I chose a completely different question to kick off this series, but intuition led me here instead. Years ago, I made a commitment to myself and my intuition to follow my intuition where it leads.
Occasionally, it leads me to something that doesn’t fully make sense to me as to why it’s important. I was working on another question for this newsletter, but I couldn’t get this message from Kelsey out of my thoughts. I often refer to this specific intuitive feeling as “something stuck in my teeth.” I can’t focus on anything else until I get it out. My tongue rubs over it repetitively, constantly, until it’s free.
To be really upfront with you, I don’t know why I’m being led to share this particular story with you at this time. I just have to tell it and trust that the “why” will show itself eventually. It’s exciting, in a “choose your own adventure” kind of way. Ok intuition, let’s go!
i just watched your instagram stories about your newsletter and i need to hear more about you in high school. i love how most people get kicked out of class and are sent to the principals office and you somehow got kicked out of the principals office!!! anti authoritarian since day 1 and that’s why we love ya.
can you talk more about it? and what you wrote about that was so controversial? loving what you have put into this newsletter so far excited to see what else you have planned!
I shared a bit in my Instagram stories about how important launching this newsletter is for me now and for younger versions of myself, too. It is so exciting and fulfilling for me to be writing and sending these newsletters to you for a bunch of reasons. For starters, it feels like a full circle moment.
I grew up in a super small Midwest town, so small it’s technically a village. I started writing advice columns and making my own newspapers as far back as I can remember. I recently found one from when I was nine where I was reporting on village gossip!
When I got to high school, I was beyond excited to write for the school newspaper. I took the opportunity seriously. From the first day of journalism class, it was clear that I was only interested in writing about things that mattered and topics I felt were important for the student body to be discussing.
I wrote articles about what it means to be gay, about being pro choice, and an advice column focused mainly on sexual health questions I received from unauthorized anonymous surveys I was conducting of the student body.
I cared deeply about the topics I was discussing, and a huge part of my writing was to encourage students to be themselves, embrace their feelings, and take command of their own lives.
I was insistent about the importance of these topics and encouraged conversation about things the adults around me deemed “controversial.” In a way, I can understand why the adults felt like I needed to be stifled and contained. I still don’t agree, but I can see their point of view.
When I first started writing for the paper, because of my insistence on covering these controversial topics, I was required to meet with the principal weekly before the paper went to print.
He would dissect my ideas with the intent of censoring some of my words. He was concerned that I was “giving the other kids ideas” and “encouraging sexual activity.” I came prepared with facts and statistics to counter his argument. To my knowledge, I was the only student required to sit through these weekly meetings and defend my ideas and language. This requirement didn’t last long, though. I think I met with him two times before I wore him down and he had a complete meltdown.
The last time I met with this principal, I was aggressively kicked out of his office. I refused to reduce the number of “vulvas” in an article about contraceptive options and effective barrier methods.
If you’d like to hear more check out my TikTok videos:
The requirements changed after his meltdown. He never had to speak to me about vulvas again, and I could write what I wanted as long as my articles had Opinion of Author under my byline.
I was the only student who had to use a disclaimer. Reading through the papers as an adult, it’s shocking that my articles were the only ones being monitored so closely, when others were writing about drug/alcohol use, eating disorders, self harm, depression, etc.
I’ve reached out to some of my classmates to see how they are doing now, knowing these things don’t just go away. I asked if any adults offered support at the time. Unfortunately, they did not. I’m currently working with some of my classmates now, doing intuitive coaching. We are working together on healing and it is wonderful.
My commitment to writing this newsletter for you is fully aligned with teenage Rosalee’s passion. No one is censoring me or trying to stifle my answers to you.
Just like the surveys I collected so many years ago, I want to know what topics are important to you.
What questions do you have? Nothing is off limits. You can be totally anonymous if you’d like; just let me know in your message.
Relationships. Intuition. Sex. Beauty. Hair. Things to watch.
Skies the limit. I’d love to share my thoughts/recommendations to support you and many others. Chances are you’re not the only one with the question, issue, situation, or wondering…
And now for a bonus treat from 2001: 17-year-old Rosalee, the 20th anniversary edition.
