their claims. Despite what they may say about wanting to save your soul, they truly only care about tearing down your identity and making it conform to their own views. I won’t preach to the choir, because I know you know this. I just want to remind you that these people are wrong, and that you are valid.

That’s all for this blog post. As always, please let me know if you would like my to write on a specific topic. I am always a resource for you.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe