FRIDAY OPEN THREAD: How Did You Know You Were Home?

feature image via Shutterstock

Hello rainbows near and far! I’m emerging from the deep freeze of an overwhelming offline life to lead this week’s Friday Open Thread, where we all get together to talk about our feelings and the events that inspired them. Pull up a chair/comfy pillow/bar stool/living room sofa/other seat of choice and let’s go!

I kicked off 2018 with a gigantic change: relocating from Los Angeles to Washington, DC to work at a disability rights advocacy organization. About four months in, I’m happy to report that my job and I are indeed made for one another and I remain in awe that they’re paying me to do any of this. No matter what I will always be proud that I responded to the 2016 election by picking up and going for it. There is no better way I could have transformed my grief and anger and I’ve never felt more empowered or fortunate.


Relocating is hard! And as someone who hadn’t done it before, wow was I surprised how intensely the homesickness hit about a month and a half ago. I recognize I’m super late to the party on this but geez. No matter how nice the people (and in my neighborhood they really, really are) or incredible the opportunities (being at the Capitol the night of Nancy Pelosi’s DACA quasi-filibuster is up there), I haven’t quite been able to shake the sense that I’m a Californian in a strange land. For a while I had to actively restrain myself from getting off the train at the airport on the way to work and flying home — not to quit, but to feel like I was back where I belonged for a minute. Fortunately conditions have improved since then thanks to the change in the weather, leaning into the endless amount of nerdy stuff to do here (which not even the literal worst administration in history can take away), and the arrival of my girlfriend and the cat.

A fluffy orange cat looks very pleased about the chin scratches he's getting

Seriously look at this guy

So here’s my question, fellow travelers: how did you know you were home? Whether after moving to a new place, switching apartments in the same city, or finding the community you’d been searching for online/in life, what made you realize you’d arrived? When did you finally relax and say “yes, this is it”? What’s the best thing about wherever and whatever you call home? Tell me all about it and let’s create a home for each other here while we’re at it.

PS: Excited to see a bunch of you at camp SO SOON! Come say hi!

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Carrie's body is weird and she's making that work for her. She lives in DC by way of Los Angeles and has a conflicted relationship with social media, but you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram anyway.

Carrie has written 83 articles for us.


  1. Went to the Alamo this week. While I was there I ate a place called the Iron Cactus, and I had the most amazing meal. It was called the Three Chile Pork Loin.

    It’s a good cut of pork loin with just enough of a fat rind to give it some flavor. The loin is then cooked on a grill to give it that naturally smokey flavor instead of adding “liquid smoke”. Then it’s topped with a demi-glace. Now I like sweet sauces. BBQ sauces based on honey, brown sugar, molasses, or syrup are my favorite. But this one was based on sun dried tomatoes and it was a sweet taste that I just was not ready for.

    Then dessert. I got the Tres Leches, and I’m so glad that I did. It’s a traditional Mexican cake saturated in three different types of milk (included condensed milk), topped with whipped cream and strawberries. I wish that I had a good picture of this.

  2. In the words of 6 time Tony Award nominee Audra McDonald, “I found the theatre, and I found my home.”

    I recently lost a home. I was betrayed by people in a place where I felt I belonged, and now I keep hearing “Burn” from Hamilton in my head. So I’m currently a bit lost in the wilderness, but I will find a new home, or learn to build back the home I’m in that was shattered.

    On top of this horrible week I’ve been having, I woke up this morning with pink eye. So now I can’t even do anything fun this weekend, as I’m contagious.

    Sorry for being a Debbie Downer. I still have my dog and my friends and my roommates and my mom & sister, so I’m not completely alone. Just feeling betrayed and lost right now.

