Oct 26 • 42M

Arizona Equals Chris

We talk about social-emotional learning, kids' rights, and more with Chris Tompkins, author of Raising LGBTQ Allies, a Parent's Guide to Changing the Messages from the Playground.

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Equality Arizona
Arizona Equals is a conversational interview podcast chronicling the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ Arizonans. Listen to new episodes weekly on Wednesdays, featuring conversations with queer people living in Arizona.

On this week’s episode of the Arizona Equals Conversation, Chris Tompkins joins Jeanne to talk about his book, Raising LGBTQ Allies, and his journey to becoming an educator, public speaker, and advocate.

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Full Transcript

00;00;00;28 - 00;00;27;23

Jeanne

From Equality Arizona. You're listening to the Arizona Equals Conversation. I'm Jeanne Woodbury. Each week on the show, I interview an LGBTQ+ person living in Arizona about their lives and their community ties. But this week is a little bit of an exception. My guest today, Chris Tompkins, doesn't actually live in Arizona, but he grew up here and has done a lot of advocacy work in the state.

00;00;28;15 - 00;01;03;11

Jeanne

He has family here and he visits often. So it felt appropriate when he reached out and shared his book to sit down with him for the podcast. And I really enjoyed the conversation that we ended up having. He's the author of a book called Raising LGBTQ Allies: A Parent's Guide to Changing the Messages from the Playground. I've gotten to talk with a few authors on the podcast now, and it's always interesting for me not just to talk about the book and the ideas in their books, but how they ended up making the decision to write a book in the first place.

00;01;04;08 - 00;01;29;19

Jeanne

A lot of people will never do that in their lives, so it's super interesting to me. Chris's path to becoming an author is really moving and it also informs most of the ideas in the book — about the closet, but more than that, everything adults decide shouldn't be talked about and the shame it can make kids feel, especially LGBTQ+ kids.

00;01;30;23 - 00;01;55;21

Jeanne

It's a wonderful conversation, but before we can get to it, there's very little time left for you to mail your ballot. I'm recording this intro on Tuesday, October 25th. That's exactly two weeks before Election Day, but you really only have one week left to mail your ballot. If your ballot's been delivered and maybe it's still sitting on your kitchen table, now's the time to fill it in.

00;01;56;05 - 00;02;24;02

Jeanne

So pause the podcast and go to EqualityArizona.org/vote for our full voter guide. Are you back? Okay. Here's my interview with Chris to listen to on your drive to the mailbox.

00;02;24;02 - 00;02;37;13

Chris

Hi, I'm Chris Tompkins. My pronouns are he/him/his and I'm the author of the book Raising LGBTQ Allies.

00;02;38;03 - 00;02;38;15

Jeanne

Wonderful. Thanks so much.

00;02;38;15 - 00;02;40;26

Chris

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thank you. Thank you.

00;02;41;08 - 00;02;58;09

Jeanne

When we first got in touch, you were telling me about your book? You sent me a copy, which I thought was really nice. You sent me a really nice note with it, which I don't know, I loved it. I've been reading it and it covers a lot of ground. So I was wondering if you could share a little bit about how that book came to be and how you chose the topics of the book?

00;02;58;10 - 00;03;18;26

Chris

Sure. Yeah, yeah. Thank you. And thank you for having me. And thank you for allowing me to be here and talk, to talk about my book and its message and really, it's kind of interesting because I was reflecting on originally how it started is, is from a question that my six year old nephew at the time asked me back in 2015 and interestingly enough, I was here in Arizona, I live in Los Angeles.

00;03;18;26 - 00;03;37;22

Chris

I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. And so I was coming to Arizona for the Equality in Arizona, there was a conference that they had way back in 2015, and I was giving a workshop at that conference. And so I chose to do that workshop or chose to do that conference versus coming home for the holidays.

00;03;38;08 - 00;04;06;29

Chris

So after that conference was done here in Phoenix, I drove down to Tucson and that's when my family had the family function that my nephew asked me a question. And for the listeners who aren't familiar, my mom had a bunch of my family over to her house and a bunch of family friends. And there was a woman, a childhood friend, who was sitting next to me and my nephew, who most kids, you know, they, they think thoughts and they have a question.

00;04;06;29 - 00;04;26;24

Chris

And so they'll just ask it, you know, whether they're at the store or in public. And my nephew at the time, his version of whispering was talking out loud. He didn't really have an idea of how loud his voice was. So he ran over to me and whispered/talked out loud, Uncle Chris, is she your girlfriend?

00;04;27;10 - 00;04;54;03

Chris

And I had just come from, like I mentioned, this conference LGBTQ related. I was giving a workshop on the importance of self-care for advocacy and how that's a really important factor in doing advocacy work and taking care of ourselves. And, and so here I was and I just kind of was really caught off guard. And so that propelled me on a path of asking questions in my own family about, you know, conversations that they're having with their kids.

