Being Trans in a Red State – Olivia Haidar

Being Trans in a Red State – Olivia Haidar

The 29 year-old trans woman dispels myths about what it means to be trans, including those she used to believe. She shares about hormone therapy, gender reassignment surgery, the prejudice and stigma of “passing”, feeling dysphoric growing up, coming out in her Indiana hometown and her upbringing by an overprotective mother, an absent father, and an alcoholic and emotionally abusive stepfather.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @hitherehaidar
Follow her on Instagram @ohaidarling
Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ohaidarling

This episode is sponsored by Young Health’s probiotic Probimune. To get your first bottle free (plus $6.75 shipping) go to www.probimune.com and use offer code MENTAL

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling. To get your first week free, go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental  Must be 18 or older.

This episode is sponsored by ZipRecruiter. To post jobs for free go to www.ZipRecruiter.com/first

Support the podcast by becoming a monthly donor for as little as $1 a month. Get free rewards from Paul. www.Patreon.com/mentalpod

Check out Earbuds, the great documentary about the power of podcasting featuring podcasters like Paul and many of his former guests/friends/fellow podcasters. Stream or buy DVD at www.comedyfilmnerds.com

Episode:

Play

Episode notes:

Follow Olivia on Twitter @hitherehaidar
Follow her on Instagram @ohaidarling
Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ohaidarling

This episode is sponsored by Young Health's probiotic Probimune. To get your first bottle free (plus $6.75 shipping) go to www.probimune.com and use offer code MENTAL

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling. To get your first week free, go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental  Must be 18 or older.

This episode is sponsored by ZipRecruiter. To post jobs for free go to www.ZipRecruiter.com/first

Support the podcast by becoming a monthly donor for as little as $1 a month. Get free rewards from Paul. www.Patreon.com/mentalpod

Check out Earbuds, the great documentary about the power of podcasting featuring podcasters like Paul and many of his former guests/friends/fellow podcasters. Stream or buy DVD at www.comedyfilmnerds.com

Episode Transcript:

Transcription services donated by Accurate Secretarial LLC. You can find them at www.AccurateSecretarial.com.

 

Welcome to Episode 322 with my guest Olivia Haidar. Today's episode is sponsored by Probimune. Did you know that research suggests up to 80% of your immune system relies on a healthy gut? Well, the people at Young Health do know that, and that's why they've developed Probimune, a liquid probiotic that promotes intestinal health and contains a unique blend of bacteria not found in 99% of other probiotics. It's easy to use, easy to travel with and does not require refrigeration.

Right now, you guys can get your first bottle of Probimune free when you sign up for automated delivery. That's a $34.95 bottle of Probimune free, and all you pay is $6.75 shipping and handling. So, just go to Probimune.com, that's P-r-o-b-i-m-u-n-e, and use the promo code MENTAL at check-out to get your free bottle today.

I'm Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, a place for honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas and sexual dysfunction to everyday compulsive negative thinking. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. It's not a doctor's office. I’m not a therapist. It's more like a waiting room that doesn't suck.

The Web site for this show is Mentalpod.com. Mentalpod is also the Twitter handle you can follow me at. And please go check out our Web site. Fill out a survey. Maybe we'll read your survey on the show. All kinds of things you can do at the Web site, forums, blogs, ways to support the show, resources to get help, you name it, it is there.

I want to read an e-mail I got from Sylvia, and she writes, I just listened to your interview with Laura J. That was last week's episode. I appreciate you having someone on the show who was open enough to talk about their experience contracting genital herpes. I contracted it back in 1994 at the age of 30 from a boyfriend after we had been together for over a year. He claimed he didn't think he had it, although he had an outbreak in 1979 and the doctor gave him a topical cream for it and sent him on his way. He never had an outbreak during his 10-year marriage prior to meeting me.

I noticed a lesion on him, but he claimed it was a skin irritation from friction, until we both went to the clinic to get tested. There are countless people out there who carry the virus for genital herpes but don't know they have it because many people contract it without experiencing symptoms, or, in the case with my then-boyfriend, stayed dormant years after the initial outbreak.

You mentioned that you had three guests on your show who have it. Perhaps, more accurately, it's that those were the only guests who disclosed they had it. Unfortunately, there's such a negative stigma about herpes and negative assumptions about the type of people who have it. It's not a death sentence. I was devastated when I learned I had it, but it's rarely an issue in my life now.

I was disappointed that Laura J. said she talks to people about it yet isn't honest about telling them she has it. I also understand how difficult it is to come out to people without fear of being judged and rejected. I hope that eventually changes. We don't judge people who contract the cold virus or chicken pox, yet there are so many jokes about people who are HSV-positive. I hope you have other guests on your show in the future who are honest about this issue. It's much more common than you think.

Thank you so much for sharing that, Sylvia. One of the things that I love about doing this show is my, just when I think I have a perspective on something completely locked in and understood, I'll get an e-mail from one of you guys or I'll interview somebody and my perspective will broaden or change, and it's really one of the great things about getting to do this show and getting to know you guys.

And speaking of perspective, I want to give some love to BetterHelp.com. They're an online counseling service, and I have been using a BetterHelp.com counselor for about six months now, I think, and I've shared on previous episodes that I really, really value the work we do together and I love her as a therapist.

And one of the things that I like about her is she will sometimes send me a message during the week for something to maybe think about for next week's session, and we do video, too, video sessions once a week, and she writes, hi, Paul, as we discussed, I would like for you to continue to reflect on what life will look like for you moving forward, especially after your divorce. More and more I see a growing sense of, quote, awareness of others in a very healthy way. Do you feel like, as we work together, the child in you has been given a space to begin to grow up and connect to the man that you are now?

And [chuckles] as uncomfortable as I am with the talk of inner, you know, the inner child, I really do believe that it is a thing. And I wrote back, I definitely feel myself growing up, especially as I become more aware of boundaries and I begin to utilize tools to not only set mine but respect other people's.

And I actually did it on Friday while conversing with a woman who asked questions about specifics regarding my struggle with boundaries, and I didn't give her any more information than was asked and told her that I was starting to get a little bit triggered and I might have to switch subjects, but as it turns out, I didn't even have to.

And then Donna wrote back and said, that's significant. Your authentic self is learning to manage the hurt, acting-out child in you and as that child heals, grows up, and becomes a part of your healthy adult being. So, just a little sample of what I have gotten to experience using BetterHelp.com.

So, if you want to try it out, go to BetterHelp.com/mental and complete a questionnaire and then you'll get matched with a BetterHelp.com counselor and you can experience a free week of counseling to see if online counseling is a good fit for you. You've got to be over 18, and I highly recommend it. Check it out, once again, BetterHelp.com/mental.

This is also an e-mail that I got, and this is from, how does she want to be, she wants to be referred to as M. And she wrote, dear, Paul, I really enjoyed this week's episode, so thank you, as always. I've been a loyal, very loyal listener for several years and I know you've expressed appreciation before when listeners can provide some information about areas you might be misinformed or under-informed.

There was a moment like that in this episode with a listener survey, and I'd like to provide some feedback. I'm trying to figure out which one she is, which episode it was, in case you guys want to go back and listen to it. Let's see, this came in on, I think it might have been last week's episode. Yes, it would have been last week's episode with Laura J.

I don't recall the name she used, but the listener was describing the abuse she's experienced at the hands of her parents and her husband. I work as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in a shelter in Oregon, so I feel I'm uniquely positioned to respond.

While I know your intentions and the advice you gave her were very pure, I noticed some harmful myths in your advice that I'd like to address in a loving way. My aim is to educate and inform, not to shame you at all.

The listener's story was textbook domestic violence, and I hear stories like hers multiple times a day. Some super-common factors she mentioned, the emotional manipulation, gaslighting, belittling of her feelings, threats of suicide if she leaves, faking suicide, blaming her, using her bisexuality to shame and control her, possessiveness, involving the kids in their conflicts, threatening to take the kids, soiling her reputation to friends and family in order to isolate and humiliate her, all of these things are examples of how unequal dynamics of power and control, and that's in bold, unequal dynamics of power and control form the basis of her husband's attitudes towards her.

The root of the problem of domestic violence is not anger issues or alcohol or drug addiction or even trauma. Sure, those things can contribute and make domestic violence more severe or more physically violent, but research shows that perpetrators of domestic violence are not actually angrier than other people, and there are plenty of people who are addicts and who have trauma who don't abuse their intimate partners. There are also many abusers who don't have significant trauma and who don't abuse drugs or alcohol.

Domestic abusers have plenty of control over when, how and at whom they direct their violence. They don't generally act out and gaslight or assault their bosses or their friends or their mothers. They do it to their intimate partners. They don't generally abuse their partners when other people are around to see it because they're on their best behavior in front of others, especially law enforcement.

I hear stories of men berating and beating their partners in a, quote, blind, uncontrollable rage, and then when the neighbor calls law enforcement and cops knock on the door, they're able to flip a switch and act like everything is fine.

The listener is not at fault here at all, and at all is in caps, for picking him, for staying with him, for, quote, provoking his anger. I'm not saying she's a flawless person or a flawless partner because, of course, no one is, but in terms of the dynamics of power and control, that's his doing.

You said, quote, healthy people don't choose people like your husband, healthy people don't stay with people like your husband, unquote. I have to kindly and compassionately call bullshit, Paul.

Abusers don't start out the relationship being abusive. They start out charming and loving and attentive. The abuse can be incredibly gradual, to the point where their partners may not even know that they're being abused. Part of the dynamics of domestic violence are that the abuser makes their partner doubt their own reality, their own memories, their own feelings, because why would someone who loves me treat me that way? It must be something I did. They must remember the truth better than I can. I must be oversensitive.

By the time the abuse becomes unbearable, there are likely to be all sorts of barriers to why she, and in parentheses, and statistically it's overwhelmingly but not always females being abused by male partners, can't leave the relationship. There are lots of very real reasons why someone feels like she can't leave aside from physical restraint or threats of murder.

Some examples, he very well may take the kids away, or he may very well win a custody battle in court, especially if she's ever used drugs or alcohol to cope with the abuse, which is super common. The family law system is deeply flawed and frequently rewards perpetrators of domestic violence over victims.

Other reasons a victim might not leave. Perhaps she's been controlled for so long in the relationship that she has no job or source of income and he holds all financial control. He might have been so possessive and controlling that he has isolated her from all her family and friends and either now has minimal relationships outside of her partner, or she fears her family and friends would never believe her because her partner puts on the face of being, quote, such a good guy when other people are around.

Maybe she's an undocumented immigrant or non-native English speaker and she would struggle finding enough work under the table or navigating the court system. Maybe he's threatened to deport her if she tries to leave. Maybe he's undocumented and she's afraid that if she reports his violence he'll get deported. Maybe she's so traumatized and frozen that she can't even imagine taking a first step to get out. Perhaps she's terrified of leaving because of his threats of killing himself or his threats of killing her.

Statistically, a person being abused is at most risk of injury or murder after they leave the abusive relationship or while they're trying to leave. On average, a victim of domestic violence tries to leave seven times before she is successfully able to get out.

On top of all this, I wish that would say, before they are able to get out, but I'm nitpicking. On top of all this, she probably still loves her partner or what he used to be. Maybe she still has hope that he will change.

The bottom line, it takes an incredible amount of support and resources for a person to successfully and safely leave an abusive relationship. It's not simply a matter of intelligence, quote, knowing what you deserve, unquote, being emotionally healthy, having wealth or sheer will.

I also want to acknowledge that you said a lot of advice that was spot-on, about her being able to get a divorce despite her husband's disagreement, and then in parentheses, it can take a lot longer if he's unresponsive but it is absolutely possible in all states, to my knowledge, about the benefits she could gain from asking for help from a domestic violence agency, about how it's possible for her to summon the courage and strength to get out for the sake of her and her children's safety, call law enforcement.

Yes, this is usually a good thing, depending on the circumstances and location. Reaching out to CPS is probably not a great idea because the kids could easily get taken away from her, too, even if she has removed herself and her children from the abusive situation. You said, quote, find what you have control over and do your best, unquote. Yes, absolutely this.

Please, if listeners ever hear this and are in a similar position to this dear survey respondent, reach out to a domestic violence agency. Please, Paul, use your position of power, that always makes me smile. It's funny because we always see ourselves as so powerless.

But anyway, and your reach to encourage people to ask for appropriate help to get themselves safe. Domestic violence agencies exist purely for the purpose of helping you get yourself and your kids safe. Advocates want to help you, and they're highly trained to do so.

And to combat one more myth, the relationship does not need to be physically abusive in order for a person to qualify for services from an agency, and it can still be incredibly dangerous, even deadly, despite there never being physical violence before.

Just last week, a client of my agency's husband killed himself in front of her and their kids and she narrowly escaped his gun herself by running out into the snow without shoes on. There had been no previous physical abuse, only emotional abuse, in their relationship before this incredibly violent act.

The message I want to communicate, there is a lot of misinformation in our culture about domestic violence, and it's not your fault for not knowing any better about some of these victim-blaming myths. Victims are included in this, just like survivors of other types of trauma. They blame themselves all the time.

