Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Starting College in the Fall? I have just the TV show for you

With summer starting off in full swing, I can’t help but think of the inevitability of the falling golden leaves of fall; for many teens, fall symbolizes the start of something: the first day of middle school, high school or senior year. Having surpassed all these bittersweet “rites of passage” I now come upon the most daunting of them all: college. In a few months I will be heading off to college and living away from home and out-of-state for the first time. I have some worries and if you are in my boat, I bet you do too.

Luckily enough, I have found a both comical and enlightening guide to the beginning of college living: Dorm Life.

Dorm Life is a series of short (4-5 minutes) clips/shows about student’s first year as college students and the problems that might arise when living conditions are so close. It is seriously one of the funniest shows I've ever watched and it has been a great tool for easing my college bound nerves. Make sure to start from the beginning. WARNING: Once you start, you can't stop. I literally watched it for 2 hours straight before I finally had to cut myself off.

One of my biggest worries is getting a roommate that I don’t click with - or who is just totally crazy. Episode one ( eased my worries when students were paired with other kids that seemed rather weird or misfit compared to themselves - but throughout the season they learn to get along, live peacefully together, accept, and even enjoy the other’s quirks and differences.

Another one of my worries is fitting in. I definitely have my own quirks and I am worried people might immediately judge me as weird or different without getting to know me. Episode 14 ( has one of the students performing a solo play he wrote, directed and acted and it is very strange, but nonetheless his whole dorm floor comes to support him and gives him a standing ovation - sincerely loving his strangeness as something cool and different. It goes to show, if you surround yourself with the right people, they will love you for exactly who you are.

If you want to talk to another teen about college nerves or anything else that's going on in your life, feel free to call Teen Link from 6 PM to 10 PM any day of the week at 1-866-TEENLINK or at 866-833-6546 or chat with a teen by logging on to the Teen Link website and clicking the "Chat" button.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Imagine A World Where Being "Gay" The Norm & Being "Straight" Would Be The Minority!

What if heterophobia was prominent in our society? What if a young girl was bullied for holding hands with a boy on the playground? K. Rocco Shields explores this idea in his short film, Imagine A World Where Being "Gay" The Norm & Being "Straight" Would Be The Minority! The YouTube film, with more than 5 million views, depicts the life of a young girl dealing with the struggles of being heterosexual in a largely homosexual world. Bullying, self doubt, self harm, and suicide are just a few of the relevant issues shown in this film.

Take a look! Watch 5 minutes or the whole 20 minutes. The link is below.

After watching, reflect on the way this film made you feel. What are your thoughts about this world where homosexuality is the norm? What kind of thoughts do you have about your own sexuality?

If you want to talk to another teen about your sexuality, or anything that's going on in your life, feel free to call Teen Link from 6 PM to 10 PM any day of the week at 1-866-TEENLINK or at 866-833-6546 or chat with a teen by logging on to the Teen Link website and clicking the "Chat" button.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Asexuality! The "Fourth Sexuality"?

The GLBTQ (...+ many other representative letters) acronym is usually shortened to about these 5 letters, which represent the most commonly known non-heterosexual orientations, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or sexual, and Queer or Questioning.  However, a joke that I've heard many times about the GLBTQ community is that this acronym should really just be made of the whole alphabet because there's at least one different kind of sexuality represented by any given letter.  The A, for example, has at least three.  I used to think that it stood for Allies, but it can also stand for Agender or Asexual.

I, personally, didn't even know that Asexuality was a thing until one of my close friends came out to me as Asexual and brought its awareness into my school's Queer Straight Alliance. Though it seems pretty clear to me now, I've realized that a lot of people still really don't know about asexuality and that there are a LOT of misconceptions about it. I've recently come across a video on Youtube, by Laci Green, that talks about asexuality and breaks it down for those of us who've never heard of it before, and so I'm sharing the knowledge!  Laci Green is known on Youtube for her sex positive channel that is geared toward providing humorous sex education  that covers topics that aren't usually covered in most high school programs.  

The video on Asexuality is linked here, and I encourage you to check it out as well as the rest of Laci's channel! 

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Struggle to Find Non-Binary Health Care

I’m not crazy, just non binary.

At one point in their life, most people have to find a primary doctor. This may come when you move to a new city, when you gain access to insurance, or when you’re just too old to be seeing a pediatrician. I’m about to be too old to be seeing my pediatrician.

Several years ago I found myself using one of Teen Link’s “Where To Turn For Teens” guides, I was able to find a counselor in my area. Accessing counseling has been a bit of a breeze for me, but the thought of finding a new doctor was somehow different. In my mind, my mental health and physical health can be related, but require two different doctors. So here came my dilemma; I have always seen this doctor. All of my siblings have seen this doctor until they were too old as well. And at my last check up, I sat awkwardly next to a play area with toys for toddlers and was jokingly handed a sticker on my way out. I knew that I needed to find a doctor of my own, but the thought loomed over my head.

