Content warnings: Much discussion of gender and sexuality, romance, relationships, family and troubles with them, religion, mention of abuse and cultish behavior, self-harm, suicide, discrimination and ostracism, (censored) profanity…am I missing any?

Well, this post was supposed to come in June, but…better late than never? At least this time, the lateness mostly isn’t my fault. June happens to be queer pride month, so I had the idea late in the month to interview people of various queer identities, both in person and online, to discuss their feelings and experiences, which I present to you here (not in any particular order). Interviews are separated by person (or a couple in one case), and names have been changed for privacy. Also, there will occasionally be notes for terms that some people might be unfamiliar with (*like this).

1.

TheMartianGeek: What is your full identity? And what pronouns do you use?

Whitney: I’m an asexual woman and I go by she/they.

TMG: When and how did you discover your identity?

Whitney: In my freshman year of college a group of friends and I were taking turns doing an online test that asked what our sexuality was, and asexual was one of the options. At the time I thought I was straight but ‘low interest’ because I thought that was the only option that didn’t include same-sex attraction, and just seeing the word made me start to question/realize things and look it up later. It took me another year from there to go from saying tentatively calling myself ‘maybe asexual’ to just calling myself asexual, but mainly just out of wanting to be sure.

TMG: How old are you?

Whitney: 23.

TMG: What would you tell a young queer (or asexual) person?

Whitney: I think my biggest priority would be to explain the different sexualities and that they exist, but after that I’d want to emphasize that there are a lot of different types of relationships and that it’s ok to take time and self reflection to find what works best for them.

TMG: How has being queer affected your life?

Whitney: There’s a lot of ways being queer has affected my life, outside of the obligatory difference from being straight. I definitely got teased for things that in retrospect were related to my asexuality in school, but there was also a big impact in my personal life and understanding my own feelings. Something that’s always stuck out to me was a time in high school when I was interested in a guy I knew. At some point I suddenly realized I’d never once thought about kissing him (let alone anything sexual) during the entire time I’d ‘liked’ him. I’d thought about going on dates, spending time together, and holding hands but kissing or ‘making out’ had never crossed my mind. At the time I thought this meant I had only wanted to be friends with him, since romantic relationships involve wanting to kiss each other. I think if I’d known I was asexual back then it would definitely have helped with the confusion, but even then this was a glaring example of how what I thought about for a relationship didn’t really match up with how relationships are portrayed in society.

TMG: How has it affected your relationship?

Whitney: My partner actually suggested that I might be asexual before we were romantically involved and before I was sure of my sexuality enough to be out. It’s never really put a strain on our relationship at all (my partner is not asexual), which I’m sure is helped by the amount we regularly communicate.

TMG: What does pride month mean to you?

Whitney: Pride month to me is about the history of fighting for rights and recognition for queer people and within that for same-gender relationships, as well as more recently a celebration of how far we’ve come. I think in recent years there has been what’s been referred to as ‘rainbow capitalism,’ and I think that detracts from what Pride is supposed to be about. That said, I don’t think that takes from the importance of Pride month for queer individuals and think it’s something that can be overcome in favor of a focus on LGBT+ people themselves.

2.

TMG: What is your full identity? And what pronouns do you use?

Alicia: Panromantic asexual, nonbinary/demigirl. I use they/them mostly, but I present femme so people assume she/her and I don’t typically correct them due to social awkwardness.

TMG: I’ve noticed that you do mostly present pretty feminine. Yet you don’t feel comfortable with being called a girl/woman/she?

Alicia: Not particularly. I’m AFAB (*assigned female at birth), and I like makeup and dresses, but that doesn’t make me a woman. When I finally took a look at myself, I realized that I’m not really a girl, I’m just a femme enby (*person of nonbinary gender).

TMG: What do you think the difference is between actually being female and being feminine but not female?

Alicia: Hm…well for me, being femme is more aesthetic, whereas being female is one’s gender.

TMG: When and how did you discover your identity?

Alicia: My gender identity I realized recently, within the last 6-9months. Sexual and romantic identities, somewhere around 4-5 years ago.

TMG: How old are you?

Alicia: 22 years old.

TMG: What would you tell a young queer person? Or specifically asexual, nonbinary, etc.

Alicia: You’re not broken and you aren’t “bandwagoning.” You’re you, you’re unique and you’re valid. Your identities may change over the years, so don’t be scared to change those labels as often as you see fit. You’re going to be okay and you are loved.

TMG: How has being queer affected your life?

Alicia: It’s given me a community to be a part of and has allowed me to befriend people I never would have known existed otherwise. It’s also caused some hardships – always having to answer questions and knowing that more than likely I’m the odd one out in a group of strangers makes life a little difficult. I also live in an area where queers aren’t very accepted, so I have to deal with that as well, and when I go places with my girlfriend, we often get weird looks and faces.

TMG: Well, you and your girlfriend are adorable, and anyone who has a problem with it can eat a butt. Do you think being queer has affected your relationship in any way that wouldn’t be true if you weren’t so?

Alicia: Hmm… I don’t really think so! Except that… maybe I wouldn’t be dating Sally if she were, let’s say, a straight guy.

TMG: Despite being panromantic? I guess she would probably be significantly less cute…

Alicia: Hahaa I doubt that she’d be less cute, but I find myself being significantly less attracted to cis guys than trans guys, trans girls, cis girls, and enbies; maybe because most of the cis guys I’ve met are pretty jerkish.

TMG: I’m telling you…testosterone makes you angry, bald, and shorter-lived. It’s a trap. Actually, do you think asexual people who are in relationships tend to be more lovey-dovey than allosexual (*not asexual) people? I would assume that that’s not the case and they’re two separate and unrelated spectra, but it could be true that when you’re not sexually attracted to each other, other expressions of love might come out more.

Alicia: Hmm… I think we are tbh! But also because we usually aren’t just in a relationship for sex, but because we love our partners so we usually like to express that as often as possible! At least, that’s true for me! Some aces aren’t like that, and that’s okay too!

TMG: I’d say that you guys are almost sickening sometimes, but that’s not really true. Doesn’t mean I can’t lightly tease you about it, though. Besides, I’m happy for you. I think maybe more people need to appreciate the love shared between others as well?

Alicia: Lol, Jason would probably agree that we are sickening 😀 thank you!

TMG: So, what’s your family like? And your mental state (illness and such)?

Alicia: My family is pretty chill. The ones that I care about don’t really care about my identity (in a supportive “we love you regardless” way, not a dismissive one.) They’re kind of conservative, so they don’t really “get” it, so I don’t press the issue often. I’ve had some form of depression and anxiety since I was a child, and I still do. I’m in a pretty decent mental state these days though.

TMG: What does pride month mean to you?

Alicia: It’s a month for celebrating who I am. It’s also remembrance for those who started the LGBT rights movement, specifically at Stonewall. They’re our predecessors, and it’s important to recognize that what they started is what got us where we are now. I appreciate that.

TMG: Do you have anything to say that I didn’t cover?

Alicia: Hmm… I don’t think so!

TMG: All right. Thank you for your time.

Alicia: Thank you for interviewing me!

TMG: My pleasure. I like to learn about other people’s experiences. (Well, actually, a lot of the time, they make me sad…but still…)

Alicia: Well I’m glad I could tell you mine!

3.

TMG: What is your full identity? And what pronouns do you use?

Violet: I identify as a bisexual and biromantic person, and I use she/her pronouns even though I think I might be slightly nonbinary.

TMG: When and how did you discover your identity?

Violet: I really realized it for the first time when I was fifteen/sixteen, but it was the kind of deal where once I started to let myself accept it, a whole bunch of earlier experiences started to make sense. I think I always knew, I just pushed it back.

TMG: Ah. And you’re 19 now, right?

Violet: Indeed I am.

TMG: Okay. What would you tell a young queer person? Or bisexual/biromantic specifically, if you like.

Violet: It’s okay to be unsure and you don’t have to wholeheartedly dive into any particular identity. This kind of a thing is a journey, and the most important thing is accepting and understanding yourself. And if they come from a religious background, God doesn’t hate you and He didn’t make a mistake.

TMG: On that note, it seems like there’s been a lot of clashing of values when it comes to religion and queer people.

Violet: Yeah that’s a hot topic. Ultimately it usually comes down to religious people not truly understanding the nature of the God they claim to serve.

TMG: It’s all about love, no? Yet so many people choose to hate instead…

Violet: Hate and judgement are literally the opposite of what Christians are supposed to do.

TMG: Though even some well-meaning people might claim that being queer is considered a sin or something. I’ve heard that the actual meaning of the passage against “man lying with man” has been lost in translation.

Violet: Well even with that argument (which I don’t agree with), literally everyone sins. Everyone. And every sin is equal in the eyes of God—it’s like these people think being gay is a travesty and, like, lying is fine. And yeah, I’ve heard that floating around too.

TMG: One could argue that it’s unfair for your mere existence to count as a constant sin. But like you said, you don’t agree with that argument anyway, nor do I.

Violet: There’s a lot of hypocrisy at the core of it.

TMG: How has being queer affected your life? And your relationships.

Violet: It’s put a lot of strain on my relationship with my family at times and it means I have to hide a large part of my life from them indefinitely. Most of my friends have been really accepting of me, which is great, but it’s not so easy with my family due to religious prejudice and that kind of thing. It’s honestly put me in a place where I feel like I’m not queer enough to be considered a part of the community sometimes, because I can’t have a girlfriend and I’ve never been to Pride and that kind of thing. But ultimately, it’s also given me another huge community of people who love and support me even when my family might not.

TMG: Aw. I was going to ask about family acceptance and whatnot.

Violet: Honestly, my family is the biggest part of my life and has been for as long as I’ve been alive so those are the only relationships I’ve had with the potential to be affected.

TMG: Well, what’s your mental state like? Any history of illness or anything?

Violet: I have a history of self-harm, but I’m currently a year clean (go me), and I do consistently struggle with anxiety, but my coping skills are pretty good.

TMG: What does pride month mean to you?

Violet: It means a beautiful celebration of acceptance and how far our community has come, but also a time to think about how far we have to go because we haven’t quite reached the goal yet. It’s a time for frequently rejected people to be open and proud of who they are and I think that’s awesome.

TMG: Do you have anything to say that I didn’t cover?

Violet: No I think that about covers everything. Wait, I’d also like to say that all queer people are beautiful and I love them.

TMG: Yay.

4.

TMG: What is your full identity?

Gabrielle: I am demi-hetero-romantic, sex-repulsed asexual.

TMG: She/her pronouns, I assume?

Gabrielle: Yes I am fine with she/her.

TMG: When and how did you discover your identity?

Gabrielle: I was 100% sure of being asexual after I dated a guy in person and I just felt that all those relationship stuff that sexual people do were too uncomfortable for me and I couldn’t just be attracted to someone without having a meaningful connection beforehand. I didn’t seek to date with heterosexual guys anymore after that and I went on researching deeper about asexuality. I already heard the term thanks to a friend of mine, but I wasn’t sure. So around 2016 I went fully out about my defined identity. The romantic part took me a bit longer to figure out and it wasn’t until late 2017 when I understood I am demi-hetero-romantic.

TMG: How old are you?

Gabrielle: 27.

TMG: What would you tell a young queer person?

Gabrielle: Please don’t force yourself to do things you are not comfortable with just to fit a normal. Please listen truly and deeply to your own feelings first. If romance and sex are not your thing, they are not your thing. We are different and we all have the same value as human beings.

TMG: How has being queer affected your life and relationships?

Gabrielle: Trying to put a long story short, being ace without knowing the name of it was really difficult. I was mostly alone, still am. I was bullied all day everyday for the entire 13 years of schooling and I didn’t know what it was to have a relationship. I lived in an extremely hypersexualised country and it always felt alien to me, I mean, their culture. The rest of the world is very sexual, I know it, but it doesn’t feel as horrible as it was for me during my years there. As I said, I tried to date a guy now that I live in another country. Nope, it still feels horrible just to think I might have f***ed him. I didn’t. But just the thought of a what if I did feels disgusting. It was very hard. I’m one of those members of the sexual minorities who experienced suicide tendencies from an early age. Knowing who I am has been truly a liberating and wonderful thing for my mental health.

TMG: What’s your family like? And your mental state?