To victims of domestic violence, like those who deal with other trauma and mental illness, it can feel hopeless and like there is no end in sight except death, but there is so much hope and so much potential healing. There is always a way out.

I hope this is helpful, Paul. I'd love to hear more stories of domestic violence on your show. Thank you for all that you do for this community that you've built. With love, compassion and a passion for ending violence, M.

And I wrote her back and thanked her so much for laying that all out there and enlightening me. And like I said, the only issue I have, because I know personally at least six guys who were in relationships where they were being physically and emotionally abused by a woman and they couldn't find the self-, the agency to, self-agency to stand up for themselves, and they eventually did leave.

But so, you know, my only nitpick would be, you know, only use he or she when you absolutely have to because I think then it can also make it harder for men to step forward, because then they'll feel like, you know, buy in to the myth that they're weak because they can't leave, etc., etc. But that would be my only, I would say, issue with what she said. I think the rest of it, like I said, really enlightened me, and I appreciate it, and especially the diplomacy and kindness that she shared it.

It took me so many years to realize that you can say, you can speak almost any truth to somebody else if you can find the way to phrase it lovingly and with compassion, but also clear boundaries and resolution.

And then, this is an Awfulsome Moment I want to share. This is filled out by Sarah, and she writes, when I was 11, I wanted to commit suicide and slashing my wrists was the only way I knew of as a way to do so. I got a knife but realized I didn't know which way I was supposed to cut them. I was too anxious that I would do it wrong, so I didn't try. My crippling fear of making mistakes saved my life.

 

[Show intro]

 

PAUL: I'm here with Olivia, is it Haidar or Haidar [different pronunciations]?

 

OLIVIA: It's Haidar [pronounced hi-dar].

 

PAUL: Haidar.

 

OLIVIA: Haidar.

 

PAUL: Haidar. Olivia is a trans woman. How old are you?

 

OLIVIA: I'm 29.

 

PAUL: Twenty-nine years old. You're from Indiana, which is, I went to school in Indiana, not exactly a very trans-friendly state.

 

OLIVIA: No, there are trans-friendlier states, definitely. It's, you know, it's not the worst, it's not the best. I mean, it's the worst overall, but as far as trans things, you know, it's that whole Midwestern nice of just staring and not saying anything.

 

PAUL: Yeah, yeah. What kind of comments do you get or do you hear people saying?

 

OLIVIA: Oh, [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: Just, if you're comfortable, describe yourself to people.

 

OLIVIA: Totally. Yeah, I am, I'm five-foot-nine and a little bit, you know, I'm not super tall but I'm taller than average, and I'm overweight and I'm Arab and I've got, so I've got pretty dark facial hair and just lots of thick hair in general. So, that's like the main, I usually get some stuff about the beard shadow or, you know, your basic slurs and, like tranny and stuff, but people are, you know.

I don't know. I don't, I haven't gotten--

 

PAUL: And you're wearing lipstick.

 

OLIVIA: I do, yes. Yeah, I wear lipstick. I, you know, I've got a bit of, a little bit of a masculine-of-center look. You know, I usually just wear jeans and a T-shirt or whatever, you know, I'm not a traditionally feminine person in general, but yeah, you know, a little bit of a punk aesthetic.

 

PAUL: One of the reasons why I wanted to bring that up is because I want the listener to, as fully as possible, understand your experience through audio--

 

OLIVIA: Totally. Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. Yeah, it's, yeah.

 

PAUL: Okay. What are the mean thoughts that go through your head?

 

OLIVIA: Oh, boy [chuckles]. They range in all sorts of things. It's usually just a running commentary of everything that I could have possibly done wrong or not, you know, or maybe done better. I don't know. I have, I'm a lot better about self-hate and negative self-talk than I used to be, but like, it's a lot of just, you know, [sighs] I don't know.

My inner monologue isn't very creative. It's usually [chuckles] just like, oh, man, you're a worthless piece of shit, aren't you? You know, you just, you're garbage, garbage person, just, yeah, that sort of thing.

 

PAUL: What was the environment like that you grew up in? You grew up just north of Indianapolis?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. I grew up in the kind of rural suburb area, and it was, like for my young childhood, it was a good home. My dad left when I was very, very young, and so I was raised by a single mom until I was 11, and then, or 12, and then she got remarried. And she was great. Like I had a very loving relationship with her, although she's very overprotective because I was the only child, and then she remarried to an alcoholic from Florida.

 

PAUL: This was the first remarriage or the second remarriage?

 

OLIVIA: Oh, only one, only one remarriage--

 

PAUL: Okay.

 

OLIVIA: --to a gentleman from Florida. They had my sister, and then he just really dove in and started drinking and things kind of devolved from there. It became a very turbulent home, I think is probably the best way to phrase it.

He was never like physically abusive, but a lot of emotional abuse, a lot of taunting and name-calling and doing all sort of--

 

PAUL: Like what kinds of things would he say?

 

OLIVIA: Oh. He thought I was a worthless piece of shit [chuckles] and he would focus on any sort of negative thing that I did. He would just pick up on it and become, and like focus on it and, you know, throw it back in my face at every opportunity. And he was the one who, in an attempt to hurt my mom in an argument, he told me about my dad cheating on her and that's why they broke up, just petty, you know, in a fight.

 

PAUL: I think that's just good, solid parenting--

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: The kids have to have the facts--

 

OLIVIA: You know, it's true--

 

PAUL: --and he manned up.

 

OLIVIA: I do, you know, I do appreciate the honesty, in a certain way [chuckles], but no, and he also, well, he held the fact that I, you know, was an immigrant's kid against me like--

 

PAUL: Was your father Arab or your mother?

 

OLIVIA: My father. He's from Lebanon. He moved here in college, went to IU, and there he met my mom and they got together. And, but yeah, and we'd never heard from him [chuckles] since he left and he, and my stepdad was convinced that my mom was still in love with him.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

OLIVIA: And that I was some sort of, I guess like demon spawn who just wanted nothing but to get in his way and destroy him--

 

PAUL: Because he's an alcoholic and it's all about him, you know.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, he's, oh, yeah. It's pure, it's alcoholism and it's narcissism, all in one, with a little bit of bipolar in there for good measure.

 

PAUL: Yeah. There's three things that doctors agreed on over, you know, 70, 80 years ago, when they were trying to figure out how do we deal with alcoholics, and the three things that doctors who saw alcoholics daily coming into psych wards and hospitals and stuff, and this applies to addicts as well, is they're emotionally immature, hypersensitive to criticism--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: --and self-centered.

 

OLIVIA: Totally, yeah. That checks with all of my experience, too [chuckles].

 

PAUL: But, that being said, those are, those kinds of things can be managed--

 

OLIVIA: Totally, yeah.

 

PAUL: --and that's why alcoholics and addicts need so much help and--

 

OLIVIA: Totally.

 

PAUL: --I'm including myself in that, yeah.

 

OLIVIA: Oh, okay. Yeah. Yeah, you know, like, and he went through a lot of terrible things in his life. He was abused as a child by an uncle and, you know, just terrible things, but--

 

PAUL: Sexually abused?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, sexually abused. But like, in my time growing up, I also, I met other people who've gone through similar experiences and they don't berate their loved ones--

 

PAUL: The majority of--

 

OLIVIA: Exactly [chuckles]. So, it was, you know, it's one of those things where he would use stuff like that as a shield against any sort of criticism or anything.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

OLIVIA: But yeah, luckily, they're not together anymore [chuckles]. That's good, but that was, it took a long time for me to realize that like, it seems weird, but I didn't know for a long time that like having that sort of an overwhelming negative force throughout my formative years would have had long-term effects, who'd have thought [chuckles]?

 

PAUL: Yeah. And then you throw being trans--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, and that's like--

 

PAUL: --in a society that is so hostile to it.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, definitely. And I mean, and also growing up in the middle of nowhere, I didn't know anything about being trans. All I knew is that, from when I was a little kid, I had these ideas that I wished that I was a girl. Like, that was it. Like, I didn't dress all in pink. You know, I didn't go through that stereotypical trans narrative.

And so, I didn't even understand that as something that like applied to me. I just thought I was fucked up [chuckles], you know.

 

PAUL: That had to have been really, really painful and isolating.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, it definitely, it wasn't great [chuckles]. Yeah, no, it was very confusing. You know, I kind of, I bounced around trying to figure out what was going on. I thought I was gay for a little while and then I had a girlfriend and I'm like, oh, no, I definitely like girls [chuckles], and then I, I don't know. I just like, I just kind of bounced around.

And, and what I realize now was dysphoria, but I didn't have a name for at the time, would like come in waves. I would be fine for years and not think about it at all, and then it would all come rushing back and I would fantasize about it for months, and then it would go away again. And I would get full of shame and like push it back down.

 

PAUL: Can you be more specific about dysphoria?

 

OLIVIA: Oh, yeah, totally. It's, like I said, it's a term that I'm only like being able to like retroactively assign to like experiences that I had, but it, to me, it's like, it's a bit like, just a [sighs], a wave of not, of feeling not-right, of like not feeling comfortable in your own body and, you know, well, no . . .

 

PAUL: And is that because the gender you were assigned at birth doesn't coincide with the gender you express because it feels like the authentic you?

 

OLIVIA: Right, exactly. Yeah, it's one of those things that I have a hard time actually like putting like a real specific definition on, just because it has taken so many shapes through my life.

Like now dysphoria feels more like regular old depression and it kind of has, as I've transitioned and as I've started on hormones and that sort of thing, the gender aspects of it have kind of gone to the wayside, where I feel more comfortable in my identity, but when I was younger, it would be, it would manifest in a lot more confusion.

It would be depression mixed with this like, I'm not right, something's not right, but I don't know what to do about it and I feel like this is never going to change [chuckles]. I didn't--

 

PAUL: You must have felt so trapped.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I have had a crisis of identity for most of my life, and being trans is like a part of it, but a lot of it was just not knowing like who I was at all, and then add in this whole trans element, it was, yeah, it was very lonely and confusing. I had a hard time making friends because I was, I didn't know who I was so I didn't know how I could contribute to any social relationships.

 

PAUL: Did you have suicidal thoughts when you would be going through these moments?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. I would have suicidal thoughts off and on, especially through my teenage years, and sometimes they would be associated with the dysphoria and sometimes it would just be regular old depression, which I didn't get diagnosed with until I was 18.

And so, yeah, I never attempted suicide, but it was definitely something that was, you know, that I've always struggled with, is that suicidal ideation of just like, yeah, you know, I guess I could kill myself, yeah, that wouldn't be too bad, and that sort of thing [chuckles], which I don't have, you know, I used to struggle with that a lot more than I do now.

 

PAUL: What did you think when you read the letter from Leelah?

 

OLIVIA: From . . .

 

PAUL: The trans girl that died.

 

OLIVIA: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

 

PAUL: I think she stepped in front of a truck or something.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, oh, man.

 

PAUL: It was about two years ago--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, I do, I do remember that now. Yeah. I mean, like part of being trans, or at least being like a trans person who's aware. There are, of course, you know, trans people who choose not to be a part of the wider community. But every trans person's death really takes an emotional toll and it, yeah, I remember that story.

Specifically that was, that was a really dark period. You know, the last few years, there have been a number of, I mean, just a massive increase in trans suicides and hate crimes and . . .

 

PAUL: I could be getting the number wrong, but I'm told that the percentage of trans teen suicides is like over 25%--

 

OLIVIA: Oh, well--

 

PAUL: --it was like 40, I think I remember hearing 40--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. For, I don't know the specific number for teens, but for trans people as a whole, the percentage is usually estimated at 44%. Almost half of all trans-identified people commit suicide, and that number actually is probably a lowball just because a lot of, we have to take that based on the reported identity and there are a lot of times where someone will kill themselves and they won't, their trans identity won't be reported because they didn't--

 

PAUL: They didn't reveal it.

 

OLIVIA: They didn't reveal it, or their family denies it, or, you know, or refuses to accept it or all sorts of different reasons. The police just don't recognize it.

Like there was just a person who was murdered yesterday that I read about and they identified them as a gay male but from reading reports from loved ones it seemed like they were a trans woman. So, yeah, I remember Leelah, though. That was, yeah, that one was--

 

PAUL: It was heartbreaking.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. I mean, yeah, and like I said, every one hits me. You know, I, I kind of take every trans person's death to heart because it could be any one of us. I mean, it could have been me at a certain point in my life, like, I mean, you know. It's really hard.

And I've actually had people [chuckles] in conversation with, like I'll be hanging outside a comedy club or something and somebody will just be chatting with me and they'll be like, oh, yeah, I had this trans cousin and, you know, and they killed themselves and, you know, and for them it's like just passing conversation--

 

PAUL: Right.

