'Matilda' star Mara Wilson has a message for the LGBTQ community: Come out.

Before I ever spent hour upon hour with my nose buried in the pages of a "Harry Potter" book, there was "Matilda."

I’ve always loved to read and have hauled too-big piles of books home from the library (although not in a red wagon, I will admit) more times than I can count. Plus, what 7-year-old budding queer femme doesn’t dream of discovering a secret superpower and running away from her loneliness into a beautiful world of friendship where she can play games and eat cookies all day long?

I mean, it always seemed like a pretty solid life choice to me. Matilda has followed me ever since childhood. And I’m not necessarily talking about the Danny DeVito movie or even the Roald Dahl book. I’m talking about Matilda herself; Matilda the person; Matilda Wormwood, the character made real by a young girl in a 98-minute-long movie I’d wager nearly every millennial (in the U.S., at least) has seen. I’m talking about Mara Wilson.


It felt like fate that Wilson and I would meet.

She went to college with one of my family members and, once I moved back to New York, kept showing up at various comedy events I attended around the city.

Then, in early 2017 —  after coming out publicly the previous summer  —  she became a Lambda Legal donor. These aren’t even all the connections we’ve had over the years. But ultimately, I knew that it was only a matter of time.

So when we sat down to talk last week, to say that I was excited might be an understatement. Little did I know just how much her own experience as a queer woman would mirror mine.

Wilson came out publicly as bi  —  although she now tends to prefer the label queer ("I like queer more than I like bisexual, but I have no problem with people calling me bisexual," she says)  —  on Twitter in the wake of June 2016’s tragedy at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. At the time, she’d recently come out to most of her close friends and family (they took it well — her brother "did not even look up from his enchilada" when she told him, she tells me through laughter), and she felt that it was important as someone in the public eye to show solidarity with her community.

The news quickly went viral, spreading across social media and trending on Facebook. "I think that if you’re in a place of security and privilege  —  which I can admit that I am  —  it’s important for you to [come out]," she says. "I don’t see myself as anybody’s savior, but I’d rather it were me — who can afford therapy and afford this platform — getting harassed for being who I am than a young LGBTQ kid. I think it’s important."

But the response to her news — while mostly supportive — was not entirely positive.

"I often wish that I hadn’t done it then because I got accused of taking advantage of a tragedy for personal attention," she says. "Now, clearly I like attention, but I am not so callous as to make a tragedy about myself, my life and my story. That isn’t what I was going for."

"A lot of people like to tell women — and especially queer women — that they are doing things for attention," she adds. "And it is strange to me that the worst thing a woman can do is do something for attention."

Wilson's words resonated with me more than I can even fully describe. I’ve written about what it’s like to come out and be out as a queer femme woman before but have never really been able to put into words the intense anxiety surrounding the "attention stigma" that comes with having a non-monosexual identity.

See, a few things can happen when you come out as bi (or queer or pan or any of the many varied non-monosexual identities that exist), particularly as a woman.

The first is that folks don’t believe you. Another is that people ignore it. And a third is that a lot of assumptions are made about who you are and what you like.

But the theme underlying all of these reactions is attention. If someone doesn’t believe you, it’s because either they think that bisexuality doesn’t exist or that you’re confused, or they think that you’re saying you’re bi to get attention (frequently all of these thoughts occur synchronously).

If someone ignores it, it’s — again — because they likely believe you’re "doing it for the attention" and don’t want to give you the thing they think you’re seeking. And if someone begins to make assumptions about you, those assumptions are usually — surprise — that you like attention and are innately promiscuous.

"There’s definitely a stigma," Wilson says. "One of the reasons I didn’t come out for a very long time was because I grew up hearing that bisexual girls were 'crazy,' [which is not a term I would use]. I heard that all the time. I heard that bisexual girls were 'crazy,' they were greedy, they were selfish and they caused drama. They were the worst. They wanted attention."

There’s a lot here, but certainly the most interesting (to me, at least) thing about biphobia is the sexism, slut shaming, ableism and mental health stigma that is disguised within it.

"Throughout history, women and women-identified people have had to struggle to get any kind of power or control over their lives," Wilson says. "And control is seen as a bad thing. It’s seen as being manipulative."

"When you think of bisexuals, you think of villainy. You think of people using their sexuality to get what they want, using other people and hurting other people," she adds. "Or just having a lot of sex, and … if you are 'promiscuous,' that is seen as being inherently a bad thing."

Just think of Jenny from "The L Word," Barbara from "Gotham," Piper from "Orange Is the New Black," and Monica from "Shameless." The list goes on, and this is certainly not a trope limited to only women. But all of these fictional women hold the labels of evil, "crazy," or promiscuous.

And that’s not even to wade into the deep stigmatized waters of being a person who is bisexual and not a woman. Though we didn’t talk much about it (as it is neither of our experiences) being transgender or gender-nonconforming obviously brings with it its own set of stigma, and similar  —  albeit similarly nuanced  —  stereotypes exist for male-identified people. As Wilson says, "People are punished for femininity or punished for sexuality."

So how do we go about changing these media tropes? Wilson has some ideas.

"I think that, in the entertainment world, there need to be more bisexual characters for whom bisexuality is just kind of a common thing. It’s 'so-and-so has red hair and they’re also bisexual,'" Wilson laughs. "That’s definitely something that I’ve tried to write into some of my more recent writing. We’ll see where that goes."

"The Most Boring Bisexual You’ve Ever Met," I joke with her. "Exactly!" she exclaims. "It’ll be like, 'Me the other day, getting up and running on the treadmill, writing a little bit and going to CVS to pick up my prescriptions, and then binge-watching 'Orphan Black' because I love Tatiana Maslany so much.'"

"I’d like to see more male-identified people shown as bisexual," she adds. "Because I think there’s still this belief that men can’t be, which just isn’t true."

In the end, Wilson believes it’s all about respecting others  —  an issue the LGBTQ community at large has much experience with.

"Is it making somebody happy? Is it improving their life? Is it something that they enjoy? Is it a part of who they are? Yes? Then respect it," she says. "You don’t need to understand something completely to be OK with it."

Wilson and I spent about an hour talking, and I could’ve let it go on for so much longer. We joked about our celebrity crushes, chuckled together fake-writing scenes of "The Most Boring Bisexual You’ve Ever Met," and gave each other advice for meeting other queer women. I’ll never forget that. It felt like I was catching up with an old friend. And in a way, I was.

This story first appeared on Lambda Legal and is reprinted here with permission.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via The BC Cancer Foundation

Testicular cancer typically affects men between the ages of 16 and 44 and is the most common solid tumor to occur in men of this age group. These tumors grow rapidly and can double in size in just 10 to 30 days.

The disease is potentially fatal if not discovered early and accounts for about 11%-13% of all cancer deaths of men between the ages of 15-35. An estimated 9,60 people were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2020, resulting in around 440 deaths.

So it's incredibly important for people with testicles to check themselves regularly.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

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Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

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Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

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Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

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