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M1: Dear Prudence Dear Prudence Gifford 0 prudence fittingly approved here. Do. You think that I should contact him again. Help help. Thank you. Thank you.
F18: Hello and welcome back to the Dear Prudence show once again. And as always I am your host Dear Prudence also known as Daniel Mallory or Berg with me in the studio this week is the lay ho. The San Francisco Chronicle’s restaurant critic.
F9: She’s written for a bunch of food and pop culture publications like bitch food and wine taste and wine enthusiast and hosted podcasts like propaganda and racist sandwich. Welcome. Welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Thank you so much for being here. We have spent most of the weekend texting back and forth about various queer roots of which there has been substantial overlap.
F3: I would say yeah yeah I didn’t know the idea before you brought it up. I think it’s because I saw but I’m a cheerleader when I was really really wasted back in college and I just didn’t internalize any of the messages except like butts and skirts. Gotcha I like that part.
F6: Yep you got the gist you got the important right. I’m sure that it is not original to that movie. That is where I first encountered that sort of question but I don’t want to imply that I think the 1999 movie but I’m a cheerleader invented the idea of queer roots. It may very well come from 1998 or even 1997 possibly even before that. But I’m glad that once again the Addams Family is topping the list.
F3: Yeah. I mean specifically though Addams Family Values which was the sequel to The Addams Family movie that I watched over and over and over again when I was in middle school.
F9: And that’s the one right where Christopher Lloyd’s character keeps trying to get married and everyone’s freaking out about that. Is that right.
F3: Well he gets married to this woman who’s out for his money played by I think Gosh oh don’t Cusack. Yes yes yes yes yes. Debbie in the movie and she’s so Normie as she puts him in a light suit and he wears a wig it’s just amazing. And in that movie Wednesday and oh what’s his name the her broadly yes yes we go to the camp and there’s a reenactment of like the pilgrim Thanksgiving thing and then Wednesday like sets this girl on fire and burned her at the stake it’s amazing.
F6: Well well it’s definitely time to revisit some of this stuff and I’m very very excited to do that.
F9: But for now since this is not yet just a movie recap podcast we should try to help people with their various struggles and problems in life most of which boil down to there theme this week. I don’t know I’m not sure if there’s a theme this week. I kind of feel like it’s it’s family yet again as it so often is there’s only so many problems that people can have. But I’m excited I’m going to read our first letter because I like to mix it up sometimes and so without further ado I will read a subject surprising in Los Dear Prudence. I recently got married to my wonderful wife. Her family were there and mine were not. I have barely spoken to my parents after they turned on me when I came out. They went from loving to vicious hateful and violent overnight saying they would rather have no daughter than a gay one. As a result I have no time at all for parents who react badly to their children’s coming out even ones who react much more mildly than minded. My wife’s parents believe that they responded quote neutrally but my wife used to cry every time they spoke. They refused to meet me until we had been dating for three years to make sure it wasn’t a phase I was friendly and they were polite enough to me and that seemed to mean the world to my wife. So I remained friendly despite feeling contempt and anger. I expected more frosty politeness from them at the wedding but they shocked me. They were wonderful. After paying for a huge chunk of it as a surprise gift they were then warm and affectionate to me at the wedding referring to me as a new member of the family. Apparently they were appalled when my wife told them about my family not being there and they’ve wanted to make an effort to be better. My wife is overjoyed but I am still angry. I do not want to feel this way and wish very much to forgive them and return their affectionate behavior which seems to be continuing post wedding. But I simply can’t let go of my rage and disgust only hide it from my wife and vent to my friends in private. Can you advise me on how to alter my extremely harsh feelings toward my new in-laws. I’m worried about upsetting my wife and damaging a potentially good relationship with her family over old resentments I think I’m really glad that we’re starting with this letter because I feel like I often advise people who are at the point where they kind of need to cut off homophobic family but I think this is actually not at all uncommon and it can be really hard to figure out how to deal with family or in-laws who have genuinely turned a new leaf or turned a corner I guess.
F11: But in a way that does not erase the past and they often want to do that. They often want to just say well we’re great now. So no point bringing up old painful stuff.
F2: Yeah I have a lot of empathy for the letter writer here because you know this love and this influx of affection it could so easily been taken away as well.
F3: And I could tell that they don’t want to see their wife hurt by this again. You know wouldn’t it be more devastating for this affection to be taken away when she’s had a taste of it. And so I understand the cynicism. I understand you know how they can’t let go of their anger and their disgust because if they do and they they’re vulnerable to that they they and their wife could stand to be hurt again and much more deeply. So I get that I get that starting point. Yeah.
F7: And I also just want to say I think that your anger and disgust also makes sense to me because the money was lovely. You know money’s great. And and the new warmth and affection is wonderful. And it seems like as sometimes I think is the case when like conflicted Lee homophobic people catch a glimpse of what like full bore homophobia does to a relationship that can often kind of jolt them out of their own shittiness of like oh that’s clearly awful. I don’t want to go down that road. I’m going to do the opposite of what they’re doing. And that’s all to the good. But again none of this. It seems like has been accompanied by an apology or even an acknowledgement of the harm that their initial serious standoffish ness and clear disapproval has caused. Like that’s still a full three years at least of I’m not going to meet you. I’m not going to acknowledge you and your you know your wife crying every time she spoke to them. So I understand where you’re coming from. And obviously I don’t think you need to like call them up right now and say like by the way I’m still mad. But I do think that you need to be able to talk about this with your wife. And I think you have the right to I think right now you’re sort of afraid of ruining her happiness. But my guess is she also feels in addition to the relief that her family is no longer trying to punish her for being gay.
