TOBIN: So Kathy.
TOBIN: As you know every once in a while we like to open up our Nancy mailbag, if you will.
KATHY: Because I love mail, you know.
TOBIN: You love mail.
KATHY: Yeah, you know that.
TOBIN: So we get a lot of emails, letters, you name it and a lot of that mail is questions from listeners looking for some advice.
KATHY: Which is super flattering but I have to say you and I, we don't quite have the qualifications.
TOBIN: Maybe we have no qualifications to be giving advice. I mean have some but not really. We don't have the proper expertise. Not at all.
TOBIN: But luckily, we know someone who does.
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VOX: From WNYC Studios this is Nancy.
VOX: With your hosts Tobin Low and Kathy Tu.
KATHY: So today we brought in our friend J.P. Brammer.
TOBIN: Hey J.P.
TOBIN: You write an advice column called “Hola Papi” for the queer publication “Them.” So just easy question, right off the bat, when did you know you had every single answer?
J.P.: Early in life. [Laughter] I think it just came into this world in the know.
KATHY: Okay but actually what I want to know is what's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?
J.P.: Oh my God, it's the one I hold very close to my heart, it was when I was in middle school and I was about to go to the school dance and I was really really terrified about dancing in front of other people and I sort of vocalized this to my mom when we were back home and she turned to me and she was like, "no one's going to be looking at you."
J.P.: But it was a very empowering thing to be like, no one is thinking about me the as hard as I'm thinking about me so it's a way to just get out of my own head and let myself be without flagellating myself for being like oh can I do this? Can I do that? How are people going to respond to this?
TOBIN: So why don’t we jump right in.
J.P.: Let's do it.
KATHY: We've got a question for a woman named Tanya who turns 30 this year and while she's come out as bi to a few of her sisters she hasn't told her whole family. And she says she wishes she fully come out years ago but also fears rejection from her family. She writes "the questions and the judgment and the possibility of not seeing some of my family again is scary. So how do I reconcile these two worlds? Do I treat it like a band-aid and just tear it off to get it over with or tell my mom and have her tell everyone?"
J.P.: Mmm yes yes.
KATHY: What do you think? How do you navigate the space where you go from being somewhat out to like all the way out.
J.P.: I think that the first thing that Tanya should do is realize that there's no one perfect time to come out and no perfect number of people to be out to. I think that for a lot of queer people it's not about being out to absolutely everyone. It's about sort of assessing who you want to be out to, who you need to be out to, and what that can do for you. So I think that Tanya is sort of playing this, umm.... It has to be everyone type thing and there can be a lot of pressure in that because you want the people that you love to know who you are and you want to be open and be yourself. I just think that she needs to figure out if that's really the case for her.
J.P.: But it sounds like she's putting extra pressure on herself by saying I'm about to turn 30 and I'm still not out to my entire family. That sounds like a rule that we never agreed upon. I wasn't at the like coven meeting where we were like You must all be out to your entire family.
KATHY: "30 Seems right."
J.P.: By the time just like.... I wasn't aware of it. Maybe that passed a motion that I wasn't present for. But I think that she should like lay off herself on that end. Secondly I don't know about telling her mom so that her mom can then tell everyone else. I would be interested to gather some thoughts on that because that's not something I would do. But Tobin is that something you did?
J.P.: So you just knew she was like gossipy and like would tell everyone or what.
TOBIN: This is a decision my mom made on her own. Which is to say that I was out to the people that are -- like you're saying, like decided the people who you really think need to know. And that's like OK. And so I had come out to the people I felt really needed to know and then I think what happened is that my mom knew I was coming home for some kind of family reunion and it was going to come up. And so she used that as an opportunity to send a family wide e-mail.
J.P.: Oh wow.
TOBIN: To everyone in the extended family. That said "Tobin is gay. He is our gay son. We love him."
J.P.: I'm imagining rainbow flag gifs in the email.
TOBIN: But it was funny because like the rest the family was cool with that but she wrote it in such a way that was almost confrontational. It was almost like...
KATHY: "I dare you to have a problem with it!"
TOBIN: "Listen to me you homophobic mother..."
J.P.: I love a hostile press release. That's soo good. That's incredible to me. I mean like probably problematic but amazing at the same time.
KATHY: I did something similar in that the people that I thought needed to know I was out were my immediate family who lived in the United States and my extended family were all in Taiwan. And I came out to my family here but I kind of left it up to my mom to come out to everybody else in Taiwan because I felt like that was important to her. It didn't matter to me whether or not they knew. So I just left that up to her.
KATHY: But I made it clear that when I showed up in Taiwan I wasn't going to hide anything.
KATHY: So you can tell them or I'll tell them eventually.