00;04;54;03 - 00;05;13;16

Chris

Because my nephew was six at the time. And so I just was really surprised by a lot of the parents' response. You know, they felt uncomfortable. There was some discomfort or, I've thought about it, I just don't know what to say or, I don't know what things are okay to say or, Oh, they're not old enough to understand.

00;05;13;16 - 00;05;31;01

Chris

And so this whole notion of kind of old enough to understand was curious. And so that really was the impetus of, of the book. And so I started to do a lot of research and just really wanting to encourage because the way that I thought about it, Jeanne, is that there are, I have a big family and there are a lot of kids in my family.

00;05;31;01 - 00;05;55;29

Chris

And so it wasn't so much about me. It was about right now in our family, there are LGBTQ kids. And if we're not considering that as a possibility, we're just kind of perpetuating the experiences of the closet, which is like, We don't talk about it or it's They're not old enough. Which underneath that I felt was a little bit of like maybe discomfort around what it means to be LGBTQ.

00;05;55;29 - 00;05;59;16

Jeanne

Right, that it's somehow only an adult experience.

00;05;59;16 - 00;06;18;21

Chris

Yeah. Yeah. And so I really, in my own experience of teaching and working and teaching social emotional learning, I just really realized like kids are really insightful and they know stuff. And I remember when I was a kid and you know, I was around six when I discovered that I was gay. And at the time I didn't necessarily know or have a word for it.

00;06;19;14 - 00;06;31;08

Chris

There was, though, an experience that I was having internally that wasn't being, I wasn't seeing it or hearing it reflected back to me from the outside world. And so I just kept it inside.

00;06;31;24 - 00;06;35;24

Jeanne

Is this the kind of book you would have wanted adults in your life to have?

00;06;35;25 - 00;07;04;16

Chris

Absolutely, yeah. Yeah. Because I feel like in my experience and really this is kind of the overarching message and my hope of having these conversations and and inspiring families to have conversations and communities is that, you know, kids are really great interpret— like they're really, really intuitive. They're not so great at interpretation. And so oftentimes when children are young, they're so intuitive and they're picking up on so much, they're like sponges.

00;07;04;26 - 00;07;30;12

Chris

And then sometimes they interpret things, maybe not as what the adult's intentions were, but that can still leave a lasting mark. And so my hope is to kind of build that bridge of being able to help parents and caregivers and families to think about what it would be like from a child— like really to center the children's experiences, get on their level and be curious.

00;07;30;21 - 00;07;51;01

Jeanne

Yeah, I love things that encourage curiosity. I think something that stood out to me when you were telling this story now, and I read it in the book too, but that experience of coming from this LGBT conference and then being asked this question; I feel like sometimes when I have a similar experience, I just think, well, don't you know?

00;07;51;01 - 00;08;00;21

Jeanne

And then for kids, that gets really nuanced in the way you're saying where kids do know things but they don't really know what that means.

00;08;01;01 - 00;08;01;21

Chris

Right, yeah.

00;08;01;21 - 00;08;12;01

Jeanne

Do you find that that's a common experience of just, kind of the switching between spaces and then having those realizations of, wait, why, why aren't you on the same page?

00;08;12;05 - 00;08;39;10

Chris

Yeah, it is. And I appreciate you bringing that up because I feel like, and this is one of my hopes with this conversation, these conversations is this, it's a very nuanced conversation. And there's so many nuances. And I think that sometimes when we talk about, you know, homophobia, transphobia, I feel like that can prevent us from going to the nuances, which I feel like is really the important places to go.

00;08;39;10 - 00;09;07;05

Chris

And so exploring things like heteronormativity and, you know, what was the curiosity, like, What was the curiosity behind my nephew's question that, you know, inspired him to ask that question? I, I share often, you know, because I am really close with my family and my nieces and nephews and I do stuff with them whenever I'm in town. And so I often hear how just going through the day kind of what their world is reflected back to them.

00;09;07;05 - 00;09;27;10

Chris

And you know, an example is just anecdotally, I remember going to the grocery store with my nephew and he has really long eyelashes and we were at the checkout stand and a really kind and sweet woman noticed his long eyelashes and just started to gush over them and she's like, Oh my gosh, you're going to be trouble for the ladies.

00;09;27;23 - 00;09;54;05

Chris

And he was, you know, young, this young, you know, little boy. And and she just started to kind of say, you know, you're going to be trouble for the ladies. I'm sure all the girls have a crush on you. And and that was just such a cute and I was with my mom and my mom was laughing and and I just started to think about, gosh, well, you know, I, when I was his age and I used to get those messages that was like I knew internally that what she was saying didn't match my experience.