 

OLIVIA: --and they don't realize that I have to take a moment to process and be like, oh, that's horrific, like I’m so sorry. Like--

 

PAUL: Like I had a dog that ran away from home.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It's that they treat it--

 

PAUL: Although that would break my heart--

 

[Chuckling]

 

OLIVIA: I mean, it would be very sad. And it was just, it's just like how cavalier people can be about, you know, trans lives and about especially like using us as a prop to be like, hey, look, we're, I know, I'm cool with trans people, I knew my cousin who killed themselves.

 

PAUL: You know, when I started doing this podcast five years ago, I didn't know much. I didn't understand the terminology. It's been a real learning curve for me, so I can't imagine how hard it must be navigating a society where even a well-intentioned person like myself doesn't--

 

OLIVIA: Totally.

 

PAUL: --understand so much of what it's like to be you, let alone being surrounded by hostility, active hostility.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. It's definitely kind of surreal, and yeah, it's funny that you say in the last five years, because that's really just been when it's become an item of national notice. I only, I came out, oh, about five years ago, and that was after I learned about what the term transgender meant and like realizing that a lot of those things applied to me and that it was possible to transition and you didn't have to be like the traditionally feminine person.

And yeah, but like, it is really hard because there are all these misconceptions, and I had all of those misconceptions [chuckles] for my entire life, which is like the main thing that kept me from coming out, was I had society's notion of what a trans person was in my head, you know, which is like a mixed-up combination of Buffalo Bill and a porn star and--

 

[Chuckling]

 

OLIVIA: --like all, you know, just, and like Mrs. Doubtfire, like all mixed up in my head. You know, like, oh, that's what a trans person, it's either goofy-ass Robin Williams in a dress or like this smokin'-hot model who has giant double-D boobs and a huge cock and like [chuckles], and neither of those identities struck a chord with me, so yeah, that's like, that's the main thing that kept me hanging out in the closet, was--

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

OLIVIA: --I just didn't know that I could be what I am right now.

 

PAUL: Isn't it amazing how life-changing a moment can be when you see you.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, totally. Yeah, that's actually, that is exactly the thing, like the moment that happened to me, when I knew that I had to come out, was I read this journal article about the stages of a closeted trans person's life based on all these different studies and like talking to people, and I was reading it and they separated it out into like life stages of like young childhood and pre-teens, teenager, young adult, late adult, older age, middle age, you know, and like going up, and as I was reading it and as I would get through to like where I was in life, in my early 20s, and I just kind of like was like, oh, my God, this is, it felt like I was reading my life story.

Like, and it didn't talk about the traditional gender narrative and all that stuff. It didn't talk about, oh, plays with dolls and wore lots of pink.

It was like, constant feelings of being trapped and in the wrong body and, yeah, and [chuckles] then I kept reading past where I was in life and it just kept getting darker and darker and darker, till ultimately suicide usually, and I was just like, I've got, like I've got to come out. I've got to do something about this because I didn't see my life getting any better and, yeah.

 

PAUL: Do you remember what the name of the book or article was?

 

OLIVIA: I wish I could, because I would totally love to share it, but I was a big part of, well, not a big part, but like I would spend a lot of time on Reddit's trans sections, which are different than the rest of Reddit, or were when I was--

 

PAUL: Was that just like a gold mine for you?

 

OLIVIA: Oh, yeah. It was amazing.

 

PAUL: I can't imagine what that--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. It was mind-blowing just to, they have, there's a section called Ask Transgender, and it's trans people, questioning people or cis people who can, you know, ask whatever question that they have about what it means, you know, what a transgender person goes through or what it means or what this means or anything, and I would just read through these stories.

And, yeah, I kept seeing myself in there and just being like, man, this is, that's, like it's, the world is so much broader than I knew and like the ideas of gender and all of this are so much different than how I knew them.

 

PAUL: Yeah. I mean, because it would be like saying all ladies wear pink.

 

OLIVIA: Exactly, exactly.

 

PAUL: That would be offensive.

 

OLIVIA: Right, totally. And that was kind of the switch that flipped in my mind, that made me go, oh, okay, I can, I can do this, because there are women, there are cis women who look like me [chuckles]. Like I've met them. They look like me. They have beard shadow because they're Arab and facial hair is just a fact of our lives.

So, you know, it's like, it was this real eye-opening experience of just like, oh, okay, that's what, I can do this and it doesn't have, I don't have to be, I don't have to aim for being some sexpot. I don't have to be, I don't have to be straight. Like, I can be, you can be a lesbian trans woman, which was not something that I knew. And, you know . . .

 

PAUL: How freeing did that feel in that moment?

 

OLIVIA: Amazing. Like, yeah, it was one of, it's hard to even put into words, partially because I was trained from a very young age to not express my emotions [chuckles], and so I'm not very good at it, but also like, yeah, there's just not really any words for it.

It's like, it's just this feeling of being recognized, of being like, oh, there's all these other options of how to live in this world that like I'd never even considered or had had told were like not viable and--

 

PAUL: I would imagine it would be like going from, I have to conform to, I’m enough--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --I'm okay as I am.

 

OLIVIA: Exactly. Yeah. And conforming has always been like a thing that I was never very good at [chuckles]. I would always, yeah, I would try to and would always fail, and that would cause, you know, more depression and more feelings of self-loathing and all of that. So, yeah, it was good to know that it was possible.

And I mean, like it wasn't like an immediate switch. Like I still, like especially in the early years, well, I mean, it's only been five years now. Wow, five years [chuckles].

But like in the early going, like it was tough because, you know, you're kind of figuring out what being a woman means to you or--

 

PAUL: That must have been incredibly exciting, though.

 

OLIVIA: It, it was. It was--

 

PAUL: But terrifying.

 

OLIVIA: --it was terrifying. It was definitely, yeah, it was, it was a mix of both. It was, it was exciting. It was terrifying. It was baffling, because there's just, there's so much socialization that you miss when you're being raised in the wrong gender, you know, because everything in life, from when you're a tiny little baby, is strictly, rigidly gendered, and it's not something that you even realize until you start like stepping outside of the gender norms.

 

PAUL: And watch people freak out.

 

OLIVIA: Exactly, yeah.

 

PAUL: I can't name you. Where do I file you away?

 

OLIVIA: Oh, yes. I love, I love the look on people's faces when I break their brains.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

OLIVIA: It's always, it's always very fun, and it's especially fun if I’m like performing and I can tell in the front row that someone is just like, I've never seen one of you before.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Olivia does stand-up comedy.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, yeah, I do, I do some stand-up around . . .

 

PAUL: I would imagine for super-intolerant people, it's almost like a form of social OCD, like I can't--

 

OLIVIA: Oh, yeah.

 

PAUL: --I'm angry because this is out of order.

 

OLIVIA: Definitely.

 

PAUL: And then chaos is going to ensue.

 

OLIVIA: I mean, that seems to be the main thing, is people not being able to just process something that exists outside of their rigid framework of existence, like their understanding of how people can live is what props them up [chuckles], like they're not, I think people feel like their own personal existence is threatened by someone living outside of that, be it whatever. Like, you know, be it being trans or, you know, doing whatever, I have that constantly--

 

PAUL: What did you think the first time you saw Eddie Izzard perform?

 

OLIVIA: Oh, my gosh [chuckles]. I love, I love Eddie Izzard. He's one of my favorites, and yeah, there was definitely a connection there that I felt when I first--

 

PAUL: Now, Eddie doesn't identify as female.

 

OLIVIA: No.

 

PAUL: But he, is it just when he performs or is it in the rest of his life that--

 

OLIVIA: I don't think, I don't think he--

 

PAUL: --that he expresses himself as female in his clothing?

 

OLIVIA: I think both, but I don't think he does it as much anymore. I don't think, and his famous line was always, when people would ask why he wears women's clothes, he says, I don't wear women's clothes. I wear my clo-, they're my clothes. They're not a woman's clothes. They're mine. And that I always loved, and I, that was definitely one of my very early, and like I watched the Dressed to Kill special on HBO and that was a really revelatory thing, and also the fact that, like, I mean, the cross-dressing didn't matter to most of his comedy--

 

PAUL: Is that the term that, for what Eddie does--

 

OLIVIA: I mean, I, I think he prefer-, at least in the times I've heard him talk about it on stage, I think he goes by transvestite. And, but that's also kind of a term that--

 

PAUL: It seems antiquated to me.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. It's not really a term that people use anymore.

 

PAUL: Right.

 

OLIVIA: I think it was more, it was definitely in use in like the '90s when he was really working, but no, it's cross-dresser is, it means the same thing. It's, you know, a person who wears clothes, you know, of a gender that they don't identify as, I guess is the really convoluted way of explaining it.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

OLIVIA: But, yeah, no, that was definitely formative when I was young.

 

PAUL: And the reason I ask how you would explain it is because, not that I need to categorize it for my own sake, but let's say you wanted to describe Eddie to somebody--

 

OLIVIA: Totally.

 

PAUL: --I would, I found myself wanting to describe Eddie to the listeners that aren't familiar with him and then all of a sudden I got anxious, like I'm going to say something--

 

OLIVIA: [Chuckles]

 

PAUL: --that's totally fucked, although I have to say, of 99% of the e-mails I've gotten from people in the trans community or people who are close to the trans community kind of steering me--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --have been very loving and diplomatic and appreciative.

 

OLIVIA: You know, yeah, I think, there's a certain understanding among trans people that we're a relatively new th-, like thing for wider America to know about, and I acknowledge that being trans is not, it's not, you know, big air quotes, normal. You know, it's like it's a thing that people might not be used to, like there's a lot of concepts associated with it that people might not be used to, and there's nothing wrong with that.

It's when people just accept their ignorance and don't want to learn and move on, that that's when I start to get belligerent.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

OLIVIA: I'm kind of, I'm kind of one of the angry ones [chuckles] a lot of the time. I, yeah, I tend to much more angrily vocalize--

 

PAUL: Can you give us some examples from your life--

 

OLIVIA: Me being angry?

 

PAUL: Yeah. Where it's come up, either negative encounters or positive encounters, but just, I want the listener, and me, to be able to better understand your experience.

 

OLIVIA: Totally. Yeah. I guess, well, I mean, it's Trans Day of Remembrance [chuckles], and it just so happens that a year ago, on the last Trans Day of Remembrance, a fellow comedian came out of the woodwork on Facebook to like just start, on a post of mine, to start slinging crazy transphobic shit at me, and I just met insult with insult.

It's one of those things where after I get attacked I'm less willing to be polite and try and like reason with someone who is just like, told me to watch my back or, you know, called me tranny or whatever. I used to try to be very diplomatic.

 

PAUL: What do you think that person's reason for being so hostile towards you was?

 

OLIVIA: Because he doesn't like--

 

PAUL: It scares him.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. He's gay and he thinks that he's an authority on everything not straight.

 

PAUL: Oh, he's out.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, he's an out gay man.

 

PAUL: Okay.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. And that’s, unfortunately, an attitude that does come out in some cis gay men, a feeling of ownership over all LGBT issues, even when they don't have any knowledge of like trans issues in particular. So, yeah--

 

PAUL: Oh, irony, there's no corner of the globe you won't travel.

 

OLIVIA: Oh, yeah, I know, right? [Sighs] It really is, like you would, it's always baffling to me when I see people who are themselves a member of a marginalized community like using the same ignorant language at another like community, it's always weird--

 

PAUL: It happens a lot with immigrant communities--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --you know, the Irish were shit on when they came here, and some of the most violently racist people I know are maybe second-, third-generation Irish Americans and there's just this, you know, the neighborhood where I was raised, not a very tolerant place.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Not a very tolerant place, yeah.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, it's crazy. I don't, it's one of those things that I'll never, it'll never fail to just boggle my mind of just . . .

 

PAUL: So, give me some moments, in addition to the Facebook one.

 

OLIVIA: Let's see.

 

PAUL: And what was that person's issue with you? What specifically did they have a problem with?

 

OLIVIA: He, I made a vague reference in my Trans Day of Remembrance post to seeing several comics make transphobic remarks, didn't call out him or anyone in particular. It was just like, oh, I've seen like five or six people say a lot of shitty things on today, and today is kind of a bad day for that [chuckles].

You know, this is a day of like where we recognize the members of our community who were taken from us, and to, on today of all days, to say transphobic shit is really annoying, and I guess someone on my friends list told him about this and he assumed that I was just talking about him and came and started fighting me.

 

PAUL: And do you remember what the thing was that he had said that upset you?

 

OLIVIA: Ah, oh, boy. It was something about watch your fucking back or something. I can't even remember. It got to be like, it was ridicu-, it was [chuckles] out of c-, it got to be like 170 comments.

 

PAUL: Like watch your back, as in that was supposed to be like a sexual innuendo or something, like--

 

OLIVIA: No. Like, you know, watch who you're talking shit about because I can ruin you in this town or something like that, you know, like trying to throw weight around, like he means anything. It, you know, posturing, that sort of thing--

 

PAUL: I see. Well, I was also curious about what the comment was that he had made or in general that you were talking about, the transphobic comments that you were writing about--

 

OLIVIA: Oh, the thing that, oh, yeah. I mean, like I said, there'd been several. Like the one of his that had happened, another trans comic had written a piece just talking about her experiences with anti-trans bigotry, and he wrote this thing like, look at this crybaby, these people, you know, there's a fucking reason these people commit suicide and all this, you know, just like going off.