  3. Ooof I feel this! It’s been like 9 months since I moved back to my hometown, but it felt a lot more like leaving a home than coming “home”. I left some of the most supporting, loving, best friends I’ve ever had and just a sense of comfort, love, and familiarity to be in my “home”town and now I’m physically closer to my complicated, often painful family relationships and starting new friendships. It wasn’t till I was doing my spring cleaning rituals that my apartment really felt like it was mine. And it wasn’t till I saw my favorite cherry trees blossoming here that I felt like I could make a home here too. I still miss my people and my routines. I still feel like I’m settling in. But I’m growing in a lot of ways that I couldn’t if I had stayed. When I stopped walking in my door and looking around comparing it to my old apartment (every single time) I knew that I accepted this place as my new home. Lately, I’ve been saying “different can still be lovely” to myself a lot!!!

    • “Different can still be lovely.” I like it.

      I accidentally said “on the flight home” when talking about the trip BACK from Camp recently so maybe that’s my “no longer looking around and comparing it to the old apartment” moment.

    • I know that feeling of painful and complicated family relationship. On the plus side thanks to the internet our friends usually a message or comment away.

  4. The new job sounds amazing and like a huge accomplishment!

    I recently moved out of California for the first time too! Now my girlfriend and I are in Seattle (a different Washington) and we both just really love it here.

    Things were really chaotic and hard the last few years (finances, mental health, family relationships, physical health, academics, everything!) I feel like we’ve both grown a lot and were able to partially start over.

    There are lots of times when I’ve felt like this was home. Yesterday I was looking at pictures in my phone and the everything went from brown hues (California, no water) to green hues. The spring is beautiful here. So many flowers and it’s like a metaphor for rebirth! *whispers* I may never go back.

  5. This is my first time posting in the open thread. I have a question for fellow queers persons.

    I am a butch/masculine of center queer person living in strictly hetero society divided on clear gender binary lines. I am able to navigate it mostly and keep my sanity . Though one thing that really bugs me is security checks, at the mall, at the station at the airport wherever.

    Security checks around here divide between men and women, and of course i go to the ‘woman’ line cos i don’t want to be frisked by some creepy dude. But getting checked by wary female guards is no less daunting, especially when they look at me like im in the wrong line, that i have to prove my feminity. Its a bit like the bathroom thing, but a little different.

    Does anyone else have to deal with this. It’s not the guards fault either, they’re just doing their job. But having to go through it frequently, it bums me out a little .

    • That happens to me all the time too! I’ve not really found a good solution, except traveling with other people. ?

    • Welcome to the open thread, Sparrow!

      I wish I had advice to offer about your question, but I all I can do in commiserate. Gender is complicated! Sending encouragement and supportive energy.

    • I wonder if, as an experiment in an environment that generally feels as safe and comfortable and supportive as possible, you could try going in the “men’s” line. I’ve done this with public restrooms where I had to choose in places where my gender presentation was not the norm, and have found it surprisingly comfortable. I wouldn’t push yourself to try this if it feels scary or more vulnerable in any way, but it might be one thing to experiment with in finding what feels comfortable. I’m sorry the community you live in is so binary! Solidarity!

      • Thank you for your feedback. Unfortunately i can’t got to the men’s line, cos i don’t pass for a ‘man’ either. And male guards have a more weird look.
        My friends tell me to ‘feminise’ my appearance a bit, like Rachel Maddow for CNN. I guess i just have to work on not letting the discomfort affect my day.

        • Sparrow,

          I don’t know if this is helpful/empowering, but the way you present yourself to the world is quite likely resonating with others in your community who are in need of role models who fit the vision of how they feel.

          You shouldn’t have to prove yourself in any way or change yourself for anyone else. Also – masculine-of-center folks are super attractive, imho. :)

          • Thank you for saying that, its very kind of you :). And yeah it is helpful to read it.

  6. Apartments start feeling like home to me once all my familiar art is on the walls. I’ve got a pretty big postcard collection I always put up, and a wall of superhero fanart. The neighborhood starts feeling like home once I’ve figured out my standard walk. I’ve never moved to a different city, so now idea how that process would go for me.

    • My girlfriend, who is obsessed with curating our wall art, will be *beyond* pleased to hear this.