00;09;54;05 - 00;10;18;16

Chris

And so then I felt like maybe something was wrong with me or I need to be a certain way. And, and so I feel like that's an example of heteronormativity. And our world is just bombarded with messages like that all the time. And so they inform children's experiences. And so my, my nephew's question was just based off of his own experience of growing up with a mom and a dad.

00;10;18;16 - 00;10;38;00

Chris

And most of the adults in his life have a mom and a dad. And so that's why I feel like when it comes to these nuances, we have to take a proactive approach to include the things that are going on internally with children that may not match the majority of the external world.

00;10;38;00 - 00;10;58;16

Jeanne

The way you talk about the closet is really connected to that idea, where it's not just, people are held there through shame and fear, but sometimes people just think, well, why do we need to talk about it? Why is this important? It becomes like this default assumption for people, and the way your book is written, Raising LGBT Allies.

00;10;58;16 - 00;11;26;24

Jeanne

It's interesting because it's a book that can be really well targeted towards people raising LGBT kids, but also towards people raising straight kids or towards LGBT parents of any kids, which is sort of a challenging tightrope walk, I think, to be kind of all things to all people. But in the way you talk about the closet, it's something that everyone is sort of co-creating or inhabiting on some level.

00;11;26;24 - 00;11;50;12

Chris

Yeah, yeah. That's a really good point and I appreciate that because I feel like what you're describing, I imagine this is kind of my intention with these conversation because you're right, there are kind of different people that I'm wanting to kind of speak to. The connection is not even so much the closet, but this kind of area that adults put things that we don't want to address.

00;11;50;12 - 00;11;50;27

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;11;51;06 - 00;12;10;22

Chris

And I write about in the book this notion of benign neglect and how let's just benign turn the other way. And oftentimes we do that with — I know in my own experience, you know, I've taught young people for six years and I know that sometimes there's a question that I just I don't know, like, where did that come from?

00;12;10;22 - 00;12;33;29

Chris

You know? And so sometimes when adults aren't prepared, they'll put that in this this box of Let's not talk about it, or Let's deflect. And that's kind of the closet. That's, that's where in that space, it's like what I refer to the metaphor in the book that I kind of describe is like underneath the bed.

00;12;34;02 - 00;12;56;22

Chris

And so, you know, oftentimes we can say our room is clean and we picked up our clothes and wiped down the dressers and dusted off the shelves. And then we look under the bed and there's all this stuff underneath there. I mean, I know my one of my nieces, she actually is like, I went under her bed and there was like plates from food that she, you know, snacks that she had taken in her room.

00;12;56;22 - 00;13;27;08

Chris

And and so that's kind of the analogy here is that there's this area that we often put conversations, whether it has to do with race, racism, addiction, family addiction, gender, sexuality, all of those things we kind of put because maybe we haven't done the work in our life that we're comfortable or we don't know. And so the idea here is that, you know, one of the things I talk about, and this is for the LGBTQ parents and people like myself who's a gay uncle, you know, what role do I play?

00;13;27;08 - 00;13;56;04

Chris

You know, and I can only take others as far as I've gone myself in my own life. And so the idea here is that if we can really center children's experiences because they have so much going on inside. And so just really giving them the permission to be able to ask the questions. And sometimes if we don't know, we don't know, but not to like put it in this bucket because then the interpretation is that, oh, that's bad, we don't talk about that.

00;13;56;24 - 00;14;12;19

Jeanne

Something I've seen on a policy level and on a personal level is that a lot of the harm that comes about towards LGBT people is really intimately connected to the way that people just don't take kids seriously.

00;14;12;19 - 00;14;13;10

Chris

Yes.

00;14;13;26 - 00;14;16;08

Jeanne

They don't really treat them as real people with their own thoughts.

00;14;16;08 - 00;14;16;17

Chris

Right.

00;14;16;27 - 00;14;30;11

Jeanne

And their own desire to learn and grow. For whatever reason, kids get treated as, just well, they're not quite there yet and we'll, we'll just deal with them later. And for now we just need to kind of manage them.

00;14;30;17 - 00;14;31;03

Chris

It's true.

00;14;31;13 - 00;14;38;13

Jeanne

Is that something that you saw as a kid or something that you've been more aware of now as an adult seeing how kids are treated?

00;14;38;13 - 00;14;58;14

Chris

Yeah, I think it's, I mean it's, that's such a such a good point and that's so important to be able to even talk about because, you know, one of the things I even remember, I wrote about this in one of my chapters in my book, is I remember going to this this training, sexual harassment training at the organization that I teach with.

00;14;58;14 - 00;15;23;20

Chris

And they were describing all these laws that are in place to protect people in the workplace, and everything they were saying, I'm thinking, well, that stuff happens with kids at homes, you know, and where are the laws about that, you know, and as far as like protecting kids and if they have, you know, if they come out of the closet or if their parents find out that they're LGBTQ.