And it's like, Jesus, like really, you want someone to commit suicide because they're hurt by people being like prejudiced to them [chuckles]? Like, that's horrific. That, I mean, you know, and yeah, and then it just, I guess that was what got back. Anyway, you know, and that's, I've tried to not get into as many online fights as I used to.

 

PAUL: It's pretty futile. You're not going to change their minds.

 

OLIVIA: Yes, but it feels really good.

 

PAUL: For about five seconds--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah [chuckles].

 

PAUL: --and then I want more, then I want more.

 

OLIVIA: [Sighs] Sometimes it's just like I need to get my heart rate up and I don't do much cardio and so, it's what I've got [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Give me some other examples, if you can think of--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --things that help convey your experience.

 

OLIVIA: Definitely. Let's see. When I first moved out here, one of the first experiences I had, I went to one branch of the L.A. LGBT center that has like an outdoor courtyard, and I was just, you know, I was dressed pretty simply, just wearing like a top and a skirt, and some guy comes up to, like walks off, like I saw him walking down the sidewalk, then like double back and come back over to me, and be like, hey, do you know where all the trannies hang out?

And I'm just like [chuckles], uh, no. I just moved here. I don't, I don't know where all the trannies hang out--

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

OLIVIA: --we're not of hive mind. We're--

 

[Chuckling]

 

OLIVIA: I'm not queen tranny. I'm not, you know, I don't know where everyone is, you know. And I've had several creepy, usually creepy older men, that's who I get approach me, you know, thinking I’m a prostitute or wanting to kiss me or do gross things--

 

PAUL: Like you're desperate because you're marginalized--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, exactly.

 

PAUL: --here's my chance.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, I'm fat and I'm not conventionally feminine, and so that makes me an easy target. Like, here, oh, you'd be desperate for any sort of cock, I guess.

 

PAUL: What in that moment, do you remember what it felt like, what you thought?

 

OLIVIA: Oh, I mean, I was, I'm always at first like caught off guard, because I don't ever expect anyone to talk to me in public [chuckles]. I try to minimize that as much as possible.

And yeah, and so it's mostly just a bun-, it's shock and it's, I try, you know, my main, I react to everything by laughing, so there's usually a little bit of me laughing at whatever is happening, and yeah, then just trying to blow them off as quick as possible so I can get away. I mean, there are definitely times when you feel threatened.

Like I've had guys follow me in the middle of the night, which is not great, you know, and that's pretty terrifying. But like, yeah, I've gotten pretty callous, though. I'm pretty good at, now I just kind of tell people to fuck off. I don't take anything. I carry a knife. I don't [chuckles], I don't want, it's like, okay, if you're going to try to do something, then just fucking try it so that I can move on with my night, please.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: What did it feel like the first time you put on clothes that felt authentic to you?

 

OLIVIA: Ah . . .

 

PAUL: Or did something that embraced the authentic you that you had been too afraid to do before.

 

OLIVIA: It's, ah, it's a complicated mix of emotions, especially, you know, back at the beginning, I still had a ton of deeply ingrained shame about the whole thing, so that was always there, you know, just like, God, this is, oh, this is so stupid--

 

PAUL: Oh, shame always gets a front-row seat.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course.

 

PAUL: It stands in line for tickets.

 

[Laughter]

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, so it's, it was shame but also like kind of realizing like, oh, oh, it's not, I guess it's not that bad [chuckles]. Like I had--

 

PAUL: The mirror didn't crack?

 

OLIVIA: Exactly. Like, I didn't, I had expectations of like, of, I don't know, feeling like more self-doubt and more self-loathing or, I don't know. I don't know what I expected--

 

PAUL: Like maybe a fear that, oh, my God, this is an even worse decision than staying in the closet?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, exactly. I definitely had a lot of anxiety pre-coming out and like immediately post-coming out. I had a lot of anxiety about what's known as like passing, which is not a term that people have a lot of fondness for right now.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

OLIVIA: Because it's kind of a shitty concept, the idea of like passing or not, people not being able to tell that you're trans.

 

PAUL: Yeah. It's like success means being approved of.

 

OLIVIA: Exactly, success means, oh, now you're hidden in a different way.

 

PAUL: Right.

 

OLIVIA: Now you've gone through coming out of the closet and now you're back in a different closet where people will, where you're afraid people will find out about something.

 

PAUL: So, there would be a difference, then, between passing being your goal and passing being just a byproduct of you trying to express yourself as fully as you--

 

OLIVIA: Exactly. That was a big switch that I had to make in my mind, where I had to be like, I was at such, you know, I mean, I had to get to like rock bottom mentally before I even considered transitioning to begin with. I was at a very low place.

And then it just became like, you know, like even if I don't pass, like I'm happier being, you know, a, quote, like ugly woman, I'm happier being that than a depressed dude. Like it's, I'm, yeah, yeah, the way I put it to my therapist is like, I feel more comfortable being a fat chick than a fat dude. Like, it's just like it fits with my personality more.

 

PAUL: Give us the arc of the decision to come out, some snippets of coming out, and then the decision to transition and what that was like.

 

OLIVIA: So, the decision to come out, it came from doing like a ton of reading. Like, I've always been a researcher. I've always been someone who, you know, reads as much about whatever thing before I make any sort of leaps. And then it started with, I've got, pardon me, my best friend who lives in Indiana, we would hang out every day when I lived there, and just one day in the car I was like, so, I think I'm transgender [chuckles], you know, kind of, that was like literally how it came out, and he was like, okay, yeah, that's cool.

Like, and then it just kind of slowly went from there, and then I told my mom and she cried, but was fine with it after a short amount of time.

 

PAUL: Were her tears because she feared for your struggle or she was embarrassed or both?

 

OLIVIA: It was part of both, I think. She's got her own issues that she has a hard time, that she struggles with. Oh, I’m trying to think of what the right term, kind of the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses thing of just like, but it's more of, it's just kind of a culture that's perpetuated in the Midwest like of, oh, everyone, you know, you've got to do this thing, like, you know, or else people will look at you and people . . .

 

PAUL: Yeah. And I think different areas of the country, their thing of keeping up with is a little different than other areas--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, definitely.

 

PAUL: --and me being from the Midwest, it's, you know, don't look too different.

 

OLIVIA: Exactly. It's you know that everyone is watching even if they're pretending like they're not watching, and they're like [chuckles], and they're taking note of everything and then they'll passive aggressively be like, so, I noticed that so-and-so is this, is that really going on, like, and so my mom is very conscious of all those things and so was very nervous about that sort of stuff and was nervous for me and, you know, didn't know if I knew what I was doing.

And so, we sought out a therapist and I found actually a trans woman who specializes in gender therapy and she was amazing.

 

PAUL: And this was in Indiana?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: That's fantastic.

 

OLIVIA: I just, yeah, I just happened to have a friend of the family who was, who works in the psychiatric field and he was able to hook us up with this lady, and she was amazing and really helped me talk through my feelings and kind of understand the nuances of like, oh, well, gender doesn't have to be this. It can be, you know, your idea of what it means to be a woman is just as valid as anyone else's because there are a million different ways to be a woman. That's--

 

PAUL: And a kid may see you walking down the street and say, that's me, it's okay to do that.

 

OLIVIA: I mean, yeah [chuckles], it's true. I mean, yeah, any sort of representation is positive. It's like, oh, I'm glad that, you know, if that could happen, that would be great.

But, yeah, and so, then it just kind of went from there. And then a year later, I started taking hormone therapy, which is just a combination of estrogen and testosterone blockers. And then, yeah, and then I moved out here, and then that's really where, like I was out in Indiana except for at my jobs.

 

PAUL: Wouldn't it be funny if you came out in Indiana but were closeted in Los Angeles?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah [chuckles], yeah, I moved out here and then I went back into the closet for a little--

 

PAUL: It just didn't feel safe.

 

OLIVIA: You know, it was really, it's like it's a big, this place seems kind of repressed and so I just wasn't feeling comfortable with it.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: And, by the way, there are some great places in Indiana that are--

 

OLIVIA: Sure.

 

PAUL: --all of Indiana isn't like that. It's, Bloomington is great and Broad Ripple in Indianapolis is a pretty cool place.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, Broad Ripple is cool. I, yeah, like there are, I really hate Indiana [chuckles], but that's mostly just me. Yeah, there are lots of, there's a place in Indianapolis called the Indianapolis Youth Group that I went to a little bit in high school that has an LGBT youth center.

And it was like, it was this tiny little house in Indianapolis [chuckles], and it was like, it looked like if you see a picture from, of the houses where people would like hide Jews during World War II, like, these like tiny little arch-roofed houses with little attics and we would meet in there and be like, oh, it's safe here, this is our safe space.

 

PAUL: Like the tiny-house movement.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah [chuckles], exactly.

 

PAUL: Have you seen those?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, yeah. And like, and I tried to start a gay-straight alliance at my high school, but we got roadblocked by the principal, and so that ended up not happening. But yeah, so Indiana is not all bad, but it is pretty bad.

 

PAUL: So, the decision to transition, what were the things that went through your mind? Was it like a list of pros and cons, or was it just, yes, I want to do this, there's . . .

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. It basically came down to the point of like, of me recognizing that I'd had these feelings for so long and--

 

PAUL: And we're talking about physically transitioning, correct?

 

OLIVIA: Well--

 

PAUL: Or are you talking about coming out and--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, coming out. Like transition is a broad term. Like, transition isn't just taking hormones. It's literally--

 

PAUL: No, I know. I'm asking in your particular case, are you talking about physically, my question was, the decision to physically transition, to do hormones.

 

OLIVIA: Oh, yeah. That was not even like, like once I decided that I wanted to come out and like start transitioning, I knew that hormones were on--

 

PAUL: Okay.

 

OLIVIA: --like hormones and surgery and everything like, was like, oh, this is on the table for the future. I just didn't know when I would get to it.

 

PAUL: And is it, I know it's a very personal question, but is it okay to ask what kind of physical transitioning you hope to do?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, sure. Well, like I said, I've been on hormones for three years, or four years? Now I can't remember. Oh, my God. Been on hormones for about three to four years. I'd like to have gender-confirmation surgery, meaning bottom surgery. I'd like that. I'd like that soon [chuckles].

I would like, preferably I would like to be able to do that within the next year so I could have it done before I'm 30 and then just freely enjoy the rest of my 30s, but, you know, we'll see what happens with everything that's going on in the world.

 

PAUL: I imagine there are a lot of people that think transitioning is about what they prefer sexually.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. Definitely. I know I did when I was first questioning and trying to, and coming out. There is a lot, like people do tend to lump gender and sexuality in together.

 

PAUL: I did when I started doing the podcast.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, totally. Like it, and it's because, for so many people, those things are inexorably linked. You know, you have, you're certain in your gender and you're certain in your sexuality, and so those things kind of go hand in hand, but once you start questioning that, then all of the preconceived notions kind of just go out the window.

It was a difficult thing to figure out, though, and it was when I found out, I think, that, when I found out about that separation of gender and sexuality, that's when I really, that helped a lot. But I--

 

PAUL: Did you feel relief when you realized--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, yeah, definitely. And like, and I do, like I have sexual attraction to men, but I do identify most, you know, as a lesbian because I'm really only emotionally attracted to women. So, it's like, and to find out that that's a legitimate orientation was definitely a relief, and I do think that people conflate those a lot.

 

PAUL: And I think there's also a lot of misunderstanding around people who are gender fluid or who are pansexual--

 

OLIVIA: Oh, totally. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: --and it's not a phase that you're going through, you know, because you're moody.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, totally.

 

PAUL: It's just . . .

 

OLIVIA: It's, well, that's the thing, is like there's all these, people have these very gut-shot, like gut defensive reactions to like new terminology, and they feel like, and, you know, I see people being like, oh, why are we, why do we even put all these labels on things, you know, like why can't everybody just be people? And it's like, well, it's not for you [chuckles]. I--

 

PAUL: Sorry to make your life so burdened--

 

OLIVIA: I know.

 

PAUL: --by six new words.

 

OLIVIA: Oh, God, you've got to learn pansexual and polyamorous and gender fluid and all these things, like, oh, my God, it's the worst [chuckles]. And yeah, it's, the words are for us. You know, the words are for us to be able to go, oh, this, like this is how I'm making sense of myself in my head. Like, yeah, you know--

 

PAUL: I want to be seen.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Do you mind learning six words so I am a valid--

 

OLIVIA: Exactly. And I do--

 

PAUL: --member of society?

 

OLIVIA: Right. And I do simplify, I definitely simplify my words when I'm talking to people, and then people get confused by my simplifica-, like I, you know, I'm a transgender woman and I'm a lesbian, and that's too complicated for a lot of people.

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

OLIVIA: But then, you know, when you want to get specific, then people get more freaked out because you're using words that they're not used to.

 

PAUL: Are you sure you're not just doing this so that when you golf you can hit from the red tees?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, that's, I mean, golfing is, I will admit, is a major motivator in most things in my life, especially my gender.