      • It’s like wearing familiar comfy clothes, I think? When you spot your art out of the corner of your eye and don’t need to look to recognize it.

  7. I lived all my life in Southern California so I’ve always felt home in some ways. When I lived in San Diego, it was the weather, and media that made me feel like I was home or close to it. I’m a life long Laker fan so at the time we got all the home games(which was on Fox Sports while road games was on KCal9, which SD doesn’t get); so I got to see a slice of familiar on tv. I don’t think I could ever move, despite having some desires to live in other places of the country, because I am too accustomed to the lack of winter and the protection granted me as an LGBTQ Jew. I understand the parts of the city and have desire to make it better anyway I can; moving means I may have to learn a new city and new laws that might not be in my favor.

    I’ve been having a rough week. My heart hurts, been crying in the wrong moments, and I just want to sleep all day in depression. Part of it comes from feeling like I am on shaky ground with the woman I am seeing. I feel like I only a slice in their story and not sure if that’s how being non-monogamy is for some people. I feel perpetually lonely, and friendless and dating and friends apps are no help. I don’t get matched up with too many people(though fortunate where I live there is a lot of lgbtq people) and those I do match up with generally never reply to what I’ve sent(friends have vetted in the past and said it’s good). I know I should talk to the lady I’m seeing & tell my feelings, but I’m scared of the next. I think she’s just one of the most awesome people I have met cause there is something about her that I want to know for ever, even if it’s just friends. Thank you for listening to my venting, I feel like a sad useless queer atm.

    I spent Sunday at Cuties Coffee having tea and donuts among fellow LBTQ people. Thanks to autostraddle I was up on my Celesbian news, which people like. I told them that Cara is probably be dating Paris Jackson(they also agreed watching Carol is a lesbian date movie). People assumed I was a gossip hound as I knew stuff, but I was like, no I just read autostraddle, and Wednesdays is their celeb days. One said she will have to take a look as the site sounds well rounded. We also talked about how many cis male-female couples(some with kids in the pics) we see on women looking for women section of tinder. It has me wondering if there is any cis male-female couples under men looking for men.

    Since I didn’t get to go out in nature Sunday, I will leave you with an image from the other week. This was in Topanga Canyon in Malibu. Another reason why I can’t leave California, mountains and the ocean are next to each other and a short drive from the city.

    Thank you for viewing and reading my post. Have a positive weekend and a happy mothers day!

  8. So chuffed that things are going well for you in Washington, DC, Carrie!

    I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel through different countries and languages from my late teens until I was twenty. Then, aged twenty-one, I was grounded in all kinds of ways by chronic illness and had to find ways of getting comfy in circumstances that were — and continue to be — uncomfortable.

    For me, home is about creating space for yourself in all kinds of places. Sometimes someone will welcome you in, other times you have to figure it out on your own.
    Watching wild rabbits on the hill outside your hospital room, spending time at the public library, snuggled patchwork quilt, drinking that just-brewed cup of tea…

    In terms of Autostraddle, it’s you (Carrie) that showed me this was one of my homes. I started reading Autostraddle after realising, aged 29, that I’m queer. At first I was surprised…then, after thinking about it, not at all surprised…and overwhelmingly happy to begin better understanding my identity. But I was a bit nervous the first time I typed I wasn’t sure if I belonged. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to want to.

    This was the first article that I read and it made me feel seen.(

    Thanks, Carrie! And everyone else on Autostraddle – you’ve made me feel welcome too.

    • WELL, THERE GOES MY HEART, IT JUST EXPLODED. Thank you, Kate! You just made my entire year. So glad you feel like there’s a home here for you (because there is!) and thank you for the advice. A just-brewed cup of tea really does do the trick most times.

