• GSA Leaders

Queeries Vol. 2

Updated: 3 hours ago

Hey there guys, gals, and nonbinary pals!

Queeries is finally here! Thank you all for the many questions you sent us. We’ve combined a few of the similar ones so that we aren’t repeating ourselves too much.

If you don’t know us yet, here’s a key:

B: Bek

L: Lei

A: Avi

G: Gabriel

On to the questions!

Any tips on how to get a chest binder when I can't really order things online without asking my parents?

Here are some tips we’ve seen: Have a friend order one. Or, if you celebrate Christmas or any other holiday where your family buys a lot of gifts that they aren't allowed to look at when they arrive, order a binder then or have someone send it to your house. Make sure you do your research on binding and how to do it safely!

I am bi—I'm attracted to both males and females—but if you made my attraction into a pie chart it would be nowhere near 50/50. I think it would be more like 90% and 10%. Does that still make me bi and a part of the LGBT+ community?

Absolutely! Being bi just means being attracted to two or more genders. There’s no “rule” about how much you’re attracted to one gender versus another. Your attraction could feel completely different towards people of different genders, and they could be in widely varying amounts! If the bi label feels right to you to describe who you are attracted to, you’re bi.

How do I find the other gays / Any tips for finding more groups of queer people to hang out with when you don't have any queer friends (other than going to GSA meetings)?

B: One thing I’ve found is that a lot of times queer people end up being friends with other queer people without trying and without even knowing it. This was certainly true for me. But, sometimes the GAYDAR just isn’t enough, especially over Zoom. So, here’s what I’d say: If you’re comfortable being out, you could try hanging a flag or a poster behind you so that other queer students know to say hi to you. That way, you can let them come to you without having to do anything but being confident in who you are! (I have a rainbow hat that I like to wear for this purpose). I’d also suggest saying hi if you see someone wearing some sort of queer paraphenalia, such as said hat or a shirt or something like that. A little comment can go a long way in making friends, especially at a place like CPS. If “hi” is scary, you could also try a passing comment to let them know you’re there too, such as “cool hat!!” :)

How would you refer to a nonbinary person formally, in lieu of "sir" or "ma'am?"

L: The most common term I’ve seen is Mx. (pronounced like mix), which can be used as an honorific (instead of Mr. or Mrs.) or a respectful term of address (instead of miss or mister).

B: Yeah, the most common one I’ve seen is Mx., although, however much I wish it were, I don’t think it is particularly well known.

What do she/they or he/they pronouns mean, and how do you know when to use those pronouns? / I've seen people list their pronouns as "he/they" and she/they". What does this mean, and how should we approach referring to them?

If someone uses he/they pronouns, you can use he/him and they/them interchangeably to refer to them. The use of more than one set of pronouns generally means that the person doesn’t really have a preference, so it’s up to you which pronouns you want to use for them out of the two sets (in this example, he/him and they/them). In this example, Jay has he/they pronouns:

Person 1: You have English with Jay? They seem cool- I had Atlantic Worlds with them last year.

Person 2: Yeah, he seems pretty nice!

Neither person is misgendering Jay, even though they are using different pronouns for him in this dialogue. The same applies to someone with she/they pronouns or any combination of pronouns.

I've recently started coming out to my friends and I'm terrified of coming out to my parents. I know they’ll be supportive but still. Any advice?

L: It’s fine to take your time! This is something that is entirely on your terms.

A: Yeah, definitely take your time! Just because you know that your parents will be supportive doesn’t mean you have to make yourself uncomfortable. You can choose to tell them or not tell them whenever you want to and there’s no need to feel obligated to do so! I didn’t come out to my parents until about 3 years after I came out to friends and it was totally fine!

G: You don’t have to come out to your parents until you’re entirely ready! It can often be more difficult than coming out to your friends because you live under their roof and can’t really avoid them. It’s awesome that they’re supportive; but, again, don’t do it until you’re ready. And, I’d advise that you make sure your friends know, so they don’t accidentally out you.

Is it bad to have a crush on your friend?

Not at all! Having a crush on a friend is a very normal thing that a lot of people have experienced.

What are tips for dealing with an ignorant parent/parents who refuse to educate themselves?

