My blog turned one year old and I have SO MANY FEELINGS.
When I reflect back on this last year, my heart swells ten sizes and I feel the urge to hug every single one of my readers.
I can still remember being that twentysomething who had just graduated from undergrad with those degrees (you know the ones – the ones that everyone says will not result in any kind of job… haha, joke’s on you). At the time, I had no idea what to do with myself and felt completely unprepared to enter into the world as a college grad.
Not yet ready to be a grownup working 9-5, I did what plenty of people in my situation do – I went to graduate school.
I left everything behind and took a flight from Detroit, MI, all the way to the San Francisco Bay Area to go to my dream school. And realizing I still had a few months to go before classes actually started, I decided to take up blogging as my hobby.
This surprises most people. For some reason, people think that in creating this blog, I had a master plan to become a lucrative, famous blogger. But in reality, I was just anxious to be living in a new place, and had a lot of time on my hands.
Like, so much time on my hands, because I couldn’t figure out how the train system worked (which train will take me downtown? UGH I GIVE UP), so I stayed in my apartment and ate ice cream and watched Netflix.
With an abundance of time and nervous energy, I figured I might as well be writing. After all, my Facebook statuses were turning into novels, and I think my friends will agree that I was in desperate need of a soap box so I could stop preaching to them all the time.
I honestly believed back then that my blog was going to be a space where a couple of dedicated friends (and their creepy mutual friends) decided to read my weird opinions about politics and pop culture.
Almost 6 million views later, all I can really say is, “Whoops.” ¯_(ツ)_/¯
I’ve learned a lot in this last year of blogging and it seems fitting, on the birthday of Let’s Queer Things Up!, to share some of those magical lessons with the readers who made this platform possible.
Then afterward, we’re going to hug it out, okay?
- Maybe, just maybe, one person can change the world – or at least shift the conversation.
When I started blogging, I had no idea that writers like myself had the ability to make things happen. I always figured blogging was primarily shouting into the void, especially for newbies who haven’t built an audience yet. But I can tell you, without a doubt, that just one voice is enough to make an impact.
In October of 2014, I wrote an article, “Amanda Bynes, Robin Williams, and the Spectacle of Mental Illness.” I was fed up with the way people with mental illnesses were treated, and it frightened me that this kind of ableism was on display for the whole world to see.
I had seen headline after headline about celebrity breakdowns, and I was tired of the complete and utter lack of compassion for folks who were struggling.
Up until that point, my blog was averaging, at most, 1000 views per week. But I woke up one morning to find that my blog had amassed half a million views before breakfast. I didn’t think it was possible but, lo and behold, a virtually unknown blogger had gone viral.
After that, the headlines did a complete 180. Suddenly every major news outlet was singing a different tune – one of compassion and understanding for Amanda Bynes. The conversation had shifted. Not long after that, Bynes came out and told the world via Twitter that she was grappling with bipolar disorder.
I didn’t single-handedly cause this, to be sure. But I was a part of the shift in this international conversation that challenged people to be more compassionate. I was part of a movement to humanize people with mental illness. My voice alone reached millions of people and, yes, it made a difference.
I know now that sometimes all it takes is one courageous person, just one, standing up for what’s right. That person can be me, that person can be you. So why not us?
- Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.
I’ve had to deal with my fair share of jerks on the internet. I could be saying something so sincere, so earnest… and still get that ugly tweet telling me how I’m apparently the worst human that ever lived. And as a sensitive people-pleaser who writes from a really vulnerable place, it can be difficult to cope with the negativity.
I never want to suggest that we should just roll over and accept online harassment. I also don’t take it as a sign that I’m “doing something right,” as if this is an expected and even desirable outcome of speaking my mind.
But I will say that it’s helped me to keep in mind that some folks on the internet will always have something shitty to say, no matter how brilliant or witty you are (I like to think I’m a little bit of both, but I could be wrong).
I mean, go to any of your favorite public figure’s Twitter mentions. How can someone talk shit to Margaret Cho, for example? How can you tell Lorde or Betty White that they suck? But people do this! Because haters gonna hate.
So I just shake it off, I shake it off.
- Your struggles can be your strengths.
When people talk about my work, the first thing they usually mention is how open I’ve been about a lot of difficult struggles that I’ve had in my life. Folks wonder why anyone would choose to be so vulnerable on the internet. And I’ll admit, it is a really scary thing. But it’s also been the most empowering decision I’ve ever made.
Taking my scars and using them to teach and empower others has been an amazing way to reclaim my struggles. I took what used to haunt me and I made it into something that can set me free. It feels amazing.
I stood up and said, “Yes, I am trans. Yes, I have bipolar disorder and anxiety. I am not ashamed. And you don’t need to be ashamed, either.”
If you had told me years ago that I would be sharing this journey with millions of people, I’m not sure that I would’ve believed you. But now, in being honest and embracing myself, I’ve found so much strength in being unapologetic about who I am.
