Read A F*cking Book: Win A Copy of ‘The Letter Q’

What would Eileen Myles say to her 14 year-old self about life, the world, and what it’s like to be her? Well, she’d say this:

“This is art. It’s the work you will be doing for the rest of your life so be proud of these things that are easy for you. If something is easy for you, it means that big parts of you are being used and you should begin to do that thing with your eyes open and do it until it gets hard. Move something around and it will get easy again. You should look for other kids who are into what you are into and stick with them. The kids who are mean to you are a waste of time. Don’t let them talk you into quitting ballet class because it’s “queer.” Do you know what queer means? Obviously you are secretly a boy in a way that is turning you inside out, which is part of why you are standing there stuck in the cafeteria today, but you know — so many people are mixes of male and female — and despite the fact of your secret boy, you probably also have secret female parts you don’t even know about yet. Gender is the great mystery of the world (like love) […]”

 Among other really fantastic and beautiful things.

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes To Their Younger Selves, edited by Sarah Moon and James Lecesne, is an anthology of letters about life getting better in Adult Land, but it’s also a tiny peek into the histories of some of your favorite queer authors. Eileen Myles, Malinda Lo, Jasika Nicole, Ali Liegbegott, Julie Anne Peters are all here, plus so so many more. Some stories are sad, some hilarious, some are even illustrated graphic novel-type things! But every last one of them ends well, because they end here, in the present, usually with happy careers, significant others, pets and cool houses. Yay!

From the publisher:

In this anthology, sixty-four award-winning authors and illustrators such as Michael Cunningham, Amy Bloom, Jacqueline, Woodson, Terrence McNally, Gregory Maguire, David Levithan, and Armistead Maupin, make imaginative journeys into their pasts, telling their younger selves what they would have liked to know then about their lives as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people. Through stories, in pictures, with bracing honesty, these are words of love, messages of understanding, reasons to hold on for the better future ahead. They will tell you things about your favorite authors that you never knew before. And they will tell you about yourself.

The It Gets Better Campaign, and similar projects like this book, have taken some heat for a couple of problematic things, like the fact that for some people it isn’t about ‘it’ getting better, so much as it is about them getting better at dealing with it. On the surface, The Letter Q might seem to hover around the unfortunate space of genuinely wanting to help while not being able to speak directly to everyone’s — or even the average — experiences, because not everyone will grow up to be successful writers in liberal-leaning neighborhoods, of course.

But wait! The great thing about this anthology is that the focus isn’t necessarily on who these people became; it’s really truly about where they came from, thanks to everyone’s honest discussions of their shitty, awkward childhood / teen years. There’s no romanticizing here, which keeps The Letter Q from being precious or cheesy.

“Some people, like your sixth-grade teacher, Sister Maura, might understand this impulse to love everybody, but just like you she has difficulty making it happen 100 percent of the time. Remember when she called you out in front of the classroom and accused you of being a daydreaming sissy? You weren’t able to stand up to her at the time, but here is what I’m suggesting — if you should see her again, explain to her that you were dreaming of the day when your idea catches on and when she, a Catholic nun, can love and cherish every one of her students — even the gay ones.”

– James Lecesne, whose Academy Award winning short film, TREVOR, inspired The Trevor Project.

Every author — and arguably just the existence of this book — makes a really important and beautiful point: that it took living through all of those things to become the people they are today, and that it was worth it.

You know you want your very own copy, so here’s what you need to do — leave a comment for your teen-self below! Tell them what they have to look forward to, or how the difficult things have shaped you. There’s no word requirement or limit, so you can feel as many or as few feelings as you’d like. Two winners will be chosen at random on Friday, May 25, and will receive a copy of The Letter Q and an official It Gets Better t-shirt! I can’t wait to read what you write.

Be a fan of The Letter Q on the book of face!

Before you go! 99.9% of our readers don't support Autostraddle. Still, it takes funding to keep this indie queer publication running every day. And the majority of our funding comes from readers like you. That's less than 1% of our readers who keep Autostraddle around for EVERYBODY. Will you join them?

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here.

Laneia has written 915 articles for us.


  1. know what? its ok to like girls- lots of girls do. and you look fine- dont listen to your parents. however, listen to bobbi, and get on birth control….but dont freak out when you procrastinate til its too late. people are going to love you. the friends you have now will pass, but you’ll make better ones who will complete you. you will love, and lose, and love even harder the next time around. enjoy every morsel life feeds you…..

  2. I am still my teen self…but I can still tell myself what I can (hopefully?) look forward to!
    Dear Past (Present) Aly,
    You are awesome. Even though you are going through a tough time right now, things will get better. You will tell [redacted] that you love her, and she will reject you, and your 17-year-old, never-loved-anyone-before heart will break in half. You and her will probably stop being friends, but you’re both going to different colleges next year, and you will meet other girls that are actually queer and will have the capability of loving you both emotionally and romantically.
    You will find your first girlfriend in college. She will be amazing. And then she, like [redacted], will also hurt you. It’ll be a different pain than what you experienced before, but you’ll have better coping skills and be able to pull yourself out of the hardship by diving into your studies. This cycle will repeat itself several times, with varying levels of love and hate and loyalty and betrayal, but ultimately you will come out stronger.
    Eventually, you will get married. You and your wife will have two rescued beagle mutts, a garden, and you will work at the vegan local co-op.
    Also your wife is Rachel Maddow.
    Love, Future (Present) Aly.

    • this is so completely me. i’m even 17. everything is me, i swear. i’d be shocked if i weren’t already used to almost everyone on this website seeming to constantly read my mind.

      thank you for writing this.

  3. I am so excited about this!!! So many authors I love!!! It would be so wonderful to win a copy of this book.

    After I came out, I wished I could tell my questioning teen self that I was indeed attracted to girls so I didn’t need to worry about if I was gay, or, even scarier, if I wasn’t.

    • that’s probably not the first thing i’d tell my teen self, though. let’s try this:

      your friends will still love you. many of them already guessed. and loved you, still.
      your family will not desert you. but it might take time for some of them to be okay. after all, it took you a long time, too.
      you will find your pride and your place in this world.

  4. Here’s what I would tell my teen self:

    Pssst! There’s more than just straight and gay out there in the world. I know that you know you don’t really fit in one category or another, but there are so many more sexual and gender identities out there than you can even dream of at this point. You have sexual and romantic feelings towards more than one gender, and that’s going to be really a difficult, awesome, and important part of you throughout your life. Also, you will totally rock blue hair in your twenties!

  5. Kat,
    you’ve already mostly come out and…thats great. I know sometimes it sucks but thats kind of the way it works sometimes. we both know it’ll get better, one day. The question for you is when, and how. Right now the world is kind of spiraling out of control and you don’t know whether to reach out and try to stop it or just roll with the punches. In the end, what happens right now isn’t the most important thing for later, just get out okay and the rest will work itself out. Embrace the friends you have, forget the ones you don’t, and when the time comes, come out to those you don’t think you can. I’m really proud of you kiddo. Really, Really, Proud.
    some future hypothetical you.

    this is the letter I really need right now, from someone in the future to 15 year old me [aka me today]

  6. Dear Recent High School Self,

    You just turned 18 last week. You’re still a teenager, I know. I also know how hard it’s been for you the past seven years. You’ve surrounded yourself with tolerant people in an attempt to create an insular bubble, in an attempt to protect yourself from the kind of patriarchal, woman-hating bullshit you dealt with from your father in your early childhood.

    I know how hard it’s been, not only being queer, but also being disabled. I know you’ve watched as the people you selectively chose to surround yourself with left you. At the beginning of high school, your insular bubble became as threadbare as that “I Love Girls” shirt your mom thinks you have only for the irony.

    I know you’ve been called a “dyke” more times than you care to count, and I know that the worst time was when your best friend of five years spat the word at you in band practice in the ninth grade. You hadn’t come out yet, not even to yourself, really (not after you tried to talk about it with your mom and she shut you down with a, “Honey, you’re just confusing friendship with something else. All of those personality tests the psychologists gave you show that you’ve heterosexual.”). The clarinet section had been discussing same-sex marriage and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and your friend asked you your opinion.

    “Of course I’m for same-sex marriage,” you said without a second thought. You still haven’t forgotten the way her beautiful face twisted into an ugly snarl.

    But I just want to remind you, liebling, that things have, for want of a better phrase, “gotten better.” You’re going to college in the big city next year, and you’ve already reached out to their queer clubs and formed contacts with their leaders.

    You had your graduation and 18th birthday party last week, too, and you invited everyone, even your old clarinet-playing best friend, and you saw how she and they had changed. You invited a guy you hadn’t seen in a year because he’s been a freshman at the state school, and he came out to you. You were the first person he’s ever come out to, you know. And he cried a bit, and hugged you, and ate four cupcakes, and came in and watched Miss Congeniality with you and your “dyke” friends. That may have been the gayest gathering in the tri-state area (in both senses of the word).

    So remember. It’s been tough. It’s been fucking disgusting at times. But you’re getting out of this place, and you’ve pulled yourself up by your bootstraps so far that you don’t have to pay a cent to go to one of the most expensive universities in the country.

    You’re salutatorian. You’re a published writer. You’re an activist, a sister, a daughter, a Diet Coke addict. And you have so much more to look forward to. This is only the beginning.
    So stay strong. Don’t get discouraged when the boys slam your wheelchair into the wall or trip your cane or whisper “dyke” down your neck when you’re getting a drink from the water fountain.

    They’re going to graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt with a bachelor’s from a state system school that their parents forced them to attend rather than the community college. They’re going to marry somebody they see as a trophy rather than a partner. They’re going to raise kids to do the same. And you’ll be doing what you really want with the people you love, and you’re going to be successful. You haven’t even begun to peak yet.
    It’ll get better, I promise.

    It already has.


    Your Future Self

  7. Teenage Me,

    Don’t ever give up living. Because if you do you’ll miss out on so many adventures, your first kiss (which I know you’re scared will never happen), and knowing that no matter how broke you are you will always have friends who will let you crash on the couch you helped steal from the alley. I’m sorry to say the darkness won’t be leaving any time soon, but you’ll learn how to manage it and to make things a lot brighter. Plus teenage me, if you give up now never will you drunkenly run full force into locked doors, conquer your fear of heights by scaling an abandoned train bridge, and have gay old times with your herd of homo’s (it’s these people that will teach you so much about everything). Also just so you know now it’s okay to trust people.

    Sincerly, your adult self.