L: It’s not your responsibility to change anyone’s mind or educate them. That being said, here are some subtle ways to challenge any misconceptions that ignorance is based on: focus on things they like and how LGBT+ stuff can coexist with it without ‘ruining’ anything (for example, if your parents like romcoms, try and watch a romcom with a well-represented gay side character). Or, try to give examples that challenge your parent’s view on whatever topic in a non confrontational way. (For example, mention a historical trans person to subtly challenge the idea that transgender people are a new thing if the topic of historic people comes up.)

how 2 get a girlfriend <3

A: Ask nicely?

I have lesbian parents, but I'm not completely sure about my own sexuality. I don't really think I'm straight, but if I am (I'm sorry that this is a sort of vague question), what exactly would my relationship be with the LGBTQ+ community? I know that as a straight, cisgender person, I wouldn't be subject to the same challenges as those who are actually in the community, but I feel like I would still be more connected to it than the average straight cis person. So, in what situations would my role be nothing more than that of any ally, and in what situations, if any, could I be further engaged with the community without overstepping my position? For me, losing connection with the community would feel like a loss because I was raised in it. However, I don't want to be a straight cis person who appropriates LGBTQ+ culture or who associates with LGBTQ+ people to seem cool or different.

L: I think you’re in a position where (if you aren't LGBT+) you are an ally but without the confusion of how to act when you’re with LGBT+ people, so I can imagine you’re in a weird spot where you’re more comfortable with LGBT+ topics and spaces than an average ally would be. I don’t think it would be seen as ‘trying to seem cool or different’ if you consider yourself part of the community.

G: If it’s important to you that you maintain your connection with the community, I don’t think it would be overstepping to be more active in it. If people challenge you on it, you could always explain. If you’re not straight, it certainly makes the situation a lot easier. But, if you are, I think queer people can tell when someone truly has our best interests at heart and wants to stand up for us. Being a strong ally with a more-than-ally connection with the community (because of your parents) feels just fine to me. If you feel comfortable with it, maybe ask your parents for their take on the issue, since they are your primary connection to the community if you’re straight.

I want to be more open about my sexuality, but I really don't like how awkward/stressful coming out is. Do you have any tips for letting people know you're gay without straight up (haha) saying it? / How do you come out to your general community (like classmates) in conversations without having to make a whole deal of it? / Tips for coming out to peers/the school outside of a friend group?

L: My go to route is offhand comments (for example, jokes about celebrity crushes and the like). This can clue people in without making it a big thing. I know other people that do this visually with pride pins or small flags in the background of their Zoom too. (Sidenote: if by coming out you mean coming out as trans, then if you can get friends/teachers to start using the right pronouns/name in public, then others will follow suit, even you didn’t specifically come out to them.)

B: My strategy is to wear a rainbow hat!

A: I’ve got a big old rainbow flag hanging in my room which usually tips people off if they’re in a Zoom call with me! But, as Lei said, celebrity or fictional crushes are also a go-to.

My mom doesn't believe that being bi is a thing, and I think I'm bi/pan. How do I come out to her?

L: Honestly, if you want to tell her just tell her. You don’t have an obligation to teach her to respect you or change her mind, but if you want to give it a shot without causing a confrontation, I would recommend using some strategies I wrote about earlier. Basically, you can challenge her views on bisexuality in a casual way by showing that it can coexist with things she enjoys, or by giving examples of bi people or celebrities that don't follow any stereotypes she might believe.

G: It could be the case that if she knows you’re bi/pan, she may be more open to the concept. Like Lei said, you don’t have an obligation to educate her on what it is, but if you want to or feel like it would help, I’d suggest looking it up to get resources from the internet. The Trevor Project is a good place to start, but you could also just see what articles you can find on the internet. Coming out could potentially be difficult or scary, but hopefully she’ll come around. And know that GSA is always here to support you!

B: I think sometimes knowing someone who is bi can help people understand that it is real. That’s certainly been my experience. I’ve found that part of the reason people don’t believe bisexuality is real is because they expect you to suddenly flip one way or the other. So, if you think you’re bi, be confident that you know yourself better than anyone else. When people see that you know you, they are more likely to accept you for it.

How do you feel about cishet passing people, who are out, using slurs that apply to their identity as a joke in a public setting? Or cishets calling out ppl in the LGBTQ community for using those slurs?

L: I think that while people are allowed to use slurs that apply to their identity, some less casual settings (like school or work) aren’t the place for that. I do think it’s fine for people to step in to call someone out for saying any slurs (even if they apply to the speaker’s identity, in the scenario we are talking about) because if someone is using any slurs in a setting or context that could be interpreted as derogatory, they shouldn't say it.