J.P.: My problem here is that Tanya if I tell you to go ahead and rip the band-aid off, which I would love it if you did, I'm not going to have you being like Hola Papi destroyed all of familial relationships, because I did what he told me to do, and I came out to my entire family, and they've disowned me. It's not going to be on my head. I think that what you need to do is figure out who do I need to know because that is something that can totally be done on your terms. Right? This whole everyone needs to right now thing. Figure out Tanya if that's really what you're after right here or maybe think back and say OK I need my mom to know, I need my dad to know, I need my cousins to know, etc., and then take it from there.
TOBIN: I'll just add that if Tanya you do decide to come out to more people, having people already in your family who are cool with it. I've had the experience of like having somebody who is cool with it be there with you so that they can immediately model good behavior.
KATHY: Oh, smart.
TOBIN: So it's like you can share with a person that you're queer, you’re whatever, and there's immediately someone there who can be like Tanya told me x number of months ago two years ago and this is like how I came to deal with it or how I came to understand it. Yeah like blah blah blah so they can like immediately be like here's how you can get to being cool with it. And that that I have found --.
J.P.: That's a great idea.
TOBIN: Is a useful tool if you should if you decide. But I totally agree like you need to decide is this a thing you have to do because of an arbitrary clock.
J.P.: We're going to take your card away! You're gonna be a hetero! You better hurry up Tanya!
KATHY: No but you don't have to..
TOBIN: Shall we move on... with a question from a listener that we’ll call Larry?
TAPE: I've been feeling kind of stuck lately. I'm in my 20s it seems every queer couple around me -- be it my friends, the ones I see on TV, even thirst traps on Instagram -- they're all in open relationships. Despite the huge number for open relationships in the gay community, I can't bring myself to feel remotely comfortable with being in one. I've tried it and I hated it, which sucks because the guy I tried it with was great. So basically what I want to know is am I bad gay?
TOBIN: OK so J.P.: does being queer mean you have to be comfortable with being in an open relationship?
J.P.: Larry being queer does not mean you have to be in an open relationship or even like be around people in open relationships. There are no set rules for this sort of thing. I think that you're kind of going out of your way here to care about that. I mean sure, you can feel this pressure especially like in online spaces where you see all these people who are polyamorous or have more than one partner -- and that's their business Larry. You can find a lot of people out there who are into monogamy and who, like, like you for you. I think that you're sort of placing an insecurity that you have on the blank canvas of other people's relationships and that's what you actually need to tackle here.
KATHY: Yeah yeah I'm just going to jump in here and say that I dislike the fact that there is a hierarchy in terms of types of relationships one can have, like an open relationship is like the most evolved form of a relationship -- which is not true. There are all just different kinds of relationships.
TOBIN: I personally really respond to this use of the term bad gay because it's the thing I felt so much when I was like discovering my queerness and I still feel it all the time. And like often times when I like use that term it's because of this idea that there's something I should be doing or like should be comfortable with because I'm queer. And it's like now I'm like you're only a bad gay if you're judging other people's decisions.
J.P.: Right. And I think you really have to set up your own criteria for what makes a good and bad gay because you're gonna encounter so many different ones. like to this person who's like super queer and in this polyamorous relationship a good gay is somebody who's open to be having more than one partner, sure. But then to Mike Pence it's all of us gays. You have to figure out how do i like myself as a person and as a gay person and that's not going to look the same for everyone which is why you need your own criteria. Because you're way too concerned Larry with. Am I good enough in this person's eyes or that person's life. And I really like what you said because it's like some people do see themselves as the more evolved queer for having an atypical relationship which is why you really need to be firm and strong in yourself and say that's not for me. It's great that someone's into that. I'm looking for this.
TOBIN: OK we've got to take a quick break but when we come back we're going to be talking about insecurity.
J.P.: Ohh Girl, oh honey.
TOBIN: Nancy will back in a minute.
TOBIN: And we're back. Kathy please read us the next question.
KATHY: OK. This comes from a 28 year old gay guy we're calling Martin who lives in Mexico. He says the only healthy relationship he's ever had lasted two weeks and that was about three years ago. He says "since that relationship I went out with two or three guys that are really nice but when they want to get to know me more I panic. The reason is because I've never been good at socializing and my circle of friends is super small - about two or three people." Martin says he struggles even more because he's HIV positive and feels that makes him unworthy. Or like people just won't want to be with him. He continues: I" don't feel the rush to settle for the first guy. But it would be nice to have someone special and I use all my issues as my own cockblock so I guess my question is how can I overcome all those insecurities in order to be better And luckily find a special one?" J.P. What advice do you have specifically about overcoming these feelings of insecurity.
J.P.: So Martin has been very specific about his situation here. But actually this is far and away the most common question I get in Hola Papi is how do I be more confident. How do I sort of break out of my shell and find a guy that way. And I think it has less to do with the individual issues they pin it on and more to do with their daily attitude and outlook on life. Because I am of the impression that confidence is this really beautiful lie that you just sort of have to embody every single day. You really have to say I'm great I'm amazing I'm deserving and just embody that and live it as best as you can until you do believe it because I think that's where you find yourself open to new opportunities because everyone's always like guys just don't like me. And for me it's like who are guys? Because it's not all of them.