00;15;23;20 - 00;15;47;23

Chris

And I remember approaching the lawyer and asking him, you know, how how can you have these laws that work here for adults? And then you apply the same situation in homes and there's nothing really that is, you know, protecting the children, really. And he talked about the difficulties with with children's rights and that children don't have rights in this country.

00;15;47;25 - 00;16;07;04

Chris

And, you know, a lot of places around the world. And you see that you know, with custody battles and, you know, things like that. It's really unfortunate. And I think that that's really my hope is to be able to give voice. I mean, really, this book came from also my own experience of what it was like not having that voice and not being able to express that voice.

00;16;07;26 - 00;16;22;20

Jeanne

Something that I've seen is that, you know, you're trying to figure out what role you should play, how to open up these conversations that people aren't having, and then not having a voice as a kid. Something that you do now. I mean, even just mentioning that conference you were here in town for, but I know you've spoken at TEDx events.

00;16;22;20 - 00;16;42;14

Jeanne

You do a lot of education. It seems like you're doing a lot of education to different audiences in different settings. That's really amazing work. I think it's really needed and I wanted to get an idea of how you got into that and how you got started with that approach, which you know, is a path, you know, a lot of people are just afraid of public speaking in the first place.

00;16;42;16 - 00;16;42;23

Chris

Yeah.

00;16;43;08 - 00;17;11;10

Chris

Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, thank you. I appreciate that. I really, honestly it was inspired by that question my nephew asked me and the conversations that I started to have in my family. And, you know, just to give you an example, you know, my mom who loves and supports me, you know, when I asked her if my sister and brother had talked to their kids, her response was, they're not old enough to understand.

00;17;11;28 - 00;17;31;07

Chris

And I can't tell you how many movies I've seen, still see where there's, you know, little kid who shows, you know, six year old little kid with a six year old, a little six year old little girl and a six year old little boy who they have a childhood crush. And everyone gushes over like, oh, so, so cute.

00;17;31;20 - 00;18;14;05

Chris

And how that's just normalized. And so when it comes to considering that, oh, well, they my nieces and nephews have a gay uncle, what does that mean? Oh, they're not old enough to understand that, but it's perfectly okay for them to understand that, my nephew is curious of whether or not I have a girlfriend. And so that I share that because I think that that's really what I'm trying to encourage, is that we can love our family members and still contribute to this area, this benign neglect kind of sort of bucket that we don't want to put things in because we have our own discomfort around what it means.

00;18;14;14 - 00;18;38;22

Chris

And so how I got started was really I felt like I found this sort of antidote or something that could help families and I just wanted to share it. And so personally, I did. I had fear of public speaking. That was one of my biggest things. And so I started to go to this organization, maybe some of your listeners have heard called Toastmasters.

00;18;38;29 - 00;18;41;11

Jeanne

You're the second person on the podcast to mention Toastmasters.

00;18;41;11 - 00;19;03;02

Chris

Yeah. Wow. I mean, it's an incredible group. And so I literally started to go to Toastmasters every Tuesday morning at 6:30 a.m. Yeah, I was at the Denny's and I used to go there and we would meet in the back room and and it was really amazing because I signed up because I wanted to practice public speaking, but I didn't realize that you have to write a speech before you give one.

00;19;04;04 - 00;19;28;15

Chris

And so that's really where I discovered writing and I just felt like I just had something I wanted to share. And and that's really how I got started. Is that to be a Toastmaster you have to give ten speeches in order to become a Competent Communicator. That's like a button that you get. And each speech has its own kind of like, one's an introduction speech one is a sit more sales, like.

00;19;28;16 - 00;19;29;12

Jeanne

Just different functions.

00;19;29;20 - 00;19;39;28

Chris

Yes, serves like a different role. And so each of the speeches that I wrote was, I felt like it was a message or like a talk or something I wanted to give and help people.

00;19;40;18 - 00;19;52;20

Jeanne

And then, you know, taking that, you've got this body of work to some extent, you wanted to take those speeches out and actually give them. Where did you get started in terms of just finding an audience?

00;19;52;20 - 00;20;12;08

Chris

Yeah. Yeah, that that was the the TEDx talk was, you know, after I started to, a lot of my my speeches turned into articles that were published. And so then that started to come, you know, get around and then I just started giving workshops. I live in Los Angeles, and so I was doing a lot of work teaching social emotional learning.

00;20;12;19 - 00;20;36;18

Chris

And so kind of even what I was seeing with the youth that I was working with, the curriculum that I that I, was, is about, is about social emotional learning, about how kids can bring voice to their emotions. And so I was seeing that although it wasn't specific to LGBTQ, there are all of these things that kids were wanting to talk about and they just didn't feel like they could in their homes.