F4: Some are conflicted this about that sudden turnaround.
F7: And I don’t think you’re the only one feeling that right now. And so I think that there are ways to talk about it with her and I agree I think it’s right to not open with your most cynical and bitter feelings but I think to say Can we have a little time to talk about your family. Because right now I still feel pain and anger about the way that they treated you for years and I don’t want to let that get in the way of the ways that they’ve truly changed. But it’s also hard to see that change not come with an acknowledgement of what they did. Do you feel that way too does that make sense to you.
F3: Can we talk about it right. I agree. I think that would be a great way to start. But I also think you know it’s a lot to ask someone to forgive family that’s hurt them in the past especially family like the letter writer wrote who turned violent in response to their child’s identity and they’re trying to be their true self. But at the same time and I think that that trauma is what’s informing that perspective. At the same time I think the letter writer needs to step back a little bit and just really examine and I’m not saying that anything is in one direction or the other but really examine like how much that trauma is coloring the way they see this interaction based on the facts of what happened.
F1: Right. And I think to also to try to set realistic expectations for yourself. So part of the pressure right now I think is coming internally like you said I want to forgive them and return their affectionate behavior. That’s a tall order. You don’t have to do any of that right now. I think if your goal can be to talk honestly about what’s hard for you with your wife and to be polite when you see your in-laws that’s kind of all you need to do and more than that is not a job you need to give yourself and to even if you need to say to your wife like it’s going to take time for me I can’t jump in feet first with them. I would have a hard time if we were to get together every month and never discuss those last three years that would be hard for me and to try to figure out what does she want from that. What are you capable of. Would there be times when she would want to go be with her family by herself that you would need to step back from that. Is there a way in which she might after a while want to talk to her parents and say like Mom and Dad I want to both acknowledge how wonderful it was that you helped pay for the wedding how meaningful it’s been that you’ve really come around. And I also just want to name the fact that for three years you didn’t come around and that really really was hard for me and it would mean a lot to me if you would apologize for that. Again not to say that you have to force her to ask for that. If she says I’ll never do that you know you can revisit it later but. But to ask like where she where she’s out on that because my guess is right now she partly just feels so much relief that it’s better that she is worried that like if I invoked the past the past will come back. And so this also might be a good thing to discuss with a couples counselor at some point you don’t have to go right now I know you just had a wedding it was probably pretty expensive even if the family paid for some of it but that might be helpful at some point down the road. Does that strike you as reasonable.
F3: Yeah. And she is you know the wife is so happy and that you see this pattern a lot with like hot and cold relationships. Yeah. Where you know when the when you’re the person you’re in a relationship with be it a family member or friend runs cold you’re wishing for something a little bit more some affection. And then when they finally give it to you you’re just overjoyed and you can’t see anything else and you forget about the coldness you’re so quick to forgive when you’re stuck in that sort of dynamic. And it sounds like that. Yeah a little bit yeah.
F1: So you know you only recently got married. It’s only pretty recently that they’ve started acknowledging you and being warm to you. Don’t rush yourself to feel at ease with this new situation. Be polite be as you know as warm as feels appropriate and comfortable. You do not have to immediately let your guard down and and you know just remind yourself that sharing your feelings with your wife does not mean that you’re gonna be totally venting to her saying without any kind of filter exactly how angry you are. You can communicate the general lines of where you’re at without making her feel like I hate your family. They suck. I’m never really forgive them. Right. Like you could say part of this is still hard for me and that will be true without saying I have no time for your family. I think they’re just as bad as mine. I think this is hypocritical and insincere and I hope that they all move to the moon. Yeah. Give yourself time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Find diplomatic but honest ways to speak about this with your wife. Consider seeing a counselor at some point. If you think that that would be helpful and give yourself permission to be friendly but to keep them at arm’s length I think that’s great advice. You get to do that. And yeah I just think in general in my experience oftentimes when people start to quote unquote get over their transphobia or homophobia they want to give themselves maximal credit for what they do and they want to spend a minimum amount of time acknowledging what they’ve done and and that can be a challenge.
F2: And remember forgiveness tends to follow apologies.
F5: Yeah. They haven’t asked you for your forgiveness. So it’s not incumbent upon you to offer them something that they have not asked for. And you can be friendly or polite to somebody without necessarily forgiving them choosing not to forgive someone right away does not mean that you are an embittered or a vindictive person it’s OK to say that’s in the future. If it comes down the road at all. Congratulations. I’m so glad that you got to marry your wife. Yeah it can be really hard. I don’t want to dwell too much on this but it’s hard when your partner is so relieved and overwhelmed that family acceptance and you’re like. But I still remember seeing you cry every time you talk to them. And I can’t just forget that or pretend that it didn’t happen or that it didn’t affect me too.
F3: And remember that those feelings are there because you love her. Yeah. You don’t want her to be hurt. Exactly. That’s you know you have to keep your eyes on the prize there. Right.
F5: And it’s also OK for you to say ways in which that hurt you like you do have some grounds to talk about. These are my in-laws. You know it. I understand that you want to center your wife in this and I do think that that’s appropriate. But you know this isn’t just like a girlfriend of a couple of months. This is your wife like you are now a part of her family in some ways and you do have some standing to name your own experience and your own feelings. I am excited to speak to the next question and I do feel ready to move on. If you do. Absolutely fabulous.
