How Queerness Influences My Alcohol Addiction — My Latest for Ravishly

CN: Suicidal behavior, alcoholism

Alcohol was the antidepressant I felt I always wanted. There was no need to step back, breathe, count to ten, or do any of the other self-soothing techniques I picked up from 17 years worth of therapy. All I had to do was fill up my 12 oz. tumbler to the brim with bourbon, and I was set.

All the pain, anguish, fear, anxiety, anger, shame, and sensory overload just disappeared in a fog of inebriation. I didn’t care about any possible permanent liver damage or adverse reactions to my psychiatric medication; all I cared about was getting drunk every night. My therapist kept bringing up my drinking during our sessions together, but I didn’t want to talk about it. I finally found something that was working for me. Why screw up a good thing, right?

Unfortunately alcohol was starting to affect my life negatively.

I recorded episodes of my podcast drunk. I had trouble sleeping. I even switched from binge drinking just at night to binge drinking all day.

I knew I had to stop, so I started going to a weekly local SMART Recovery support group in December. Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery uses cognitive behavioral therapy techniques instead of a list of 12 steps and does not require belief in a higher power. At first, everything was going well; they were teaching me how to confront the negative thoughts and irrational beliefs that led me to drink. A few weeks ago, however, I got tired of staying sober and tried to drink myself to death.

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We Need To Talk About How Non-Binary Invisibility Affects Mental Health — My Latest for Ravishly

It’s no secret that many LGBTQ people struggle with mental health issues, but some struggle more than others.

For example, a 2011 study shows that out of 33% of LGBT students surveyed that reported suicidal ideation during the previous year, 44% of them were bisexual. Other studies have similar results, and they all suggest bisexual invisibility is the underlying cause. Indeed in my own experience as a bisexual, being caught in the middle of the binary of straight and gay often made me feel like I wasn’t queer enough for the LGBTQ community and not straight enough for the heterosexual world, leaving me feel lost in space in the end.

Recent studies reveal being in the middle of the gender binary isn’t any better. A 2017 study, for example, surveyed over 900 trans youth (ages 14 to 25) and found that non-binary participants reported struggling with mental illness more than binary trans participants. As the study authors speculate, “This group [non-binary youth] is likely to be less understood and acknowledged than transgender youth whose gender identity fits into the man/woman binary, and this may mean nonbinary youth are less likely to have social support.” Another study from last year, conducted by Transgender Europe, found similar results; specifically, that twice as many non-binary people reported struggling with mental health problems as binary trans people.

I asked my non-binary Facebook friends about their experiences with non-binary invisibility. Some, like Ingrid, said their transition would have been a lot easier if they had more support.

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What Spirituality Looks Like For An Atheist — My Latest for Ravishly

When I was a Christian, I thought the biggest threat to society was secular humanism. All the preachers told me a life without God only leads to moral depravity, bleak nihilism, and Social Darwinism. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world,” the Bible told me, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Eventually I did start testing God’s will, which is why I’m now an atheist.

I wanted to know if the unbelievers knew something I didn’t, so I began watching videos of Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Carl Sagan on YouTube to see what they had to say. It turns out the secular worldview was nothing like the preachers had described. In fact, I found more spirituality outside the church than I did within it.

There’s a lot of debate about whether one can be spiritual without religion, even among atheists. I can understand why because for many people, the word “spirit” in “spirituality” implies some sort of supernatural metaphysical soul that leaves the body at death. As someone who walks by sight and not faith, I, of course, don’t believe the soul exists because there’s no evidence that it does. However, some define spirituality as having a deep sense of awe and wonder about the universe, caring for one’s fellow human being, and maintaining inner peace. In that case, I am spiritual, because none of these require supernaturalism.

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How Dogmatic Perfectionism Nearly Killed Me — My Latest for Ravishly

When I was a Christian, one of my favorite books was The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. He was a former Franciscan priest who struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. Through his struggles he came to believe that God’s grace was big enough for a ragamuffin like him, and that he didn’t have to do anything to earn God’s love. Because of this amazing grace, he was finally able to be okay with his own imperfection.

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story,” he wrote, “the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”

While I am no longer a Christian — mostly because I read all the parts of the Bible Manning didn’t mention — I still love the idea of embracing my inner ragamuffin. Like Manning, I’m a walking paradox. I love and I hate. I’m peaceful and I’m violent. I’m honest and I’m hypocritical. I fight for liberation and I perpetuate systems of oppression. It’s just now, at 34 years old, that I’m beginning to be okay with it. As the old song goes, “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.”

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How Walk-It-Off Culture Delayed My Autism Diagnosis — My Latest for Ravishly

All the warning signs were there. I flapped my hands when I was excited. I watched the other kids play instead of joining them. I didn’t start talking in complete sentences until I was two. I’d get upset and smack myself in the head if something didn’t go as expected. Yet, every time my mother brought it up to the pediatricians, they always said, “Trav will get over it.” My mom, who was struggling to raise me after my father walked out on us when I wasn’t even a year old yet, decided to trust the doctors and wait it out.

There was just one problem: I didn’t get over it.

The meltdowns continued throughout school. If I couldn’t do something right, I had a meltdown. If the other kids called me stupid because I didn’t do something right, I had a meltdown. One time in first grade the teacher said something I didn’t like, and I had such a tremendous meltdown that they had to call in the principal.