G: Even if you aren’t cishet passing, there are some situations where you just shouldn’t say slurs, as Lei explained. Honestly, I don’t think people should use slurs in any situation unless they are 100% sure everyone there is comfortable with that. For example, if someone said the f-slur in my presence, even if they were gay, I would feel deeply uncomfortable with that. These words have been used for decades to belittle and put down queer people. (Queer was actually a slur once, but it has been fully reclaimed.) As for cishets calling people out, I have mixed feelings about it. I think it’s important to recognize that not everyone may be comfortable with the language, but be careful that your efforts to be an ally don’t go so far that you’re shaming queer people for trying to reclaim a slur.

I think they/them pronouns would make me more comfortable with myself, but I don't know how to tell anyone, and I'm worried that people won't take me seriously.

L: If you intend to come out, my advice is this: Be solid—if you second-guess yourself, other people will be more likely to second-guess you. Changing your pronouns on social media platforms (where you don't know anyone) are easy ways to see how it feels to be referred to with they/them pronouns if you’re as terrified as I was that it would turn out you don’t like your pronouns after you change them. People might need time to reset their image of you in their heads, but if they don’t take you seriously, then drop those people. Pronoun changes are easier to do on a wider scale (or at least I just did one big pronoun change to minimize confusion), and don’t be afraid to correct someone if they get your pronouns wrong. If people don’t take you seriously, you aren’t obligated to spend your time trying to educate them. If you want a more step-by-step plan, here is my recommendation:

  • Tell your friends that you prefer they/them pronouns.

  • Email your teachers that you are now using they/them pronouns.

  • Profit (If your teachers and peers are using they/them for you, or people see a Zoom pronoun change, everyone else will take the hint and follow suit with minimal confusion and direct interaction)

This way, it doesn’t have to be a big announcement, discussion, or event, but people in the wider school community will start to use the correct pronouns.

B: It can definitely be difficult to ask people to use a different pronoun since it is (unfortunately) often something people take for granted about the people they have known for a long time. I’d say start by telling a few people you really trust who are around your age, maybe a sibling or a close friend (I say this because people around our age are often more familiar with the use of they/them pronouns and might be less likely to misgender you). Having one or two people on your side supporting you can make a big difference in your confidence that other people will also support you. They can also help support you as you come out to other people and help reaffirm for those around you, who might not understand at first, that your pronoun choices are absolutely 100% valid. Hearing even a few people using the right pronouns for you can also make you more comfortable with and confident in your identity.

What is the difference between bisexuality, pansexuality, and omnisexuality?

B: These can be tricky to distinguish from one another, and it isn’t always clear where one draws the lines between these identities. For some people, they can even be used completely interchangeably! I’m going to try to tackle bisexuality and pansexuality first. There are a lot of definitions floating around for bisexuality, but I like to define it either as “attraction to people of two or more genders” or as “attraction to people of the same gender and other genders.” Pansexuality is usually described as “an attraction to people regardless of gender.” The main difference I find here, is in the “regardless of gender” aspect of pansexuality. Someone who identifies as bisexual could be attracted to people of all genders, but they also could be attracted to people of multiple genders, but not all of them. Additionally, a bisexual person might feel attration to people of different genders in different ways. Omnisexual refers to the same identity as pansexuality, although I think most people prefer to use the latter term.

L: I think that bisexuality, omnisexuality, and pansexuality are broadly overlapping categories that can work functionally the same.hat makes a difference is what feels best for whoever is picking a label for their sexuality.

What are your opinions on microlabeling? Is it harmful or is it needed? I've been hearing a lot of contrasting opinions on this and I'd love to hear your thoughts!

L: I think microlabeling is fine - I’m not one to police how people describe themselves. In my opinion, discourse within the LGBT+ community is at best distracting and at worst divisive, and the ‘+’ in LGBT+ is included for a reason.

A: Yup, I totally agree with Lei. If microlabeling makes you feel good and comfortable, by all means, go ahead! You always deserve to have your identity respected, so you should never feel bad for asking people to use whatever label you choose.

B: I second what’s been said. We have umbrella terms that can bring LGBTQ+ people together across more specific identities and experiences which is amazing! And, that doesn’t have to be the only way we identify ourselves. I think microlabels can often be helpful in understanding yourself, helping other people understand you, and finding people who share your experience more closely, if they are what you choose to use.