F7: So subject is how do I start these things called relationships. Dear Prudence I’m 29 years old and I’ve never dated and I just don’t know where to start. I’m an individual with mild cerebral palsy which has sometimes affected my confidence. I’ve come to terms with this and I’ve gained confidence in recent years. But if I for instance use any dating apps which I have sporadically tried I don’t want to give anyone a surprise. I’ve invented a false reason not to date saying that I’m focusing on my education first but really I’ve always wanted at least one person in my life who’s not a platonic friend or family member. I recently received my Master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and I’m looking for work in that field. I’m not financially stable yet and I live with my parents for medical reasons unrelated to my cerebral palsy. I’m not able to drive so I rely on Uber slash Lyft and rides from friends and family. My friends have always told me that I will find someone and that I’m a catch but I don’t know. Romance seems foreign to me. I’ve always understood logically that love can come at any age but I don’t want my first experience with love when I’m in my golden years. So at this point my life given what I’ve expressed I’m asking for future reference when I’m in a better more stable place. How do I start quote romantic relationships and what’s your opinion on navigating disclosure of disability. The funniest thing of all is that my friends come to me for relationship advice because I am a neutral party and I know how to navigate friendships well.
F3: It sounds like this person has wonderful friends. Yeah who could introduce them to potential partners. I think they’re a great resource for that because they know the situation. They love this person obviously and they know this person’s perspective on relationships so they’re able to introduce that to a potential partner too. I think they would be an amazing start. Do you know anybody who’s single who would wouldn’t mind a little bit of like complication. But you know obviously these friends trust this person for relationship advice. They have a good head on their shoulders about it and they’re ready.
F7: I think if you were to pursue that route and I think that there’s totally reasons too I would frame it as like Hey I would like to date. I would like a romantic relationship. I would like to get to know people. I also haven’t done this a lot before so there’s a lot that I just don’t know about. So if at any point you can think of anyone or you meet anyone who you think might be interested please let me know. Consider me when you’re thinking about setting people up you don’t have to produce someone by next week. But I just want you to know I’m available and interested. So if that ever pops up in your other friendships think of me and that way it’s not like everyone now out on a mission looking for me but you know that it’s going to be going on in the back of their minds. I would say in terms of disclosure it seems to me like right now you’re thinking of it in terms of like something that I am obligated to share with people because the like have a right to know about it so that they can say no because I’m too complicated. I would encourage you to reframe that and I would say you there’s there’s no etiquette in terms of like oh you’re obligated to discuss it. It is true that people are often rude and ablest. I hope you don’t encounter a lot of that if you do. It’s not because you did something wrong by failing to disclose like the fact that you have cerebral palsy that would just mean that other people were being rude and ablest and that sucks. So you know in terms of what you want to share with potential dates or early dates if you are going on a first date with somebody and you don’t want to share with them how you got there you do not have to. It is a first date. This is basic like what kind of movies do you like. Do you enjoy this restaurant. So sort of conversations so that you can absolutely save for a third or fourth date in part because I don’t think you want your entire first date to feel like you’re you know reciting a list of things you are worried they might not like about you. So that’s what I would say about some of the more logistical stuff like living at home with your family or getting rights from other people you can disclose that when and if you feel comfortable and you do not have to lead with it. If you are worried about going out with people who would react badly either to your various medical issues or to the fact that you live at home you can absolutely like you know certainly your friends will mention it. I think if they’re trying to set you up and certainly if you decide to get on more of the apps if you would like to lead with that you can either put it in your profile and just say like this is what I’m working with. If that doesn’t work for you keep it moving but if you don’t feel comfortable putting that out there and I can also understand why you would not want to. You can also say before you meet up like by the way I have cerebral palsy I just want to let you know so that you weren’t surprised. You don’t have to see that either.
F5: It’s okay for people to experience like new things or like I even feel like I shouldn’t have used the word surprise there because again like that thing is like the implicit assumption underneath that is everyone has the right to expect of like able bodied person on a date and I don’t know that that is a standard you need to worry about upholding does that make sense.
F2: It does yes. Also you know I’ve been thinking about the logistical stuff too you know having to take Uber a lot of people do. Don’t the car yeah. I don’t drive and I know it’s not a big deal anymore. You know what I mean to say like oh no I took a lift the traffic was terrible. There’s all kinds of excuses you can make up if you don’t want to just dive ahead and tell them your whole life story. Most people don’t do that on their first date anyway. Like you said people talk about the movies they saw or their opinions about you know Harry Potter you know silly things. Yeah because that’s a really good way to judge how someone reacts to things right what tastes they have a line with yours that sort of thing right.
F1: Yeah. And I would add to that lots of people in their 20s especially people who have been in grad school or are in grad school live with family. So that is not going to put you way outside the realm of like average 20 something experience.
F2: And there are a lot of places to make out outside of your parents house. Yeah restaurant alleys. The park you know there’s there’s all sorts of situations that you get into that don’t require taking someone home. Right. It’s OK right.
F1: So I’ll also say for what it’s worth if the idea interests you and appeals to you I know that there are several dating apps that are geared towards like people who deal with either chronic illnesses or various disabilities. And if that sounds like fun to you if you’re open to that and if the idea of we will all be starting from the assumption that this is like normal and on the table that would feel kind of freeing. You can do that in addition to other like kind of the bog standard dating apps. I don’t want you to feel like I have to restrict myself to these ones because it will be easiest. I want you to know that that is an option you can literally just google dating apps for people with disabilities see what comes up decide if any of them appeal to you. If the idea makes you feel like I would feel really relieved and at ease and like I’d be able to expect a certain level of understanding compassion politeness open mindedness from people that would be fabulous. And if part of you feels like oh I feel like I’d be silo ing myself off and I’d feel awkward and self-conscious. Don’t do it but just know that that is an option to you if you’re interested in not having a lot of like. So here’s something you should know about me kind of conversations right.