Gabrielle: So, according to therapists, I have issues with anxiety and depressive symptoms but, I am neurotypical. Now that I posted on FB that I got my prescription for antidepressants nooow a family relative said that it is in the family and some of my relatives have been through this. So now I know, on my mom’s side, it is a thing to go through depression. My biological father is someone I have never known. He is somewhere in USA. I tried to establish a connection with him but I felt no genuine interest on his part so, I stopped trying. I’m not a beggar and I don’t believe a child has the duty to go and find a parent and put all the effort in a relationship that never existed in the first place. I was born and he was already gone and divorced. So…yeah, single mom’s child here. I do have a soul father. A friend of mine who is older than me, could easily pass for my dad. He is the father I never had and he has a golden heart. I know he is not my dad but, I call him so. He is in Finland. Friends, well, I’m trying, I think I can trust. I also have a soul mother by the way. My bio mom had so much in her plate you know, always at work just to be able to pay my schooling. It is one of those countries where the average wage is 500 bucks but the average living cost is 1000+ so a lot of single parents work extra. Mom’s best friend was the wise mother who always gave me the emotional support and wisdom that my bio mom didn’t have the mental strength to provide. Now that I’m older I finally understood and I genuinely appreciate both of them for what they did for me. I am lucky in that regard. I have 2 mothers. A very hard working one who gave me even beyond her capabilities and a very wise one, who never hesitated to stay on the phone with me during the years of abuse at school and even today. Not everyone has this fortune. My life isn’t perfect and it isn’t happy, and definitely it is not a “normal” life, bit I am finally starting to be genuinely thankful for the good things that have happened. The sweetest victory is not revenge, is not grudge and is not succeeding over those who hurt you. To me the sweetest victory is when you can start to feel at least satisfied with what you’ve lived through, when you gain mental and emotional peace, that’s the sweetest victory, then is when you truly start to live a little bit. I’m glad I have started to feel this way even before being 30, cause I know very well that a lot of s*** is coming my way and I need to be ready for it.

TMG: What does pride month mean to you?

Gabrielle: Pride month arrives a little later in Budapest. We will have this year’s parade on July 7th. It is an important thing for me. It is a reminder that we are free to be who we are. It is also nice that we can go as proud asexuals and no one is excluding us from the event. It shouldn’t be exclusivist at all. It is an inclusion event where people gather to be free. It is quite symbolic that we also cross one of the city bridges during the march, at least, that happened last summer. Bridges hold a strong meaning to me and adding a pride march is simply beyond my words.

TMG: How do queer rights in your country compare to those in the U.S.?

Gabrielle: I can tell you about 2 countries. The unnameable and Hungary. Both are quite lacking when it comes to queer rights. In the other country there are no rights for nobody. Queer, disabled, elderly, foreigners, expats, nobody. Not even the locals have any form of safety net whatsoever. Son.. the other place is just irrelevant when discussing human rights. Simple as that. Hungary is quite a progressive country in its own weird way. The political system is mostly crappy. Here marriage is still only between a man and a woman. A lot of LGBT members are in the closet depending on where do they work. Some places are more open than others. But the people here are more of a live and let live mentality, and there are quite a bunch of people as activists in the LGBTQ+ community. The pride march grows bigger every year. So all in all, Hungary might be lagging behind, but it is not stagnant. It just goes at its own pace. Also I may add, the ace community in Hungary is the biggest in this region of Europe. We have been searching and there are no such asexual communities in neither Poland, Slovakia, Czechia and other neighbouring countries. We have the biggest and most active asexual group. I am definitely quite proud of this.

TMG: Do you have anything to say that I didn’t cover?

Gabrielle: I’m not sure.

TMG: Well, thanks for your time.

5.

TMG: What is your full identity? And what pronouns do you use?

Luke: I’m male and biromantic though I lean more towards dating girls and a fair bit more towards sexual attraction with girls. Like I think I’d be primary sexual for girls on the red violet. But tertiary for guys.

TMG: When and how did you discover your identity?

Luke: I mostly discovered my identity one day, after kind of thinking about how I felt about a guy I knew since it wasn’t quite like, a platonic feeling but something else. After a while I sorta realized that it was a bit of a romantic feeling, and ever since then that’s happened a few more times. Hence, biromanticism. (Note that this applies a lot less to sexual feelings – re: sexual feelings and dudes: I’d mostly do it for their benefit, but I don’t think I’d either be uncomfortable with it or enjoy it a lot.)

TMG: Huh. And you’re 16, right?

Luke: Yep. Everything’s subject to change, maybe. But I like to think my grasp on me is not that shaky.

TMG: What would you tell a younger queer person? Or even another person your age.

Luke: I’d probably tell them that the first priority should honestly be to come to terms with themselves and figure out who they are, no matter what other people think about it. The second thing I’d tell them is that there’s no wrong orientation or identity to hold, because we’re born the way we are and there’s nothing we can do to change it. I don’t know if that advice is helpful, seeing that honestly I come from a pretty privileged position in this regard, but that’s my opinion.
Definitely the first though, since I think a lot of the times people settle in on an identity and try to stick to it when that’s realistically not happening on the first or even second try or even later.