00;20;37;16 - 00;20;47;28

Chris

And so that's kind of where I started to merge the two and then give like workshops and presentations locally. And then came the TEDx Talk.

00;20;48;10 - 00;20;49;00

Jeanne

That's really cool.

00;20;49;00 - 00;20;49;11

Chris

Yeah.

00;20;49;26 - 00;21;12;17

Jeanne

You've mentioned teaching SEL, social emotional learning, a few times. That's something that's really cool under fire. As innocuous as it is, it's been thrown on the bandwagon with critical race theory as something that certain people have a real grudge against being taught in schools, which is remarkable. Have you seen any of that hostility at all?

00;21;12;17 - 00;21;31;01

Chris

Yeah, no, I haven't. And I don't know if that's maybe… I mentioned I live in Los Angeles, so that, it's more I mean, it's really widely accepted there. I think what I would hear with that, what I would be curious is, it's maybe not understood.

00;21;31;01 - 00;21;33;06

Jeanne

Yeah, yeah no. They have no idea what it is. They're just mad about it.

00;21;33;06 - 00;21;52;18

Chris

Yeah. Yeah. And I find that, I mean even when I say to people SEL, unless you know what SEL means, you're like, What is that? And I mean, I've been teaching it for six years and I, even some of the teachers who teach it are like, how do we explain? You know, it's kind of really it's incredible.

00;21;52;18 - 00;22;14;13

Chris

It's it's it's so, so helpful. One of the things that, and this is another thing that I started to do just to really bring my own message and like wanting to share my story is there's an organization called PFLAG and I'm sure your listeners probably have heard of it and they have speaker bureaus. And so they do.

00;22;14;19 - 00;22;35;12

Chris

They do a lot of, PFLAG serves a lot of different functions for families to support them. And one of them in the advocacy realm is they have speaker bureaus, some of the larger chapters. And so in Los Angeles they have a large speakers bureau. And so companies, organizations, schools, will invite PFLAG speakers to go in and speak and share their personal stories.

00;22;35;12 - 00;22;55;08

Chris

And it's amazing and I'm drawing the parallel of social emotional learning is because a lot of the schools that would go into a speaker's bureau for is the school would contact PFLAG because there was anti LGBTQ bullying that was happening at the school. And so they wanted to bring a group in to kind of help share stories.

00;22;55;20 - 00;23;19;00

Chris

And in my experience of doing that for almost eight years of the PFALG speakers bureau, there would be a classroom of kids. And there was the previous week a kid getting bullied for being LGBTQ. And then that week we're there and we, literally the whole panel, the structure of it is that each person on the panel, there's usually five speakers.

00;23;19;15 - 00;23;50;12

Chris

It can vary and you each share for 5 minutes your story, whether you're trans, whether you're nonbinary, lesbian, gay, and you just share 5 minutes of your personal story. And then at the end they open it up to questions. And I cannot tell you how many times you would just see the breakthroughs that would occur, because when kids can hear a person's experience, they may not relate to the details, but they know what it's like to have a crush.

00;23;50;12 - 00;24;08;18

Chris

They know what it's like to feel rejection. They know what it's like to be disappointed. So I just started to see these dialogs occur, and that's the same thing that happens with social emotional learning, is that oftentimes there's a school that's having a lot of challenges, and so then we'll go in and run a social emotional learning curriculum.

00;24;08;18 - 00;24;31;21

Chris

And our program is, there are three phases, and it's designed to compliment an academic school year. And so it's the same kind of thing, where the kids are being able to talk about things, that is helping them go out into their day to day lives and experience, you know, the drugs and alcohol and sex that, you know, the kids, you know, are having that —

00;24;31;21 - 00;24;35;21

Chris

Again, we don't want to look at or address and we just turn away from it.

00;24;36;21 - 00;24;55;24

Jeanne

It makes me think, you know, you've done a lot of speaking in Los Angeles. I realized when I brought up the hostility and backlash to social emotional learning that it's not really a thing there the way it is here. You've done some speeches and presentations and education here in Arizona too, at University of Arizona, I think. You grew up here.

00;24;55;24 - 00;25;05;11

Jeanne

You grew up in Tucson. What do you see when you're going back and forth in terms of the messages people need to hear and maybe their responses to that?

00;25;05;11 - 00;25;33;09

Chris

Yeah, yeah. That's a really good question. I think that in my experience, you know, one of the things that I'm really grateful to be able to even talk to you and share more specifically in Arizona is that, you know, we sometimes think that we've come a long way in certain areas. And, and, that kind of prevents us from really exploring kind of the underneath the bed stuff.

00;25;33;16 - 00;25;52;18

Chris

And so, you know, just to kind of, I guess anecdotally, you know, recently, just with everything that's going on in Florida and the anti LGBTQ legislation and don't say gay and people are, you know, you know and I live in L.A. and so the conversations I hear are, I can't believe that, you know, there's a don't say gay and that's still a thing.