F3: And I think you know to go back to the friends if they are if they live near you if they’re like ISIL friends go out with them you know and maybe tell them OK I’m looking maybe to meet some people would you mind like you know talking me up to anybody who might seem kind of interested in hanging out with us that sort of thing. There’s ways to do it that aren’t creepy or overbearing. It’s just like it’s like making friends but you know a little sexier totally and yeah.
F1: And I think the last thing I’ll say is you were very conscientious sounding you’re very worried about how my potential first dates react to me. I want to make sure that they are all comfortable. And that’s great. You are also a person who is going on this date and it is important that you feel comfortable. So I want you to spend at least as much time as you spend worrying about these other people’s hypothetical comfort as you worry about your own. And think about what are reactions that would hurt my feeling. Or that would make me feel disrespected or that would make me think this date is over. I think if you spend too much time worrying about the other people my fear is that you will think I can put up with anything. And it’s always my fault if somebody else is rude or surprised or upset or responds in a shitty way. And I just want to say ask yourself before any potential dates what could someone do or say that would make me think I’m not gonna have a good time I’m going to go home. Yeah because I think sometimes if you approach it from just this way of like I don’t want to be a quote surprise then it’s sort of like you think I should kind of apologize for who I am. And if somebody treats me badly as a result of that it’s my job to be easygoing flexible understanding supercell not have feelings. And that is a recipe for letting yourself be hurt. And I don’t want that for you.
F2: So and you should feel entitled to take a little bit of space here too. You think about what you want. Yes. Not just like what barbs you want to avoid. Yeah but what qualities in a human you admire and that you would want in your life as a partner and you know when you when you think about that think about how you can put yourself in view of those people you know you can meet a lot of people who volunteering for like political projects or work volunteer. I used to volunteer at a movie theater and I met so many interesting people who were really into weird movies knew that any of them could’ve been really great partners. You know that’s one way to get your foot in the door. Yeah yeah yeah.
F9: And I’ll end with all this because your other question was like you know are not a question exactly but I don’t want my first experience with love to happen when I’m in my golden years. Even with all this set I cannot promise that any of this is a recipe for finding love. I think the other good that you will be able to go on some dates if that becomes a goal of yours. But beyond that there are no guarantees. You may go on some boring dates you may go on some unpleasant dates you may go on some dates with people who really like you and you don’t feel anything. You may go on some dates where you’re crazy about them and they just aren’t feeling it. Beyond that you know dating is a crapshoot and a lot of it’s out of your control. Sometimes it feels like going on a lot of very boring job interviews.
F7: Sometimes it feels really unsettling sometimes it feels like how could I feel this way and you feel that way. Did we just go on the same date. And I think that’s just going to have to be something you feel your way through. It’s chaos. It’s a mess. Very excited for you to get into it. It’s pure chaos. It’s pure chaos. Yeah. Yeah. Good luck. I would love to hear from you too. So if there’s ever a time when you like give dating a little bit of a whirl and you sort of see how it’s going.
F8: What’s harder than you thought was easier than you thought. What you’re enjoying. Give us a buzz OK. I think I just read that one. A Why is it every time I either read or don’t read a letter I instantly forget it. Like I go pure goldfish. You read that one. Great. Then I’m not going to read the next one.
F3: OK great. Subject withholding adoption information Dear Prudence I am doubly adopted first as an infant and a second time after my adoptive mother died when I was 2 and my father remarried my father’s second wife is the only mother I can remember. I’ve always been comfortable with my past and have zero curiosity about my origins. The only difference between me and my peers was I had an extra set of grandparents. I honestly never felt the need to tell anyone that I was adopted until my current boyfriend asked me about how my grandparents figured into my family tree. I explained and he actually got angry with me. We’ve been dating for six months but have been friends for years. He accused me of hiding this and then started to grill me over the course of several days. He started to tell various other people and I got a lot of shock and even outrage from friends. I snapped after another friend started going off on me not wanting to find my real parents and I told to shut up. My parents were my real parents. I don’t know if everyone is acting unreasonably or I am. Is this really that big of a deal. Everyone is acting unreasonably. Yeah they’re all being assholes and I’m so sorry. Yep.
F11: Very straightforward. Your friends are being such jackasses and your boyfriend is it a boyfriend. Yeah. Your boyfriend sucks and you should stop dating him. Yeah
F2: yeah I mean I think shock is. I’m sure you know that’s reasonable. But I think if you’re like oh wow that’s such that’s so interesting and your parents are so cool for like you know I don’t know I just I don’t know.
F7: I mean mild surprise is the most I’m actually going to permit on this one. That’s first you know why I didn’t know that. Thanks for letting me know if you ever want to talk about it I’m here. That’s it. Like you didn’t actually like everything is still true. Right it’s right. My parents are still my parents. I was still raised by them. I still call them mom and dad. It’s not like by the way those were actors I hired. Like then I could maybe understand as you respond that like this is fucking bullshit. He got angry at you for being adopted and not talking about it constantly. Well it doesn’t really affect your life that you’re adopted anyway. Like a Dickens character and just yeah. Like you’re not interested in finding out more about your biological family so it’s not like this is going to change your family at any point. You’ve never known a family but this like this is the only mom you remember having like it’s a it’s a footnote in the story of your life. That’s why you don’t talk about it a lot because it’s not especially important to you on a daily basis.