    PS..never be ashamed of how you look. You’ll very soon realize that you look hot and fabulous even whilst wearing a kilt.

  8. Dear Kate –
    I’m so proud of you for being you. The fact that you came out at age 12, though, gives you a responsibility to give back to the community. You’re doing that really well. Don’t get discouraged. I know your best friends’ boyfriends suck a lot, but they are not nyour future. You’re heading off to one of the best colleges in the nation (Wellesley) and you are going to have SO much fun and also kiss all the girls. You are immensely talented, and if you want to study theatre and writing, DO IT. You might end up as awesome as Riese and Laneia one day.

    Love, yourself.
    (Actually this is from me to me right now. That felt GREAT.)

  9. Dearest Tarzan,

    You actually are not that weird. In fact, if you gave your classmates a chance, you’d find out that they are probably as weird, or weirder, than you, and it makes them awesome. So, if you ARE a weirdo, it just makes you more interesting and amazing. Don’t be afraid to show your true self to people.

    Stop being rude to the adults who are trying to help you feel better about yourself; they mean well, and you might find out that they are also very caring, funny and yes, weird.

    Give your parents a break. They are also just trying to be nice to you and help you be happy. Also, give them more credit, they are Christians of the “love one another” variety. They might surprise you and be more accepting than you think. When you are ready, stop lying to them. But also listen to them and try not to make everything about you.

    Long story short, stop hiding from yourself and from the people who care about you.

    Love love,

    You (me)

  10. Dear Elizabeth,

    I think you should stop making out with your boring boyfriend all the time just because he likes cool music and has pretty hair, and think about how maybe there’s an actually-cool girlfriend out there for you. Or maybe just your friend L., the girlfriend of your boyfriend’s friend? Because you lost your virginity to her, except that you didn’t really realize it because you just thought virginity meant P-in-V sex. ANYWAY (you’ll see I haven’t changed much), keep being an angry feminist vegetarian, keep listening to Ani, keep writing terrible poetry about ladies, and definitely keep drawing fairies with nice boobies. Your future soulmate (yes, you’ll eventually think that soulmates are a thing, barfbarfbarf, I know) will think it’s so damn funny when you tell her that you just didn’t know you were a lesbian because you didn’t know what that word meant.

  11. Hey you/me,

    So in about 7 years time, you’re going to realise something. And it’s going to be scary, and then great, and then a bit crap, and then mind-blowing, and then really shit. And then you’re not going to be sure about who you are and you’ll cry; and then you’ll feel silly for thinking it was normal to know who you are and then you’ll laugh. And I’m not going to tell you what starts ALL THESE FEELINGS because I know the suspense will keep you going. So follow the clues. I’ll see you here when your ready.

    Also, don’t let your future self think that using student loan money to buy unnecessary things is a present from your even more future self, because your future-future self hates your future self right now.

  12. What I would tell myself: The people who told you that you had to be straight/feminine didn’t know you. Your hair looks way better short. There is nothing wrong with your nose. You don’t have to reject your morality wholesale to reconsider your sexuality. You are the only thing holding yourself back, but who you are is negotiable.

  13. Dear past (and present) Natalia:
    Here are a few things to remember, to keep in mind and close in your thoughts because, as we all know, life is tough. Life is a journey and self-discovery, getting to know oneself, is one of the most important journeys in life. With that in mind remember to live one day at a time, do not exhaust yourself over-thinking things. Oh, and about those continual and plaguing doubts, stop, take it easy. Enjoy the ride that is life and getting to know yourself. Identity is a fickle concept. Do you like girls? Good. Do you prefer girls? Alright. That’s settled, so relax. Inhale, exhale. And about being forever alone, you won’t be forever alone. You will be loved, someday. For now, enjoy the people that surround you and meeting new people, surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Don’t be afraid to make friends, smile. Lastly, your parents, what can I say? They will always love you and for better or worse you can’t change who your parents are, so love them and continue to show them the honest, humble, hardworking, courageous and intelligent woman you are becoming with each passing day.
    With unending love,
    Your older self

  14. Dear teen self:
    There is a reason you aren’t obsessed with Michael Jordan like all your girl friends. You’ll figure it out, many years after high school after almost getting married to a man and then running away to Europe. It’s okay. Don’t avoid those experiences, they made you who you are. But maybe you could figure things out a little sooner?
    Know that while being smart and awkward is making your high school experience harder, it will make you even more awesome when you are grown. And you will meet someone who loves those qualities about you, so don’t despair.

  15. 15 year old ME:
    You had a best friend that you fell in love with. You weren’t sure if it was right or wrong but you took a chance and went with your heart. You put this girl before everybody else including your family. They were not comfortable with the fact that you liked another girl…told you it was a phase..but you stayed strong and let it be known that it’s ok if they don’t approve…but you will do what makes you happy no matter what because you love her and she loves you. Until one day she told you that she loved someone else…and that he loved her too. This broke your heart and to this day still upsets you. But everything happens for a reason. You found your true self and you know true happiness does exist. Now you are 24 years old and have been in a relationship for six years now with your soul mate who you would have never found if you hadn’t followed your heart in the first place. Everything happens for a reason and I cannot stress this enough. Always be true to you and you will go a long way.


  16. dear teen self,

    you are a beautiful, wonderful individual who is worthy of love and has something to contribute to this world. don’t beat yourself up so much.


    adult self

  17. Hey there little one! I bet you just squirmed reading that but let me tell you, you are little. Yeah you have big ideas and a mature soul, but those will keep. Stop wishing you could skip teenagehood and embrace being 16, 17,18. Please? Ok.

    Now here is something important you should know; Your mates at school are mostly pretty awesome. Ten years later you still spend time with these women and appreciate each of them for their differences. And they appreciate you. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be hanging out with you. It would be helpful if you could stop worrying about not being good enough, and just consider yourself their equal. Sooner rather than later.

    You are interesting enough, you are pretty enough, you are smart enough and you are “cool” enough. As long as you are being yourself. Wait! I’ll explain that one for you, because I didn’t work it out for many years. ‘Being yourself’ means not hiding or downplaying any of the parts of you. It means letting the things you like be known. All of them, even the weird or lame stuff. Thats interesting. It means not censoring your speech all the time. Say what you feel. And it means not hating parts of yourself. You will feel a whole lot better if you stop worrying what other people think (NB it is near impossible to completely eradicate this behaviour but just keeping in in check helps).

    One more thing; Everything you think and feel is valid. As in true, real, legitimate. You tend to undermine yourself a lot of the time. So if you’re in a habit-breaking mood – work on spending some time with your emotions and ideas. Think a little deeply. You can brush The Complicated Things under the carpet, write them off as stupid, or just simply not engage with them, but in the end they are are the keys to world.

    Finally, please go and give Alana a giant hug for me. Where I am now I can’t and I want to.

    Thats all. I hope this helps.

    You do you, kid.

    xoxo 26 year-old self

  18. Dear Younger Me—
    The best thing you’ll do at the moment is move to Massachusetts. There you’ll learn that there is more than one way to be queer, a woman, a feminist, a person, in love, a cat lover, a dog sympathizer, a nerd, a geek, ignorant, intelligent, and everything else. There you’ll learn to appreciate and love your home state, see your family in a different light, and finally take pride in it all. There you’ll learn that you have great legs and start wearing dresses, and learn to tie a bow tie which will always be considered an impressive skill when wooing someone.

    You’ll also miss it terribly when you leave in five years time, but you’ll find other places to love so it’s OK.

    Also, in your mid-twenties, you’ll really, really want a dog, but for many reasons (including having an easily frightened cat) it’s not a good idea so please resist going to Petfinder until further notice.

    —A Very Content Twenty-Something You

  19. Dear younger self,
    You will be going through a lot in the next few years. You will lose your dad to cancer when you’re 18, and seven years later you will lose your sister to her depression. While this may seem incomprehensible and seemingly impossible to deal with, you will get through it because of your amazing support system and steadfast stubbornness.

    You will start to date ladies after high school and realize that you knew you were gay all along. Your mother is accepting and encouraging. You date a few women then find the one. This one woman is unbelievably amazing; she is athletic, just as stubborn as you and unwavering in her love. She will be there for you when you miss your dad and hold your hand through your sister’s funeral. Her family is supportive and welcoming. She proposes to you at the Grand Canyon (of course you say YES!). You also have super awesome friends and co-workers who accept and value you.

    So while you may be frustrated with the girl in biology class who keeps kicking your feet, know that it’s only temporary and your life gets way better than that one moment. When you’re looking in the mirror at home and crying because you think you look ugly compared to your next-door neighbor, know that every tear is part of the process of finding your self worth. When you’re sitting on the roof of your high school wondering if it’s worth sticking around to see where your life ends up, know that it is. Your life has been tough but also filled with so much joy. Just keep on keepin’ on and doing what you’re doing because you’ve turned out pretty well ☺.

    Oh and your three worst fears are zombies, the apocalypse and parasitic worms. Please try to avoid whatever catalyzed these phobias.

    Love and acceptance,
    Older self

  20. Dear Hana,

    You’re not crazy. All those feelings you’re having? They’re not crazy feelings, they’re human feelings. You have a fuckton of amazing things to look forward to: making a lot of art and kissing cute girls and thinking and talking until your brain explodes. and you’ll meet people who are like you — because those people do exist.

    Oh, and also: your parents know you’re queer. And they are total badasses and love you so much, so just tell them already.

    All my love,

  21. Dear little kd15,

    All those times back in high school when you would check out a girl and think she was hot and panicked that it might mean you’re gay but that couldn’t be right because you’re an Adventist…Yeah, it means you’re gay and that’s okay. Go talk to your aunt, she’s awesome and will have your back and really just wants you to be happy. Also, don’t got to an SDA college, that will just needlessly set things back years.

    Adult kd15

  22. Dear 14-year-old me,

    Ten years in the future you are going to be so happy to know you are gay. Your life is going to be filled with friends who love you for who you are, even when you talk about your ex-girlfriends too much. They will be supportive and kind when you decide to come out to your family, even when it gets ugly, because they’ve always been active LGBTQ allies. You are going to feel accepted as member of a larger community and queer culture that you’ll cherish. There will be many queer dances and gay prides to attend. You’re also going to make a room full of queer women laugh. There are nice people out there.

    Avril Lavigne turns out not to be gay. I know. I know, but she also starts to put out shitty music so no big loss there.

