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.

Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


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All photos from Pilllsbury used with permission

Pillsbury is partnering with non profit, Operation Homefront, to provide housing for veterans

True

It’s the dream of many veterans: a safe and swift return to the security of home – to a place where time can be spent with family while becoming part of a community and creating new memories. With the partnership of non-profit Operation Homefront, Pillsbury is helping give military families the opportunity to do just that.

For many of our American soldiers, the dream of making a comfortable return to civilian life is often dashed by harsh realities. Pew Research Center reports that 44% of veterans who have served since Sept 11, 2001 noted having a difficult time re-adjusting. From re-entering into the workforce to finding healthcare services, returning to civilian life can be a harrowing transition. While serving in the military is incredibly stressful, it also provides routine, structure and purpose that is not easily replicated in civilian life. Couple this with a lack of helpful resources for veterans, and the hope for a brighter future can be easily derailed.


However, some companies and organizations are stepping in to show support and provide resources. Operation Homefront, an organization dedicated to helping military families transition back to civilian life, launched its Transitional Homes for Veterans (THV) Program in 2018. The program places veteran families in safe, secure, rent-free single-family homes for a period of two-to-three years while providing financial coaching and training to reduce debt, increase savings, and prepare for independent home ownership. Since the THV’s inception, Operation Homefront has defrayed more than $500K in mortgage costs to military families.

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TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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