00;25;52;18 - 00;26;06;13

Chris

And I'm like, I grew up in Arizona, and it wasn't until just 2019, a few years ago, that there was a similar bill on the legislation that prevented schools from having conversations around LGBTQ, specifically.

00;26;06;13 - 00;26;07;02

Jeanne

That's right. Yeah.

00;26;07;02 - 00;26;46;23

Chris

You know, and so that that makes an impact, you know, it's not, you know, when you take a law of the books, it doesn't just immediately, it doesn't just — those laws created like roots that go down and are in, you know, we can't see them. And so it's helpful, you know, just to kind of share, you know, some of the things that in my, the social emotional learning curriculum is, is it's all about uncovering like our negative thoughts or negative things that, you know, maybe contribute to low self esteem and lack of self-confidence and helping empower kids and give them their voice and help them to connect with, you know, their values.

00;26;46;25 - 00;27;15;26

Chris

And I can't tell you how many classes I've taught. And I'm hearing kids talk about, you know, because one of the first classes we help them uncover their negative beliefs about school, success, family, their bodies, and money, just basic kind of things. And we always, you know, I'll have a class discussion where I'll pick a word or a topic and then have a discussion.

00;27;15;26 - 00;27;42;02

Chris

These kids are like three generations different than myself, and yet I'm hearing the same things that they believe about money or what they've heard about money. And so I use that as an analogy to describe the things like, when we have these laws in schools that prevent administrators from including LGBTQ in conversations, I was a teenager at those schools.

00;27;42;02 - 00;27;51;21

Chris

I sat in the classrooms and didn't see myself or hear myself reflected back. And so then that contributes to that bucket of things that we don't want to talk about.

00;27;52;01 - 00;27;55;15

Jeanne

And it gets stuck there. Even when the laws are off the books.

00;27;55;15 - 00;28;19;03

Chris

Right, exactly. Because that's a, yes. That's part of our belief system. That's, you know, my book, the subtitle is called A Parent's Guide to Changing the Messages from the Playground. And that's the analogy that I use to describe the subconscious beliefs that we pick up from our families and our culture and society, and that contributes, that's all contributed by the influences that we have.

00;28;19;22 - 00;28;39;22

Jeanne

I really liked what you were saying about the way we can get held up by our own sort of false confidence in progress. We have had a lot of progress, but it's not everything. And I do see those people saying, wow, I can't believe this is happening. And, also someone who grew up in Arizona, I feel like, why can't you believe it?

00;28;39;22 - 00;29;02;29

Jeanne

It's all around us. So, you know, you've written this book; it has a lot of ideas about what it means to be gay, what it means to be trans. Even the language people use, you really at certain points get into the nuance of really specific words and how to think about better ways to say things. That's something that's always evolving.

00;29;03;02 - 00;29;13;22

Jeanne

So when you think about how not to get held up by, Okay, we've done it. We've gotten here. How do you keep learning and growing and changing your own perspectives?

00;29;13;22 - 00;29;36;17

Chris

Yeah. Yeah, that's such a good. That's such a good point, too, because on one hand, language is really important. And I have a whole section specifically about why language matters. And, if we're, if we get stuck, sometimes I know in my own experience that sometimes I don't want to offend someone or I don't want to say it wrong, so then I won't say anything.

00;29;36;17 - 00;29;57;19

Chris

And that just prevents the conversation. And so it's kind of trying to find, again, the nuances of really being able to. One of the messages that I hope that my book conveys is that we're going to make mistakes. Parenting? Oh, my goodness. It is not easy. Being an uncle. It's not easy. being a teacher, not easy. Being an advocate, not easy.

00;29;57;19 - 00;30;21;25

Chris

All of these things aren't easy because they're requiring us to step into realms of vulnerability, and so what I hope and even from this conversation is that we're going to make mistakes. And that's totally okay. That's part of the process. And we're going to make ruptures. And where there's a rupture, there's an opportunity for repair. And that creates more healing and even stronger relationships that we have.

00;30;22;03 - 00;30;37;07

Chris

You know, if we're able to make that repair. And so I want to encourage families not to have so much fear about trying to be perfect or get it right, that prevents them from doing anything or saying anything.

00;30;37;22 - 00;30;53;12

Jeanne

It sounds like what you're saying is sort of that, you know, language is a tool to get things out of that box. And if we're getting hung up too much on, Am I going to use the right words? then that can actually keep us from talking about it at all and perpetuate it that.

00;30;53;13 - 00;31;11;24

Chris

Yeah. And I think, you know, in my experience, similar to heteronormativity, you know, like what I, what I kind of try and describe heteronormativity for folks is that it's often not something that you can necessarily I mean, you could see it like in images and, you know, you can see it, but it's really something that's felt. It's like humidity, it's like the weather.