 

[Chuckling]

 

OLIVIA: I just am constantly looking to improve my golf game.

 

PAUL: How can I shave a couple strokes?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. I just want to take two strokes off my golf swing, and that's it. And I feel like, you know, women have it a lot easier when it comes to golf, like I don't want to--

 

PAUL: The red tees are, what, a good 100 yards ahead of the white tees?

 

OLIVIA: The red tee, talk about the red pill, am I right, you know?

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Right now there are some listeners that are very confused, that don't know--

 

[Laughter]

 

PAUL: --are they being sarcastic? What are red tees? Does it have to do with menstruation?

 

OLIVIA: I don't know what red tees are [whispers].

 

PAUL: Yeah. It's the ladies' tees, what they call the ladies' tees in golf--

 

OLIVIA: I didn't know that--

 

PAUL: --which are always, it makes the hole shorter, so--

 

OLIVIA: Really?

 

PAUL: Yes, yeah.

 

OLIVIA: Golf?

 

PAUL: Hard to believe, golf is, has some traditions that are still there.

 

OLIVIA: I didn't know that [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Yeah. So, that was my joke. You're just doing it to hit from the red tees, which is actually, I think there's a joke-joke that's super old about that. Anyway--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. Oh, I mean, there's every--

 

PAUL: I feel comfortable enough with you to let all the bad jokes out of my brain.

 

OLIVIA: That's fine. I can take them. I can take them.

 

PAUL: So, where were we before I brought everything to a standstill?

 

OLIVIA: [Chuckles] We were talking about golf, right? That was . . .

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, I, I don't know, I lost my train--

 

PAUL: Oh, we were talking about people having to learn new words so that they could, and we were talking about your doing surgery--

 

OLIVIA: Hm, yeah.

 

PAUL: --and . . .

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. That's, and so, well, you were asking what I planned to do for physical transition, and that's, I think I, I want a, I want a vagina. They're cool. I'm a fan personally [chuckles].

 

PAUL: I'm a fan. I get the newsletter.

 

OLIVIA: Right? They're pretty nice. And, you know, and the ones they make nowadays are pretty spiffy, so it's like--

 

[Chuckling]

 

OLIVIA: You know, why not go in and get myself a new 2017 vagina and, you know?

 

PAUL: Do you know what the Blue Book on your cock is?

 

OLIVIA: [Laughs] Well, you know, what they do is, it's actually they repurpose it, so it'll be a refurbished cock.

 

PAUL: But they're not going to call it a used cock. They're going to call it a previously owned cock.

 

OLIVIA: Yes, exactly, yeah [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Because you get more money that way.

 

OLIVIA: Previously driven.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: What are some myths, to people who are new to these discussions, that you can kind of help illuminate?

 

OLIVIA: Totally.

 

PAUL: And I'm not excluding myself from that group.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, I mean, you know, I think there's, I mean, there's a lot of myths around trans people. I mean--

 

PAUL: Or things you would like people to know. For instance, I didn't know how deeply offensive it can be, and I feel embarrassed even saying this, but I think it's important to say, inquiring as to whether somebody still has their penis or their vagina--

 

OLIVIA: Oh, yeah. Oh, definitely, yeah.

 

PAUL: --and I was, I felt so embarrassed. And now, I don't think I've ever asked somebody that, but I found myself wondering it, just like I used to want to know, is that person gay or not. It's none of my fucking business.

 

OLIVIA: That's the thing. It's, yeah, that is definitely, I mean, it's not necessarily a myth, but it is a common thing, of like people like starting conversations with you with, so what's going on in your pants?

 

PAUL: Right.

 

OLIVIA: And it [chuckles], and that's, that's not cool. Let's keep the pants talk to a minimum, because, yeah, it is, I mean, you're basically just saying, you know, it's like going up to one of your dude friends and being like, so how's your cock doing today, or you still have a penis, you doing good, [chuckles] everything's hanging--

 

PAUL: How long are you hard?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, you know, on average, like how many times a day do you say you masturbate? Like, is it more than five, less than 20, you know, so it's one of those things.

Or like, you know, [chuckles] have you ever, there's not really an approp-, I was about to say, you know, do you still have your appendix, but that's like, I guess that's not quite the same, but it's similar. It's like you're asking about someone's like personal medical history--

 

PAUL: I think, to them, it seems like you're just asking, have you ever had your appendix out.

 

OLIVIA: Exactly, yeah. But it's really, it's much more, it's much more pointed, and it's also like, you've got to look at it from the perspective of someone who's been asked that question a million damn times, and it's like, I'm more than what I got going on in my pants, like--

 

PAUL: I am also my butthole.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah [chuckles]. I mean, please, if anything, we can all focus a lot more on my ass because it has so much--

 

PAUL: Yeah, it's the one thing that binds us all.

 

OLIVIA: It really is. Everyone has an asshole.

 

PAUL: We should, to bring the country together, we should have national butthole day and we just all look at each other's buttholes, get it over with, and go, why are we fighting?

 

[Chuckling]

 

OLIVIA: I got to tell you, I might abstain from that one. Not a, you know . . .

 

PAUL: I'm sorry, I thought you were a patriot.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, [sighs] I'm not.

 

PAUL: I misjudged. I misjudged. So, go ahead [chuckles], myths.

 

OLIVIA: Oh, yeah, totally, myths.

 

PAUL: Or things you would like people to know.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. That's a big one, don't just come up to us and talk about our genitals.

Also, a big thing is pronouns. Don't, I hear people say, you know, people will often either use the wrong pronouns for me or for, they'll refer to another trans person by incorrect pronouns or something, and their excuse is always like, well, it just seems so embarrassing to ask.

And I can guarantee you that no trans person, well, okay, I guess I can't say no trans person, will make you feel bad for asking what their pronouns are, because, as embarrassing as it might be to like ask that question, it's so much more embarrassing if you assume and guess wrong, and then you've got to do the whole apology dance and that's like embarrassing and frustrating, and like--

 

PAUL: Yeah. And I think by asking you're showing that you care.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, exactly. And also, you should be asking that of your cis friends also, or maybe not your cis friends because you know what their pronouns would be, but like, you know, if you make it a habit to just start asking everybody what their pronouns are, then it kind of eliminates that sort of feeling like you're picking on someone, because I feel like, yeah, a lot of people are like, well, it feels like I'm like pointing out that they're trans.

It's like, well, yeah, but you're also doing that when you mis-gender someone and it's even worse and that hurts. So it's like, just ask.

 

PAUL: Yeah. And don't say it.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. Never say it. You should never describe a human as an it.

 

PAUL: No.

 

OLIVIA: Like [chuckles] I'm just going to make that stand.

 

PAUL: I mean, that sounds obvious, and I suppose there aren't many people who listen to this podcast that would do that--

 

OLIVIA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --but it doesn't hurt to mention.

 

OLIVIA: Oh, yeah, no. Definitely not, never call a trans person it. Oh, and also, they as a singular pronoun, that's a--

 

PAUL: When used in that context.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. I mean, yeah, it's actually just a singular pronoun now. Like, and people use it as a singular pronoun all the time and don't realize it. Like they'll say, oh, who is that, who's that person over there, they're cute, or something, you know, like, and not even realize, oh, I just used they as a singular. And it's, it's a real easy switch to make if you just realize, oh, language changes, and so now they is singular.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

OLIVIA: But yeah, those are the big ones. And then like, don't ask about people's like birth names or, you know, or if they've had a name change. Like, just kind of use, I guess I want to, I always want to say use common sense and, but then like, but then I'll get well-meaning people being, you know, coming up and, you know, saying embarrassing stuff, and then we have to have the apology dance and it's just always [chuckles] frustrating.

But yeah, like, basically, think about if you would ask like a cis person the same question and expect the same like type of answer, you know.

 

PAUL: And for people that don't know, cis is--

 

OLIVIA: Oh, yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: --it means people who identify with the gender that they were assigned at birth.

 

OLIVIA: Right, yeah. It's short for cisgender. And--

 

PAUL: Was that correct, the way I described that?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, that's absolutely correct. Yeah, I just kind of, I explain it as like it's, it's like the trans version of straight. It's like, instead of gay, you're straight. Instead of trans, you're cis.

And then there's everything in between of both of those terms, of all sorts of gender varying, gender neutral, agender, bigender, like there's a whole rainbow spectrum of gender identities. But, and they're all really hot and I like them all, so, yeah [chuckles].

 

PAUL: It's just so nice that our society is moving slowly in a direction where people can be more seen and heard and felt.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, definitely.

 

PAUL: And get on to the other reasons they hate themselves.

 

OLIVIA: Exactly, yeah. Yeah, it's so nice to like not have the worry of my gender constantly hanging over my head, so I can focus more on how much of a lazy piece of shit I am--

 

PAUL: Exactly.

 

OLIVIA: --and, you know, and just how I never accomplish anything in my life and how I'm homeless and I live in an RV. Like, I focus on the concrete things that really matter.

 

PAUL: And how do you feel about now getting a 70% paycheck?

 

OLIVIA: Oh, you know, it's been--

 

PAUL: You excited about that?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, it's been really good. Well, luckily, I, you know, I've now shifted to unemployment, so that's, so now I just get 70 cents to the dollar on unemployment.

But yeah, you know, that's been my favorite part of transitioning, actually, is--

 

PAUL: Making less money.

 

OLIVIA: --yeah, making less money, and having more things to complain about. Like, I really like be-, like now I can be like, oh, well, the patriarchy is getting me down instead of having to worry about blaming anything on myself. It's nice, you know.

 

[Chuckling]

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. I also transitioned, you know, because I heard Girls Just Want to Have Fun when I was a kid and I'm like, I just want to have fun, and so I transitioned.

But yeah [chuckles], as far as myths, I mean, like those are the big ones. Like the pronoun thing is really, that's the thing that, if anybody can take away like one thing, it's like, just ask.

 

PAUL: Just ask.

 

OLIVIA: Just ask.

 

PAUL: And you would say, what pronoun do you prefer?

 

OLIVIA: Yeah. What pronoun do you use, what pronoun do you prefer, a super-simple question, and like, I don't know any trans people who would get angry at you for that. And if they do, then listen to them and they're allowed to be angry [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Yeah. Your side of the street is clean. They're people. They might be having a shitty day.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, exactly.

 

PAUL: Yeah. Anything else you want to share before we wrap up?

 

OLIVIA: No. I mean, no, not that I can think of. Yeah.

 

PAUL: Olivia, what a pleasure. I'm glad our paths crossed.

 

OLIVIA: Yeah, definitely.

 

PAUL: And I'll put any links that you want up to your social media. I'll get those from you.

 

OLIVIA: Oh, sure thing, sure thing.

 

PAUL: Although, you know, you could give a shout-out now if you want to--

 

OLIVIA: Oh, yeah. I'm on, Twitter is HiThereHaidar, that's H-a-i-d-a-r. And I'm Ohaidarling on Instagram.

 

PAUL: And how would you spell that, o-h--

 

OLIVIA: O-h-a-i-d-a-r-l-i-n-g, Ohaidarling. Yeah, that's me.

 

PAUL: Thank you.

 

OLIVIA: Thanks.

 

PAUL: Many, many thanks to Olivia. And this episode will soon be transcribed and available on our Web site. Many thanks to Accurate Secretarial for donating their time and helping out the show.

You know, as I was editing Olivia's episode and listening back to it, I was reminded of how [sighs], I don't know what the word would be to use, but I guess how ashamed I am of how I viewed trans people who didn't, quote, pass. It would have been probably about 10 or 12 years ago when I was in West Hollywood and I went into a coffee shop and there was a person who was very masculine, hairy chest, mustache, looked actually very similar to, I don't know if you remember the old Dunkin' Donuts ads, time to make the donuts, it looked like that person.

And they were wearing a dress and standing in this coffee shop, looking kind of, like a combination between looking lost and wanting to be seen. And I remember like, like smirking to myself, seeing this person, because in my mind I thought, oh, don't they know, you know, that they don't look like a woman?

It's, I can't imagine how, I don't know. I'm glad I’m not that person, that those aren't still my thoughts of why people express themselves in their own unique way, but it just kind of breaks my heart that, in that moment, I was so inwardly condescending to that person.

And I even remember sharing that story with a couple of people, you know, when I saw them, and it just, I'm not going to beat myself up about it, but I do feel shame that I could be so ignorant about somebody's struggle to feel seen and authentic.

And you know the other thing is, as Olivia and I were talking about, you know, okay, you have to learn six new words, it occurred to me how many words that we adopt without, you know, if somebody's going to give you shit and say, you know, I've had it, I don't want to learn any more words, think about all the words that we have accepted and that we've come to use, you know.

Civilian casualties, it's really a nice way for saying people that got accidentally killed in war, you know, a baby that got blown up. Neutralized the enemy instead of killed. You know, we allow that to happen so that war can become more palatable to us. If we can do that, don't you think that we could learn a couple of words that actually make somebody's life better? All right, now I'm going to get off my soapbox. I just made myself sick, my fucking proselytizing.