J.P.: Second of all Martin is really smart because I think he's already said like I'm using these as a crutch.
J.P.: That's like blocking my own opportunities he's already understood that. There are a lot of people who do that without really knowing that's what they're doing. They just think like well I guess I'm trash and I'm broken and no one likes me. But I think Martin's really cognizant of like it's my attitude on myself that's really preventing me from this. And I think, like I said, confidence isn't something that you can just sort of attain one day as a prize. It's something that you decide you have and you just have to like do your best to put your whole foot and body into it I think.
TOBIN: Man, that's so true. I'm thinking back to like when I was in the online dating world and there was so much focus on who wasn't returning messages as opposed to who was you know like who was reaching out first. That is such a real thing. I don't know if I have advice for this. I'm just--that's so real.
J.P.: Yeah and I think Martin this is advice that I've had to take myself is I have to re-evaluate who am I looking for attention from and it turns out to be people who I want approval from because I think they're better than me.
TOBIN: Oh boy!
J.P.: Or I think that they're above me in some ways.
TOBIN: Yeah yeah yeah yeah.
J.P.: And so them looking at me and validating me makes me feel like oh guys do like me because you like me. That is a sort of gamifying of dating and of human relationships that I think a lot of apps for example sort of perpetuate where it's just like I need to score the highest score or I need to make the most points. And this person has the most points because I like him but I think he's like out of my league in some way.
KATHY: I see.
J.P.: And so I think you need to sort of reassess your own values reassess what you're kind of looking for and if it's unrealistic...Because for me it has been in the past not because I think these people actually are like more attractive than me more intelligent than me et cetera but because I have a lower opinion of myself than I want to reckon with. And I think that these people validating me will fix that when it just won't.
TOBIN: Jesus. I'm just going to quickly cancel my therapy for this week. We did it already.
J.P.: Also it is like one wanted to quickly that I think that a lot of the things that Martin described are real stigmas that we encounter, like for example being HIV positive that is a very real stigma. There's a lot of misconceptions around that. same with having different body types. Same with not being white being a certain height et cetera. There are all these different things that people can exclude you for. And when you define yourself by who is excluding you that gets into your head and it sort of justifies all these pre-held beliefs of you not being worthy enough. So I think yep-- Martin take a look at who you're trying to score and see if there's ways that you can change that even just as an experiment for like a month or so you see what happens.
TOBIN: Kathy, you're out there right now.
KATHY: I'm out there. I'm dating on the apps.
TOBIN: How are you feeling. Are you having any of these insecurities on the apps.
KATHY: A little bit but I think more so than anything I learned that the thing that I do is I have to look at somebody’s pictures very quickly and decide immediately right or left because otherwise I start analyzing every little detail.
KATHY: And by the time I get to the sixth picture we've already had a life together. I just got to move on.
TOBIN: You know it's funny you say that though because I don't know if I'm reading too much into it but part of me read Martin's ask for advice and felt like maybe Martin is getting ahead of himself with the guys he is dating.
TOBIN: I don't know if I'm reading this too much I'm don't know if I'm reading too much into this but that Martin is asking questions of like Who am I supposed to end up with.
TOBIN: Before he even gets to know some of these guys.
J.P.: Queer fatalism.
J.P.: Yeah yeah you're right. I sometimes get into that headspace where it's like I see someone within five seconds of speaking to them I'm like, 'this is not my husband or another man who provide for me in the harsh Nordic winters.' and that sort of thinking can sort of poison the dynamic ahead of its time. Because part of the excitement of getting to know someone and it's really hard to know someone with such a short amount of time if you're just doing it all the apps or even in person within the first five minutes. So like opening up a little bit to expectations and letting people surprise you a little bit is a good antidote to that.
TOBIN: Yeah. So two things Martin: Confidence. Wear it like a merch T-shirt from Rupaul's Drag Race. And the second thing is maybe slow your roll just a little bit, maybe taking it a little fast. Queer fatalism.
KATHY: One date at a time.
TOBIN: J.P. I feel like I've learned so much from you being here today.
KATHY: Me too. Thank you for being here.
J.P.: I loved being here, helping out the universe fixing everything.
TOBIN: You do have all the answers. That right there was advice columnist J.P. Brammer. He writes a weekly column over at them dot us.
KATHY: And if you've got questions for us here at NANCY send them to advice at Nancy podcast dot org.
[CREDITS MUSIC STARTS]
TOBIN: Cool. Cool it's credits time.
KATHY: Our producers:
TOBIN: Matt Collette and Alice Wilder!
KATHY: Sound design:
TOBIN: Jeremy Bloom and Ania Grzesik!
TOBIN: Jenny Lawton!
KATHY: Executive Producer:
TOBIN: Paula Szuchman!
KATHY: I'm Kathy Tu.
TOBIN: I'm Tobin Low.
TOBIN: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.