TMG: How has being queer affected your life and relationships?

Luke: Honestly, compared to most people, not that much. It’s led to some moments where I’ve tried to cram the “are you into guys” question into conversation with guys I’ve crushed on, but like it’s not bad these days. I’ve told my parents and mercifully, they’re very accepting, as are my friends. I consider it just another part of me, really, although it does make me often think about how fortunate I am that I don’t grow up in a less accepting family.

TMG: How about mental state?

Luke: If I’m stressed and panicky, it’s because of school. I don’t think my orientation has a lot to do with my mental state these days.

TMG: What does pride month mean to you? (Actually, is there one in Canada?)

Luke: Yeah, it’s June. I mean, I think it’s nice to have recognition for the increase in right for LGBT people alongside as a symbol for additional steps that can and should be taken. It’s good to recognize, is my opinion on it basically

TMG: Do you have anything to say that I didn’t cover?

Luke: No, not really.

TMG: Okay.

6.

TMG: What are your full identities?

Frances: Pansexual, Cis-female. Stephanie: Lesbian, Trans-Woman.

TMG: When and how did you discover your identities?

Frances: I, Frances, discovered mine as soon as I discovered that I could feel attraction to people, Freshman year of highschool. I didn’t know non-binary people, so I called myself bisexual until Stephanie transitioned, and proved to me that gender really wasn’t a factor in attraction for me. Stephanie passes on this question.

TMG: Yeah, aren’t you attracted to certain personalities, not certain genders?

Frances: Right. I’m attracted to people who are gentle, kind, talented, artistic, nerdy…though Stephanie’s elf-ears do also help. So, I’m actually attracted to very few people, and Stephanie fills that mold perfectly.

TMG: “What gender are you?” “Elf.” “No, I mean what’s in your pants?” “Archery skills and fabulous blond hair.”

Frances: lol!

TMG: I’d imagine that probably made Stephanie’s transition a lot easier, too. Of course, so did having someone who loves you. But then, what isn’t made easier by having someone who loves you? Also, you’re both 31 years old, right?

Frances: Yeah, I think that it made it easier for Stephanie, knowing that I wouldn’t reject her if she transitioned. And yes, we’re both 31.

TMG: What would you tell a young bi/pansexual, trans, gay, or just generally queer person?

Frances: Find queer friends who understand what you’re going through. Family, though they may be loving, may not understand and unintentionally be cruel. Or intentionally. So, having a safe place, safe people to confide in is important as you grow to accept and love yourself.

TMG: How has being queer affected your lives and relationships? That includes your marriage, though I guess you pretty much covered that already to some degree.

Frances: It’s hard to say, since we haven’t lived any other lives where we were straight.

TMG: You have a point.

Frances: My relationship with my in-laws would probably be better. That’s about all I can think of.

TMG: On that note, what are your respective families like, if I may ask?

Frances: Mine is very liberal, mostly atheist, a mix of Democrat and Libertarian. Stephanie’s is Christian of various flavors, conservative, and has a lot of Republicans.

TMG: No prizes for guessing which is more accepting, I assume (or rather, the readers would assume).

Frances: Yeah, lol.

TMG: You, at least, get along pretty well with your family, don’t you?

Frances: Yeah. They’ve really stepped up.

TMG: Nice. They’ve seemed cool from what little time I’ve been around them.

Frances: Yup. My family is really diverse, so we fit right in.

TMG: And you’re on the autism spectrum, too. Is Stephanie neurodivergent at all?

Frances: Not as far as we know.

TMG: What does pride month mean to you?

Frances: It’s time to celebrate what queer people have survived and accomplished, and it helps us build community and connect with our communities.

TMG: Do you have anything to say that I didn’t cover?

Frances: I can’t think of anything.

TMG: All right then.

7.

TMG: What is your full identity? And what pronouns do you use?

Nicole: I am bisexual and genderfluid, but I usually just say I’m queer because that’s easier. I don’t really care a lot about pronouns, personally, but they/them works. She/her is what usually happens, though. (He/him also sometimes happens; it was weird the first time but I’m used to it now. Still prefer they/them to he/him, though.)

TMG: Fair enough. I imagine you in particular aren’t all that strongly tied to any specific, narrow gender identity?

Nicole: Not especially, no. I often present as somewhat more feminine, but I still look pretty middle-of-the-road even then. Oh, actually, sorry, meant to say I identify as nonbinary, not genderfluid. Similar things, but I think nonbinary better encompasses me as a person. I mean, as a label, it works, but I’m not sure that I actually do move back and forth between the ends of the gender spectrum that much.