F2: That’s kind of it. Yeah yeah. I mean it’s certainly good of you to disclose you know when he asked. And that was very generous of you.
F1: But then he like started telling other people. Yeah. With all like. Because he was angry in order to make you feel ashamed and to get other people to put pressure on you. And I got to say that’s really worrying if that’s the way he responds to feelings surprise or left out.
F3: Yeah something that has nothing to do with him right. Yeah. It doesn’t bode well for your friends too. And I hope that you have other friends who responded a bit more reasonably and positively that you could talk to about this as well like Oh man. Because because put yourself I’m trying to imagine the situation of the boyfriend who and what he possibly could have said you know to his other friends who were just maybe because he’s like I’m so mad. And I found out that this guy my partner was adopted and it wasn’t that horrible that they didn’t tell me because they’re like how did that affect you.
F7: Exactly. Yeah. Can you name anything that this changes.
F12: The only reason he would accuse you of hiding this and feel this upset is because on some level his thought process was I can’t believe I treated these people like your real family because I know that they’re really not. And that to me says everything about completely out there. Yeah. His ideas about adoption and real ness. Yeah he has done you a favor of showing you what an asshole he is. Please dump him immediately. And with regards to your friends who have been angry at you to just go back and say like this is to stop right now I would like an apology. I did not tell you this information. This was told because my boyfriend was angry at me. I haven’t shared it with you because my family is my family and you need to apologize and not bring this up again. And if they can’t do that I’m so sorry. I hope you still have a couple of friends left over but if you need to start over. You need to start over and find people who will not treat you like this because these are not going to be good friends to you if they can’t apologize and let it go.
F3: Yeah. They don’t have any right to treat you like a freak show. And that seems to me from this letter. How they’re treating you right.
F12: Just like what is this like the 30s like. I feel like adoption is fairly commonplace. I feel like people talk about it to varying degrees of complexity if you like. It’s fairly well known at this point that some people who are adopted feel very curious about their biological family. Some people don’t. It’s kind of their call because it’s kind of their experience. And so all this nonsense of like you’ve been hiding it. It’s like no it’s just not a big part of my life. And yeah the idea that it’s your obligation to tell everyone like Jesse you know this isn’t really my family I’m a really adopted I just find that really gross.
F3: Yeah. And it seems like they’re trying to put you into a narrative that they want to see. Right. Right like the adoptee trying to find their bio family and having a tearful reunion like that is a story that we’re fed about those relationships and you don’t have to fit that narrative. You can have your own Yeah and your own truth and the yelling and the way that you want to live. So do that. If they can’t deal with it. Fuck them. Yeah.
F14: I’m really really sorry that you got this response from so many people but it’s not a sign that you did anything wrong. It’s a sign that unfortunately you have a number of people in your life who are real assholes. And I’m so sorry. And I hope that future groups of friends and future partners are not assholes and hear things like oh yeah by the way my parents adopted me when I was a baby and they say Oh interesting.
F7: Thanks for telling me. End of conversation. Yeah like a little thumbs up or like oh were you ever curious about you know anything else about your biological family to which you could say no. And then they would say oh great thanks for telling me what to get dinner. Yeah. That’s the level of response you should be getting right this guy.
F15: So how about those Avengers. That’s also a good response I get. I guess if you want to talk about those events you certainly do not have to. OK so this next one I am eager to advise because I think this is a real clear cut case of you are being way too hard on yourself. So here we go. The subject is stuck in drag at work.
F14: Dear Prudence I’m a 23 year old recent college grad living in a large city. I’m a writer but that doesn’t pay the bills so I’ve worked at the front desk at a small museum in a hip District for about a year now. I have a desk near the entrance greeting guests and helping out with various administrative tasks. A security guard sits next to me throughout the day we sometimes chat and are often joined by maintenance workers and the facilities manager. I find a generally unfulfilling and am seeking other employment but it’s fine for now. It’s been an eventful year and at least one sense though after decades of repression and shame I’ve finally accepted that I’m a trans woman. It’s hard to express how joyous and what a relief this acceptance has been. I finally feel free and capable of choosing my own path in life. It’s glorious. I came out first to my girlfriend who’s thrilled then some close friends then to my family except for a couple of relatives. Everyone has been supportive. I hope to start medical and social transition soon. Unfortunately that’s on hold until I either find a new job or solve the issue at my current one. Every single security guard and maintenance worker harbors a deep dark disgust towards trans people and trans women in particular which they express to each other and to me in some really horrifying ways. I don’t engage but I also don’t say anything. I worry that they’ll turn on me. I know that my state has strong anti-discrimination laws and that reporting these guys to H.R. would be a pretty simple matter especially if I said I was going to begin transitioning soon. However aside from being a closeted trans woman I’m extremely privileged and white and my family has money. These other guys are mostly men of color from working class backgrounds. I know some of them are supporting families speaking to H.R.. I worry me cost these men their jobs and I really don’t want that to happen. On the other hand I’m not guaranteed to get another job soon and my emotional state is really suffering for not being able to come out publicly and begin my transition. Plus maybe I have an obligation to any trans people who might take my job in the future to speak up. Is it morally okay to mention this to H.R. and would there be a sensitive way to do it.