What does it mean to be gay is a bold title for an article at any point in time but especially at that time, in that place and especially because it hadn’t occurred to me yet that I am queer.
Thankfully my understanding of my sexuality and gender continues to evolve over time and introspection. The nuance of expression and identity is so rich, powerful, and ever evolving. I wouldn’t dream of declaring “what it means to be gay” now, but I’m kinda glad that I did then. It’s a record of where I was at that point in my life. I’m excited to see what I will feel and write about 20 years from now.
This article was written in 2001 and most of my memory surrounding it was that it was very controversial. The looks I received in the hallway the day this particular paper was distributed, ranged from disgust, major curiosity, and several nods of validation and feeling seen. The exchange of unspoken knowing looks still warms my heart.
The first time I reread this as an adult, I was nervous that I might have written something that was offensive.
I would definitely choose some different phrases but the overall message is clear and still stands.
I realized years after this was written that I am queer. I was writing this article for my fellow classmates – and for myself. As we wrap up pride month, I encourage you to embrace teenage Rosalee’s message of love and acceptance for yourself. Take some of the passion and resistance too!
• You are perfect just as you are •
• You have the basic human right to be fully yourself •
• Accepting yourself is powerful •
• You are not alone •
Sending you so much love!
What Does it Mean to be Gay?
*Opinion of author*
“You’re so gay.” “That’s gay.” So what does that mean? Unfortunately many people think it means stupid, unworthy, or unintelligent. When in reality gay means something completely different. “Gay” as defined in the Webster dictionary, is “lively, bright, merry, or homosexual.”
So is that person really gay or is that object or assignment really gay? How does a person decide if they are gay?
Ask yourself this: Are you right-handed?
At some point back when you were a baby, you instinctively started picking things up with one hand or the other.
Now ask yourself, are you straight?
Like right-handedness, sexual orientation starts very, very young, usually before puberty and before kids start having sex. It’s the part of your sexuality that leads you to choose romantic and sexual partners of one gender or another or both. It may even begin to develop before birth. Although it may shift in the course of a lifetime for some people, sexual orientation is not something we can decide for ourselves or for others. In fact, sexual orientation cannot be changed by psychotherapy or other interventions.
Okay, for those unfamiliar with the words, here’s a brief lesson: Straight, as you may know, refers to people who have opposite-sex attraction. According to Planned Parenthood: “when a man is sexually and romantically drawn to other men that’s called “gay.” Women who have same-sex attraction are called “lesbians.” People who are drawn to both men and women are “bisexual.’”
Queer is a delicate word with a difficult history. For a long time it was (and still is) used in an insulting, attacking way a hateful label used to spread intolerance and judgment. But as sexual orientation has come out of the closet, so to speak, many non-straight people have worked to reclaim ownership over the word “queer.”
When used with respect, many now except it as a powerful word.
Throughout history, some religious, scientific, and cultural organizations have condemned same-sex love as an unnatural, sinful act of will. Even today, many people continue to disapprove and there are lots of debates about what causes same-sex attractions to develop.
But a few things are certain:
Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice.
It is not a disease.
It cannot be “cured” through therapy or medical treatment.
No amount of pretending will make you any different than you are.
Sexual orientation is a basic part of each person‘s identity, and gay people are just as loving, ethical, productive, smart, beautiful, and human as straight people. Same sex love is normal, healthy, and just as likely to lead fulfilling, happy, committed relationships as “straight” love.
Looking back, some gay adults will say they knew very early that they were gay, as early as third or fourth grade. Others weren’t sure until they were in college or even later. There is no time limit for this, and there’s no rush.
If you are gay and “in the closet” eventually you will feel ready to come out. You’ll realize that you have the power to protect yourself, to choose the right person, the right situation to let them in. In the meantime, teach yourself these lessons:
- You are totally okay just as you are.
- You are not alone! (there are more than 600,000,000 queer people in the world!)
- Queerness occurs throughout the animal kingdom -from swans to grizzly bears, in birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals.
- You have a basic human right to be who you are.
Once you accept yourself, you have all the power you need to protect yourself. For more information call the gay and lesbian national hotline at 1-888-THE-GLNH.