    Good news is kissing girls is fan-fucking-tastic. Your first kiss with a girl will make time and space freeze. And yes, you will fall in love again and fall hard; fall fast, fall slowly and fall out of love many times and then think you’ll never be the one for someone. But really in ten years time you’ll have learned that hiding your love, ultimately distorts that love and the only way to be is to be open. So be out and be proud, like the solider of love you always are and always will be.

    I love you,

  23. Dear little one,
    Life is going to hurt you. And I’m sorry, but there is no way around the pain. You have to hold on. Learn to love yourself. Now. Because at 25 you’re still going to feel the same pain that you felt at 13. You’re different, you’re loud, you’re maybe a little over the top with everything, but you shouldn’t try to change yourself to make others like you. You’re a lesbian. And that’s another thing that makes you different. I wish I could make you see that it is just another thing that makes you sparkle. Everyone walks their 40 days in the desert, yours just might be most of your life. Take the weight off your shoulders Atlas, and you don’t have to push that stone anymore Sisyphus.

    Stop being so obsessed with finding “the one.” Who cares? You have got to be happy with yourself first. So what the kids put hot glue in your hair today? So what they called you fat again? You’re going to grow up and never see these people again and find people that actually do love you for you. And is Miss Right out there? You are Miss Right! And someday maybe another Miss Right will come along and you can be totally awesome and chill together. But finding love is not the thing that will solve your problems.

    Don’t beat yourself about the mistakes you made with girls. So what if you didn’t make a move on her? It wasn’t meant to be. You’re way too good for her anyway.

    It’s going to be one hell of a ride. Be yourself and don’t apologize for it.

    Just hold on.

  24. Dear Middle/High School Kate~

    It is possible to like both guys and girls. Don’t let the fact that you don’t have any bisexual role models yet fool you into thinking that just because you like guys, you must be straight. You like both, and that’s totally cool. And yes, even though you haven’t come out yet, to yourself or anyone else, and even though you haven’t dated or kissed any girls yet, you are still bi. But don’t worry — you will kiss girls, at least 3 of them in the first year that you are out. And none of them will be “the one,” but don’t you want to have practice before you kiss/date/marry and have babies with her anyway? (That’s a rhetorical question. You definitely do.) Your life is going to open up in ways you can’t even begin to imagine right now, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

    Young Adult Kate

  25. Dear Raven,
    What happened happened. Nothing can change that. But we’re the person that we are because of it. Now I wouldn’t change a thing. And I just want to tell you that the pain you’re experiencing is okay. It made us stronger. Life becomes beautiful; it always manages to in the end. Dad’s okay now, I’m going to Japan and Korea all in the same year. We have John. Beautiful beautiful John… The most accepting wonderful man in the world. He understand that there’s another half to us. Another half that he wants to let us recognize. He’s the most accepting person in the world. Never stop loving him. He’ll never stop loving us. Remember, the pain can’t stop us. Look back at the butterflies.
    Love, Our Life

  26. Hey Kate!

    So I know you’re in high school and you’re bored. That’s ok, high school kinda blows. Have fun while you’re there, but just know that much cooler times await you. I wish you’d stop worrying so much about what others think of you and just be yourself! You’ll figure that out in college, and have a lot more fun because of it.

    Don’t worry about fitting in so much with the kids at school, you won’t keep in touch with most of them. Instead you’ll move on to bigger and better things: You’ll go to the best college in the world and make wonderful friends. You’ll fall head-over-heels in love with an amazing girl (yes! I said girl.) who will change your life. You will travel the world. Spend as much time with your best friends as you can now because you’ll miss them when you’re off on all your adventures! And be patient with your brother, he’ll grow up eventually.

    Keep running, keep smiling, and always remember you are loved. :)

  27. Dear 9th Grade Self,
    I know you’re panicking right now. I know that you’ve recently put together the pieces and figured out why you never had the least interest in sleeping with (or even kissing) your (ex)boyfriend, and I know that right now you’re just thinking that if you never date/get married to anyone and live with a lot of cats then no one will suspect and it won’t even matter and you can go to heaven and live happily ever after.
    I just want you to know that what you’re feeling is okay. I want you to know that you’re going to get into that school you’re thinking of applying to, and it’s going to change your life. It’s all going to be okay, so please stop searching out websites that offer advice on eliminating “same-sex attractions.” I promise you that it’s not going to work, and you’re just going to be miserable.
    Also, please see about maybe getting some counseling? It doesn’t mean you’re weak, and it doesn’t mean you’re crazy, and it doesn’t mean you have no control over your life. It just means that you need a little help, and that’s okay. I understand that you may not be ready for that sort of thing, but right now you’re only hurting yourself.

    I love you, and believe it or not, I’m not the only one.
    Take care,
    Future Michelle

  28. Dear teen me,
    You are still a teenager, and it still seems kind of awful, but you are graduating next week so hold in there. There will be a lot of things you regret in the near and distant future, but that’s ok because everyone regrets things. But seriously, remember that sexual tension you felt between you and your best friend in 8th grade? You should have acted on it, you both ended up being lesbians. Who hate each other. So you missed that boat.

  29. Teen me-

    If you want to watch The L Word, just watch it. If your brothers call you a lesbian for standing up for women’s rights, stand up anyway. If you want to go to Pride, ask a couple of friends, because you don’t know it right now, but they may actually want to go with you. Finally, know that it’s ok to feel sad and confused, and that you don’t have to be attached to someone else in order to be considered successful- in the past three years of being single, I’ve figured out who my real friends are, what my priorities are, and I’ve started to love myself and those around me a little bit more everyday.

  30. Teen Ro:
    Listen to Ms. Heimer always. Don’t let your girlfriend drink too much. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are struggling. Stop pretending to be strong when you are really just shutting people out. Apply to more schools on the east coast. Don’t bother thinking about the people (person) that have hurt you. Work a little less. Spend more time doing things that make you happy. Buy your graduation dress in a size smaller. Read more Judith Butler. Practice your American Apparel deal snagging skills more often. Listen to more Crystal Castles. Remember that you can make a difference. Know that you will get that Obama internship.

    Most of all, trust your relationship and trust yourself,

  31. Dear teen me,

    That strength you have that keeps you going in your super repressive school, and that interest in everything, and that wanting to be and do and touch and see and feel — and live, really — you lose that for a few years. Maybe age 20-26, roughly. And it’s sad, but listen, you come out the other side, and every crazy impulsive fucked-up inherently real thing you do now will become a memory of who you were and who you are underneath it all and it will help you find your way back.

    So keep doing what you’re doing. The excessive self-destructive drinking and the hopelessly in love with your best friend and the speaking out in religion class even when it makes you no friends because you are right, that shit is fucked up, and some day you will live in a place where you don’t have to listen to any of it.

    I love you because you were in many ways the best of me. Thanks for waiting for me to come back.


    P.S. You are right about exams too. I know you don’t give a flying fuck about them now but they are a passport to bigger and better things, so study like you mightn’t die and then when you don’t, you’ll have options. Thanks so much for that. I know how hard it was.

  32. Dear little self-
    You probably gagged at those first three words. You might be rolling your eyes at this very moment, pretending that something so insignificant as a feeling-filled letter from an older girl is not a big deal, and is kind of stupid, or whatever. But keep reading little one, I know you are going to tuck these words into your heart and hold onto the paper-version forever, stuffing the envelope into your memory trunk alongside all the postcards, secret messages, birthday cards, pen-pal letters, and other paper memorabilia that you’ve held onto since you first realized you liked girls. Remember in kindergarten when you married Annie, and how you’d ball up your fists in frustration every time- every time the grown ups said you’d marry a boy someday?
    You don’t have to be frustrated anymore. See, I still have the same trunk, and I still hang onto every heart-fluttering note I’ve ever gotten, so don’t get too upset when your valentine box isn’t as full as everyone elses. Our trunk is filled with notes and cards and letters from girls; girls you liked, and from girls you like liked, and even some from girls you didn’t like, but who liked you. You’ll even get notes from girls YOU DON’T KNOW!!!
    And eventually you’ll meet the grown ups who are grown up boys in love with other grown up boys, or grown up girls in love with other grown up girls, and you’ll realize that its OK. You are ok; you’re actually pretty spectacular and amazing and smart and kind and beautiful and quirky and queer.
    But you know, People will suck sometimes. And Life will suck a lot of times. But, you get through it, and you end up amazingly stronger at the end of each trouble. Know why?
    ‘Cause you’re a survivor.
    You’ll survive moving a bajillion times, and you’ll learn how to pack light, and how to make new friends in a jif, and how to build furniture out of a cardboard box.
    You’ll survive middle school, and high school, and college. You’ll learn how to sleep sitting up, and how to procrastinate, and how to bullshit, and then you’ll learn really really cool actual shit about the world around you.
    You’ll survive body image issues, and defeat a destructive self image. You’ll become super comfortable in the skin you wear, and the person you’ve become, and you’ll learn that confidence is sexy, and that no one else’s opinion but your own actually matters.
    You’ll survive being broke, and you’ll learn how to do without. Dreams are free. Peanut butter and oj, that’s all you need.
    You’ll survive your relationships, and this will be the hardest. You’ll lose your parents to a hate even they don’t understand, but you’ll be spiritually adopted by the loving LGBTQ adults around you. You’ll fall in love for the first time, but you’ll fall apart as she walks away. You’ll fall in love for the second time, and fall apart as You walk away. You’ll lose friends to terrible addictions, diseases, and rages… but you’ll learn how to let go, how to forgive, how to mourn, how to carry on.
    I guess, I could tell you to do this, or do that… but you wouldn’t listen, and I wouldn’t want you to. Hold onto the ideal of NO REGRETS. It’ll be a rough road, but I don’t regret a single instant. Just be yourself little one…
    You’re doing great.
    Your Older Self

  33. I really want to read this book. But I can’t understand why people who publish a text like this, designed to help people, fail to make it available as an ebook/kindle version. I can buy it hardcopy and have it travel a billion miles to my house, sure. But it seems to me that ebooks are the key to a broad audience; a way to ensure that the people who NEED to read it get to read it, you know?

    Ebooks really helped me when I was coming out and too scared to have anything delivered to my home.

  34. Hey you, yes me
    I know it seems like you’re always going to be stuck in that small northern town but let me tell you, when you turn sixteen you audition for this great school where you can discover who you really are because nobody cares if you’re gay or straight, and there are so many just like you. In the mean time don’t let their mean words get you down and just because you fail at relationships with men doesn’t mean you’ll always suck at relationships. You are still young, don’t forget how much that actually means. Stay out late and sleep in while you can and work hard. You got this, it’s gonna be okay.