F1: So I just like I’m so sorry that you are in a position right now that you’re questioning whether or not it would be morally okay to mention to H.R. that you work with people who have made it pretty clear that they hate trans women before your own transition like that you’re worried about that is not a worry you should have they have if nothing else like they have made it pretty clear that they would potentially be violent towards you at work if you were to start transition. You are under no obligation to suffer threats mockery acts of violence. The intimation of violence simply because of like any sort of general sense of like I’m worried about white privilege in general or I’m worried about the fact that like my family is is well off like that’s not the question here and it’s not like oh well if you’re this amount of working class you’re allowed to be that amount of trans phobic. That’s not how like class solidarity works. That’s not how that’s not how you need to think about yourself. The question is should I talk to H.R. about my transphobia co-workers. And the answer is yes. And I also just want to stress I think even with those robust anti-discrimination laws the likelihood that your entire like maintenance staff would be fired rather than like given a talking to. First I think you’re kind of catastrophe guessing here because you’re so worried about like all of your potential privileges and not at all about your very real vulnerabilities.
F7: So yes report it immediately tell them that you plan on considering transitioning at work and that you need a lot of support in place before you would be able to do that. EXPRESS Your concerns ask for help you know figure out what what laws are on your side and protect yourself. Sure. For the sake of other potential trans people at work but also because you deserve protections as a trans person all by yourself regardless of what other privileges in life you may have. And yeah again I really think it is very unlikely that H.R. is first response is gonna be we’re firing everybody. I think the first response is really going to be like we’ll do some more training. We will talk to people one on one we will make it clear like what behavior will and won’t be tolerated at work. And then if these guys choose to prioritize their transphobia over their employment that’s a choice they’re making.
F2: Who. Right.
F3: I think what you’re doing by reporting this to H.R. is also starting a paper trail. Yeah and getting them to you know if they don’t already have these protections in place as company policy to make them and you know make it happen and actually enforce them and you will be able to be in a position to see how well they’re enforced and hold the company to account. Right. Because that’s how that is how non-discrimination is practiced. You know throughout the corporate world throughout the world in the U.S. at least. And so you know if something happens then you can say like OK I reported this already. And so what are you to do about it. So it’s not just holding these people to account but also the company that is supposed to you know take care of you according to the law. Yeah I think that part’s really important. So yes it will help future trans people but most importantly it will help you advocate for yourself and your rights as an employee of this company. Right.
F1: And just again anybody who experiences some other forms of disadvantage or oppression that does not then entitle them to like 30 percent extra transphobia that doesn’t like actually help them with any of the problems that they are facing. And that’s just not how. That’s just not going to be a good or a fruitful way of of asking people to treat one another professionally and civilly at work. So I would just encourage you to try to let go of that wherever possible and to remember that transphobia is a choice that they are making. They are choosing to say these you say deep dark disgust and horrifying forms of conversation. So my guess is it’s not just like boy I think trans people are kind of weird like I wouldn’t do to truths that I think it sounds more violent than that. Yeah it sounds like it’s kind of an obsession with all of them. It sounds like they try to egg each other on. It sounds like they’re trying to communicate to anyone nearby like hey if you’re thinking about transitioning we’ll have something to say or do about that. And you you deserve to be protected from that. They don’t need to do that at work in order to do their jobs. They don’t need that in order to support their families. You have every right to be protected from threats of violence as a trans woman and you do not need to apologize for that or feel guilty about it. And I wish you all the happiness and safety in the world. You are entitled to that. You deserve it. Everyone deserves it. And I hope that H.R. responds robustly and I hope that you are also able to keep up the job search if you ultimately decide like I don’t trust H.R. to look out for me in the way that I need and that you do what ever you need to do to prioritize your own safety happiness well-being and transition.
F3: Right. And you know worst comes to worst if you don’t like this job anyway. There are other things you can do. You can. You are a writer. You mentioned and there are so many online copywriting services that you could sign up for and take piecework. That just you know it doesn’t use too much of your brainpower either. You could just write about drills or random stuff and get paid for it and so you know there are options. There are alternatives especially if you know you’re a writer. You can monetize that and not have to show up somewhere yet you don’t have to be at.
F9: I do have a lot of friends who have early in transition decided when they were able to to prioritize freelance work that they could do from home in order to minimize the amount of time that they would have to potentially be around a lot of people whose views on trans people they didn’t know when they were in a very vulnerable visible time. If that is an option for you if that is something that you can pursue. I would certainly encourage you to consider that. I also hope that you’re if you don’t have other trans women in your life yet. I hope that you can find some soon or find a support group or other women who you can ask for help and advice who may have gone through something like this before you do say I think that you live in a large city. So I think odds are decent that there’s a trans support group somewhere in that city and even if you go and you’re like I’m not nuts about everybody here and this isn’t going to be a huge part of my life just to go and ask for advice about how to deal with transphobia at work and what have what has worked for some of the other women there I think will help you immensely and I want you to be able to take advantage of every resource that you can. And good luck. Please write back. I really want to hear from you.
F3: Another benefit actually to go into these groups is that they might have recommendations for places that are really good places to work for trans people in your city. Yeah.
F10: Yeah that is totally valuable and that’s something that I’ve seen in some of the support groups that I go to. So again I can’t promise you if you go once you’re gonna walk out of there with a branding job but I do think it will feel meaningful to talk to other people who have done similar things and also dealt with transphobia at work. And to say here’s what works for me.
F8: So our last one which we do have time for the subject is mom thinks my ex-girlfriend made me gay and I just wanna say who among our mothers does not. I love this one. I love when you encounter a parent or a relative’s kind of like half baked theory as to why you’re like gay or bisexual or trans or whatever it is that you are and it’s always interesting like oh that’s what you think it is.
