It’s PRIDE month and I know some of you can’t afford to be out and proud. I know some of you don’t have the freedom to be fully yourself in public — sometimes not even at home, where it should always be safe to be wholly you, no matter what. I know that even those of you who are “out” have not had the smoothest road.
I realize that I don’t know your struggles personally because I haven’t faced them (and we didn’t have the added stress of being constantly reachable online, either, back when I was growing up) — but I do know how much it sucks during those crucial years to feel absolutely alone and to have nobody who feels safe enough to turn to for anything/everything, nobody you can just spill to no matter how desperately you need that. I know the stress of being afraid of the consequences of just being yourself and the painful, steady strain of holding key parts of you behind that curtain.
I’ve also seen the thousand papercuts you take every day from even offhand jokes and inadvertently hurtful comments from friends and strangers, and how much you want to scream or cry or punch back sometimes, even if it wasn’t directed at you. How squashed you can feel after absorbing those blows, intentional or not, day after day, after day…I see you.
I defend you where I can, as often as it takes. I’ve warred with family and lost a couple of friendships over this. (People who would treat others that way aren’t truly friendship material for me, even if I’ve known them forever, so don’t be sorry about that; I’m not.) You are worth it. You are worth defending and you have a right to live free from being de facto punch lines in tired old jokes and tropes.
There are far uglier things said and done…you and I both know this. People who should know better (hint: everyone should know better), people who are supposed to be SAFE places for you — teachers, parents, siblings, clergy — often aren’t. My heart aches for you.
You are not alone.
Those are not empty words. I’ve always wished my brother, my sole bio sibling, had children. I would have been an AWESOME “Auntie M” to them, the random, foul-mouthed, gentle, sarcastic, eccentric aunt who always kept their favorite snacks and stuff around, ready with open arms for an afternoon or a weekend or a random 2am phone call or marching into hell to defend/rescue them if they’d gotten into a mess. Naturally, I would have the coolest niblings (nieces and nephews) in the world.
Alas, my brother is solidly in the “no thank you” zone when it comes to kids.
Some years ago, Leonard Nimoy (Spock) impressed me by offering to be the honorary grandpa of anyone who so chose. (Um, yes, yes I did!) He had his own grandchildren, of course, but he was willing to expand that umbrella to anyone who needed or wanted such. It was the sweetest gesture, and I can only imagine how many thousands of “grandchildren” he had shortly thereafter.
I am not famous like Mr. Nimoy, but I am absolutely down for being an honorary auntie. If you feel alone, if you don’t have family support to be fully who you are, if you just need to know that there’s someone “out there” who would listen if you needed them, sign me up. Become my honorary nibling. My heart is as scarred and tarnished as anyone else’s but it’s really, really big. There’s plenty of room for you. I promise.
Come on in.
And please take good care of your uniquely awesome self. Even when nothing feels awesome. Even if it’s just little things, like drinking a glass of water when you’ve been in the hot sun…you matter. You are worth taking care of. Take a breath. Take a minute. It’s ok to do what you need to do to re-center yourself, and it’s ok to feel however you feel at any given moment. You are valid and valued exactly as you are, even if you can’t show it all to the world right now.
No judgment here. I see you. And you are not alone.
(You can hmu here — comments are moderated, so you can just say “keep private” if you want it to be just between us — if so, point me at your email or a Twitter handle — or you can find me at @melstery on Twitter. Follow and @ me with “Auntie M” and I’ll follow you back so we can message privately.)