Oh, and here's the one that kills me, counterinsurgents. That is, that really takes the cake, counterinsurgents. You know what it really means is, I don't want to get too political because I'm not going to name any particular war, but counterinsurgents are basically people fighting us invading them, or whoever the invader is, but all right.

Hey, you guys know that I love documentaries. A friend of mine, two friends of mine, Chris Mancini and Graham Elwood, who do a really awesome podcast called Comedy Film Nerds, and I was actually just a guest last week on it and had so much fun, and these guys are so knowledgeable about films and really have fun talking about them and dissecting them and geeking out on them.

They have a new documentary about the power of podcasting, and I urge you guys to check it out. I've also got a prominent role in it. It's called Earbuds and you can get it at their Web site, you can either get the DVD or you can stream it from there, and their Web site is ComedyFilmNerds.com. And it's, it's a really beautiful documentary, really well done, and I just feel really lucky to be featured in it, and, you know, I love a good documentary, so I want to give some love to my buddies there and turn you guys on to a good documentary.

What else did I want to mention? Oh, are you hiring? Do you know where to post your job to find the best candidates, because posting your job in one place isn't going to cut it, mister or missus. If you want to find the perfect hire, you need to post your job on all the top job sites and now you can with ZipRecruiter.

ZipRecruiter already has nine million résumés you can search through in their database. You can add multiple people to your account to make it the most efficient for your team to find the best hire.

With ZipRecruiter you can post your job to 200-plus job sites, including social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter, all with a single click. ZipRecruiter's handy Web site shows trending career fields, cities and searches. Find candidates in any city or industry nationwide. Just post it once and watch your qualified candidates roll in to ZipRecruiter's easy-to-use interface.

No juggling e-mails or calls to your office. Quickly screen candidates, rate them and hire the right person fast. And if you run into any issues, don't fret. ZipRecruiter's friendly and human support staff is ready to help. So, find out today why ZipRecruiter has been featured on Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, the New York Times, Tech Crunch and CBS and why it's been used by over one million businesses.

So, right now you guys can post jobs on ZipRecruiter for free by going to ZipRecruiter.com/first. That's ZipRecruiter.com/first. Let's do it a third time. Herbert's butthole, join me, won't you? ZipRecruiter.com/first.

And I can't wait [chuckles], I can't wait for the person from ZipRecruiter to go, by the way, what was the thing about Herbert's butthole? Yes, for anybody that isn't familiar, it's a running joke on the podcast about my dog's butthole. My dog is Herbert. But yes, ZipRecruiter.com/first [chuckles]. All right, let's get to some surveys.

This is an Awfulsome Moment, and this was filled out by Linden. And she writes, in my late teens, I had struggled with cutting and did not tell a soul, even a counselor. I was scared of potential fallout and keeping mum seemed like my only choice. I curbed it by, quote, losing my scissors, blindly flinging them across the room, allowing them to fall behind a piece of furniture and be forgotten and found at a later date.

It worked, for the most part, coupled with the fear of being found out. After I moved away, I continued to keep mum and figured I'd start fresh. Over the course of the year, I met a new friend and one of our first bonding experiences was cleaning out a closet with 30 years' of her family's literal and figurative dirty laundry. With that came a lot of dialogue and both of us shared some gory details about ourselves, to met with, me, too.

One night she came over for dinner and we got on the subject. I mentioned cutting for the first time, and I kind of sugarcoated it with a euphemism. Mid-sentence she cut me off and said, you don't have to sugarcoat it, I did it, too.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief, someone who got it. Yeah, you're the first person I've ever told that. Holy shit, really? To her, that was the ultimate gesture of trust, and for the next roller coaster of a year, she was my rock.

She had a relapse as well and I was able to return the favor by supporting her through it and encouraging her to get help on the matter. The best part? I'm marrying her brother soon. Thank you for that, Linden.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey, and I just want to read one part of it. And this is filled out by Moonstar, and they're gender fluid, in their 20s, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, and they write, never been sexually abused but has been physically and emotionally abused.

I was freshly 20 and wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. I hadn't even been drunk, done any drugs, nada. And I met a point who was confident . . . oh, I think it, I don't, maybe auto-check, auto-spell changed it to point from person.

Anyway, I met a person who was confident and had goals, which I had none, so I found it very attractive. He asked if I wanted to move in with him on his farm. I love animals and have a horse, so I did. The farm was beautiful. But it was an illegal marijuana grow operation on a secluded island. Sometimes I'd sit in a room full of cannabis plants and just feel the warmth. I didn't think much of it. I knew it wasn't really legal but never grasped the reality of what was happening on the farm till much later.

I grew ducks and poultry. I brought my horses over. But I was never comfortable being undressed or showering or out after dark, even to just check on the animals. I was made to believe that there were people who wanted to steal our crop and they had guns, so we had to have bigger and better guns.

I stayed mostly oblivious, partly to have friends over-, oh, partly by choice but also out of safety. If I dared ask a question, I was shot down or made to feel stupid. I was strictly arm candy. I wasn't allowed to have friends over. I'd try to help out, but every time I walked into a room, it went quiet. I thought this was normal. Having six shotguns in your truck is normal. Seeing lights on the edge of the property and sending the dogs after them was normal.

I cooked and cleaned and was very much passive. I was called emotionally unstable. Much older men made rape jokes and talked about murdering women in my presence. I couldn't ever be alone. I did everything I could for them to like me.

I cooked breakfast and would bring it out for them, did all the cleaning and dishes. I'd even bring out meals and often he would just say he wasn't hungry and go out somewhere else for lunch, all while having a full course load of university classes. I cried on my horseback every night before the sun set, hoping nothing would happen to him. Then I'd crawl into bed with my dog and a rifle pointed at the staircase.

I never shot a gun in my life. I'd never thought of my life as an option that could be taken away from me, but now it was an option. I lied to everyone in my life. One night, I lost it completely. I had never felt anger like this before. I ran through the 100-acre field and into the forest. I kept running till it got dark and I heard people behind me. He was coming to get me. I left the next day.

Thank you for sharing that. Wow. That was like a little movie.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Strong Lad, and they are agender, and they write, I was interested in this guy who had come into my work a few times. We hooked up on a few occasions and it was great. Then I went to visit my mom at her house, where I found a few pictures of my dad who died when I was younger.

I'd forgotten what he looked like, considering I didn't see him much when he was alive. And when I saw them, I realized the guy I had been casually dating looked exactly like my dad. It was the most horrifying and disgust-filled moment of my entire life. I made sure to avoid him as much as possible, and occasionally also feel guilty about that.

But the cool part is [chuckles], is that your dad was such a powerful person, he was able to make you feel guilty from the grave. That is power. That is power. Thank you for sharing that.

This is filled out by a guy who calls himself Seizuriffic. And I'm just going to read a portion of this. He is straight, in his 20s, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment. I'd call it more than that.

Oh, no, I’m thinking of a different one, but I do still want to read this one. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts. My ex-girlfriend had anorexia and I believe was sexually abused herself, though she always evaded the subject without really sharing what happened to her. We were together for five years.

I thought she was the love of my life, and she was the first and still only girl I'd had sex with. A couple of years in, her sex drive dropped from insatiable to zero. It got to the point where I couldn't touch her without her having a very visceral reaction and pulling away. And that's not a euphemism. All of a sudden, I couldn't hold her hand without her looking like I burned her with a hot iron.

After about a year of her having no desire to touch me in any way, it really started to hurt. It feels too stupid and base to talk about, which I assume is why no one does. It's so easy to come off as, oh, he's upset because he isn't getting pussy, boo-hoo. But it's true. Being rejected again and again by the person you love, it's painful.

Anyway, that's all to say that's where I was coming from the Saturday morning after spending the night with her in bed. Nothing had happened, and first thing, she bolts out of bed, tells me there's a class at the gym she wants to get to and that she has to go. I want her to stay in bed with me a little longer, and to my pretty huge surprise, she comes back.

She gets on top of me and starts having sex with me with what I thought in the moment was passion, until she looks me in the eye and very condescendingly says, are you done? I didn't know what to say. I couldn't say anything. I stuttered out something about how, if she wanted me to leave, I could, and then I did.

It wasn't until after probably months, maybe a year after, until I could really make sense of it. She decided that I was pouting, that she'd appease me to get me out as quickly as possible, and then she would shame me for being so needy.

I think saying I was raped is putting it strongly, and is even an insult to people who were raped, but the truth is that what happened isn't at all what I wanted and that, if I'd known what she was doing at the time, I would never have let her.

Thinking about it now still makes me tear up and feel so stupid and pathetic and worthless, which I guess is what she was going for. I'd be shocked if she even remembered that morning, much less has any idea she might have done something wrong, but I wish she could know that I still think about it and that it fucking hurts.

Thank you for that. That's why I think this is such an important topic, because there's so much, there's so much gray area in here, and ultimately what matters is how it affected us, how we felt, and is it still affecting us, and then what can we do for ourselves.

Darkest thoughts. It'd always been a fantasy of mine since childhood that something like this would happen, that my brain cyst would fill back up, that I'd spend a month in the hospital with whomever I thought at the time wasn't showing me enough that they loved me. They'd be seated next to my bed, crying endlessly for days. I'd even fantasize about dying from it and then they'd be sorry. Then they'd feel how much they'd loved me and how much it hurt for me to be gone.

Thank you for sharing that, and that is one that I read a lot in the surveys, is people having an intense desire to be physically sick and cared for, and it makes total sense to me, because if we don't know how to ask to have our emotional needs met, that's the second best way. And we don't have to look like we have needs. So, that makes perfect sense to me.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by One Night I Will Sleep More than Three Hours. And he writes, I was channel surfing earlier and I came across a children's show that I used to watch with my daughter when she was three or four. Watching the show made me happy and sad. It made me think about how many changes have happened over the years and how the last 14 or so years seemed to have blown by in a blink.

I know they were not easier times back then, but I think they were more boisterous, sharper, less gray, with a bit of magic in the mix. I was stronger then, or maybe not, but I don't feel as strong today, sometimes not even close. But again, I could be wrong about that.

Anyway, watching that old kids' show reminded me that something is gone now. I can't say exactly what, but it has been replaced by my middle-age concerns and a sometimes-vile voice in my head. Things are muddy today. I'm less sure of the kind of man I am. I struggle with the feeling that I've not lived up to my full potential as a parent and as a man.

Despite where I am now in life and in my head, my daughter seems to love me very much. My relationship with her continues to be the best thing in my life, absolutely. Not bad for a guy that had no father in his own life. I like to think that in this writing there is at least a trace of the guy who used to have a spark and who tried hard to pass it on to his daughter.

Overall, I think I turned out okay, then in parentheses, shut up, voice in my head. For your listeners with young kids, I'd like to offer the following. Love your kids, love them with all your heart, and really notice them. Don't get distracted by electric bills and Facebook. Do your best to be your best for your child, even when you feel beaten and not so into it. It won't always feel like it's working out but try to believe it is.

That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. And I don't know you personally, but you seem like a kind of a person I would want to be friends with, introspective and humble and trying to be a present, conscious parent.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by [chuckles] Hot Shit, and I'm just going to read one part of it. She's never been sexually abused, physically abused or emotionally abused, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, and she's in her 30s.

Darkest secrets. I have OCD and disordered eating. I can't eat dairy while I'm on my period because it makes me sick. However, that doesn't stop me from eating the cheesiest things possible while on my period because I actually enjoy the pain it causes. All day at work, I think about getting off work and going home to eat two frozen burritos with a mound of cheese on top and then spend an hour or so doubled over with stomach cramps while sitting on the toilet with violent diarrhea.

After I eat, I excitedly wait for the cramps to start, and then I dash off to the bathroom. I'm a sweaty, exhausted heap when I'm done, and I feel like I've given birth. I then shower, go to bed, and sleep like a baby. Lather, rinse, repeat every month. I've just started seeing a new therapist and I haven't told her about this because I don't feel like admitting that I purposefully give myself violent diarrhea and stomach cramps and I like it. I will tell her eventually, but not until after the fourth visit.

Everybody knows the fifth visit is diarrhea. The fourth is [chuckles], the first is depression. The second visit is anxiety. The third is not crazy about your parents. The fourth is not comfortable with what turns me on. And the fifth is diarrhea.

Thank you for sharing that. And I am sure you're not alone in that. You know, as I was reading that, I was thinking, you know, how you describe that you felt drained afterwards and you would shower. You know, it sounds to me like the goal, I've read from a lot of people with eating disorders, after they purge is, or deny themselves food, is that they feel clean.

And the feeling I got reading that when you talked about feeling spent and having showered was just like a feeling of like, like clean exhaustion, which is a feeling I've always loved. Like after I come home from playing hockey and shower, oh, my God, it's the greatest feeling. And then get just a little caffeine, you know, so then I'm alert, relaxed and have endorphins, it's the best. So, I don't think it's that puzzling, to me, he said, eating a wheel of cheese.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by Kombucha, and she writes, my little half-sister and I were hanging out in her room to get away from the family gathering downstairs. I don't remember how the subject came up, but I started to tell my half-sister about my memories of my mother. She wanted to know and I accepted she was mature enough to listen.

