Featured image is of human figures in gray-scale marching together and holding various queer flags.

Here is a compassionately direct message about grief and how to support those in your life who are transitioning their gender:

Exploring gender can be a lifelong endeavor. A family member or friend (or coworker, student, etc.) finding their gender, while a positive change, is still an external change that everyone around them has to internalize, accept, and then celebrate. In other words, while gender transitioning for an individual is a realignment to their truest self, the people who love and respect this individual must transition their understanding of who this person is in order to love and respect them best. We can experience grief within this change because “change, even if we see it as positive, disrupts the connections that exist” [Forbes]. There is an end attached to every new beginning. It is natural to feel grief when things end or shift, because that disruption can often feel like some kind of loss. However, it’s how we deal with these feelings that matters.  

The best thing we can do for grief is to acknowledge its existence—quite literally name it—and sit with it. We need to actually look at our grief to process it, and that may take time. As we take inventory of change, there are transitions within, the “in betweens”. According to the Bridges Transition Model by William Bridges, we have an “ending zone”, “neutral zone”, and “new beginning zone” as we process transitions. This model was originally used for change in the workplace, but here we’re applying it to gender transitioning. What do we need to let go of as allies to get to the neutral zone? What can we look for in new beginnings to bring us out of the neutral zone? How can we celebrate the new beginnings to move forward into them?  

Before diving in any further, I want to be very clear about something: this transitional process is yours to manage without relying on the emotional labor of your trans* loved one. Your trans* loved one has had enough on their plate going through this process themselves, and if you place your grief on them while they are entrusting you with their true identity, they will be burdened with the notion that you might not actually be trustworthy. Yes these things take time, but while you are processing, it’s important to express full support on their behalf. Your trans* loved one is still the person you’ve known and loved for however long they’ve been in your life, only now they know themselves better which means you have the privilege of getting to know them even better too. And if you don’t understand yet, or fear your never will, remember that you don’t have to understand to be respectful.

It’s important to understand this: You’re not losing anyone, you’re actually just gaining more of the same person. The person that you’ve known, who is now realigning to their truest self, is not going through a living death. The person they were before coming out was just a mask they finally figured out how to take off. It’s also important to remember that it doesn’t make you a bad person if it takes time to understand how you’re gaining more of the same person. 

One caveat: many trans* people will refer to their birth name as their “deadname” and do see themselves as separate from who they were before coming out. If this is how they view their transition, whether it’s strictly social or a social and medical transition, it’s important to not prescribe and project your own understanding of their experience onto them. Always default to how they process their transition. If they don’t want to be related to their past self at all, then you need to not relate them to their past self at all.

The Ending Zone: Acknowledge

While it’s important to understand you’re not actually losing anything but gaining everything, it might help to cope with your loved one’s transition by stating what you think you are losing. Again, the first step to processing grief is to name it. So, what are you grieving, i.e. what do you think you are losing as your loved one realigns to their truest self? You will need to let go of the prescriptive image of who you thought your trans* loved one was. And if some of your grief is attached to gendered actions, like getting your nails done together, it could be a fun opportunity to ask your trans* loved one what gendered activities they might still be comfortable with, or explore together what activities you could do together instead. 

(I would like to add that I use “gendered actions” in context of how our society demands things be gendered, not that they actually ARE gendered. Anyone can get their nails done, anyone can throw a football, etc.)

As a parent: if your child decides to change their name, you will need to adopt the understanding that the name you gave them at birth was a gift that no longer serves them. If this is a struggle for you and your child hasn’t already chosen a name, it’s okay to ask them if you can be a part of the decision process for the new one, but be prepared to be told no. Listen more than you speak if they say yes. And do NOT make this process difficult for your child by guilting them into allowing you to be a part of the process, or guilting them by explaining how special their birth name is to you. Confide in a friend or therapist instead.

As a parent you may also be grieving the loss of the future you saw your child having. While this is understandable, and you may fear the hardship your child will face as a trans* person because our world is less than kind to the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s important to recognize that whatever future your child has, they will a) have you as a supportive parent and b) be living a life that is more aligned to them, which will elicit strength and more possibility for happiness.