00;31;11;24 - 00;31;38;03

Chris

You feel it. And so that's kind of how language is. And so for instance, I can't tell you how many times I've read articles or I've seen articles like, you know, I'll pitch a story and they'll change the title, you know, that something more like clickable or you know, and words like gay lifestyle or homosexuality, you know, things like that.

00;31;38;03 - 00;32;02;06

Chris

And just for those of, you know, that are aware, there are certain words that are kind of problematic to use outside of like of like clinical educational context. And so I had a conversation with my uncle recently who's a mental health professional. And, you know, he mentioned, we were talking and he was, he was saying, preference, sexual preference.

00;32;02;06 - 00;32;19;14

Chris

And I'm, I wrote a book. I have conversations. You know, he's aware of my book and, you know, and so it's ongoing and it's kind of where we get to just continue to invite and also not get to get stuck.

00;32;19;23 - 00;32;35;27

Jeanne

Right. The context of the words that get used determines, you know, the meaning of them and the feeling of them, right. If you're using clinical words outside of a clinical context, you're implicitly communicating that being gay or being trans is a clinical phenomenon.

00;32;35;28 - 00;32;36;10

Chris

Right.

00;32;36;27 - 00;32;51;01

Jeanne

But also, you know, intracommunity and outside of the community, different words feel very different. If a straight person says some things, that sends a very different message than if a gay person says the same words.

00;32;51;01 - 00;32;51;13

Chris

Right.

00;32;51;26 - 00;33;10;17

Jeanne

Something you wrote about, though, is the mistakes we perpetuate between each other as LGBT people. That's something I think a lot of people ignore, because we're all traumatized in different ways, and trauma behavior plays out with that kind of internecine conflict.

00;33;10;17 - 00;33;11;03

Chris

Yeah.

00;33;11;03 - 00;33;20;12

Jeanne

What was it that really connected with you on on that idea that, you know, you were able to get into the analysis of it and include it in your book?

00;33;20;12 - 00;34;01;12

Chris

Yeah. Thank you for asking that. I think that's really also one of my big passions, too, is that I recently finished my Master's of Arts in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in LGBT affirmative psychology. And so I did my clinical training at an LGBTQ mental health community center. And, you know, one of the really important things that as a clinician I'm assessing for that we don't often talk about outside of a clinical context in the community, is the internalized shame that we experience as a result of those conversations that we didn't have, that our families or communities put into this bucket of like, we don't want to talk about.

00;34;01;26 - 00;34;34;24

Chris

And so then children internalize that as I did something wrong, I am wrong. It's, and it becomes shame that we carry inside and then that can cause clinically significant challenges as adults. And so, you know, there's this notion of, you know, the oppressed become the oppressor. And so then in our own communities we're tending to project out on to others our own internalized shame that we still carry unconsciously that's unresolved.

00;34;34;24 - 00;34;57;09

Chris

And so the idea kind of going full circle back to that, that workshop that I gave in the beginning of the importance of inner advocacy and really tending to our own hearts so that we can be effective specifically as it relates to the advocacy or the work that we do out in the world, or just even have friendships and relationships with other members of the LGBTQ community.

00;34;57;28 - 00;35;35;11

Jeanne

Self advocacy is something people don't talk a lot about. Yeah, I've mostly heard it in the context of like disability rights, but it really is so central to the experience of being a queer kid or a trans kid. Being able to express your needs and your feelings in a confident and honest way is one of the best skills you can ever have for anything, whether you have to take that into a committee meeting and tell that to lawmakers or just, trying to form friendships and trying to form relationships.

00;35;35;11 - 00;35;35;15

Chris

Yeah.

00;35;35;21 - 00;35;36;02

Chris

Yeah.

00;35;36;19 - 00;35;51;27

Jeanne

I think it's really cool that you're focusing on that. I know — I've been able to talk to some other psychologists who specialize in LGBT care and that's I think, a common theme, but it is not something that has as much awareness in the wider community.

00;35;51;27 - 00;36;10;21

Chris

Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, that's I mean that's, so I'm glad you're saying that because I mean, it's so, it is so important and I think it's part and parcel of the work. And I, in my own experience, you know, I can just share is that, you know, when I came out of the closet, I immersed myself in LGBTQ advocacy work.

00;36;10;21 - 00;36;30;08

Chris

I was living in Tucson. I would drive up to Phoenix because Phoenix had a large HRC presence. And I just remember jumping right in. And in fact that was one of the reasons I moved out to Los Angeles, was to work for a large LGBTQ organization. And what I didn't do is tend to my heart and do the more inner advocacy work.