She was diagnosed with schizophrenia after throwing a rock through the front tenant's window. She was arrested and taken to the county psych ward. I was under custody of my father beforehand and we came home to find the police car in the driveway.

I told my sister that it was incredible how, as a child, you know what is going on, but because you aren't fully developed cognitively and know how to even cope, you are just there. You just know and feel things are chaotic, but you're resilient, that adults don't consider the effect it may carry on you. I wasn't asked how I felt and no one talked to me.

In that moment, she started to cry and it turned into a panic attack. She was so scared and told me, it feels like a heart attack. I calmed her down and taught her my puffer-fish breathing technique. I gave her tactile affection and time to get through it.

She told me that was exactly how she felt after she was sexually molested and our parents found out. For the first time, I realized what it meant to trigger someone and, for the first time, I knew the truth firsthand that she was molested, because I didn't know if it was true from the parental drama and I was 13 at the time. We're eight years apart.

It felt like a Wes Anderson movie, where the camera pans out of our room while my sister is having a panic attack and shows everyone else in the house, my aunt sleeping in the bedroom, probably on her phone, right next to our room, my dad on the couch asleep with the TV blaring so loudly that my sister's loud cries were filtered.

I just felt the sad reality that led us to what we feel currently happening, just going unnoticed. Yet I was happy to be knowing that truth and tell my truths about our upbringing. I think there's something, a typo there, I was happy to be know that truth and tell my truth. I don't know. I just crumpled it up into a ball and cast her to hell, right at the end of this beautiful survey [chuckles].

Yet I was happy to be known, again, I'm interpolating here, I was happy, I guess, yes, I was happy to know that truth, I think that's what she was trying to type, and tell my truth about our upbringing.

We cried together and comforted each other when tears came up talking. I felt like a good sister in that moment.

That was lovely and fuck your auto-correct. Auto-correct, I shake my fist at the sky, you are this show's worst enemy. You are worse than Mean DJ Voice, Auto-correct. The amount of improvising you make me do while I am reading a survey, you guys can't hear it sometimes, but so many times I'm reading a sentence where it's, auto-correct has put in a word that is clearly not supposed to be there [chuckles] and I am just sometimes able to guess what it is on the fly and keep going, but yeah, fuck you, auto-correct.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a woman who calls herself I Am Already Nervous, and she is in her 20s, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts.

I recently had a memory from when I was maybe 12 or 13. I used to sleep in my mom's bed with her during this time. I have since learned that I was incredibly anxious and probably had some attachment issues, and I remember us laying in bed with our backs towards each other and the bed slightly shaking. My mom would make very silent moans as the bed continued to shake.

I laid there in absolute fear, scared to move, unable to really understand what was going on. I'm just now starting to process this and I'm having anxiety about going over to my mom's house.

I am so sorry. I am so sorry. That is a horrible fucking memory to dredge up and speaks volumes that your mother chose not to get up and go do that in the bathroom in privacy is alarming, alarming, and I would imagine indicates a lot more really fucked-up boundaries. And who wouldn't be an incredibly anxious person? But then again, maybe I’m reading, maybe I'm reading too much into it and I should just shut my mouth.

Ever been physically or emotionally abused? I've been emotionally abused. When my partner first started taking medication, he became rageful. He has always been quiet-tempered, but for two months I walked on eggshells. He would belittle me, tell me that I wasn't doing enough for him, that I wasn't helping him and never have helped him.

He has borderline personality disorder, and during these two months everything made his emotions explode. He screamed in my face a few times, yelling fuck you, fuck you. Multiple times he would say, get the fuck out of here. When I would put my shoes on, he would then scream, you're really leaving? How could you just leave without helping me? Followed by a few more just-fuck-offs and a few more hours, and then a crying apology at the end that he didn't mean it and I was good and he was bad. This still happens every few weeks, and I dread the confusion and exhaustion it causes me.

That, I hope he's in contact with his psychiatrist, and I hope that he is seeing a therapist and has at least given DBT a shot, and it might be a good thing for you to look into as well because it can help the partner of the person with borderline personality disorder.

It can help them not only understand what their partner is going through, but help you both communicate to each other in a way that minimizes the drama and helps the communication be maximized in a diplomatic and, hopefully loving and diplomatic way. I think I said diplomatic twice. I don't give a fuck. I’m on a terror. I'm crazy. That's how [chuckles] I, that's how I'm thumbing my nose at 2017, is I'm going to say diplomatic twice when I say it, diplomatic. See? Oh, [sighs] I’m hating myself right now. I am so in my head about that [sighs].

What are your deepest, darkest thoughts? I feel so awful writing this, but when I worked with sexual assault survivors, I would sometimes become aroused when they told me about what happened to them. I feel so much shame for this and even typing this makes me feel creepy.

You are not the only one who experiences that feeling. I know many survivors who experience that, too, so, stop blaming yourself. It's no, no comment on your ethics or morality. It's just a physical reaction.

Darkest secrets. I once ate out of the garbage can during a binge. Sometimes I find this funny, as it was six years ago, but I wouldn't dare tell anyone about it.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. I fantasize about having a threesome with two men. Something about being touched everywhere and being desired is a huge turn-on for me. I also fantasize about being fucked extremely hard from behind and men being incredibly rough with me, such as pushing me up against a wall or tying me up and squeezing my breasts hard. I feel decently liberated sharing this.

Awesome. I love when people embrace what turns them on, assuming it's consensual and honest.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? I'd tell my dad that he did an amazing job as a single father. He gave me and my brother the best he could with what he had, having movie nights with us, going to the bowling alley often, playing video games with us, and feeding us the cake he proudly made the night before for breakfast. I would tell him that I really appreciate that he spontaneously brought me home a guitar and amp when I was 14 and paid for lessons.

I'd tell him I appreciate him in small bits, but I always feel like I'm going to cry when I do. He tried incredibly hard to help me with my eating disorder when I told him about it, making me breakfast each morning that I would just pick at and doing research about fish oil and protein powder in an attempt for me to gain weight and become healthy. But I know if I did cry, he would understand, because he has helped me through so many crying spells and panic attacks.

That's really, really sweet. That is really, really sweet. And, you know, I've talked about how I cut contact with my mom a long while back, and, you know, one of the hardest things about cutting contact with a parent is there's usually, there are very few parents where the relationship was all bad, and my relationship with my mom, it was not all bad. That's what made it so hard to cut contact.

And when I was reading this, I remember when my mom, when I was 14, she brought my, bought my brother and I a guitar and bought us lessons, a guitar and an amp, and I stuck with it, and I don't think my brother cared for it much, but it's, I play guitar to this day and love playing and it's one of my favorite things to do.

And it's a painful memory to know that I have to choose to not have a relationship with her because I don't know how to do it in a way that is healthy for me, and that I, that that is the same person that brought such great things into my life as well. It's . . .

Is there anything you'd like to share with someone who shares your thoughts or experiences? You deserve love. You deserve to respect your body and others to respect your boundaries. You have a voice, even if you think you don't. You just have to plant the seed of acceptance and empowerment and slowly water it and watch it grow.

Any comments to make the podcast better? Describe what an unfrosted Pop Tart tastes like, because I’m curious but I am repulsed by the idea, so if you could describe it for me I'd appreciate it.

An unfrosted Pop Tart tastes like if you took like your favorite pie and you just took the crust off it and there was some of the filling still clinging to it, and then you folded it in half so the filling was in between and it was crust on top and bottom, and it was hot, that's what an unfrosted Pop Tart.

So, just imagine if somebody fucked up your pie by putting a coating of hard, shitty glaze on top of it, on top of a pie, that's why I hate frosted Pop Tarts so much. We don't do that for a pie. Why would you do it for a Pop Tart? Don't get me started.

Oh, and I'm also told, I read on another survey, somebody said that they occasionally come across unfrosted raspberry Pop Tarts. Do you know the lengths I would go to, to get a hold of unfrosted raspberry Pop Tarts?

A kind supporter of this show just sent me a dozen boxes of unfrosted blueberry Pop Tarts, because we can't get them here on the West Coast, and he lives in, I want to say South Dakota, North Dakota. TR, where do you live again? Anyway, I don't know what got me off on that.

Let's get to this next survey, filled out by Ambitchous Lady Cunt [chuckles]. And believe it or not, that was the name she was given when Queen Elizabeth, I don't, what do you call it when you knight a woman? Oh, I so wish I had had that word [chuckles]. The only word I could think of was curtsy. Can you tell I don't follow the royals?

Anyways, this is her Happy Moment. I just left an incredibly boring geology lecture, also known as a geology lecture, and was thankful for the long walk to the bus with beautiful nearly 100-year-old oak trees stretching overhead and perfectly breezy, sunny spring weather. I noticed a young man, maybe in his early 20s, walking the opposite direction along the same path. He waved to the guy just ahead of me as he passed, and I noticed the other guy respond uninterested to his greeting.

As they passed each other, I watched as the greeter shrank into himself, his lips moving as he quietly scolded himself for the interaction. I wished I could tell him he needn't be so hard on himself. I wished I could tell him that sometimes social interactions are awkward and hard, but that he is not awkward.

I'm not sure I could have seen this guy the same way I saw him today without looking at myself and finding empathy for myself concerning my own struggles with social engagement. I believe that sometimes the first step to empathy is facing our struggles head-on and finding love and empathy for ourselves despite our imperfection. This is how we recognize other struggles and other people's struggles and pain. So, I am thankful for the struggles that I am continually working on because they help me empathize with others and prime me to be there for someone when they need it most.

Thank you. That is so, I'm not only going to give that a high-five, I'm going to give that a high-10.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by [chuckles], speaking of Pop Tarts, New England is the Unfrosted Pop Tart Capital of the World. This was the survey where the person mentioned that they have raspberry out there, unfrosted raspberry.

They are female, bisexual. She's in her 40s, raised in a stable and safe environment. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Yes, and I never reported it.

I was lured into a, quote, relationship with a 27-year-old man when I was 14. He convinced me to give up my virginity, claiming it was the only way I could prove I loved him. He made comments all the time that made me feel very mature and grown up, but convinced me that we must keep it quiet because people wouldn't understand or condone our love.

Of course, when I became an adult, I realized that he was just a pedophile and didn't want to get caught. When he was through with me, he, quote, gave me to his friend. He said that I was ruined for boys my age, that I was sexually developed beyond what they could give me and that his friend would, quote, take care of me. He had moved on to another younger teenager, of course.

I stayed in a relationship with his friend until I was about 16, then realized some of what was going on. They secretly recorded a lot of what happened. A couple of times they, quote, surprised me with other participants, other friends of theirs who wanted in on the action. They all lived in a seedy apartment complex. I come from an upper-middle-class family and didn't understand the dynamic.

Eventually, I realized that this was dangerous, not to mention gross, and I stopped hanging around with them. I started having many self-destructive thoughts around the time I stopped associating with these people. I felt the worst kind of self-loathing and started cycling through horrible bouts of food and pleasure deprivation, followed by episodes of binge eating, reckless casual sex and endless porn.

I am much better now and have largely stopped the self-hatred, but I still go through times occasionally where I am feeling stressed, lonely, angry, stupid, ugly, fat and I start to slip into self-destruction again, like I’m 16 again and all I'm good for is to be passed around to satisfy others.

Darkest thoughts. I think about wrecking the life of the man who convinced me to give up my virginity. I know some of his family and run into them sometimes, as I still live in the same community. I want to ask them if he is still a pedophile. I want to tell them that when I was 14 he thought it was okay to pass me around amongst his friends, and when I got too old for him, he moved on to a 13-year-old. I won't say any of these things because I am afraid to open that can of worms. I hate myself for staying quiet because I wonder how many he has abused since me.

Darkest secrets. I have willingly participated in gang-bangs, orgies and wife-swapping. I've had sex with married men whose wives I was good friends with. All of these things I have done as an adult, not an impressionable teenager.

I sought therapy after a time and I no longer participate in any of this, but I feel so guilty. I am still very close to one of the women whose husband I had sex with. She doesn't know. I am terrified she will find out someday and I will lose her, but I know I deserve it.

You know, as I'm reading this, I'm thinking the most important thing, though, is you sought what you had control over, which was to ask for help. You could see that your behavior was spinning out of control, and you saw the truth and you acted on the truth by getting help, and that is the most important thing, and I think it's time for you to forgive yourself because you're not doing it anymore.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. I know you say it's normal, but the darkness of the fantasies I masturbate to is just too much to type.

How do you feel after writing all these things down? I feel a little bit better but also a little bit exposed, like what if someone figures out it's me, which I know is stupid because I don't think I know anyone who listens to the podcast.

And then they asked if I, she asked if I knew about the New England thing with Pop Tarts, where they slather butter onto the hot Pop Tart, and I will have to try that. I will have to try that. Thank you for that survey, and I really hope you can forgive yourself.

