“Love yourself first, always. Stay the course. Don’t buy into this lie that you need familial support to have a fulfilling and successful and whole life. Have an action plan for how you’ll reach goals on your own. Have a fallback action plan if that one doesn’t work out. Believe in yourself.”
1. Where are you from and where do you live now?
I’m from/living in Atlanta, GA – but my family hails from the Northeast, and raised me as such!
2. Tell me a little bit about what you spend most of your days doing.
I’m a wedding and event planner – I spend most of my time managing projects and attempting to make clients’ dreams come true. Outside of LEX, I manage corporate events for a national law firm, so I travel quite a bit between the two gigs! Otherwise, you can find me in any random coffee shop at any given moment with my wife (!!!!!), probably hugging/showing pictures of our new dog to/befriending strangers.
3. Give us a little insight into your backstory/upbringing…
My parents raised me and my sister to be very devout, although neither my mom nor my dad truly ‘practice’ anymore. They had a spiritual awakening when I was very young, and dove deeply into Catholicism. Most people, most Catholics even, aren’t familiar with the faith the way I am. My parents took a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, the Catholic holy land, twice when I was little, and stayed with visionaries who claim to experience apparitions and conversations with the Blessed Mother every day. My mom wouldn’t wear shorts, and I couldn’t wear tank tops. We had a prayer room in our house, and I was an altar server at daily (yes, daily) Mass. My childhood punishments consisted of banishment to my room with a rosary – pray five rosaries, and I could come back downstairs, among other typical ones (like grounding and taking privileges away, you know, the usual for a kid like me). To say it was a restrictive way to live would be an understatement. I was very rebellious throughout their stint with religion in that sense. They were fearful I would fall into sin and destruction, and as a result, my relationship with them was wholly strained for most of my childhood and adolescence. All I wanted was to experiment and figure out who I was, and all I was allowed to do was be the shell everyone wanted me to be. I think it’s important to note that I never truly bought into the lies that the Church tries to spread: namely, that women are to remain pure and modest while the same restrictions are not really asked of men. I was a pretty sexual being from the moment I started having interest, and I never felt guilted by God into abstaining. I only ever felt guilted by the people around me and the Church body at large – which, I believe, is the most insidious element of religion – the ability that your community has to control you.
I was aware that I liked both girls and boys by age 12. I fell hard for boys very early, but my first girlcrush felt….well, exactly the same as my crushes on boys. I knew it was the same. But as I’m sure you can imagine, my upbringing didn’t really allow me the space to explore those feelings and desires. I want to be clear and say that I don’t blame my parents at all for my anguish – I was just as responsible as they were for the general misery I experienced in my youth linked to my sexuality. I wish I had been more open with myself. More honest with them. I was fearful that they would reject me, so I didn’t give them the chance – until I was a senior in college. They were shocked and disappointed when I (mis)labeled myself as gay and proudly announced it to the world. It was tough. They didn’t believe it was real. They thought I was just ‘doing it for shock value’ (a pattern I’d demonstrated in my youth, mostly as a result of my utter boredom and lack of respect for the institution they were raising me in), and it hurt me so badly to feel as though I’d finally found my truth and wasn’t being believed. It’s a hard and complex web, the coming-out process. It makes you doubt yourself when the people who know you inside and out question the validity of this huge moment of liberation. I spent countless hours wondering if it was all real – if my brain was playing tricks on me and if my parents were right. But you know what? They weren’t. It was the first time in my life that I’d felt more sure about something than any of my many dissenters could shake. It was a sad period of my life, before my parents came around, but it was triumphant all at once. Living your truth is something to be proud of, no matter who agrees or doesn’t.
I’ve been pretty much out and open for 4 years, but I’ll be honest and say that it’s taken quite a bit of time and self-exploration to settle on a sexuality that I humorously refer to as “flex.” I don’t subscribe to the typical boxes asked of humanity when it comes to sex and love. Kristi is pretty androgynous in her presentation but has the most beautiful feminine energy, so I credit her for my more expansive views on gender and my ability to look at the world now through a relatively genderless lens. So much of my early life was spent ‘performing’ femininity – not living my truth or my expression of who I am. Now, I perform nothing – I’m simply me, liberated. And grateful that I’m in a position to offer support and love to those going through the same feelings and situations.
4. What is your religious background?
5. On a scale of 1 – 5 how supportive was your family when you came out?
6. Do you have a message to kids out there who come out and might not have the support of their families/friends?
Love yourself first, always. Stay the course. Don’t buy into this lie that you need familial support to have a fulfilling and successful and whole life. Have an action plan for how you’ll reach goals on your own. Have a fallback action plan if that one doesn’t work out. Believe in yourself. Don’t listen when they tell you you’ll grow out of it – you won’t. Don’t let them drag you into conversion therapy. Grow a network of support – whether it’s online or in your local community – who will take you in, give you comfort if things go awry. But, on the flip side – give them a chance to listen to you (as long as it is not dangerous to your personhood). Give them a chance to love the you that they created, sexuality and gender and all. Always be open to them if they want to learn, and be compassionate in your conversations with family members who don’t understand. Compassion goes so much further than anger, even though all you want to be is angry (believe me, been there).
7. Why do you feel that the simple message of the Promote Love Movement is important?
It’s so…easy. It’s so inclusive and so simple and so profound and so incredibly universal. It’s the core and pinnacle and the beginning and end of everything we, as humans, were created to do. No matter what religion you are, or what race or sex or gender or ethnicity or age or ability, you are called to love others and love yourself. If we all did it, the world would look so different. I know it.
8. What kind of person do you want to be remembered as when you die?
A sharp and take-no-shit girlboss. Maybe a good mother, definitely a good aunt. A great wife. A woman who cared more than she probably needed to, who loved hard and who maintained the heartbeats of a lot of dogs.
9. Do you still attend church/religious gatherings?
10. How do you feel like growing up in church played a part in shaping who you are?
It made me much more introspective and speculative. I don’t just believe whatever I’m told. I think I actually have trouble respecting authority because of who I associate with authority from my youth (deacons, priests, etc.) and have trouble taking religion seriously from really any angle. I think more critically and more logically. It definitely impacted me negatively from a sexual perspective – making me feel like I couldn’t be myself was torturous, honestly – but I do feel like my experience as a queer woman in the church is one that so many others have gone through, and the silver lining is that I can counsel and support women in 15-year-old Alex’s shoes.