TMG: So not so much waking up and thinking “I am the beautiful queen of femininity! Give me all the makeup and dresses!” some days and “Gender? wat” others, but mostly the latter all the time?

Nicole: Yes, that’s a good way to put it. I used to have days when I’d want to wear dresses and be all feminine, but those days are becoming increasingly rare as I get older. I’m not sure if that’s because gender spectrum or just being old and tired, though. The main characteristic of genderfluid that I don’t so much experience like I used to is the hard shift between genders. I used to have Very Masculine days and Very Feminine days; now I’m just pretty solidly meh about it every day. It’s actually been several months since I’ve had a day (or other period of time) that was solidly one way or the other.

TMG: Okay. When and how did you discover your identity?

Nicole: PSA: This is going to be a bit of a novel. I grew up extremely religious, so there was no discussion whatsoever about gender, sex, sexuality, or any of that beyond “you were born female, you will get married to a man and make babies.” I’ve known pretty much since ever that being a “girl” or “female” felt weird and awkward and not quite right, and I also knew that I wanted none of this making babies business. However, I smushed all that down as much as I could because I was told it was evil and wrong to be anything other than a straight babymaker. So I didn’t really explicitly realize my identity until I was probably a senior in college. As a junior, I’d studied abroad in Morocco and been exposed to a lot of new information. A friend of mine was surprised that I’d never had a “bicurious” phase, and was also surprised at how vehemently I denied it. But her surprise and her questions made me start thinking more deeply. So then I realized at about age 21 that I was probably bi. Coincidentally, I also started dating my partner when I was 21. He was the first person I actually came out to. (Obviously, he’s very accepting; it probably helps that he’s not entirely straight himself.) I became fairly comfortable with identifying as bi, but I knew there was still something off. I was not comfortable being defined as a woman, but I didn’t really know what else was out there. So I started researching. And then the summer after I turned 23, I realized that nonbinary was a thing and that I was that thing. At first I identified as a demigirl, but it quickly became apparent to me that that didn’t encompass everything. So then I identified more as genderfluid, because I had pretty distinct days of feeling like different genders. In the past year or so (I’m 26 now), that particular pendulum has mostly come to rest and I’m just in a funky little nonbinary spot where gender is mostly a shrug.

TMG: Sounds like quite the journey of self-discovery.

Nicole: Ohhhh yeah. During that self-discovery time I also shifted from fundamentalist Christian to atheist to very lax pagan, so there was a LOT of moving about.

TMG: Well, you are valid and loved, and I’m glad you finally had everything fall into place.

Nicole: Aw, thank you ❤

TMG: So, what would you tell a young queer person? Perhaps someone who's only just realized that there is more than just "heterosexual and cisgender", or someone who's felt all along that there was something "not right" with the way everyone else was defining them?

Nicole: Well, first, take a deep breath. There's nothing wrong with you. You're valid. There are lots of other people like you so you are definitely not alone. You don't have to shoehorn yourself into some nonsense societal expectation. Be yourself, love yourself, and be nice to yourself. Understanding your identity can be a really long process, and it's okay if it changes over time. But on the other hand, be prepared for people to not like you because of who you are. A lot of people still have hateful and nasty little minds. If you catch heat for being who you are, try to just let it roll off you. Again, there is NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU. But there's a whole lot wrong with people who choose to hate! Keep your head up and try not to let other people's words get to you. (There will probably be days when words do hurt. A lot. But you'll get through them. You will survive—and not just survive, but thrive. You're your own beautiful rainbow self, and nothing anybody says to you can change that.)

TMG: That was beautiful.

Nicole: I mean, I try, lol.

TMG: Come to think of it, you mentioned being pagan, too. Do you that it's more common for people of non-mainstream religions (for lack of a better word) to be queer? Or for queer people to follow one of those religions, or none at all? Perhaps it's a case of correlation, but not causation?

Nicole: In my personal experience, absolutely. Most pagan traditions are very accepting of queer folk; in fact, many traditions have queer deities.

TMG: Like…someone who is cool with uncommon gender identities and such is probably more likely to be accepting of pagans, atheists, and such, but that doesn't mean it's a cause and effect. Like how people who watch anime are more likely to play Dungeons & Dragons, not because anime makes you interested in D&D but because they're both "nerdy" activities and tend to attract similar people.