  35. dearest,

    your life is going to get better because you are going to make it so. you will scream in protest and cry in the arms of broken-open lovers and laugh in the bottom of teacups and next to fires and against her fingertips at all times of the day. you will replace razor blades with textbooks and poetry books and story books and most importantly, notebooks. you will write your way out of bleak and black and blood and into sisterhood and queerness and friendship and love that fucks you every way but the right way. you will revel in the wrongness of the hair under your arms and on your legs. you will change with all the windows open and you won’t care who sees because yours is a body unobstructed by beauty. the world will often be awful but it will be ok. the ugliness of others will better enable you to see the beauty in yourself and the patchwork creatures that never seem to leave your side, no matter how violent or undignified your reactions to bigotry and blind hatred.

    and in the moments when you cannot fight to make it better, when you are too tired and the night has gone on too long, you will surrender to the hearts and the limbs of those around you because you will know that they love you almost as much as you have finally come to love yourself.

    sincerely and faithfully yours,
    gem xx

  36. Dear Teenage Self,

    That gamble you took with declaring yourself both openly bisexual AND genderfluid in high school was pretty damn brave; but brace yourself for the backlash, because it will come, and it’s not something you can avoid or improve – just a natural force you have to withstand until it wears itself out, like a drought. Keep making art about the social issues you’re so passionate about, and never, never let fear of popular reception warp your vision. Don’t get vain and lazy riding the tide of your technical skills, either; the message is what’s important and the message needs to be heard.

    Stop suppressing your gender identity, too; the only people who matter in your life will accept it even if they don’t fully understand, and if you have to keep checking yourself to make sure you aren’t too masculine or too feminine, you’ll go crazy. Chill out, relax your shoulders and just BE the mix that you are. Actually talk to the cisboys instead of admiring them from a lonely distance – some of them already want to be your friend, and you don’t even know it. Rent that snappy suit for prom. And don’t be afraid of your own body. Embrace it, love it, and remember it doesn’t define you.

    Work hard. Read often. Speak the truth. Stay focused. Stop picking at yourself like a scab and just let all that shit heal, and thank all the people who have supported and accepted you for who you are – especially the ones who did it subconsciously, without even trying. Don’t forget to vote.

    You’ve got a lot on your plate, but you already know that, because you put most of it there yourself. Take the time to savor it, though. Take small bites. And for God’s sake, take advantage of your lack of responsibilities while you can! Try not to take yourself so seriously. Smile once in a while; I promise it doesn’t hurt. Be a good sisterbrother as your siblings transition to middle school, because they really need you.

    Oh yeah and keep eating healthy, that’s a good thing, good job with that.


    Future Emma Alexander

  37. Dear 13-year-old me,
    It’s been a rough year for you, I know. You had your first real crush on a girl, and it hit you like a freight train. Then she went and got with that lame-o dude, even when you’re technically better looking and you can make her laugh like five times as much. You’re really, really depressed and you got suspended from school for that stupid locker tagging crap. I know you have more than half a mind to put an end to it all, because you’re hurting so bad. But you know what? Future you is glad you didn’t. And at almost 20 years old, you are finally at peace with who you are. You’re queer. You still don’t fit into a standard of sexuality or even gender identity that the people around you can easily categorize or understand. But you’re unbelievably happy. And I can’t tell you what it would have been like if you had come out fully in high school and tried to date girls, but if you had, little Kels, I can certainly assure you that the world wouldn’t have stopped. Because you are strong. When you are 14 you’ll seek help for your depression. When you are 16 you’ll hit the pavement looking for a job, and you’ll find one. When you’re 18 you’ll fall into a polyamorous (you’ll learn that word soon enough) relationship that ends up being draining and abusive, but teaches you so much about who you are and how to be strong for yourself. Finally you’ll stop drinking so much and doing drugs and picking up couples off the Internet and do what you knew all along would really make you happy. And you are happy. And I’d tell you not to make all the mistakes that you will make, 13-year-old-me, but all the bad memories I hold because of the decisions we made made me who I am. I’m wiser and stronger for it. And at almost 20 years old, I know everything’s gonna be just fine. So maybe start talking to Mom about that therapist. Also, Internet. Use it for something other than Myspace and downloading porn. Because they’re a huge community of people just like you out there that you will find and love. Don’t let Chris Hansen scare you.
    Future You

  38. Dear teenage Niki

    I know you think you have it all together, but you’re wrong. Those feelings that you keep wishing would just go away, wont. They will get stronger and pretty soon you won’t be able to ignore them any longer. The good news is that you will learn to accept them and start living your life the way you’ve secretly always dreamed you could. You will learn that you don’t have to sacrifice your own happiness for the the greater good. You’ve always been good at ignoring what other people think, but this time you need to ignore you own thoughts and start listening to your feelings. I know that’s hard for you, but you are not the robot you think you are. Your feeling are real and legitimate and they matter to you more than you are willing to acknowledge yet but you will get there. Just because you weren’t born a girl does not mean you can’t be a girl. You can be exactly who you choose too be. You can be the girl you dream of being and still be the same awesome person you are now. And you don’t have to wait decades for nanotechnology to be perfected, hormones can do amazing things to your body. Your parents may not understand at first, but they good people who love you and want you to be happy. And you can be happy, not just in the material sense that you are familiar with, but in the emotional sense that everyone else seems to be capable of too.


  39. so here’s what you are going to do, younger-self:
    (1) realize that after you’ve very publicly made out with that girl and after hours of really sweet kissing probably everybody around (that being enough people from your school so by next monday everyone knew) probably suspected you were gay. remember that they were all really sweet about it, most of them anyway – remember those were the people who are really important to you.
    (2) now that you’ve realized it’s not excately a secret anymore, why not admitting to yourself you’re a lezzy and that’s perfectly fine. no need to pretend that this girl was something that “just happened” and that you’ve never thought about being with a girl.
    (3) now that you told yourself that you are true aficionada of breasts and soft girly lips why not try a little harder to smooch with the girl from point (1)? i’m pretty sure she’ll still break your heart but just do it for me, okay? i will explain later.
    (4) so now you’re heartbroken, but at least you for once put your heart out there and tried to get what you really wanted. and trust me, there’s a city you are still to move to, and there’s a girl you’re still to meet and boy, is she going to blow your mind.

  40. Dear K,
    So I know you’re terrified and you’ve been terrified for a long time. High school is hell in the beginning and I can see you curling into yourself and into your notebooks. Leave that friend of yours, she only wants to kiss you in front of boys (it doesn’t mean as much to her as it does to you). You’ll see her years later with her boyfriend and I promise you no matter how much it hurts right now you’re going to be happy for her.

    Ok, real talk: you’re queer. You know this at the edge of your mind. You’re terrified of your parents because use jesus as more than a curse word and you don’t know yet that faith and love can be the same thing, that not everyone hates blindly because the scripture tells them to. What you need to focus on now is not being hateful yourself. I know the girls at school ignore you like you’re a piece of wallpaper, I know it feels like the whole world is specifically designed to make you miserable, but you need to understand that all the other girls are fighting with their own demons, some of them more similar to yours than you could ever imagine (some of them are even gay, too! You’ll see later. They’re hot). Don’t let yourself grow up hateful and bitter.

    I want you to realise that every cut you make is going to stay there forever. I want you to know that when you sleep with a girl for the first time she’s going to cry when she sees them. I want you to think broader than your bedroom, I want you to realise that there’s a whole world out there that will love you and cherish you because of your faults, not in spite of them. I want you to know that this isn’t your fault and you do not need to be punished, you don’t need to starve and cut and bruise and take those pills. But you’re going to do all that anyway, so instead I’ll say: it’s going to end. It’s going to be hell, but it’ll get better.

    You’re going to move oversees and go to a new school where people, inexplicably, love you. You’ll have your first heartbreak there. You’ll meet the best friend you’ve never really had, who you’ll come out to a year later and who’ll just laugh and hug you, as though the weight you’ve been carrying around is nothing. She’ll teach you to take that shame and throw some glitter on it, so that by the end you’ll be wearing it as a badge of honour.

    Don’t get so many piercings. Wait until you’re older, wait until your parents don’t have a say anymore. Don’t, for god’s sake, dye your hair green. Don’t be furious with all men after the incident with the man on the train (with the skirt and the lack of any space to breathe and the inability to scream- why won’t you scream?). Don’t be seventeen and drunk and think you can’t say no.

    Instead: be friends with that teacher you love, it turns out she loves you too. Listen to lots of angry girl music (Ani DiFranco’s going to save your life many times over). Read Plath but don’t be Plath. Read Woolf and cry because you never realised anyone could be so honest. Read Autostraddle and understand for the first time that being queer can be whatever you make it.

    It’s not all going to be perfect but you’ll realise that perfection only exists in single moments, and it’s not something you can work towards. It just happens. Your sister will be born and she’ll become the only thing more important to you than yourself. You’ll read books that change everything. You’ll travel and see that the world is beautiful and ugly but it’s REAL. You’ll have three months with perfection in girl-form and then she’ll go away, and you’ll be heartbroken, but you’ll survive.

    I guess that’s what’s important here: You’re going to survive.
    Love, K

  41. Dear teen-self,

    Don’t forget that right now everything is where you will wish it was later on. Life will never arrange itself like this again, so FUCKING ENJOY IT.

    Your bitter future-self

  42. Dear Teen me,
    One day, YOU WILL HAVE SEX. I know it’s hard to believe but it will happen. Also one day you will love your body and have an awesome life and everything will be better. Not good all the time, but better than it is now. You will be strong. You are strong. Thank you for being strong. I love you

  43. Hannah,

    If someone won’t make time for you, are they really worth your time? Don’t stick things out in the hope they’ll get better, MAKE them better. Be proactive about what you want, or get out. Remember that your true friends will always be there for you, you may just not realise which ones they are. A good friend of mine showed me that, and I wish I had been able to see it earlier. Always do right by you. You’re doing really well regardless, just don’t forget to make time for yourself. Don’t doubt yourself, you are capable of anything you put your mind to, and don’t be afraid to be proud of what you do achieve. Take every moment and enjoy it, if you can’t find a reason to enjoy something, make one. Things only suck if you decide they do.
    Love, Hannah

  44. Dear Sawyer at 13 –

    Wow, you were a dick. You corrected people’s grammar and got annoyed at them for making simple mistakes, and thought you were better than everyone which was why you didn’t want to associate with them. Really, you couldn’t handle that they’d pushed you away. That’s okay. We’re all dicks sometimes. You still are, sometimes, but you got better.