Of course, the other children gladly took notice of this, so every day they pushed my proverbial buttons. Children already tend to repeat a certain phrase over and over again until they get a reaction from grown-ups, and that’s how they bullied me. Sometimes they would call me names over and over again, and sometimes they would threaten to beat me up repeatedly. It didn’t matter what they said, though, because it would always end the same way. I’d yell and scream and hit myself in the head. While the other children laughed, the teachers just said, “Knock it off! Don’t be a baby!”

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The Mental Health Guide To Handling Call Outs — My Latest for Ravishly

Let’s face it: being called out sucks. We like to think we’re “woke” and know everything about smashing the white supremacist cis-heteronormative imperialist ableist capitalist patriarchy. We log onto Everyday Feminism religiously, and our bookshelves are overflowing with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Audre Lorde. We’ve got our shit together, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. We’re still human, and we’re all still giant fuck-up machines (as I once heard Yvette “The SciBabe” d’Entremont say), so call outs are inevitable in social justice activism.

Sometimes it’s over a simple boo-boo, like unknowingly saying something ableist. Other times, it’s over a giant fuck-up, like the time I demanded emotional labor from people in a couple of feminist groups. Either way, realizing your shit stinks as much as the next person’s still sucks.

It doesn’t help if you are in any way either mentally ill or neurodivergent. I have depression, anxiety, and Autism Spectrum Disorder, so I never know if someone is calling me out to hold me accountable or just to be holier-than-thou.

A lot has been said about toxic call-out culture among certain social justice activists where they put you through ideological purity tests and shun you if you fail. I once thought I was the target of such a witch hunt a little over a year ago. As I mentioned earlier, there was an incident where I demanded emotional labor from people in a couple of feminist Facebook groups. When they called me out on it, I wrote an angry blog post about “toxic feminists,” and then got called out on that blog post a few months later. Instead of backing away and thinking about what they were saying, though, I felt like they were attacking me and had a panic attack. It wasn’t until a trusted friend pulled me aside and told me I was in the wrong that I changed my tune. For the next month, I laid low on social media and started researching how to process call outs while staying mentally healthy, and here are some tips I picked up along the way:

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Should I Stay Or Should I Go? When Your Activist Community Becomes Toxic — My Latest For Ravishly

I didn’t start out in activist communities, but everything changed in 2013. Up until then, I was — to the best of my knowledge — a straight cis moderately liberal Christian blogger who only had a handful of readers. By the time I was 29, though, I finally figured out I was bisexual (it took me another two years to figure out I was non-binary), and started a Tumblr blog to connect with other bisexuals. What I didn’t expect was following a trail of social justice blogs that taught me about the systemic racism and misogyny that are still operating in the early 21st century.

Around the same time, I was deconstructing my faith to the point that eventually God just disappeared in a puff of logic. I was quickly evolving from a straight cis moderately liberal Christian guy to a queer trans atheist/humanist with a passion for social justice, and so I obviously had opinions. I decided to start a new blog called Bi Any Means and a podcast with the same name, and that, in the words of Robert Frost, has made all the difference.

I hoped that my blog and podcast would connect me with other activists spreading the good news of humanism. I didn’t expect to find family, but that’s what happened. As I interviewed more activists in the movement for the podcast, word about me quickly spread, and before I knew it, prominent atheist activists were sending me friend requests on Facebook. For some reason, people liked what I had to say. Fellow podcasters started inviting me to be a guest on their shows. Friends shared my blog posts. People I admired walked up to me during last year’s Reason Rally to say hello. All my hard work was finally paying off.

As clichéd as it sounds, I felt welcomed into a community for the first time in my life.

The pinnacle of this sense of community was this year’s ReasonCon in Hickory, NC. Not only did I reconnect with everyone I met at Reason Rally, I also made new friends and met more fans of my show. The talks were great, but the highlight of the conference was the amazing sense of community. We were in an environment where we were welcome to take off our masks, to laugh about the good times, mourn the loss of loved ones together, and open ourselves to the possibility of creating a lasting community. I started crying uncontrollably when I got home. I saw so much beauty that weekend — from meeting new people to sharing meals together to even witnessing a wedding proposal — that I couldn’t process it. I finally found a home.

Lately, however, my happy safe place is getting more and more toxic. The atheist movement has always had problems (remember Elevatorgate?), but I was under the impression that we’ve since moved on. Boy, I was wrong! For starters, after finding out one of my friends in the movement had been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, I wrote on my Facebook wall, “Are there any atheists that aren’t racist or sexist?” A prominent member of the movement, who I generally respect, chimed in to basically say, “Not all atheists.” That led to several friends asking him if he’s doing anything to address racism and sexism within the movement, but he just tip-toed around the issue to my disappointment.

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When “Free Speech” Silences Marginalized Voices – My Latest Ravishly Article

Contrary to popular belief among certain YouTubers, I’m a social justice warrior who actually loves free speech. In fact, the main reason I write is to use my free speech rights to challenge people’s preconceived notions about gender and sexuality and create conversations about complex social justice issues. One of my favorite philosophers, John Stuart Mill, summarizes it best in his 1859 classic essay On Liberty:

But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation, those who dissent from the opinion still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

Of course this opens up a wide variety of questions regarding free speech in the 21st century: Is it censorship when a private organization disinvites a controversial speaker? Would racist slogans like “Blood and soil” be considered hate speech that directly leads to violence? Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to answer all these questions right now. I do, however, want to point out a disturbing trend I see:

Those who advocate for free speech the most vocally tend to be silent when marginalized people are censored.

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