    • I promise I’m not crying at work ” home is about creating space for yourself in all kinds of places”. This was so beautiful, Kate

  9. I’ve been spending the last three weeks in suburban L.A. where I grew up, helping my family move, and it’s amazing how little this place feels like home anymore, despite spending the first 24 years of my life here. It’s familiar, but in a disconnected, “going-through-the-motions” kind of way that just makes me miss my urban apartment in Portland with my lovely partner even more.

    Everyone here is so straight and so cis; I saw a few queer couples the one time I went down to Santa Monica but the town I’m staying in is hetero hell; it’s like being behind enemy lines, and I can’t imagine how I survived coming out here.

    • You have me wondering where this is as it sounds like it’s close-ish to Santa Monica(which has a gay male bar), but is very straight(which browsing tinder and OKC tells me a slightly different tale). Maybe the survival came from knowing there is a few gayborhoods nearby?

      • Town is called Montrose, just outside of Glendale. It’s essentially Normalville, California. I don’t think I’ve seen another trans woman since I left Portland.

        As for growing up here, I just tried to escape as much as possible, even if I had to take four buses to do it.

        • I’m a little familiar with the area as I am an LA native. Yeah I know Glendale is very straight presenting area. All the trans women are in East Hollywood, Weho, & Silverlake areas. I know the Eagle(LA) and Cuties aren’t that far from Glendale/Montrose area.

  10. I don’t have a good answer to this question, but it’s also something that’s been at the top of my mind lately. I have lived in two cities my entire life in Wisconsin and I’ve recently been traveling a bit more. One of the places I visited was Seattle and for years, that city has been calling to me. After nearly a week there, I’m truly feeling a little directionless. I love my city (Madison) but I’ve been thinking I’m out-growing it. A friend recently noticed how it’s hard to be an outsider here which struck a chord. There are lots of reasons to stay and lots of reasons to go, but it’s also really nice to hear that other people have had these anxieties and have also been able to get settled in a new place.

  11. (Belated) Congratulations, Carrie! I’m so glad you have a great new job! And your cat is too cute!

    Hmm, in term of what makes me feel at home in a place… It’s hard for me to know how I feel right now because the past few years have been a bit of a whirlwind. I moved halfway across the country, from Boston to Minneapolis, largely because of a relationship. The relationship ended, and I stayed for a job. I had to leave the job due to chronic illness, and stayed because I’d finally found good doctors. I’ve moved apartments twice already since moving to this city. And if my health/ability to earn income doesn’t improve in the next few months, I’ll be moving back east to live with family. I want to let myself feel at home here, but it’s hard to settle when I feel like I’m just getting sorted out from the most recent move and might need to move again so soon. I know that feeling at home, for me and for many people I’m sure, often has to do with connecting with community, but I think there’s also a piece about stability? Like, it’s hard to feel at home when my situation feels so unpredictable. I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

  12. I think I’m just the kind of person who can put down roots anywhere I damn please. I was at home in Scandinavia, I was at home in Scotland and I’m at home in France. When I spent the summer working in a desert in the Middle East, I remember sitting on the mountain and staring at nothing but sand, thinking that I could have made that my home.

    I think it’s because I’ve never had a really specific idea of what my adulthood would look like, so I can very easily imagine a new life for myself in which any place is home … even if it’s very different from what I grew up knowing.

  13. I’ve picked up and moved cities several times (Amherst to Boston, Boston to NYC, NYC to Bangkok, Bangkok to Portland) and each time it took me about 1-2 years to make a good friend network, learn the city, and feel comfortable and settled in there.

    That aside, it only took me about a week to feel like Portland was “home” for me in this stage of my life. It clicked right away, unlike most other moves.

    Excited to see you at camp!!