    Remember that physics lesson where that girl said she thought all gay people should be killed, and you fumed for weeks that it had been you, arguing for equality, versus about ten people who were dumb? Remember how someone came up to you afterwards and said she thought you were right, but was too scared to say? Well it won’t take long before everyone starts thinking like you. The bigot sees the error of her ways and asks about your girlfriend sometimes. She’s almost nice.

    And you will have friends who will put up with you being a dick. Real friends. Who are smart and funny and kind and write emails to politicians about legalising gay marriage even though they’re straight. Real friends, really soon, who were all around you all along, and you would have seen if you’d just opened your eyes. You will get into relationships and love triangles and understand that life is fucked up sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong.

    So stop being such a dick, and be nice. In the grand scheme of things, most people don’t care. Isn’t that awesome? People understand that your life is yours, and has nothing to do with them, and THEY DON’T CARE if you want to kiss girls or boys or people somewhere in the middle.

    As for your parents… well, I’m still working on that.

    Love, me.

  45. Dear baby Cara. It’s okay. You’re not broken or alone. You’re brave and capable and have the resources to figure this out. And very soon, you’ll get away from your small-minded classmates and move to a brave new world where you’ll be able to realise who are you – what seeds of potential you’ve been harbouring inside, growing slowly even though you’re not able to see them yet. Love, peace, spirit of adventure, self-worth, community – you will reach all of these things, just keep harbouring the small seeds.
    Bigger Cara

  46. Dear Baby Cat,

    I know the whole world feels like its a war zone right now and you don’t have a soft place to hide. In a few years though, you won’t have to do it alone any more. You’ll find people who won’t see caring as weakness, that hugs are the best ever and that you can just stop being angry and breathe. In just a little while the people you fight so hard will even come to your wedding and talk about how proud they are of you.

    Most importantly though, I just wanted to say thanks. It’ll blow your mind because I know you don’t think anyone sees what you’re doing, but 27 year old you is going to look back at all the things you achieved while you were so sad and angry and be really, really greatful that you proved how ballsy you could be. It sucks for you right now, but you’re proving that if you can get through those few yearsand come out so happy, you can get through anything.

    Try to let go of the anger a bit, the world isn’t such a bad place and there are a lot of really good people in it. Maybe practise telling people you need help sometimes, because we still suck at that. Definitely keep looking at you-know-who’s legs, ‘cos she’ll break your heart but it will all be worth it and you’ll end up with a really good friend. And stay away from Blueberry vodka cruisers. Its not pretty the next day.

    All the love and lots of hugs, because you need them,
    Big Cat x

  47. Young one.

    You know how all the weird kids are drawn to you?
    It’s because you’re one of them.
    Embrace this.

    You are going on to do things that no one ever expected from you little one.
    Crazy things are going to happen.
    You’re going to get lost, and it’s going to be beautiful.
    There’s a dormant nomad inside you.
    Get that passport.

    You love too hard, and its going to hurt like hell.

    When you meet the girl who reminds you of Thanksgiving dinner, act quickly, or someone else will. It’ll hurt like hell.

    When you meet the one who seems like a mirrored version of yourself, run. This will not end well. It won’t hurt at all.

    6. Clean your room.

    7. Don’t stop being a bookworm.

    8. Undergrad will be great for two things. Finding your career and life’s purpose won’t be one of them.

    9. The ADD jokes aren’t coincidental..You actually have it..

    10. Disregard all this and just be. Keep following your naive little gut.



    Ps. Surprise! You’re gay.

  48. Younger Elinor,

    PAY FUCKING ATTENTION. I know you hate taking advice from anyone, and I know you have a horrible habit of disagreeing with everyone just because you can, but you really need to hear this.

    I know your heart hurts a whole lot right now. I know it seems like your family is collapsing around you. It is, but dust settles. You met a girl, right? She thinks you’re quite cute, and even though she lives so very far away, she will change your life. You will fall in love with her on Christmas Eve, the night you read 1984 for the first time, curled up in a shivering bundle in the attic of your grandmother’s house. You will get your heart broken on New Year’s Day, and you will come to think of love as totalitarianism. Please don’t. You’re still trying to get away from that idea. You will come back to school, heart broken, and for a while your friends will try to fix it. You will resent this at every stage. Calm down, Elinor. Stop being so prickly. They know what they’re doing. You will try to mend your heart in every way available to you. You will have pointless little crushes, you will throw yourself into your schoolwork, you will write bad poetry, you will forget to eat for days on end, and you will come to think it’s hopeless. You think you will always feel this broken. You won’t, so just relax, okay? An offhand comment from a friend will change everything for you again. ‘I met this girl who’s just as weird as you, you guys would be perfect together!’ You will laugh, and brush it off. No-one could ever top the girl you love, after all. Fuck, you’re so wrong. You meet this new girl. I’m not going to spoil that beautiful day for you by telling you all about it. She’s amazing, and you’ll fall out of love with your first love by Valentine’s Day. You won’t have a choice and you won’t fight it. The second girl you will fall for, well, she has a habit of repeating anecdotes, so you’ll hear this particular one a few times. You’ll never want to stop her. She’ll tell you about the time she tried to convince her friends she wasn’t drunk by reciting Shakespeare monologues off by heart. That’s the exact moment when you’ll fall for her. It’ll get messy for a while, but you’re still muddling through. You’re optimistic.

    I know you’ll look at that big paragraph and complain about reading all of that. So, here is the short version. Love hurts, but it doesn’t last forever. You’ll learn some things about yourself, too, in between all that sobbing into pillows. A day will come when you realise that you can’t remember exactly how it feels, like it was a note you heard once and can’t remember how it sounds.

    You will realise just how lucky you have it, too. Just because you can’t feel the depths of other people’s pain doesn’t mean it’s less than your immediate pain. Go hug your mother. She needs it.

    Sincerely, Older Elinor.

    P.S. Your music taste sucks. Go listen to the Black Keys.

  49. Dear younger self

    That thing that you can’t tell anyone, that makes you feel nauseated so much that you can’t sleep for days and weeks on end, that scares you because you feel wrong and sick, that you think will never be resolved and you’ll have to live your life hiding: it’s called polyamory. When the internet becomes a thing, you should Google it. One day you will feel so blissfully happy because the feeling that has haunted you for so long will no longer exist: you will have wonderful partners in your life who love you and you will no longer feel guilt.

    Seriously, younger self: you’re not sick, monogamy just isn’t for everyone.

    Your older self

  50. yo dude,
    get out and take risks! don’t be afraid to disappoint your parents a little, it’ll make things easier in the long run. shave your head while you still can.

    love and peanut butter

  51. Dear Teen Self,
    Your life is exasperating and desperate right now; use this in your art. Continue not seeking validation from anyone other than yourself because you are at the wheel– not them.

    When you made that video of yourself in the mirror at 16 thinking what your future self would think? Well, she watched at 30, and realized how rife with insecurities we were then and how unnecessary it was because we were and are fucking beautiful.

    You will find love. Try not to over think it.

    You have a purpose greater than you can know right now. Trust that things will work out no matter how many times you screw up. You will claw your way out of Kansas; I promise.

    Your 30 year old self

  52. Self,

    Being a lesbian is actually a thing. A great thing. So stop identifying as bisexual and open your eyes. Just because you have no concept of what liking and girls and only girls means in life and in practice doesn’t mean you can’t start to settle into yourself. A role model will come soon enough. A rural high school is a hard place to find one, but I promise, they’re coming.

    At the same time, enjoy the relationship you’re in. He is amazing and will become one of your best friends and he will tell you one day that he wants to make you a groomsman at his wedding–the only groomsman with boobs. And when you get older, don’t let people discredit you or that relationship. Because even though it was an incorrect match in plumbing, he will have taught you how to exist in a relationship. Count that relationship because, out of all of them, it is the one in which you’ve probably learned the most. And don’t let people discount your sexuality and identity because of it.

    Also, please stop trying to be an actress and please don’t audition for all those colleges. It’s a spoiler, but in your freshman year, you will realize the only way to get roles is to stop eating. After you graduate, you will get fed up with a homophobic director and you will say fuck this, I’m going to be a writer instead. You like this much better. So please, skip the other parts and eat a fucking sandwich.

    Much love,


  53. Dear younger self,

    Try to be more spontaneous, try to be braver. Those two usually go together. Stop thinking too much, stop over-analyzing, just do whatever you want to do.
    And tell Caroline you’re in love with her before she disappears from your life. Even though nothing will probably come out of it, it would make a difference.

  54. Dear 15-year-old me,
    I received the letter you wrote to me, but I never thought of writing back. I guess I thought time only goes one way or something.
    Anyway, the part where you said you were confused because you never had a crush on a boy? That’s because you are gay. It’s awesome, trust me. You get to kiss girls. Try not to be so surprised when you fall for one.
    Grown-up me

  55. Hi, little self.

    I know you’re going to be in massive denial for a long time, and you won’t actually ID as gay until a while after you bust through the entire season 1 of the L Word in one weekend. But a hint–straight people don’t do that.

    But yeah, you are, and everything else in your life will be given a greater context because of that. And the first time you kiss a girl it will be like fireworks exploded behind your closed eyelids in that pitch black dorm room at 3 a.m. Your entire life will change. It will be suddenly full of feelings.

    Your heart will be broken. But you’ll deal. Don’t let her crush you to pieces. But when she does, you’ll slowly glue yourself back together and work your way up to something better.

    So, little hints:

    Your parents are dicks. Get over it. Your siblings are cool. Lean on them and let them lean on you.

    Don’t have terrible rebounds with people that are way unlike you. Don’t push relationships too fast. Especially don’t push relationships with the terrible rebounds, because they’re not worth it. Just because she’s cute and is willing to sleep with you doesn’t mean much of anything. Work on the cool people with common interests instead.

    You will, at several points, be very poor. It’s okay to be poor. Work on your budgeting skillz. You’ll also discover you can’t eat anything. You will lose a lot of weight accidentally. Don’t worry. It’ll come back.

    Also, cell phones will become a thing you actually need. It’s okay to give in.

    And lose that stupid email address that your best friend suggested for you in eighth grade. Neither of you realized it, but it makes you sound like an underage male porn star. twinkstar_2005 needs to go away.

    also I love you and you’ll survive to at least the age of 24, so. Keep on going. Be good, and if you can’t be good, be careful.

  56. Dear 14 year old self,

    First of all, isn’t it awesome that I get the chance to talk to you? Isn’t time travel awesome?