Nicole: Yes, that. I'd say it's probably more correlation than causation in most cases; if any causative link exists, it's probably queer, then pagan, considering you can't exactly change whether you're queer. That's definitely how it went for me, though of course my evidence is only anecdotal.

TMG: Of course, that also means that anyone who is hostile to minority religions (or lack of one) is probably more likely to assume that being queer is also "evil" because of that correlation…

Nicole: Yeah, that also happens.

TMG: You know, I could probably make a similar argument about My Little Pony actually being satanic. It has unicorns, which bisexual people are compared to. Also, unicorns have horns, and the devil has horns. And since being bisexual is also evil, that means My Little Pony is a work of evil, trying to corrupt children with its eldritch messages of friendship.

Nicole: O nooooooes. How dare cute ponies spread a message of friendship and love using unicorns. Madness, I tell you. The downfall of society.

TMG: Anyway, we're getting rather off-track here. How has being queer affected your life, other than what we've discussed already?

Nicole: Mostly? I'm just a lot happier. I feel better about myself and about life in general. I'm not so annoyed at everything all the time. People do treat me differently sometimes, and my family definitely threw a hissy fit about it, but thanks to years of therapy and also a very thick skin, I no longer care.

TMG: You're happier than if you were a cishet (*cisgender and heterosexual) person?

Nicole: Ah, sorry. No, I meant I’m happier than I was when I tried to force myself to be cishet. In an objective way, being queer hasn’t affected my life that substantially. (Other than when I go to rural areas, where I get all of the stink eye. But again, I really can’t be bothered to care anymore.)

TMG: So being queer as an objective state hasn’t done much, but realizing it certainly did.

Nicole: Yes, exactly.

TMG: And you have a boyfriend, too. (Or is he a fiance at this point?) Do you think it’s affected your relationship in any way that would be atypical compared to any other relationship?

Nicole: I call him my partner. Somewhere between boyfriend and married. We’re not really set on the whole getting married thing so we’re just stuck at partner. Being queer has affected our relationship, I think. Mostly because we tend to have the same taste in women so we both tend to discreetly and politely check out the same women.

TMG: How exactly does one introduce a nonbinary significant other anyway? “Mom, Dad, this is my girl?friend.”

Nicole: Rick just introduces me as his partner. Though to be fair, I wasn’t out when I first met his parents, so…

TMG: For the purpose of our readers, what’s your family like?

Nicole: My parents are extremely religious. They brought my sister and me up in a cult and used homeschooling to try to force us to stay in it. (If they wanted us to stay in it, they probably should never have taught us to read. But I digress…) My parents are NOT accepting of anyone who is not a cishet white fundamentalist Christian. My extended family on my dad’s side doesn’t really care, although I think their brand of Christianity probably still says being queer is bad. My extended family on my mom’s side is p terrible so I don’t talk to them (hyper religious, very racist, mean, manipulative, physically and emotionally abusive… I can go on :P), well, with the exception of my aunt. She’s a lot like me (though presumably not queer) and she is also very estranged from that part of the family. My sister is the polar opposite of my family. Very open and accepting and super non-judgmental. She’s told me that this is partially because of the way my parents’ cult dealt with things when I came out.

TMG: And your mental state? Do you know if you have any mental conditions that would be classified as “abnormal”?

Nicole: I mean, anxiety and depression, but most of that is/was because of how I grew up. My therapist says I’m “cured” now, although I still have the odd trigger here and there. I’ve just gotten way better at dealing with them.

TMG: What does pride month mean to you?

Nicole: I have kind of complicated feelings about that. Mostly it’s a celebration of being ourselves, which I love and enjoy. BUT the first pride event I went to (which was this month, actually) was overwhelmingly dominated by cis gay men, which is fine, but unfortunately there’s kind of a lot of misogyny and gatekeeping within certain portions of that community, so it added a different dynamic to the whole thing. That might just be a DC Pride issue, though. I hear several other cities have explicitly lesbian- and other queer folk-oriented events.

TMG: Do you have anything to say that I didn’t cover?

Nicole: I don’t think so. You’re very thorough.

TMG: All right. Cool. Thanks for doing this with me.

Nicole: Of course! And thank YOU for taking the time to do this also!

TMG: Sure. I hope it helps people. Friends are great~

Nicole: They are ❤

8.

TMG: What is your full identity? And what pronouns do you use?

Teresa: AFAB. Agender aromantic asexual. She/her.