Since the check up, I have seen half a dozen doctors looking for, what my mom has been calling “the right fit”. Each and every time I walk down those sterile hallways with a little less optimism, because I know that sooner or later someone will hand me the form.
So far most of the doctors that I’ve seen have boasted safe space emblems. Yet every time I have been handed a form that inquires about gender, when giving only two options: male or female. This is where the conversations begin to go south. Either the doctor or a nurse will try to return the form, thinking it was a mistake. I’ll grit my teeth, and explain that my gender does not fit in either of the two options provided, and they will lean back in confusion. I may live in the progressive city of Seattle, but people are still being diagnosed with a mental illness for being trans*. Believe it or not, the diagnosis remained in the DSM when it was last updated in 2013.

There seems to be confusion between identity and mental illness in the medical community. While I do not think all medical professionals are transphobic, I believe that identities are being silenced all too often from the fear of being stigmatized. Having to fight to separate physical health from mental health care can be really disempowering, and being nonbinary is only one of many factors that can provide barriers to accessing healthcare. Over the years, I have found incredible support from a variety of agencies in the field of mental health, and almost all have been incredibly supportive of my gender identity. My current task is to find a physician that is as open as them.

One thing that has really helped me in my process of feeling more comfortable with a doctor, has been the Q card. The Q Card was developed to help empower LGBTQ youth to become more active participants in their healthcare and to start real and important conversations with health care professionals on how they can better support queer youth with their medical/mental health needs. The card has a tri-fold design with blanks for people to fill in their name, pronouns, sexual orientation, gender identity, and list any concerns or questions they have for their health care professional. It goes over youth rights of confidentiality and gives providers tips on how they can provide better, more inclusive, and supportive care to queer youth. I filled mine out and just gave it to my doctor when she walked in. It helped get a lot of unnecessary and triggering questions out of the way and we were able to talk about how I wanted to be treated. To learn more, check out the Q Card Project.
Finding a doctor or counselor can be stressful. Luckily, Teen Link has many resources for youth serving agencies in the King County area. If you want more information about counseling or local public health clinics, or just want to talk it out, you can call or chat Teen Link any night of the week from 6-10pm. Teen Link is anonymous, confidential, and nonjudgmental. Anyone who answers calls or chats is a local teen, and no problem is too big or too small. The number is 866-TEENLINK and our website is

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Repairing the Damage of Reparative Therapy

“But I’m a Cheerleader” - the campy lesbian cult-classic of the 1990’s - tells the satirical story of Megan Bloomfield, a cheerleader who gets diagnosed with homosexuality by her friends and family and sent away to camp be cured of this embarrassing malady. The movie portrays the “pray the gay away” facility that Megan is sent to as a ridiculous collection of clearly closeted instructors forcing gay teens into absurd gender-norm role plays in an attempt to illustrate the absurdity of trying to cure someone of their sexuality.

Lesbian teens practice stereotypical feminine tasks in an attempt to rid
 themselves of their homosexual urges in “But I’m a Cheerleader”

Watching this movie as a 13 year old who was coming to terms with my own sexuality, I was exposed to the concept of conversion therapy (correctional therapy with the intention of changing an individual’s sexuality) for the first time. I was horrified that such a thing actually existed, but the satire and playful tone of “But I’m a Cheerleader” made me feel like this so-called “ex-gay” therapy was safely in the past; that the reality of anyone trying to “fix” someone’s gayness was as archaic as it was terrifying. And while it is true that extreme methods such as using electroshock therapy on gay teenagers in an attempt to straighten them out are not as prevalent today as they were in past decades, the unfortunate truth is that conversion therapy still very much exists all over the country.

Only a few months ago, lawmakers rejected a bill that would have made conversion therapy illegal for patients under 18 in the state of Illinois. In fact, only two U.S. states have laws banning conversion therapy for minors (California and New Jersey), meaning that in any other parts of the county this kind of damaging treatment is entirely legal. These therapies often use methods such as nausea-inducing drugs, spiritual intervention, and psychoanalytic therapy, all of which have been rejected by all creditable mental health professionals.

There are many problematic aspects of the methods used in reparative therapy and the motivations of those promoting it, but the core of the damaging nature of this type of conversion therapy is the idea that being queer is a mental disorder. Not only is this idea not scientifically supported (the APA officially declassified homosexuality as a disease in 1973), it is extremely damaging to teens and young adults who are struggling to justify and accept their own sexualities. It is easy to think about conversion therapy as an outlier that only affects a small percentage of queer youth, but this extreme example is a big part of creating a culture that regards LGBTQ people as sick or broken.

Speaking as a queer teen, the idea that it is legal to tell young people all over the country that their sexuality is something that needs to be fixed is terrifying. It only reinforces the destructive influences that I internalized growing up. I’ve had to fight continuously against a bombardment of societal and media portrayals of queerness as sick or broken in order to accept all the different parts of my identity. In this age of growing acceptance and respect for LGBTQ people and communities, outlawing conversion therapies is an important step towards creating a safer country for queer youth and making it clear that our sexuality and our identities are no less healthy than those of our straight peers. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to tell your parents you want to see a counselor

There are many preconceptions in our society that seeing a counselor is a bad thing, or means that you are crazy or broken or weak. None of these are true!