F16: All right.
F8: Sure. And you know I don’t know. Maybe your ex-girlfriend did maybe make you gay. Who cares. I don’t care why anyone is gay. If you’re gay that’s great. It doesn’t matter.
F1: Or rather I think people sometimes worry too much about why. And it’s just like matter. We’re all here. Although the queer root conversation is so fascinating I mean I think it’s much more interesting to look back in your own history and think about what were moments that felt compelling or instrumental or like the beginning of something that would later take really important shape rather than I need to pinpoint the source of the gayness to accomplish some particular end.
F9: That to me feels like you know I don’t know why I have red hair. I just know I have red hair. The only reason I could imagine trying to investigate the source of that would be to like change it which is what I think I often get a little wary about like why quote unquote is somebody something. Anyways Dear Prudence during a recent session with my therapist I unlocked mostly repressed 15 year old memories of my high school ex-girlfriend. My therapist labeled this as a trauma for me as it included deceit betrayal and some serious ghosting. This was in the early 2000s before we had a clever name for it. If it weren’t for therapy my question would probably just be about how to deal with this myself. But the problem here is really my mother when I called my mom to talk about what I didn’t covered in therapy and to ask what she remembered and how we dealt with it at the time. I was surprised to learn that she thinks about it often and at the time she and my dad kept a close eye on me to look for signs of depression. Now literally half of my life later she considers it quote the most significant event that shaped how you relate to women which I take to mean I blame your ex for you being gay now. I mean on some level she’s not exactly wrong. I mean it was a significant event that shaped how I relate to people in general not even just women. I don’t trust people easily. I have big abandonment issues and I’ve been known to hunt to catch people in lies. But that’s anyone I try to get close to. Thank God for therapy but I also know that I was gay before I dated my high school girlfriend. I just couldn’t admit it. My mother’s a very religious woman in her 60s who has clearly outdated views of homosexuality. I’m out to her and my father but it’s never something that we really talk about. I’m not dating anyone right now so there’s not much to talk about anyways. I live several states away so our time together is pretty limited to I need to spend energy changing her mind. What responsibility do I have to convince her that I was born gay. And how would I even go about doing it.
F2: You know my first reaction to this. I didn’t read this letter ahead of time but I think you don’t have an obligation. If it’s not hurting you actively and you know it doesn’t sound like you’re hurt. It sounds like you’re a bit bemused and just kind of like. Well I mean she doesn’t get it but that’s OK. Just let it lie because she’s also 60 has not. And you are an adult and there’s not a lot that she can do about this. It seems like they know what you’re about and what you’re doing. It’s not like she’s going to invent a hot tub time machine to take you back to 15 and fix everything. What are you gonna do it doesn’t seem like she has a plan. It’s just like she has an opinion. Yeah I think it’s hard.
F5: I definitely remember a point at which I was dreading explaining one of my first serious relationships with a girl when I was still a girl and being asked you know in high school you used to wear a lot of skirts and I’ve noticed that now you seem to dress more often and in pajamas. Is that connected at all. Just be like like a lot of like what. But also like I guess I can understand that if you didn’t really think much about queerness before this and you’re trying to furnish an explanation for why I’m different from the other people in this family you would maybe try to come up with weird convoluted sort of like LA Marchi and theories but it is also. I just I just think generally when people try to source somebody else’s gayness or queerness it usually just sounds totally bananas right. Because it is sort of bananas to try like you know why is anyone anything like why do you like the kind of people that you like. I just think there’s limited utility in trying to say like No mom I was gay because of the following hormone wash that I experienced in the womb like that to me sounds is I think that is as much a waste of your time as like well this girl was really mean to you in high school so now you’re gay like I don’t want to put them on quite the same footing. I understand that for some people they think that there’s a lot of value in kind of like identifying the source of gayness not in like interpersonal dynamics but in something ineffable something that can’t be changed because then other people would stop trying to change it. I get that I understand why people feel that way. I also just feel like it’s all good. It’s mostly just fine to be gay so it doesn’t really matter how you arrive to it all of which is to say Yeah I’m with you. I think that you don’t need to worry tons about trying to change your mom’s mind if you want to you can also just say like I’m kind of glad you share that with me mom because I think I can put that fear to rest I actually know I was gay way before I met her. That cat was already out of the bag maybe don’t see the cat was out of the bag. If your mom is inclined to like make puns but you know not not to say it with the goal of changing her mind if you feel like she wants to go back and forth about it but if you want to just say ones like I’m glad you said this I had a chance to clear the air I knew I was gay way before her it kind of sounds like they have a pretty good honest relationship to if this person is calling their mother to tell them about the contents of their therapy appointments.
F2: Yeah. Well done. I mean that’s amazing. So maybe she is willing to listen at the same time I do think that searching for the source yeah is so often a it’s like Freud gone wild where it’s sort of trickled out like Freudian theory has trickled out into you know popular culture for decades now in the past century and people don’t quite know what to do with it still.
F3: You know I think there’s a little bit of like something happened. There was a trigger moment. There was an it like a primal scene and then everything changed whereas things are a lot more complicated than that. Yeah.
