Edite Forman(Any Pronouns), is a volunteer at Lambert House. When volunteering, they hang out at the front desk, walk around the house to chat with youth, or participate in Wednesday art night. They are also part of the Outdoor Recreation group, where they organize and lead seasonal outdoor activities, like hiking, sledding, or paddle boarding.
When you came out the first time, what made you feel safe to do so?
I didn’t really “come out” as it were. Being below the radar (even to myself) had always been the safest route for me growing up, and this continued into adulthood. Many folks in my greater social circle, as well as Seattle in general, had been living openly and happily as LGBTQ+ for years. So, I knew I could just slide into living openly in a quiet way that I was comfy with, and that friends and acquaintances would follow my lead on it.
I, possibly weirdly, had more concerns about the LGBTQ+ community. I’d seen a lot of gatekeeping and strict expectations about what affectations and appearances got you accepted verses rejected. It looked like a different version of the cultural strictures of my upbringing and I wasn’t interested in repeating that experience with another group that claimed to love and accept me unconditionally…but didn’t. This continued pretty much up until I learned about Lambert House last year and that they actually meant inclusive and unconditional. I wanted to be part of that type of community, so started volunteering there and have been growing increasingly comfy being “out” around my fellow queer folks.
How do you ally yourself with others who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community?
In a general sense, I talk about aspects of queer life as nonchalantly as I’m able in order to normalize it for everyone, both queer and not. More specifically, I make a point to learn about friends’ and acquaintances’ identities so I can incorporate that knowledge into how I think about and speak to them.
How do you educate people about the LGBTQ+ community?
Discussion, primarily. I tend to take a more academic route, so often explain social systems and structures, and how culture shapes our perceptions of gender and orientation. I have an easier time meeting people where they are through that route. I find it helps minimize awkwardness, and lets people who genuinely want to learn know it’s ok to ask questions and seek out insights.
How do you educate people about intersectionality in the LGBTQ+ community?
Same as above, but I’ll pull in some examples of how various identities can combine to create additional or different challenges for people.
What resources would you recommend for LGBTQ+ youth who have questions?
What did you think your life was going to be like after high school?
Nothing like it turned out. During high school knowing I was queer (both in gender and orientation) wasn’t safe knowledge to have, so I simply didn’t have it. Any awareness I did have was kept very vague and subconscious. It became more conscious after I had moved to Seattle and got some distance from home.
As a teenager I thought I’d follow a very mundane work > college > work > relationship > family route. As it happens, I was never particularly interested in relationships or family, but I did really like school, so now I get to focus on grad school in the way I want to.
What tips would you have for people questioning their gender identity?
Learn about how gender operates within your culture. It’s personal, but also influenced heavily by things like language, social systems, social roles, etc… This will help you understand the ways people around you view and react to gender, as well why you may think or feel certain ways about it. It also offers you new ways to communicate and relate your experiences to the people you want to understand it. Most importantly, it will help you with questions and internal struggles.
Listen to what you’re feeling and what you feel drawn towards being. There can be a lot of focus put on looking or acting a certain way in order to be accepted as a binary gender or a non-conforming gender, but that doesn’t actually determine who you get to be. It’s your identity and you get to determine whether or not that includes aesthetic or behavioral elements. Talk the way you want to. Move and carry yourself the way you want to. Dress the way you want to. Engage in the activities you want to. Feel about and view yourself the way you want to.
Give yourself time to figure out how you want to reconcile yourself with the world around you. Try stuff out. You’ll find what feels right.
What tips would you have for people questioning their sexual orientation?
Learning about how sexual orientation operates in your culture can be invaluable, and help you gauge what kinds of struggles you may face, and ways to deal with them.
Attraction and libido are not the same thing. Neither are romantic and sexual attraction. Being of a particular orientation doesn’t mean you have to behave in any particular way. Listen to yourself and go with what feels comfy. You know you best.
How do you stay resilient in the face of negativity and stereotyping?
Honestly, friends with shared experiences, or who have dealt with a form of dehumanization. They know how good it feels to just be allowed to exist as you are, so are like the comfy pajama pants of the friend world.
What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ representation?
Rainbow color coding.
What are your hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community?
That we continue to wear away all vestiges of gatekeeping from our community. Exclusion being something nearly all of us know intimately, we’ve experienced the kind of pain we’re inflicting on others when we keep them out. We are responsible for ending that cycle and making sure our community is open to everyone.
That we keep using our experiences to build bridges and acting as agents of change for anyone who’s faced dehumanization because of who they innately are.
Is there any advice you would give to the LGBTQ+ teens of today?
A culture is simultaneously upheld and created by the people in it. It’s yours. Make it what you want it to be.