00;36;30;08 - 00;36;56;07

Chris

I was so focused on outward advocacy that I bypassed that part. And so what's made me more effective in my work and more empowered is that I've tended to my heart and I've done that inner work to help myself become more effective out in the world. And so because I feel like that's really where the change, not to say that change can't happen, you know, anywhere.

00;36;56;07 - 00;37;11;15

Chris

But I really do feel that, you know, one of the messages of my book is that I've said this I think I said this earlier, is that we can only take others as far as we've gone ourselves. And really that to me is like life changing from an advocacy perspective.

00;37;12;01 - 00;37;19;20

Jeanne

What does that inner work look like for you? I think this is something where a lot of people get into this work because it's so important to them and then they get burnt out.

00;37;19;20 - 00;37;20;07

Chris

Yes.

00;37;20;15 - 00;37;33;25

Jeanne

And, you know, it's important to them, but they put themselves last. And I think that's a lot of our listeners, to be honest. So I think if you have things you can share about the inner work you've done, I'd love to hear it.

00;37;34;06 - 00;38;20;29

Chris

Yeah, I for me, I just had a conversation recently with with someone who was talking about, we were talking about self-care, self-love and he was like, I don't, like what does that mean? Like going on a hike? I don't know. And I kind of laughed. And, you know, I think that for me, it began by just really tending to, tapping into my own personal needs and carving out time to connect with myself, whether that was through a spiritual practice like prayer, meditation, and really as if, like, I need to eat, I need to drink water on a daily basis.

00;38;20;29 - 00;38;39;18

Chris

I kind of need to do that on a daily basis as well. And so for me, that's kind of how it began. And then it's turned into this thing where I'm really, I think because of that work, I'm a much more effective advocate because I am able to contain my energy.

00;38;40;03 - 00;39;02;04

Jeanne

Your spirituality infuses a lot of the book, I think. You shared a really touching letter from your mom that I think is really connected to her spiritual experience. People can read the book. I think, you know, that's a great thing for people to do. But could you share a little bit about your relationship to spirituality?

00;39;02;04 - 00;39;16;06

Jeanne

You know, having religious parents is something that can really disrupt that sometimes. And it seems like it's come around and become this really healing thing, not only for you, but for your mom and therefore, you know, for your family in a lot of ways.

00;39;16;06 - 00;39;46;19

Chris

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thank you for asking. Yes, religion was definitely part of my experience. And so this journey has really been a journey of rediscovering a higher power and my relationship with the universe. Going from this kid who grew up with this persecutory God who, literally I was going to go to hell, I mean, that was an actual thing that I thought could happen if I didn't change or if I didn't become better.

00;39;46;19 - 00;40;11;21

Chris

And when I say better, I mean like the best little boy that I thought my parents wanted me to be. And so that was a long process. And through that process, my spirituality strengthened and my relationship with a higher power and my relationship with a God of my own understanding. And, you know, when I say God, whatever works for you.

00;40;11;21 - 00;40;35;14

Chris

And I think that that was part of my journey. And through that process, my mom also because she's a very, she comes from a very religious kind of background. Still to this day, is very religious. And she's been able to reestablish her relationship with a higher power and really explore the damage that can, that — not can be done —

00;40;35;14 - 00;40;44;04

Chris

But that is done on behalf of religion to the LGBTQ community and members of the LGBTQ community specifically.

00;40;44;26 - 00;41;06;09

Jeanne

I think that's a really great place to wrap up. Honestly, I love to talk to people about that aspect of their journey. I think for people in Arizona, it's really common. I'm sure for people around the country it's really common. So seeing people who've been able to come through it and heal, not just internally but in relation to family members, which is often where a lot of the harm.

00;41;06;09 - 00;41;14;20

Jeanne

Happens around religion and spirituality. I always love to hear those stories and hopefully for the listeners it's something that can be impactful.

00;41;14;22 - 00;41;33;28

Chris

Yeah. Yeah, I hope so as well because it's such an, I think just such an important part of the journey and it's where I see the most healing that can come. Because really it's, it's allowing ourselves to love ourselves more fully and more, I think empowered.

00;41;34;15 - 00;41;36;11

Jeanne

Yeah. Well, thanks for talking with me on the podcast.

00;41;36;19 - 00;41;39;27

Chris

Thank you for having me. Yeah, thank you.

00;41;39;27 - 00;42;11;22

Jeanne

Thanks again to Chris for being my guest on the podcast this week. And thanks to all of you for listening. We've got some great ways to get involved in the work coming up soon, including our Spectrum Academy event this Saturday. The focus of the event is a storytelling for advocacy exercise that I think is a blast. It can be a little challenging and it requires some real critical thinking, but it's great and it's really in line with the kind of storytelling we do on this podcast.

00;42;11;22 - 00;42;25;00

Jeanne

So definitely check it out. I'd love to see you there. That's Saturday, October 29. Thanks again for listening and I'll talk to you next week.