  14. I haven’t commented here since 2010, I think. But this week I made what I think is the stupidest mistake of my life and need to get it off my chest. I had two offers: 1) a very interesting job at a large tech company that would require me to move to a tiny town where I don’t know anyone and can’t speak the language. 2) a somewhat interesting job at a startup that would enable me to be closer to parents, friends, and understand what is happening around me. I live in Europe at the moment so option 2 would also mean giving that up. I should have made the rational choice of going for the very interesting position, but I let my feelings get ahold of me I very much regret it now. I want to call HR at company 1 and ask if they are still interested, but I reckon that ship has sailed :'(

    • Sending you hugs. Facing a sort of similar decision myself, with the complication of a family who also have feelings. I hope you find peace with your decision and unexpected awesomeness in your somewhat interesting job. (And, ya know, what’s the worst that happens if you call HR at company 1? They say “so sorry but we will keep you in mind in the future”? They laugh at you like crazy B-movie supervillains, cackling and twirling their mustaches, then tell all their friends? I bet you have survived worse.)

    • This is possibly too late but like those in front of me I say give offer one, another ring and try again. You can survive a sorry it too late, call if that’s what you get.

      Good luck though, with whatever you decide to do.

  15. I’ve lived in the same city my entire life. But, thankfully, not in the same house or apartment or anything. As bad as it sounds, anyplace I’m living where my mom and my sister aren’t around makes me say “Yeah, this is home.” They’re both just really difficult to get along with.

  16. When I realized I was surrounded by people in my life, whom I could be myself around, without feeling shame.

  17. We’re all proud of you too Carmen.

    Bed is home.
    Like the rest of everything is probs a disaster, but bed is nest with a minimum of 3 blankets at all times. My laundry hamper could be volcano, but my bed looks like it A)Cozy blanket fort B)Vampire lair/boudoir set piece

    I feel not great all head swimmy just ugh my flare up that started Thursday of last week is still going on and doing the fun thing where it lingers on my hands and the skin is so irritated it feels like 1st degree burn when stuff touches it.
    But hey I can walk without feeling the Andersen’s Mermaid, can use my fingers just fine, lay down and sit on my own butt so it’s pretty mild and bare able compared to some of the previous flare ups.

    I hate being on this medicine no matter how many times I’m on it always makes my head all fuzzy. I bet my immune system would build up a tolerance to it’s effectiveness before the rest of me could build a tolerance to the head swimmy side effects.

    One more I give thanks I’m not allergic to corn, rice, oats or nuts.
    Or chicken so glad I’m not allergic to chicken.
    And potatoes my yummy potassium having friends that are food.


    San Francisco was the first place that actually felt like HOME. People accepted me for who I am (even as a minority) and I didn’t feel like I have to work so hard to find my people. If it weren’t for my visa situation I would have just stayed there.

    Melbourne seems…okay enough. I’m finding my people and for once in my life I don’t have a deadline. No compelling reason to STAY either but at least now I have more of a choice in the matter.

  19. Right now I’m sitting in the train as I was visiting my gf in the new city that she moved to in March. I feel like I want to move after her as I fell in love with the place. For me it was the beautiful yard and the small rocky roads in the woods that made me feel like home. Bicycling and swimming grounded me in the place and I felt empowered and belonging throught these activities. And the social spirit of the place that feels immediately more outgoing than in the northern Finland where I have lived my whole life.

    I was soo inspired by the way you were being enthusiastic about your new job. I’m currently unemployed and looking for writing jobs. I want to find one in this new city I will be moving to.

  20. As a teen I always wanted to move away from my small town. And then after grad school I wanted to move back, so I did. That was 10+years ago. I bought a house (and after living here a while realized that the layout is almost the same as my parwnts’ house with a different orientation). I’ve built on to it and plants raspberry bushes, peach trees, and grapes.

    I love that my parents and brother live about a mile away, along with several family friends. I love queering my town.

  21. It feels weird that I haven’t really had a place to live that’s felt truly like home (bar the transient home-ness of campgrounds that spring up around kayaking festivals–those are home because of the proximity of the river and because of the community (even the inconsiderate discotheque-blasting-at-all-hours-of-the-night parts of it). Though uh, I’d like a more permanent one that also doesn’t feature a leaky tent because having a dry place to sleep is nice. As is a place that doesn’t blare discotheque at 4 am. But mostly the being dry part.)

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