How do I tell if something is a microaggression because my friend keeps making jokes that make me uncomfortable, but I'm worried I'm just being sensitive, as none of my other friends seem to be reacting to them

A: I think that if it’s making you uncomfortable, it is certainly worth bringing up. As for wondering if it's a microaggression, you could reflect on whether the joke is making you uncomfortable because it targets a part of your identity or if it’s just something that rubs you the wrong way. Either way, it’s worth bringing up to your friend! It’s always a good idea to communicate with friends so that you can feel comfortable.

L: I talk a bit more about how to deal with lowkey-homophobic-behavior-from-friends in a later question, but I’ll reiterate the less confrontational option: A lot of the time when a ‘political’ joke or comment comes up, people (in a group) decide if they are going to laugh along or just stare awkwardly based on everyone else’s reaction. If you don’t laugh, or express discontent, other people in the group might also stop going along with jokes/comments. This will make for an awkward moment, but if your friend has a moment where they make a ‘joke’ or comment and nobody laughs along with it, they will probably stop making those jokes/comments.

G: If it makes you uncomfortable, you should bring it up. Even if none of your other friends have outward reactions to the jokes, they could be uncomfortable too. And if they aren’t, that’s still okay. You don’t always have to align with the group, and your feelings are just as valid as everyone else’s. And, if your friend tries to tell you that you’re just being sensitive, I’d advise you to stand your ground and reiterate that the jokes make you uncomfortable. Hopefully, they’ll be understanding of your feelings and stop making the jokes.

Advice for someone who is questioning their sexuality? I don't really know what else to say.

L: Take your time, but don’t be afraid to try out new labels! I myself have gone through quite a few, and nothing catastrophic has happened, haha.

A: Yup! What Lei said! And, even if you don’t ever find a label that totally works for you, that’s fine! Labels can feel restrictive or they can help you understand your identity! It’s different for each person. Similar to Lei, I went through several different labels while questioning my sexuality, and now that I’ve found one that I feel happy with, I’m glad I went through all those different labels in order to actually understand myself better!

How do I address people who aren't straight up homophobic (homophobic slurs, vocal homophobia), but when asked say that they think it's a sin, and unnatural? They don't harm gay people, but hold very biased opinions. Do I just let it be, or is it something that needs to be called out? I am straight but understand the importance of a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community, and have many old friends who think this way. How do I be a good ally in a situation like this?

L: One thing I’ve found that makes people reexamine their behavior or ‘jokes’ is to make them uncomfortable. Oftentimes, people expect to get away with casual comments, but if you direct attention to them and ask them to elaborate what they mean, you can pretty much see a train of thought of “Well, by saying this, I basically just meant this. Do I believe that?” You can also shut down those types of comments by verbalizing that train of thought: “By saying this, you kind of meant this. Do you think that about ___ people?” This kind of thing can be awkward and intense, but it is a learning experience for people to reexamine what they are saying and what they actually mean.

For a different type of encounter you might have - a lot of the time when people make ‘political’ jokes and the like, everyone else in the group figures out whether they’re going to go along with it or call it out based on other people’s reactions. If you don’t laugh at a ‘joke’ or express how you feel with body language or a comment, other people might follow suit or and stop laughing along, and the jokes/comments will then stop.

G: First of all, I just want to make it clear that the things you’ve mentioned in the question are straight up homophobic. Just because they only bring it up when asked doesn’t make the language any less homophobic. And, this kind of language does harm gay people. To hear your identity, an integral part of yourself that you can’t change, being referred to as “unnatural” can really damage a person. Addressing your question, this is absolutely something that needs to be called out! As a straight person, it can be more effective if you’re the one to do it, as straight people tend to listen more to other straight people than to queer people. It can be tricky, though. The word “sin” here makes me think that there’s some religious aspect involved, and it can be very difficult to get around that. Often, people will say something like “I love and respect gay people, but I just think it isn’t right.” That kind of language is still harmful, and can make queer people feel less-than. Ultimately, if you can’t change their minds, the best thing you can do is cut off your friendship with these people, and actively stand up for queer people whenever you hear this kind of language. I know it can be hard to just end a friendship like that, but I’d encourage you to ask yourself whether it’s worth keeping it if they are harming queer people and show no sign of changing their beliefs.

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