The Neutral Zone: Internalize

“This is the time between the old reality and sense of identity and the new one” [wmbridges]. This is where you adopt new understanding of who they are and who you are in relation to them. How might your role in their life change as they realign? It may be that your role doesn’t change at all, except for needing to be extra supportive of your trans* loved one. This may require you to stick up for them in public spaces, or even amongst other family members and friends (be sure to ask them how they would like those circumstances to be dealt with first). It will also probably require language shifts as your trans* loved one chooses new pronouns and name (I say probably because not all trans* people want new pronouns or names). 

Understand that while you may have had to let go of the future you saw your loved one having, it’s important to recognize a new future is on the horizon for them—one that is better suited to them because they know themselves better now.

The New Beginning Zone: Accept and Celebrate

“Beginnings are marked by a release of energy in a new direction – they are an expression of a fresh identity” [wmbridges]. Not only does your trans* loved one get to explore their new identity, but so do you! You get to relearn with them who they are, and you get to relearn who you are in relation to them—a loving ally.   

The most important thing you can do to support your trans* loved one is to get yourself to a place of excitement in learning who they are becoming, instead of focusing on the “negative” of who you think you’re losing.  

Key tips during this transition:

  • If you mess up pronouns or their name, simply say “sorry” (truly, just ONE word, or say thank you), and repeat what you were saying with the corrected pronoun or name 
  • ASK your trans* loved one how they would like to be referred to in specific settings
  • ASK your trans* loved one what you can do better so that they feel supported 100% 
  • DO NOT burden your trans* loved one with stories or explanations of your grief. Keep your grief to yourself and other loved ones whom you trust and/or seek out therapeutic support, or support from a trans* peer support specialist (like me!)

One final note: It may help your transition through grief to acceptance, to compassionately ask to speak with your trans* loved one about their transition through grief to acceptance. It’s very common for trans* people to have our own grieving process as we come to learn who we are. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried over my childhood, or over a future that no longer exists. Granted, I’m much happier now and am so excited for my future, but that took time to come around to. A big part of me went through those common stages of grief, where I denied myself of my actual identity out of fear (imposter syndrome), where I got angry about mistreatment in my past or loss of future dreams, where I’ve bargained with the past and felt depressed over it all. Finally I’m at acceptance and celebration, but I experienced all of those stages of grief, and not in a linear fashion. This took time. A LOT of time. The first full year and a half after coming out, actually. And even though I’m well into my third year of being out, I sometimes still experience the anger or depression stage. Just as gender can be a lifelong journey, so can processing and living with grief. But I promise, the future is brighter when we know ourselves better, and an informed support system can make all the difference. So from the bottom of my trans* little heart, thank you for caring. Thank you for taking the time to learn how to best support the trans* people in your life.


If you are an ally looking to be the best ally you can be, and you would like support, I offer peer support sessions on a sliding scale. Please click here to schedule with me! And if you’re someone exploring identity and would appreciate a safer container to do so in, I’m always here for you in those same sessions as well!

If you are a business looking to better serve your trans* employees and the queer community at large, I am available for consultation as well. Please click here to pick a package and schedule an appointment! Keep in mind: I can do one consultation, or you can hire me as a coach for your workplace to transition your environment into a more inclusive space.

cw: explicit language

The English language is an incredible beast. What makes it difficult to learn is also what makes it incredibly malleable and amazing. Not to get too vulgar right off the bat, but have you ever considered how many different ways we can use the word “fuck” to convey all sorts of emotions and meanings? Here, watch this real quick and you’ll see what I mean (cw: sexual violence, death; it’s from the show The Wire)😉😅

I shit you not, I only know about that scene because one of my linguistics professors showed it to us in class! But even without the video, you can see how a lot of our swearwords alone can be used in different contexts and mean different things. Okay, I guess we didn’t need to use swearwords as the example for this linguistic phenomenon (called lexical flexibility), but I like diving into taboo any chance I get. That being said, let’s get to the actual topic I want to discuss today: the word “queer” and its appropriate contexts of use.