    I know that you don’t like yourself right now. And I know that you don’t like a lot of people around you either. Elementary school was hard for you, and high school seems just as difficult. There are certainly many ups and downs in the next ten years, but all if it is worth it. You may not understand many parts of yourself, but you’ll figure it out (if it helps to speed things up on that – You’re gay- that’s why no boy ever seemed that interesting, it’s not because your developmentally slow). It’s information that I wished I had, but the journey that you will go on shapes and creates amazing adventures and allows you to see who your true friends are. I’m sorry that I lost a dear friend of yours, but trust me we are so much better off without him.

    Keep strong and carry on. It’s hard, trust me I know. But you get to see parts of the world only people can imagine, and you go through personal journeys that are uniquely ours.

    And don’t forget to be awesome :)
    Me (From the Future)

  57. I want to play, too!

    Dear 15-year-old [birth name],

    Surprise! You’re still alive even though you’re almost 23! That’s a stupid plan you have right now, by the way. Don’t start comforting yourself with it; it will only lead to some really unhealthy thought patterns in the future. Speaking of: eat something dammit! You can’t stop puberty from doing what it’s doing at this point, and you know mom and dad aren’t going to let you take the pills to stop it here. Might be helpful to start working on finding a way to tolerate, if not accept, that body. You at 23 will thank you for a few less mirror-induced crying jags. And throw away that knife! Of the 3 or so reasons 22-year-old me can’t wear a bikini, those scars are the second biggest one.

    You know that your body doesn’t determine who you are all by itself, and that the amount it can change is limited. Still, you would be surprised just how much it can change even within those limits.

    You’re not some horrible ogre. You aren’t a waste of other people’s time. You just go to school with jerks and have no support from your family for anything you do. You will make friends someday, and if you just open yourself up to people and stop hiding your thoughts and feelings, there will be plenty of people who will accept you.

    The second-most important thing to know is that it’s not just you: your parents are objectively bad people. When was the last time mom or dad said anything to you that wasn’t either about them or critical of you? Got involved in your life beyond insulting you overtly or implicitly from afar and going back to whatever they were doing? I know you can’t remember. Dad only gives a damn about you if you’re like him, and mom is bitter about something and takes it out on everyone else. Stop worrying about pleasing them. The sooner you can cut them loose, the better you’ll feel.

    The first-most important thing to know is that you’re wrong about the validity of your feelings. You can totally be a girl inside and be attracted to girls at the same time. That “gay guy to the extreme” image you have about trans women is an unfortunate and erroneous stereotype. Stop being so closed-minded.

    I can’t promise that you’ll find someone to love who loves you back, someday, because it hasn’t happened yet. But that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Just note how full of love you are and maybe, just maybe, spare a touch of that love for yourself. Future me will thank you, because being bitter to the core is not the way anyone wants to wind up. Maybe you can fix that, someday.

  58. Dear Misha,

    Spend some time with your Mum whilst you can; and don’t resent it when she dies. When she told you a cerebral aneurysm was “just like having a headache and then falling asleep” she wanted to protect you. She didn’t know you’d have to go through that.

    Try to be nice to your Dad too, he means well. And it’s okay to like girls by the way. Don’t let the jerks in school make you think otherwise.

    When you feel really shitty, put the drink away and go to bed. You’ll feel better for it. When he approaches in the club, kick him in the shins.

    Most of all, know that you will get through this; and you will be a confident young woman.

    Me x

  59. Dear Teenage Self,

    I know things are tough right now. It’s difficult to keep everything bottled up, to have so much to say and feel like you have no one to say it to, to try to love yourself when it feels like no one else does. It’s okay for you to cry; Let it out. It’s tiring after you’ve exhausted all your tears, and that’s okay too, but don’t drown. Hold on, because someday you’ll see that you’re invincible, and can make it through anything. Someday you’ll feel love, be loved and love another – but more importantly, you’ll realize that you were loved all along.

    You don’t have to believe those negative thoughts, or the things others say. You are a beautiful human being, creative, strong, smart, and the people in your life – your friends, family, and acquaintances – they need you just as much as you need them. You’re not alone. When you wake up and realize this, everything will change. You’ll see beauty in the simplest things, see that there is nothing to worry about, and you’ll laugh a lot more. You will make a difference in people’s lives. I can’t say that I know how everything will turn out, but I know you will be able to withstand whatever happens. See you in the future.


  60. John,

    I know that you’re incredibly confused right now. You don’t know what’s wrong with you or who you are, all you know is that you aren’t right – that your body isn’t right. You don’t yet know that trans people exist. But I have to tell you little sister that you are one, and when you accept that it’s going to terrify you. You’re not going to know what to do about it. I hope that it doesn’t take you as long to figure it out as it did me. I know that you’re going to think it will ruin your life. But it won’t. You’re going to meet and marry an amazing woman who will stay with you when you realize that you need to transition and will love you even more as you do. Your friends will too. (And you’ll have good friends – even though all you are surrounded by now are bullies.) When you finally get to where I am now you are going to feel whole and be happier than you ever thought possible. And it will be f*cking awesome.

    Love you,
    Your future self

  61. Dear Teenage Self,

    I don’t know how you haven’t realized this, but you never want to leave work on Wednesdays because she’s hot.


    P.S.—You’ll end up at the perfect school and you won’t die a supervirgin. I promise.

  62. Hi.

    You’re not going to believe this, but people are still gonna love you. The ones who don’t aren’t going to be a part of your life anymore, and that’s fine, because even though you think it’s the end of the world right now, you don’t like them that much, either. The tiny world you’re living in right now is temporary. You’re going to move away from home and make out with girls and get too drunk and do stupid things and write and make art and lose people you love and find new friends/a purpose/home. There’s going to be a summer when all you can do is walk around the city at night and cry, but a year later you’ll sit on top of a mountain in foreign country and realize that life is actually kind of okay. It’s not going to be what you expected or even wanted, and that’s not necessarily bad. It’s going to be really fucking scary but also so so great.

    Growing up is basically the worst; people leave or die or stop talking to you for petty reasons and it hurts and I know you feel like you’re unloveable and look weird. You’re not, and in the future, you’ll have non-horrible friends and be rocking a cat print dress at work, so.

    Delete [person]’s number right now, you’ll save yourself from constantly feeling like shit for far too long. I know you think she is right now, but she’s not actually worth it. I know I can’t tell you to stop doing all the self-destructive things you’re doing because I know you’re doing them just to keep yourself alive for one more day. But know that there’s an end — at some point, you’re not going to need those things anymore. You’re just going to be alive.

  63. Dear High School Self:

    Dude, stop kidding yourself that you’re laid back. You need to stop harshing on yourself; it will save you a lot of grief in college.

    Also, seriously. Stop making out with R. at sleepovers and then thinking in the morning that she doesn’t like you “that way”. It’s more that she’s a commitment-phobic strumpet. (She’s still our dear friend, but not being hung up on her for, hah, six or seven years might mean that you actually date someone in high school. Also means that I could shop at Ragstock without have sexually frustrated teenage flashbacks.) And, yeah, visiting R. in the hospital never gets better.

    Seriously, get E. to write down the bet about A. being queer. You’ll win that one.

    Show M. a bit more support. It’s not that you don’t support her, but she needs to see it more. She could stand to see you punch out that douchewagon at her Junior Formal. Also lay off L. a bit, and seriously. Keep out of her shit.

    your older self.

  64. Hey bean,

    First and foremost, it’s not your fault, never was your fault, and never will be your fault. I know you have a lot of pretty big stuff bottled up inside you right now, and I won’t lie and say things don’t get worse before they get better, but you survive little one. It takes a while, but we are finally starting to hit our stride. But while you’re dealing, try to have a bit more compassion for yourself. Cause I can see how fucking strong you are.

    So remember to hold your head high. And keep rockin’ it on the ice and in the classroom. These two things get you out of your hometown and to college, where things finally start to click. I know it sucks sometimes, but all the hard work really does pay off.

    Oh, and just as a heads up, watching Xena Warrior Princess alone at night is a pretty good indication that you are a baby queer. Roll with it. It turns out to be one of the things you like most about yourself.


    PS – Your little brother, the one you fight with daily: give him some time. He turns out to be an amazing human and one of your best friends.

  65. Dear 14 year old Tryonosaurus,

    You were smitten with M cause you’re as gay as the 4th of July. Don’t try to deny that for 3 years. And don’t be in shock when M likes you back.

    Your friends will still love you when you come out, your mom will too. Dad’s still getting used to the idea but he doesn’t hate it.

    See someone about that depression. High school doesn’t have to be that miserable.

    Love, me.

    PS. Try not to get kicked out of two high schools. That’s bad.

  66. Dear teen self,

    Actually, you’re doing better than I expected. I can’t bring myself to give you spoilers… you’ll figure it out exactly when and how you need to. Suffering is your greatest source of wisdom, and surprise your greatest source of gratitude.

    I will say, though, that you should probably start practicing the splits while you can. You’re going to need it later.

  67. Dear Past Louise,
    There are so many things I want to tell you – things you will eventually find out for yourself when it’s too late. Here is what I wish for you, Past Louise:

    I wish that you would know that the awful feeling you sometimes get – the one that makes you turn sour and snap at everyone – is anxiety, not some evil inside of you. You are not a bad person and once you know what it is, you can work on defeating it.

    That said, I hope that you can take those feelings and focus them in a different direction. And when you do, maybe you could manage not to take for granted the time you have with your family. They’re not perfect, but they mean well — and you’ll regret it if they don’t know how much you care. Especially know that your father has insecurities, too – and sometimes, if you take the time to understand him, you might find that you can get along better. Not always, of course – but more often. Know also that he has anxiety, too – realize that when he seems irritable for no reason, it’s because of that. And finally, when you do fight with him – because there will still be fights most likely – try not to beat yourself up about it. You are young, not always wise and you do what you have to in order to stay sane and protect yourself.

    Don’t date anyone just because you feel like they are the only person who will ever like you – especially when all evidence points to major problems arising between the two of you within a very short time. When you go to college, you will meet plenty of people who will like you. Don’t get stuck with someone who will only make you feel worse about yourself. Don’t waste your time with people who can’t be bothered with consideration for others. You know who you are and you should know you don’t need that.

    When you do go to the city (and you CAN do this on your own) and you’re missing people, I wish that you would not allow your sadness to overwhelm you. Treasure the time you have alone to write and paint, even if your cat sometimes steps in it. Do join things in school and find your niche and your “people.”