TMG: When and how did you discover your identity?

Teresa: I knew as early as 10 that I didn’t experience the world in the same way as my peers. As far as actual terminology though I was 46. I was reading Sherlock Holmes fan fic and came across an unfamiliar term. Googled it and ended up on the AVEN website. Shocked to find out that what I was was actually a thing :). I’m currently 50 by the way.

TMG: What would you tell a young queer person?

Teresa: That there is an entire community out there waiting to offer you love and support… My spouse and I go out of our way to “adopt” young trans and ace kids in our city…we offer emotional support, buy them groceries…a lot of young queer people have families that have turned them out and for all of us community is vital.

TMG: How has being queer affected your life? And relationship, for that matter. Has being aro-ace (*aromantic asexual) ever been a problem for your husband or anything?

Teresa: When I publicly came out I lost a lot of friends….mostly Evangelical Christians that were angry that I was speaking up in defense of the queer community. As far as my spouse is concerning, discovering that I’m aro ace and not broken has improved my marriage. My spouse came home from work while I was sitting at the table on the laptop reading the AVEN site. I passed them the laptop and said “I think this is me.”. They looked it over and said, “First of all this explains a LOT. Secondly, we can work with this. “. Being allo, they thought that my lack of interest in sex and romance meant I didn’t love them but never said anything to me about it. Lol, when they proposed to me it went right over my head 🙂

TMG: So many people are worried about being in the friendzone. For you…the friendzone was in you all along! How long have you been married now?

Teresa: My marriage from my standpoint is a QPR (*queerplatonic relationship, a relationship with a stronger emotional bond than a friendship but still not romantic or sexual). I’ve been in other QPRs, all of them with women, usually more than one at a time. Currently just in the one because my last few have had massive issues with my spouse. Sorry….I’m married to that one…that one gets prioritized. I’m open to being in another one but will need to have a long talk with her first if and when that happens. 18 years.

TMG: I feel like people undervalue forms of love that aren’t romantic or sexual, honestly.

Teresa: Right. I want emotional closeness more than anything. I have that with my spouse. And it’s possible I think to be close to more than one person. I prefer women for that and they tend to be better at emotional intimacy and far less likely to decide they want to sleep with me although that isn’t always the case. I think that it’s easy for people to automatically drift into sexual or romantic attraction once that emotional intimacy is there.

TMG: I’m with you there. I still haven’t entirely figured out what my romantic attraction is like, but I do want emotional closeness even in friendships.

Teresa: Yeah….for me all of my relationships are categorized by how emotionally involved I am with the person. I’m also very demi when it comes to QPRs. I have to know the person first, but I do have a type….little, blonde, Irish ancestry, and some sort of mental health diagnosis….usually bipolar or BPD.

TMG: Huh. That’s interesting. You’re also a practicing Catholic, aren’t you? What do you have to say about the prevalent assumption that one cannot be both religious and queer, or that being queer is sinful?

Teresa: My parish is pretty queer-friendly. I personally manage to be both queer and Catholic pretty well. I believe that there is a biological component to why we are the way we are. I certainly didn’t choose this. My Evangelical Christian friends sometimes have issues with my gender presentation….I skew slightly masculine as far as they are concerned. Despite having a very female body (which I have no issues with) I get misgendered often as male if people don’t look closely. Whatever. I’m a person and my hair is human hair and my clothing is human clothing. I spent 4 years in Bible College and am entirely capable of going back to the original languages to have discussions about the topic with people who try to tell me I’m sinning.

TMG: What’s your family like? And your mental state?

Teresa: I’m not in contact with my immediate family because of abuse issues. I have a younger sister whom I’m in limited contact with. As far as my mental state, I went through decades of therapy to repair the damage that my parents inflicted. I worked very hard and have been stable and fine for years.

TMG: Aw…well, I’m glad that you’re doing better now.

Teresa: Cutting all contact with my parents in 2005 was a good decision. Toxic people don’t change and I married into a really lovely supportive family.

TMG: What does pride month mean to you?

Teresa: Pride month was being involved in my community. My ace group had their own tent this year at our festival and the LGBTQIA community in my city is very inclusive and went out of their way to include us and keep us safe and make us feel welcome. I feel that solidarity and protection everyday but at Pride it was more pronounced.

TMG: Do you have anything to say that I didn’t cover?

Teresa: No. You were really thorough.

TMG: Okay. Well, thank you for your time.