F10: And I just think I both want to acknowledge the ways in which that relationship was really painful. I also think that if you find it useful to use the language of trauma about this you can consider exploring it but I would also just say like it’s you know teenagers do go see each other. They’re not yet fully equipped with like the fully grown emotional arsenal of healthy adult and you know I don’t want to speak too much about what that relationship was it wasn’t like for you because you’ve only shared a little bit of the outline. So actually stopped myself there used language that feels helpful to you. I’m glad that you’re kind of challenging old assumptions that have protected you from things that you suffered or experienced as a teenager that are maybe not things that you face now and to just try to figure out what are good ways that I can speak to the scared semi closeted sixteen year old that still lives within me and what our ways that I can remind myself now that I’m an adult and a different person and I’m not dating that same girl. But yeah all that’s just more fodder for future therapy and yeah if you say that to your mom and she’s like sure sure sure but you kind of get the feeling she still thinks it was that evil lady. Yeah I wouldn’t waste a lot of time trying to convince her of something. I would just say it once and then let it be what it is. And if you need to continue holding your mom sometimes at arm’s length about that that’s kind of fine. But yeah no you don’t really need to spend a lot of energy changing her mind. You’re gay.
F3: That’s kind of a done deal unless she’s getting ready to assassinate this woman in the dead of night in vengeance or something silly like that.
F10: I do think too often parents who don’t want to admit that they have a gay or a buyer a trans kid want to find somebody else who’s quote false it is so they can kind of say oh I really knew my kid before all this happened and that was the real version of my kid and this version isn’t. And you may want to say like Mom when you say or imply that this person made me gay. Part of what that tells me is that you think of the last 15 or 16 years of my life as solely a response to pain or trauma. That’s not how I see myself. This has been my adult life and like yeah that relationship was painful in a lot of ways and it gave me a lot of issues around trust and abandonment. But it did not like warped me from the like previously good version of myself and you know if you want to get to know me now as a gay adult I would love for that but I can’t accept your premise that I used to be something else and then I was changed by this evil witch.
F2: Yeah. Now that I was ruined because you’re not good and that’s the implication.
F8: Even if she doesn’t use that language if it’s like well when you are 15 you were this and then this happened and for some reason it turned you permanently gay. Obviously the implication there is that you were normal and then you were ruined. And I think that’s also hard for a lot of us if our first relationships were queer in environments where that was not OK. Often times as like 16 17 18 year old somewhat closeted kids in our first relationships we are hurt or we date somebody who doesn’t treat us well or we go through a very dramatic breakup. And I think sometimes if somebody is already predisposed to think of gay or by people as being like inherently unhealthy it’s sort of like there’s the proof. See this is an unhealthy relationship. I don’t know how to separate the bad behavior from the gayness and that is a lot to have to try to prove which is like it’s hard. It’s like I just want you to understand that I’m sad about a breakup not an evil twisted breakup.
F3: Yeah I mean that kind of narrative is a lot easier I think for some people to chew on rather than accepting that there’s nothing they can do.
F8: Yeah or like even if there was something I could do. Do you know what I mean like I would not volunteer for like D transition therapy even if I believed that it worked like I’m good I’m cool and that I think is sometimes hard for other people. And again that’s why I think there’s sometimes a limit to how useful a sort of like Born This Way narrative can be because the implication is often obviously I wouldn’t choose this for myself if I could do something about it. I would be normal but since I can’t we should all be nice to me I think we can do better than that. I mean I also know that I’m not saying anything like new or unique. People have been talking about this for a long time.
F11: So anyway anyways the point is that roots are great it’s great to have a root. It’s great to watch ROOTS. It’s great to eat roots. Yeah I have some sweet potatoes. I mean the roast lately it’s been too hot. But kind of foggy today so I was thinking I might you could boil make a salad. I don’t often boil sweet potatoes. Have I been missing out. Would you encourage me to start boiling them. I like to think it’s fun. Or a microwave it OK and then makes me potato pie. I do love sweet potato pie. It is an extremely delicious pie. I also enjoy snow and putting tahini and soy sauce on them and it’s good. It’s really good. Maybe a tiny bit of honey bounce it all out but maybe think about it. Think about it. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. I feel like I was all over the place today. I would just like to add a disclaimer that maybe all of my advice today was bad. I feel weirdly self-conscious about it. So everyone listening this week total Mulligan everything I told you feel free to disregard or do the opposite. I mean you’re always free to disregard it so feel free to disregard this too word is. I’d like to know what the opposite of like letting your girlfriend breastfeed a baby would be forced her to breastfeed. That doesn’t seem have the baby breastfeed on you.
F12: Oh my goodness so many so many different options so many different nipple based options.
F5: I think it’s time for us to end this. I think I’m going into weird territory and I should probably go have a glass of water and lie down. Thanks for having me. They fine so much for being here. Have a great day.
F19: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence. Our producer is Phil circus.
M3: Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Head to Slate dot com slash Dear Prudence to subscribe and remember you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate Plus go to Slate dot com slash pretty pod to sign up.
F20: If you want me to answer your question call me and leave a message at 4 0 1 3 7 1 dear that’s 3 3 2 7 and you might hear your answer on an episode of the show. You don’t have to use your real name or location and at your request you can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short 30 seconds a minute tops. Thanks for listening.
F18: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. It’s weird to me that this guy never names his baby like he just keeps calling her the baby. And maybe that was just what came to mind but the description that you give here is like my girlfriend has a baby and here’s all the stuff that she does for the baby and I’m just curious. You don’t say much about what you do or ways in which you two have tried to approach this as a team. And so I’m wondering if kind of the first or only time that you’re getting really involved about big picture stuff has been to say. So when are you going to stop breastfeeding her.
F10: I can understand why she might bristle a little bit to listen to the rest of that conversation. Join Slate Plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudie pod.