When I was fifteen, a friend came out to me as a lesbian. Being able to talk to me and, I think, a few of our other friends gave her a sort of pressure release valve. She was afraid to tell her parents, you see. At first I was rather pleased to be the recipient of such important confidences, but over the months of that year, the stories started to unsettle me. My friend told me she was engaged in what sounded to me like a completely dysfunctional online relationship (how much was true or not is increasingly unclear with the passage of time, but I have no real reason to suspect falsehood). She had a password-protected blog that I had access to, and she described this relationship and a growing habit of drinking and smoking. Then one day she showed up to school with cuts all over her hands. When asked what had happened, she simply said she’d been trying to take a razor apart, and then changed the subject.
That’s when I panicked. I may have been only fifteen, and an innocent fifteen at that, but I could only think of one reason to take a razor apart. I’d been growing more and more uneasy about the things she’d been telling me for some time, but the razor incident sent me into a complete terrified tailspin.
I went to a teacher I trusted, as well as contacting someone I knew at a community-wide program providing counseling services at the local schools. On their recommendation, I went to one of the school counselors and ended up spilling everything I knew.
I lost the friendship, and if I were to be faced with a similar situation now I might handle it differently, but I still believe I did the right thing overall.
This isn’t a story I tell in detail much, and there are a lot of details I’ve omitted here as well. I bring it up now because after a conversation with a different friend recently, I have decided that a portion of the proceeds from all of my Etsy sales between now and the end of 2017 will go to the Trevor Project. I believe in the mission of this project. They provide services to LGBTQ+ teens in crisis, including chat sessions, phone sessions, and suicide hotlines. If my high school friend had had a place like that to turn when things were getting so intense and strange all those years ago, maybe she wouldn’t have been drinking, or getting so thin, or trying to take a razor apart. If she’d had a place like that to turn, maybe I wouldn’t have ended up taking action that lost her trust in the short term and my own in the long term. If I’d had a place like the Trevor Project to turn for guidance in how best to offer my friend help and support, I might have done things differently. I grieve for both of those girls, caught up in an emotional maelstrom and not sure where to turn for some kind of anchor.
So I’m making crafts, beaded ornaments and other things, many of which are inspired by the pride flags of different queer and trans identities. And it’s a fascinating challenge. Like the words I’m writing, every color choice and every organization of color has layers of meaning. It’s not just about indulging my own aesthetic whimsy anymore. I’m in the middle of making what I’m calling a “double rainbow” set of 1-inch ornaments – the ornaments themselves are a rainbow, and each is decorated with rainbow stripes of shining seed beads. I have enough ornaments in all the required colors to make two of these sets, and I’m going to vary the pattern slightly between them. The stripes must be joined together, and I usually use a contrasting bead for that. In my exploration of different pride flags, I’ve noticed variations intended to point out the presence of people of color. For example, the trans flag comes in two iterations, from what I’ve found. One has a white stripe in the middle, and one has a black stripe. One of the double rainbow sets will reflect this line of thought.
I admit that as a straight, white, cisgender woman, speaking about all of this is potentially problematic, since I don’t know much of anything about the experience of coming out or realizing you are in some way or another outside the “mainstream” in sexual and gender identities. Every word feels loaded with layers of meaning that I don’t even realize I’m not seeing.
I struggle with the shifting sands of the vocabulary preferred by the queer and trans populations, and I apologize profusely if I’ve gotten something wrong in this post. I recognize that it’s not your job to educate me on vocabulary or concepts, but I hope you will help me out if I really screw up. After all, who better to ask than the people living these experiences? I want to get it right and you know it better than I do. I know there are many elements I’ll never fully understand at anything deeper than the intellectual level, because I’m not living them. The best I can hope for is secondhand knowledge.