And to think – my journey could be affirming for someone else! My words could be a teachable moment to make someone else’s road a little easier to travel! That’s a privilege and an unexpected gift.
Writing a really good article that helps people basically feels like Christmas every damn week. I’m able to give something to the community that has given so much to me.
So no, I don’t regret wearing my heart on my sleeve. It’s scary as hell but it’s so worth it.
- You are not alone.
The thousands of emails I received in this last year have convinced me that we – trans folks, neuroatypical folks, marginalized folks of every sort – are not alone. We often feel alone, because we find ourselves isolated and disconnected from the larger community.
But actually, there are a lot of us. Like, millions of us, waiting to connect with each other.
On the days when I’m feeling particularly despondent, I remind myself that there are countless activists and organizations that are working, day in and day out, to make this world a better place. And if I’m feeling isolated, many of these folks are just a click away.
On a bad day, I’ll let myself fall into this rabbit hole of affirmation, inspiration, and support. I read Jes Baker’s blog and suddenly my body is more marvelous to me than ever before; I read an article by Melissa Fabello and suddenly the gospel of Feminism is as electric as ever; I explore Genderfork and am reminded of the diverse beauty in my own community; I read something at Everyday Feminism and I realize just how many people are fighting for good in this world.
Isn’t the internet a magical fucking place?
Nowadays, I go to bed at night feeling comforted, knowing that these folks exist and that I’m not alone in all this.
There are a lot of jokes about “Tumblr feminism” and “social justice warriors” but, y’all, I’ve seen the life-changing stuff that happens when people use their voice for good in this world. I’m completely sold on internet activism. Changing the world from behind a computer screen is not only possible, but it’s also one of the most accessible ways to reach people when they need us most.
A year ago, I felt so isolated in my struggles; now, I feel connected to an entire web of amazing people doing amazing things, including you, readers, who remind me of why this work is so important and are doing AMAZING work of your own.
We’re in this together!
If you’re ever finding yourself crushed by the weight of the world, poke around the net. Your people are out there. And they’re waiting for you, I promise.
- You can’t count yourself out just yet.
I find it hard to believe that just a few years ago, I had hit rock-bottom with my depression, and was convinced that my life would never be meaningful or worthwhile.
To say I had “had it” is an understatement. I was on my way out.
Sometimes when we’re bogged down by depression and it’s all we’ve ever known, we count ourselves out – we think that we’re destined for a life of failure, desperation, hurt.
I’m not here to tell you that “things get better,” because I really can’t say for sure. But I will tell you that for many folks, we count ourselves out before we ever truly had the chance to shine or even live. We convince ourselves that we already know what the future looks like and that the future is set in stone.
It may be. But it isn’t always.
If I had let that despondent voice dictate what I did with my life, I wouldn’t be here today. And I definitely wouldn’t be doing the work that I’m doing now – writing for magazines, connecting with folks who need support, and educating people on the issues that really matter.
I never saw it coming – not in a million years – but I’m grateful every single day that I survived, that I hung in there, that I gave my future self the chance to experience all of this. I never thought I would make a difference. But against all odds, I have.
You never know what life has in store. I hate to be a bucket of exhausting, useless clichés, but seriously, none of us can see the future and sometimes, that future will surprise us.
So don’t count yourself out just yet.
* * *
This past year has been, far and away, one of the most unexpectedly awesome years of my life. While I entered into this project completely unsure of myself, I stand before you (well, sit before you I guess, behind this computer) a much happier and more self-assured person.
Being about to share my thoughts, however weird and ranty they were, with such a caring and curious audience has been an absolute honor. I have no idea what the future holds for LQTU, but this is a journey that I’m so grateful to have undertaken and thrilled to continue.
So I want to wrap up this entry by saying “thank you.” Thank you to the readers who supported the site, either through donations or with your encouraging comments and critically important feedback. Though most of us have not (yet) met in person, I am glad that I can call so many of you my friends.
The lessons I’ve learned have been invaluable and are lessons I will carry with me for a lifetime. And I’m excited – so, so excited – for everything I have yet to learn as we continue queering things up here on the site and beyond (see what I did there?).
I hope this entry could give you a little inspiration and a little more insight into the story behind the blog. If for nothing else, I hope it’s a reminder of how powerful we are when we work together. Look at this brilliant thing we’ve built together! I’m so proud of us.
Phew. Now that I’ve gotten all that off of my chest… group hug?
Sam Dylan Finch is a queer activist and feminist writer, based in the SF Bay. He is the founder of Let’s Queer Things Up!, his blog and labor of love. With a passion for impacting change through personal narrative, Sam writes about his struggles and triumphs as genderqueer and bipolar with the hopes of teaching others about his identity and community. When he isn’t writing, he’s probably eating takeout and dancing to Taylor Swift.