    Other things: Try to be more honest with those around you. Try to breathe and state your case instead of freezing up and not saying what you really mean. Know that it’s the friends who love and accept you for who you are who are the keepers. No matter how frustrated you are with a friend, do watch what you say and don’t cast stones. In regards to money, keep a log of all you spend and always round up to avoid overestimating how much you have. When it comes to health and nutrition, don’t smoke (no matter how tempting that may be) and do try to cook better for yourself. Also, maybe you should get a bike.

    Just remember to always protect your heart – but maybe not too much. It’s good to be open to new things. If you let opportunities slip by, you may become phobic and never do those things.

    I hope you have gleaned something from this letter. I wish you the best of luck.

    With love,
    Future Louise

  68. Dear 14-year-old self,

    I know I always say that I wouldn’t advice any teen to come out at your age, but you did and it is ok.
    you’re fine and you are brave. you are also dramatic but then again, you are 14.
    in a couple of years you will laugh at the people who now laugh at you. I know they call you all kinds of names and you forget that you are beautiful and worth something, but I am proud of you for never ever thinking that it’s you who is wrong or disgusting.
    you stand by your identity and that makes you strong, never forget that.

    at 25 you will cry when you listen to the “someone like you/rumour has it”-mashup and you will feel stupid because it is this fucking show, but then again watching someone being outed in school hits home.

    at 21 you will finally come out to your father and he will ask you not to tell your grandmother.
    please talk to her. I know you are afraid to come out to your super-catholic family, but they are cool.
    but your grandmother, she dies, when you are already in your queer bubble far away from her, super comfortable with who you are.
    she will die and 4 weeks later you will meet your father’s almsot 60-year-old queer cousin who attends your aunt’s birthday with her partner of 30 years.
    and you talk to her and she will tell you that it was your grandfather who was more of a homophobe, and that your grandmother would eventually have come around to accept your queerness.
    she will be dead and you would have had more than 10 years to tell her.

    also: your family is super awesome. and you will be an awesome family member again, believe me. despite all that is happening right now. your siblings love you. you and your stepfather, you will love each other too. you and your dad, you are going to be fine. your mom and you, you are going to stop hurting each other.
    it won’t hurt anymore, I promise.

    you will get sick in a year or so, really sick. I know that in a year you won’t think you’ll make it to your 16th birthday, but at 16, you are moving to Sweden for a year. on your own.

    dear baby me, I don’t have to comfort you anymore because I made it and that’s how I know that really, you don’t need this 25-year-old version of yourself.

    just remember:
    you are not as fat as you think.
    you are not as ugly as you think.
    your sense of humour is actually great, the people around you just don’t get it yet.
    your kisses can make other people melt (and you will kiss a lot of girls!),
    your smile can make other people happy.
    so, you are not worthless.


  69. Dear younger self,

    There are just a few things you ought to know.

    1. It’s okay to be gay. Promise!
    2. It’s also okay to be trans.
    3. You’re beautiful and wonderful and awesome and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
    4. Don’t forget to tell others that they are also beautiful and wonderful and awesome.

    That’s all I have for now.

    With love,

  70. To a Teenage Steph:

    It gets better. That’s not a platitude, or empty words on a page. It really does happen. Hell, it’s only a few years past the end of being a teen, and I can already see that it has gotten better, and will continue to do so. I don’t mean to say it gets easy, as life is rarely easy, and nothing worthwhile ever is easy, but you can and will make it through.

    Don’t be so scared that people are going to find you out, that people are going to hate on you for what and whom you love. Haters gonna hate, and if it isn’t for your orientation, it’s going to be for something else. Be proud of the person you are growing to be, don’t be ashamed.

    A Slightly-older, hopefully wiser, Steph

  71. Dear teenage Tif,
    I know you’re a total mess right now even though you don’t really see it that way, and there is nobody around you to acknowledge that something is, indeed, wrong, and that you’re lost and in pain. I know you don’t really trust people, but desperately want to, that you don’t fit, that the things that make you stand out feel like failures. I know you feel ugly and it feels impossible that someone would want to love you, and want to kiss you and touch you just because they love you. I know it’s horrible and I’d give anything to be able to come to you and hug you and tell you that you are worthy of love, and if you only wait till you graduate, you’re going to run away from all this mess and it’s going to get so much better. I’m not saying it will be easy, it will be a decade-long, hard fight, and I’m not even sure the struggle is over yet, but you’ll find out that you’re beautiful and precious, and there are people you can rely on out there, and that sex can be an expression of love, not only a means of getting off or a bargaining chip. And when you’re nearing thirty (listen carefully now, I know that it’ll surprise you like nothing else in our life), you’ll meet a beautiful, wonderful girl and fall in love with her. Yup, you heard me – you’re not as straight as you think you are, as it turns out. I know, I know, it seems impossible, nothing has prepared us for that, but I assure you, you won’t regret it for a second. She’s gonna be trouble, of course, because when our life has ever been easy, but believe me, she’s worth it.
    Just be brave. You’ll survive it all.

  72. Dear 15-year-old me:

    You have figured out that you are bisexual and told everyone ever – Congratulations! That is not going to solve all your problems, but it’s a good start.

    1. You are going to be very confused when all those boys describe you as “butch,” because you have pretty pink nails and and wear cute lacy tops and love sparkly jewelry and heels, so what the hell? It has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU and you do not have to be butch to date girls – those guys call you butch because you’re smarter than they are and you don’t take their shit, and they’ve been raised to believe that those are masculine traits. So it’s actually a weird sort of compliment. It took me like 8 years to figure that one out, so you are now way ahead of the game!

    2. So that girl you fell in love with was incredibly cruel to you. Even when you are 25, you are going to be totally blown away by how terribly she treated you. That’s not teenage drama. She was awful. She was also desperately insecure because she was closeted even to herself. She still is. I have amazing news for you: that will not happen again, not for at least the next decade. You will fall in love a couple more times, and none of them will love you back, not yet, but they are kind and wonderful people who will stay friends with you when it’s over, and you will not regret loving them. You’re also going to have a lot of hilariously pointless crushes on straight girls – this is totally fine and normal, and most of those girls will end up being your best friends in the world once you get over it. Bonus: you will NOT have any hilariously pointless crushes on gay guys! Dodged a bullet there, let me tell you.

    3. In college, when that girl in the Shakespeare club tells you she’s asexual? That’s a thing! A real thing! Google it! And then stop throwing yourself at her because a) you are being a jerk and b) she doesn’t even notice, you moron. You did not know any of this at the time but for pete’s sake, that’s what the internet is for. No excuses!

    4. Thank you. Thank you for loving music, and loving writing, and loving your family, and loving the whole freaking state of Iowa. Because you loved those things, I have had so many amazing experiences, met so many fantastic people, touched real beauty and felt the presence of God. The things you loved then are still the things I love now, and the things that give meaning to my life. The best parts of your life are still in the future. Hell, they’re still in my future. I believe that. I love you. You are going to be so happy. Te lo prometo.


  73. There aren’t any magic words. I know you define yourself in rationalizations – and, true, you couldn’t navigate the neurotypical world without them – but they will never be adequate. I’ll say it again: there will never be one word strong enough to stand against your fear. There will never be a right time, either. One day you’ll come out to your parents, and you know what? On that day, you won’t be any less confused, or even any less afraid. You won’t even be sure that what you’re saying is true, in a definitional sense. It will be true in a deeper sense, beyond maps and boundaries. I don’t need to tell you that, though – you know it even now. So stop trying so hard to figure out what you are. You love complexity – embrace it in yourself.

    The people who are cruel to you now will fall away. I know that you are embarrassed by your friends because of those mean girls and sexist boys; you know that by placing yourself in such proximity to not normal you signal that you, too, are not normal. You also know that your friends, for all their own awkwardness and fear, do not have as much at stake as you do. You’re not stupid, teenage me. You see everything, things that people off the spectrum seem to miss. (You don’t know yet that you have Asperger’s, but I’m sure as soon as you read this you will immediately know it’s true. Your parents know, but elected not to sentence you to a diagnosis. Thank them for that one day. But also know that you are not alone in your wonderful, strange brain.) But you are also young and hormonal and closeted and so you are wasting your powers worrying about the social labyrinth. In a few years you’ll realize that it’s not worth the effort to figure out how all that’s supposed to work. Those dorky straight girls will shed their fears in college, just like you will, and become awesome women who will recommend tattoo artists and wing for you at gay bars and talk endlessly about science. You’ll meet other cool people in college: non-asshole gay boys, embarrassed socialist trust fund babies, feminists and Natives and Muslims and singers and slam poets. Your big gay life is going to be so interesting! I’m excited for you.

    Take your time.

  74. Dear 14-year-old JJ:

    I have thought long and hard about what to tell you. I could warn you of the danger. I could advise you to fight instead of freeze. I could tell you that twenty years from now you’ll hardly remember it but that would be a lie, and anyway, I am you so I know we make it here. Now. To this place of hard-won wisdom. We safeguard this precious muscle that beats with more love than fear.

    Instead I will give you these three truths. First: every time someone tells you that you are too much, know that this is not an immutable fact about you but a reflection of their inability or unwillingness to take you on. It is their failing, not your flaw. Second: I know you are lonely & confused, but there are infinitely more possibilities than you realize now, tucked as you are in that Midwestern suburb in the early 90s. The people you will love are hiding in plain sight, dressed in costumes, answering to names that insult their ears and souls. When they finally show themselves, you will feel that dizzying longing in your solar plexus, like riding the Tilt-A-Whirl at a carnival. And finally, if you remember nothing else from this letter, please know: someday someone will hold you like a precious gift, kiss you out of desire, and tell you that you are beautiful. And you will believe it.

    It’s already true, darling.

  75. Dear young Sophie,
    Don’t be afraid to be yourself and go for what you want.
    Don’t forget to love and appreciate everyone you have.
    Be who you are, love who you are.
    The world – especially the queer world – is a wonderful place, don’t be scared.
    You can do anything you set your mind to, as long as you set your mind to it.
    Falling in love is not the only thing a person can do – love and respect yourself and your own interests.
    Keep writing everything down – your feelings are valid and important.
    Practice your instruments, read a lot of books – sometimes when you are feeling down about things you just need to lose yourself in something else instead of wallowing.
    Have fun – your life is going to go great!


  76. Young Aerodrome,

    It does not exactly get better: it changes. You will get raw, you will get tender, you will ache, and in a few moments of clarity you will at last realize that in that, you are similar to a lot of people. You will feel the pull of belonging in unexpected ways.