“Queer not as being about who you are having sex with, that can be a dimension of it, but queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.” – bell hooks

I’ve used this quote before in my writing, as it pertains to who I am at my very core. The identities I hold most dear are the identities that are most at odds with my surroundings (outside of being in the environment I’ve curated specifically to be safe for my queerness).

This may be controversial to say, but as a former linguistics student and continuous advocate for inclusivity, the word “queer” does not need to be exclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community. As history tells us, the word “queer” has already undergone several iterations. In the 1500s, the Scotts used it as an adjective to mean “strange, peculiar, eccentric, odd” which is still in use today. By 1740, it came to mean “open to suspicion”, and even slang for counterfeit money in the early to mid 1800s. It wasn’t until 1922 that “queer” came to be officially used to describe “homosexual”, but wasn’t a noun for the same until 1935. As a verb it was used to mean “to spoil or ruin” in 1812. Before that it was often used to mean “to puzzle, ridicule, deride, cheat”. And finally, Queer Theory/Studies was born in the 1990s. All of this information was found at etymonline.com.

What wasn’t mentioned on that website is how “queer” has been reclaimed since the 1990s as an identity marker by the LGBTQIA+ community itself, though on second thought, it should be implied to be an implicit part of Queer Theory/Studies.

“I see it as you can be neuroqueer, or genderqueer, or various flavors of queer. Isn’t the whole point of queer theory that being queer is an intentional subversion of cultural normativity?”

– a friend and fellow autism advocate, David Gray-Hammond of Emergent Divergence: Addiction, Mental Health, and The Autistic Experience

Not everyone agrees with this reclamation, mind you. Old school members of the community, and those who have experienced discrimination and harm from its use (young and old), wholeheartedly still consider it a harmful slur. In fact just the other day I was accused of being homophobic by a Facebook stranger, who appeared to be my age, because my blog is named “Queer Cult”. Clearly they’re missing the point of the name I chose, but it was an interesting experience to say the least.

When it comes to my membership of the LGBTQIA+ community, reclaiming “queer” as my own has been a very empowering experience. I’ve always been the weird kid, and as I’ve already discussed, “queer” is an easy descriptor for the peculiar. So when I finally figured out my sexuality and, ultimately, my gender identity, using “queer” was the simplest, most accessible way to communicate to others who I am. It just made sense, and felt safe to use because it described me even outside of my LGBTQIA+ identities.

That being said, listing all my identities within the community is cumbersome to say the least, and they don’t even fit all that well to begin with. While labels are liberatory and often connect people to each other, they are also limiting at a certain point. I only use “nonbinary” because that is the simplest, most accessible way to communicate that I don’t identify with being a man or woman, but it doesn’t exactly describe who I am either. To describe my gender would take pages, and all of those pages would be filled with nearly nonsensical metaphors. “I am stardust. I am galaxies. I am water flowing with salmon swimming upstream,” that kind of stuff. “Queer” allows me to communicate that I am different, period. It’s vague enough to allow my identities breathing room, to stay fluid, to stay “me”.

Also the featured image on this post, it says: People seem to believe that allowing polyamorous people to use “coming out” admits them into the queer community. That’s a debate for another time, but I think a polyamorous person can use the term without being regarded as inherently queer.

According to hooks’ definition of “queer”, I am queer in multiple ways: I am multiply queer within the LGBTQIA + community, I am dynamically disabled, I am autistic/ADHD, and I am polyamorous. I’ve had to “come out” several times for all of these identities, and I will continue to “come out” as I meet more people for the rest of my life. This will be reality for most of us who don’t fit the status-quo until the status-quo shifts from a white, cis-heteronormative existence to one that is post gender, race, sexuality, etc. We will continue to be subject to “coming out” until our labels don’t actually matter outside of connecting to each other, where mainstream media is so diversified that all identities are just considered “normal” and laws accommodate for all differences—where all lives are considered worthy of dignity and respect.

So yes, I agree with Poly Philia that using the phrase “coming out” does not make polyamorous people inherently a part of the queer community, meaning the LGBTQIA+ community. But I don’t agree that being polyamorous can’t make you another kind of queer. I operate out of bell hooks’ definition of queer, and I do believe that my polyamory is a part of my queer identity, but that doesn’t mean it’s a part of my queer identity within the LGBTQIA+ community. We’re discussing two versions of “queer” here.