I think I've read this on the podcast before but I want to read it again. This is a partial compilation of signs that you might be a narcissist. When you masturbate, you close your eyes and picture you watching yourself masturbating.

You don't use your turn signal because you assume everybody knows your schedule. You've never acted but you still listen for your name at the Oscars. You refuse to read the Bible because you're not in it.

You can't understand why people climb Mount Everest if you're not at the summit. When you play Monopoly, you bring a tiny statue of yourself to play with. Whenever you've tried to say, how may I help you, it comes out, why would I help you.

You refer to yourself so often in the third person, the IRS lets you claim it as a dependent. Your toilet bowl has Instagram. Your mirrored ceiling is only over half of your bed. And you root for people to die just because you look great in black.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey, and I'm going to read, I’m having to make some on-the-fly edits. This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by Kix, K-i-x. And he is straight, in his 40s, raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. This was the one where I misconstrued, I was mixing it up with this one, and when I read slightly dysfunctional environment, I went, what? Now, this was the one, yeah, pretty dysfunctional environment, I would definitely call it.

Never been sexually abused but he's been emotionally abused. He writes, my father was career Army and served as a drill sergeant during the big escalations of the Vietnam War. By all reports, he was an outstanding drill sergeant because of his innate ability to read people and find their weak points.

Unfortunately, instead of treating my older brother and me like his sons, he treated us like recruits. It makes for some funny stories, such as how we used to pray that my mother would wake us instead of him. At 6:30 a.m. on school days, she would turn on the hall light and stand in the doorway of our shared bedroom, talking to us until we woke up.

My father, on the other hand, would throw the door open, turn on the lights, kick our small metal trashcan across the room and announce, I don't hear the pitter-patter of little feet. And it was at 4:00 a.m. On any day he decided he wanted to do that, he would have us doing chores before school, often before the sun was up. Sometimes he would have us raking the pine needles in the yard by flashlight.

He would make us clean the dog crap out of the backyard and then he would insist that we practice our hand-to-hand self-defense, which he began teaching us when we were three. He thought of it as a great way to do two things at once, one, teach us how to handle ourselves in a fight, and two, teach us to be thorough in whatever job we were given.

Getting tossed into a pile of dog shit is an effective lesson, especially when he made us go to school without changing our clothes as a consequence. If we arrived at school, riding in the bed of his pick-up, it was already a dog-shit day.

The worst of it all, though, was when we got in trouble. He never beat us. I can count on one hand the number of times he so much as swatted us on the butt. He talked to us, just talked. He explained in meticulous detail just how disappointing we were.

He told us the stories of how his father would take the slat off of an apple crate and beat him with it if he did things even half as bad as what we had done. He demanded that we answer his questions without hesitation, and if we didn't answer to his satisfaction, then he kept asking them until we did. There were no clues about what he wanted from us, no guidance at all. It was sink or swim.

Inevitably, literally every time, those talks would end with us, either together or individually depending, weeping uncontrollably as he sat across the table with a look of disgust on his face. We would beg him to just whip us, anything, just let it end. He would wait until we stopped crying and then he would begin again. It often went on for hours without any reprieve.

My brother, my mother and I all knew that whoever was across the kitchen table from him was on his own and no one dared interrupt. It only made things worse.

Any positive experiences with the abusers? My father could be incredibly tender and loving. I remember him coming home at the end of the day when I or my brother had stayed home with a fever. He would come into our room, gently touch our cheeks, feel our foreheads, make sure we were covered up and warm, and then he would leave without saying a word.

Knowing that he has that side makes it that much harder to understand the side we all saw most of the time. He could be so kind, and he stressed the importance of service to others. He lived it by his 36 years in the Army. I just can't understand how the bastard we lived with 99% of the time was even the same man.

This survey was just so, you know, the reason I put those two questions together on the survey is to hopefully highlight one of the things that I've learned in working through my shit is that people aren't all dark or all light, and sometimes it's so confusing when they have both sides to them. And this is maybe one of the most extreme examples I've seen of that, and what a mind fuck that must have been for you.

And as I was reading this survey, I was thinking, what about you being sick made it okay in your dad's mind to let his gentleness out then? And I thought, maybe because it wasn't tied to performance, that you were just sick, it just was, and then that was, you know, it sounds like it had been pounded into his head as a kid that everything, you are your performance, and he probably believed that myth, that if you aren't hard on your kids, they're not going to grow up and be tough enough or wise enough for the world, and so when you were sick, it was the safe, it was a safe way where he could let that soft side out without that part of his brain saying, you're being too easy on them, they didn't do a good enough job, you're failing them as a father. I don't know, just my thoughts.

Darkest thoughts. I think about having affairs with much younger women basically every day. My wife and I have been together for 23 years. We're happy. I love her more than I thought I was capable of loving anyone, and I would never intentionally do anything to bring her pain, but I still think about having an affair with 18- to 20-year-old women, and then in parentheses, girls compared to me, on a daily basis.

I don't mean I fantasize. I plan. I wonder what would be the best way to go about it, anonymous encounters, a single mistress, meet in public, meet at her place? How do I pay for things? What would a woman that age see as motivation to fuck a 47-year-old man? I should stress that nothing leads me to believe that any woman I've met would be remotely interested in me and I've never pursued those thoughts. I hate myself because I have them.

You are so hard on yourself. And that doesn't sound to me like you're planning. That just sounds like fantasy. You know, if you said, once a week I pull out my day planner and I make a reservation at a motel and then I cruise the mall but I haven't been able to find anybody yet, that would be planning, but you're just, you're fantasizing about the details of it, and fantasizing about other people other than your partner is so [chuckles] normal. It's what you do with those fantasies, it's how they affect your life that matters. Anyway.

Darkest secrets. Between the ages of 12 and 16, I used to watch the kids of people my family went to church with. I never did anything inappropriate to any of them. I just made sure they were happy until their parents got home. When I was 15 or 16, I think it was just before I turned 16, I was watching the daughters of one of our youth group leaders and their youngest, 10 or 11, I think, sat down next to me on their couch while we watched a movie. Not long after she sat down, she just snuggled up next to me and leaned her head against my shoulder. I instantly got a raging hard-on.

Yes, I know that boys that age get hard-ons because the wind blows, but this was a person I had never thought of in a sexual way at all, at least not in any way that I was conscious of. I saw her as a little sister, but here I am with an erection that was so intense it hurt.

I tried to let it go away on its own, but it just kept throbbing. I finally had to excuse myself, go to the bathroom and masturbate just to get some relief. Ever since, I am terrified to touch young girls or be touched by them. I do not sexualize them in any way, but I just don't feel as though I’m trustworthy because of what happened. I hate myself for that, too.

Again, you are so hard on yourself. You, you didn't do anything wrong. Your body reacted, and you actually responded in a way that was right. You went and you took care of yourself in private. That's the top of the list of choices of what to do. Then you came back and you were present and situation solved.

Don't ever blame your body for reacting. It's what we do with the feelings that matter. And you are, it sounds like, such a decent, responsible, self-reflective, beautiful man.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you, a lithe 18-year-old girl riding me is a recurrent fantasy I've had for years. It's pretty tame compared to most but I am intensely ashamed of it. This is the first time I've shared it. Let go of the shame.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? I would like to tell my high school friend Scott, who one late night professed his love for me and offered to blow me, that my silence and withdrawal wasn't meant to be shaming to him. I was an emotionally immature kid from a dysfunctional family, as was he, who didn't know how to handle it. I didn't know how to tell him that. While the sexual attraction was not mutual because I'm straight I still loved him. Scott hanged himself in his late 20s.

What, if anything, do you wish for? I wish my fucking bipolar I and OCD would just give me a goddamn break for one fucking day, just one. I'd love to be able to walk through even a mundane day without having to work my CBT techniques non-stop to keep from curling into a ball and screaming in fear.

Have you shared these things with others? I shared the story about Scott with my wife. She was heartbroken for us both. See why I love her so much, question mark. Jesus, she's the best.

I also shared that story with the woman who was my high school girlfriend when it happened. We had reconnected on Facebook and, in the course of catching up, she asked if I had heard about Scott's suicide. I had, but I hadn't heard of the time that he took her on a date not long before she and I met, until I found out in that conversation with her.

When I told her about what Scott told me, it answered some questions for her, too. Their one date had gone horribly. It was incredibly awkward, and as high school girls do, she assumed it was something wrong with her. We both cried over Scott's memory. He was so sad all the time and we both cared about him very deeply. We share the wish that we could have done more for him somehow.

And, you know, society, I got to say, that one is on society and people that demonize people for being gay.

How do you feel after writing this down? Anxious as fuck. My palms are sweating. My feet are ice cold. My shoulders feel like they're about to start cramping, and I want a cigarette despite not being a smoker for 15 years. To be fair, I want a cigarette most days anyway.

It sounds like you might have eaten some dairy on your period and you're about to blow some serious mud. I could be wrong.

Anything you'd like to share with someone who shares your thoughts or experiences? I know you feel like an evil freak who doesn't deserve to be loved by anyone. It's a lie. Your brain is lying to you.

I'm glad you know the truth. I'm glad you know the truth, and that's what, that that's exactly what I would say to you, but you just sound like such a sweet, sweet, great example of a man.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Anna K. And she writes, in 2010, my perfectionism fueled one of my depressions until I had a full-blown nervous breakdown, complete with suicidal ideation.

I took a one-month leave from my job and entered a partial hospitalization during which time I learned to challenge my faulty thinking and lighten up. My perfectionism was most problematic in my work life. I'd become consumed with work, putting in too many extra hours and accepting way too many work responsibilities. I felt like there was a thousand-pound weight on me at all times. I, quote, needed to be the superstar at work.

During my month-long leave, I had the realization that if I didn't replace my faulty thinking with a healthier attitude, I could lose my life. I had attempted suicide in 2000. When I returned to work, I set healthy boundaries, allowing myself time for exercise, play and time with friends and family.

I no longer took on extra projects and didn't care to be a superstar at work. I worked hard when I was at work but did very little above and beyond my core responsibilities. The shift in priorities and attitude has resulted in a happier me.

Yesterday a co-worker walked in my office and burst into tears. She was sobbing, saying that she couldn't handle all the extra pressure and was tired of working 80 hours a week. I'd been watching this woman and had noticed that she was following an unhealthy path of perfectionism similar to my own.

As tears streamed down her face, she said, many of us look at you and wonder how you can be so happy working here. We want to know what your secret is. How did you get yourself to the point where you just don't care?

We both burst out laughing. I didn't take offense to the comment. If not caring resulted in not feeling suicidal and feeling connected to family, friends and the universe, then it was okay by me.

That is fucking awesome. That is so awesome, because there is such a cult of thinking in our society, and I think probably most, hm, a lot of societies that, if you aren't making your work the most important thing in your life, if you're not earning every fucking dollar that you could potentially earn, then you really aren't good at what you do. And, man, that fucks up families. That fucks up [chuckles], that fucks up that worker's health. You name it. But thank you for that. Thank you, guys, for your surveys.

And as I've mentioned before, there's a couple of different ways to support the show, if you feel so inclined. Patreon is a great way to do it, and to those of you that are Patreon donors, thank you so much, and PayPal donors, thank you so much for helping keep, to keep this show going and allowing it to be my job and support myself from it. And I've got some, hopefully some fresh Patreon rewards coming your way. I've been a little lax with them lately, and so I apologize for that.

Unfortunately, I can't give rewards through PayPal. It's just too cumbersome. Their interface is fucking awful. So, if you want to become a new monthly donor through Patreon, it's Patreon.com/mentalpod, that's P-a-t-r-e-o-n dot com slash mentalpod, but it's only for recurring monthly donations.

And, yeah, I, I am just grateful. I am grateful for you guys. I am grateful for my life. I am grateful for many things. I can still play hockey. I have a roof over my head, food on my table. Again, no plates, just right on the table. And I don't sit when I eat. I stand and I crouch and then I squeegee the food into my mouth.

Yeah, I get the table clean. I'm not an animal, but I do use a squeegee and a crouch. And I do do it on my balcony, because one of my proclivities is I like, I like to be watched while I crouch with the squeegee. This is getting very, very uncomfortable for everybody, even Herbert who doesn't understand English most of the time.

And Herbert is well, and he just got his hair cut, and I think I'm going to put a couple of those pictures for the Patreon people, and I got a little video of Herbert with his haircut. It's pretty adorable.

But anyway, if you're out there and you're struggling, there is hope. I've been in that place where there was no hope, and I’m so glad I didn't give up and I finally asked for help because I love my life today. And I have meaning and purpose in it, and it's been a bumpy, confusing ride, but I think that's kind of what makes it fun.

If it was easy, would it feel so satisfying when we do feel good and at peace? I don't know. Why don't you answer that and get back to me? But--

 

[Closing music swells]

 

--just remember, you're not alone. You never were and you never will be. It's just a lie that your brain tells you. And thanks for listening.

 

[Closing music]

 

Transcription services donated by Accurate Secretarial LLC. You can find them at www.AccurateSecretarial.com.