Counseling can be a fantastic way to learn how to cope with stress and deal with day to day problems, as well as a great place to talk through anything that's going on in your life. Counseling isn't for everyone, and if it turns out to not be for you that's okay too. Just know that all sorts of people reach out for help around everything from social skills or relationship issues with family or friends, to self-harm, depression or suicide, and those same counseling resources could be just as helpful for you. 

Parents can be a very valuable resource when seeking counseling and can be a support system for you through the process, but reaching out to your parents to let them know you want to see a counselor is often not an easy thing to do. Here are some general tips on how to start having a conversation with your parents about looking into counseling:

  1.  Set a specific time and place for            this conversation

    • Having a time set aside will make sure you are able talk about everything you want to cover and aren't cut off in the middle
    • It's also important to find somewhere private and with minimal distractions so that everyone feels comfortable throughout the conversation

  2.  Make sure no one is under the influence 

    • It is important that everyone involved be mentally present throughout this conversation and be able to take it seriously

 3.  Tell your parents you wish to get some objective, outside help 

    • Let them know that you want some help and support around some things you are going through and you want it to be from an adult who can be completely objective to the situation and has specialized training around mental health issues/coping strategies.
    • Coming from the standpoint of wanting an unbiased, outside perspective can help clarify why you want to see a counselor versus simply talking to your parents about the situation.

  4.   Reassure your parents you are not in immediate danger (if this is the case)

    • Letting your parents know that you are not in danger will help ensure the conversation is calm and productive

  5.   Try to choose a counselor or therapist ahead of time 

    • This will make it possible for you to discuss specifics with your parents, which will give you concrete things to focus on if they have concerns
    • In most cases you can also set up a time for your parents to meet with the therapist you have looked into if they have questions
    • However, if you are over the age of 13 you have the right to decline having your parents involved in the counseling process and your counselor legally can not talk to your parents without your permission and a release of information form
    • You can learn more about choosing a counselor right for you here

  6.   If your parents do not respond well, end the discussion for the night

    • Getting in a fight can make the situation worse, so bringing the conversation to an end before it gets to this point is a good idea
    • Helpful phrases are things like: 
      • “I need additional support from another adult” 
      • “You did nothing wrong as my parent. I just need some additional help to get through this” 
      • “I need a space that allows me to discuss private things”
Having had personal experience seeing a counselor and receiving support from my family through the process, I encourage you to give seeing a counselor a shot if you think it could help and provide you with needed support.

The information show above was collected from this article (feel free to also use it as a reference).

Not all parents are supportive around counseling; if you do not feel safe discussing the possibility of counseling with your parents, or they react badly to this conversation, there are lots of resources for teens to get counseling without their family being notified (though it is much more difficult). If you want information about these counseling services, or if you just want to anonymously talk about whatever you are struggling with, Teen Link is always ready to offer some help. You can call (866) 833- 6546 any day from 6-10 pm or chat through 

Friday, May 16, 2014

My Experience with Counseling

When I was at my end a few months ago, I had nowhere to turn. I felt alone and afraid. I did not want to die, but I did not see any other options either. 

Finding out that the guy I was with was also with one of my close family members was too much; I already have trust and physical contact issues.About ten Advil into trying to kill myself, I took a moment to think- to breathe. I am a person. I have weaknesses, but I have just as many strength. 

I stopped taking the pills then. I thought it through. In this new-found clarity, I decided I needed help. I have always been self-sufficient and I sought out help on my own. I tracked down a free/low cost counselor and began seeing him twice a week. I started out uneasy, getting to a place where you are comfortable to divulge the secrets you would not tell your best friend is difficult for anybody.

Luckily, the counselor had no problem getting me to talk, nor in making me feel comfortable. The office had toys, games, candy, and a chair where the counselor sat with a patient smile and kind, waiting eyes. I gave my secrets in return for validation that I wasn't crazy, that I had reason to be upset, and that I had made the right decision in staying alive. I was fitted with an armory of ways to communicate better, relieve stress, and handle difficult situations.
Counseling was never something I wanted to do, but it helped me. And I know it has helped many other people in my life. I recommend it. Try it before you do anything else. There are always good days and bad days, but I know where I am going and I know where I have been. I am not apt to repeat a suicide attempt. Counseling helped me find clarity and relief.  Suicide seemed like the only answer I had at the time, but now I know I'm not alone. It is okay to seek out help. Don't just try to suffer through it alone. It doesn't make you stronger. If anything it makes you more susceptible to depression, helplessness, and isolation. A counselor is a great asset; a person on your side, for you, helping you.

In my search for a counselor, I found out that there are many resources available in the King County area, including free and sliding-cost counseling services. The easiest way to find these is to call into Teen Link, as we have a huge database of resources that can be catered to when you can schedule a visit, how much you can pay, and where you live.

Teen Link
Anonymous, confidential phone and chat line for teens to talk to teens
Open 365 days/year, 6-10 PM
1-866-833-6546 (Teen Link)