That’s the beauty of language. We can have phrases and words that mean one thing in one context, and another thing in another context. Of course it’s important to recognize people’s desires and boundaries for certain uses. For example, the shortening of “polyamorous” to “poly” has been strongly discouraged by the Polynesian population that uses “#poly” to connect to each other online and for advocacy. Polyamorous people who aren’t Polynesian use that term and flood social medias, disrupting that connection for Polynesian people. We should respect racially marginalized groups and their desires. Instead, we use “polyam”.

But just as women have reclaimed “slut” and “bitch”, and the Black community has reclaimed the n-word, queer people reclaiming “queer” is not inappropriate. And I think it’s okay, if not absolutely appropriate, to extrapolate that reclamation to other identities that make us queer, in light of hooks’ definition of “queer”.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.


Need support exploring your identities? I’m your guy! You can schedule with me here (read package information and scroll to the bottom to fill out a Calendly appointment time slot). Looking forward to supporting you!

Hi friends! I know I haven’t written much lately, but at least it’s for a good reason—I’ve been super busy networking and getting things running! I’ve updated my events tab, but here’s a flyer for this week’s events. I hope to see you there!

Transcription:

This week at Queer Cult: Tuesday, Feb. 8th @ 5:30pm EST is Talks with the Neurodivergent Rebel! This will be on identity-first language, functioning labels, pathology, and grief.

Also on Tuesday, Feb. 8th @ 7:15pm EST is Intersections of the Naked Space. This will be on spirituality and the Magical Playground of the Inner Child. Both events on this Tuesday will be livestreamed to Facebook @thequeercult

On Saturday, Feb. 12th @ 1:30pm EST I have an interview with Aucademy, based in the UK. I will be sharing my autistic and queer self-discovery journey and its intersections of religion, relationships, and grief. This will be livestreamed to Facebook @aucademy.

To start the new year off strong, I have some offerings I’d like you to know about!

I am SO excited for this brave space. I don’t know about you, but I often have things I’m grieving over (in bad and good ways) because I’m multiply queer. This is not group therapy, but it will be a place for all of us to come as we are, lay down what we’ve been carrying, and find solace in each other so that we may be empowered to have a better tomorrow. Click here to join. This is a *free* event, with suggested donation. I hope to see you there!

My second offering comes in the form of a panel series:

You guessed it, it’s a panel series on polyamory! From the event page:

Welcome to Queer Cult’s Polyamory Panel Series with Jaesic and Andrew: Polyamory 201!
This class was created to inspire conversation about lived experience with polyamory, so that we may feel seen, heard, and valid–so that we may grow together. There are a lot of polyamory discussion/support groups and classes out there, but not many (if any) go beyond Polyam 101. Well, no longer! Our meetings will explore topics that people in the lifestyle come across, both in celebrations and in hesitations. The topics will include:

  • Polyam Basics (to get everyone on the same page, in case beginners do want to attend)
  • When to break up
  • Cohabitation
  • Shame & Trauma
  • Disability and Polyamory
  • Politics and Polyamory

This series will feature panelists of the polyam/non-monogamous community, with a meeting every 3rd Monday for 6 months. If a topic arises during the series that needs further exploration, we may continue the series into 7 months, so stay tuned!
This series is free to the public, though a suggested donation of $5-25 per class is welcomed. Please venmo @thequeercult, or paypal queercultcoaching@gmail.com, or cashapp $justjaesic.

This is for beginners and experienced alike, though the conversation will be geared towards those with more experience in living the lifestyle after our first session. Questions will be answered for ~30 minutes after each panel. If more time is needed, or there are questions that are more sensitive, Jaesic is available for peer support sessions, which you can schedule here!

Our next meeting will be January 20th at 7PM EST. Looking forward to being in community with you! 💜🌈💜


If you missed the first session, or can’t make a future one, stay tuned for a post to Queer Cult’s YouTube channel, soon to be published. There we’ll have replays and interviews for you to enjoy!