    I am quite sorry to say that it is still very much a messy affair, your life. Sometimes it is good, fun mess, improbable people in wonderful situations, and vice versa. But there are also your depths, your immense cavernous self that manifests, it seems, only to make your life harder. You will still be trying to embrace it, because what else can you do. It is you, too.

    Yours dearly,

    Somehow Adult Aerodrome

  77. Dear 16 year old me,
    Stop making such rash decisions. I know you’re excited, but coming out changes things with your parents forever in ways you don’t anticipate and I wish you had waited. Stay away from that girl. She’ll cheat on you and break your heart and it won’t matter how hard you try to make it work. You are very, very naive and you don’t realize it, but she does and takes full advantage.

    Even after all that poor decision making, don’t lose that ballsy attitude. You will meet loads of lovely people who you never thought you’d be so close with. Stay brave and optimistic. Work hard. Don’t be so afraid of everything.


  78. Dear Fifteen Year-old Self,

    I am going to spoil a few things for you, but not too many. That would be mean.

    Firstly: Start watching Doctor Who now. I know it looks cheesy, but cheesy is good. And if you don’t start soon you won’t get any of your friends’ jokes in college.

    Secondly: Cut your hair short NOW. I mean short, really short. I know you think you are too fat too pull it off and that you will look like mom. Well, you totally will look like her, but one day you will realize how fucking beautiful mom is. The end.

    Thirdly: Keep reading, because one day you will discover writing, and it will feel out of this world, like when you bite down on aluminum foil and feel that exquisite, tickling pain deep in your jaw. It will be good.

    Finally – the big stuff:

    Once you shuffle off the one or two boyfriends that never quite felt right, and the big one that broke your heart, you will run into a dry spell, and I mean a massive fucking dry spell. Think 9 years without a single kiss.

    And you will try to explain it away, thinking you weren’t good enough, that you didn’t move fast enough, that you’re a prude, that you’re ugly, that you’re cursed.

    You will be lonely.

    But one day, when you are in college, you will have a glorious, fumbling, gaping-wide experience. You will then spend a few agonizing weeks coming to terms with the fact that you are queer as those fucking rainbow Lisa Frank kitten stickers that you put on absolutely everything. And it will be very good.

    And slowly, a couple of layers of wool will be yanked from your eyes.

    You will figure out that you are a massive, hairy feminist. That one will surprise you.

    You will discover that the reason your father caused you so much pain isn’t simply because he is a homophobic misogynist, but that he is simply a child that will forever hold a grudge against your mother for leaving. And you will be caught in the cross-hairs of his anger because your beautiful face looks just like hers. There’s nothing you can do about that one.

    And eventually you’ll find yourself surrounded by love. You will take enormous leaps of faith and leave yourself dangling in the most delicious ways. It will be so. fucking. good.

    I’ve left you to wait for the small bits—the important things, like what your lover’s face looks like and what you ate the morning you realized you were in love. You’ll want to wait for those.

    21 Year-Old You.

  79. What’s up high school Heather?
    Guess what? YOU’RE GAY. Because you think you’re so damn smart, you’re going to totally ignore that until like, 2008. But don’t worry, Autostraddle will be a thing really soon.
    Also, that girl that sleeps in your bed every weekend of 10th grade? *slap right in the back of your young head*

  80. Dear 14 year-old self,

    What you should really know is that life gets easier, the older you get. With every passing year you will gain a perspective that you don’t even realise exists.

    But right now, 14 year-old self, I’m so sorry to say that it gets worse before it gets better. I know that’s hard to hear. But this letter from 32 year-old you is a sign that you survive and turn into an amazing woman with the capacity to love yourself and your life. You’ll actually love all the things you think make you stand out and you’ll love them because they do make you stand out – collecting postcards, writing poetry, cross-stitch, having faith, spending time on your own and being obsessed with Buffy (tho in 2012 you’re obsessed with a show about musicals, weird huh? You should definitely make more of an effort to see Cats before it closes, I would appreciate that memory).

    It pains me to tell you but you’re going to have a rough time for about a decade before you’re actually ready to accept the help you’re scared to ask for, and act on it. There will be some really empty nights, you will hide in your bedroom for days and sometimes you’ll sit in the night time rain praying for hypothermia. None of that is sensible, but I’ll forgive you later.

    Hold on to the idea – and try to believe it – that all pain does pass. You’re not crazy to feel these muddled, confusing, overwhelming emotions, you’re just human. And it’s understandable to react to the unspeakable things in your childhood and I promise, at some point you will stop wondering if it irrevocably shaped your sexuality and realise that it just doesn’t matter. You’re just you.

    After about ten years of feeling inadequate, unmanageable and simply not good enough for your family, your friends or a relationship, you will start to talk. You should try this sooner if you can, because keeping it inside just lets it take root, makes your heart black, your mind fogged and you’re just punishing yourself for something that wasn’t your fault.

    Once you start talking, you won’t stop. It’ll take a while to get the hang of it, but you’ll learn that people will listen, you can afford to be the person you want to be and that you’re really, really hard on yourself – this will be a fucking epiphany. This is super hard to believe, but you’ll actually pluck up the courage to tell Mum that she has to stop acting like she wants a slim, straight daughter because you’re the one she got. That’s when you’ll find out that the day you were born was the happiest day of her life and that she’s just not very good at talking about her feelings (see, that not talking thing wasn’t your fault either). You’ll finally stop seeking approval and actually start living.

    So! Don’t have regrets about what you think are ‘wasted opportunities’, you just weren’t ready for them yet. You will be. You’ll get to do all the things your 14 year-old self dreams about. (Although you won’t get to be a marine biologist, but you knew that, you’ve seen your science grades.)

    HC x

    PS. Watch out for 2007 (Thailand!) and 2011 (oh, the sex!).

  81. Teen Nat,
    Learning to play Bass will be the best thing you do as a teenager. It will make you exponentially cooler at Uni.
    Everything will change.
    Guess what? You’re going to be fine.
    Love, me.

  82. Dear Me,

    It’s ok. It’ll all be ok. I know you’re going through a rough time right now, but that’s not the reason to hold onto the boyfriend you have now. You’ll regret leading him on just so you can have some affection from somebody, or to piss off your parents for acting like children. Even the divorce is better for everyone. The people your parents end up with are not at all what you’re expecting, and in the best way possible.

    Instead, explore that part of you that wants to have a girlfriend, that wants to like girls. Tell Holly that you like her. She likes you back for the time being. Follow that girl you saw walking out of the classroom next to you. Ask her her name. Join the GSA club now. Explore the part of you that you won’t be able to explore as freely later on when you meet the one you’re going to marry. Take advantage of your youth. Make friends. Make mistakes. Make love. You have the rest of your high school career to set things straight. And just TRY in your classes. You’ll regret not seeing how far you could go, because, honey, you can go farther than most.

    One last thing: tweeze your damn eyebrows. For fuck’s sake, you look like you have two caterpillars eating your eyes.

    Love, Yourself

    P.S. See what I did there? Huh? Huh? :D

  83. Dear 16-Year-Old Shannon,

    Twenty-seven feels so far away…you’ll be ancient! Eleven years seems like an eternity, right? And it is, holy shit, it is! So much will happen, and there will be so many tears, body-wracking sobs, and such joy that you can’t believe you’ll survive it. Oh Shannon, it’s going to be so rad. You fall in love with such incredible people, do such incredible things.

    Life’s pretty cool right now…you spend all of your time with C and K, making trouble in the woods, and you’ve got that great new boyfriend, Z. He’s a babe, isn’t he? You guys will stay together for two more sexually frustrated years, and it’ll be equal measures swell and painful; you love each other so much, and neither of you wants to acknowledge that insidious thing you know is inside of both of you, because the terror is so real, you can’t imagine such a trial being worth it. Don’t destroy yourself every time you look in the mirror because you can’t make it better. It’s outside of your control. That crush you have on your best gal-pal C, the one that you’ve buried? It’s scary, I know, and you’ll keep that feeling inside for so long. Don’t worry. I understand.

    You’ll move out to California, you’ll study writing, and animation history, and comic books. It’ll feel like you’re meant to do these things, meant to live in this city. Love Los Angeles like someone beautiful you’re going to leave tomorrow, because it always seems the next day will be the last one there. When you and Z break up, the joy of being young in this city will be so intoxicating that you can’t bring yourself to ruin it with the possibility that you’re different. I could tell you don’t be scared, to own it, that loving yourself this way makes you feel more secure in who you are than you’ve ever felt, but you’ve got a journey to take…you’ve going to love a boy named M in college who is literally the best, and you’ll realize that if you can’t make it work with him, maybe dudes aren’t your cup of tea. You’ll live that beautiful life, make those memories, find your way to her, to this truth about yourself. Don’t ever regret those years, because they were real and wonderful.

    I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that going through it will be awful, Shannon. You’re going have to finally embrace being utterly selfish sometimes, and you’re going to hurt so many people. It’s that thing you hate! THAT THING YOU HATE THE MOST. And it feels like you’re going lose everything for months and months, stretching on before you until you’re sure you can’t keep doing this. But don’t stop reading, Shannon! Here’s what you wake up to, one day:

    You share an apartment with C in Los Angeles. Your balcony faces the West, and the sunsets are pretty excellent. You’re still the same together, so close that it’s like living with family. S, that internet pen-pal you adore, that you write novel-length emails to? She lives across town, and she’s brought so many glorious people into your life that you’re not sure they’re real. One of those people is her stunning little sister, the one you’ll dream about kissing for months before you find yourself kissing her for hours and hours one night, and who you’ll still get to kiss years later. Yes, the one in that photo S sent you! IT SEEMS SUPER WEIRD NOW, I KNOW. But she’s like sunshine on concrete, and every day with her makes your bones warm.

    Your high school sweetheart, Z? He’s gay too! HE’S SO SUPER GAY, Shannon, and he’s luminescent! He continues to be unfailingly earnest and kind, continues to send you terrible music, and you will love him deeply as you do now. You will sit in your living room, drunk and a little high as he flirts with your girlfriend, C and S in the kitchen laughing, and you will be convinced that your heart is bursting from your chest out of love for these people and the delicate symmetry of your life. You both turn out okay. M does too. I promise.

    You’ll be a comic book editor.

    You will not lose everything.

    Life will be better than you can ever, ever imagine it now.

    Be brave. It’s all worth it.

    I love you dearly, and I miss you,

  84. Dear High School Me,

    In a few years you will have a spiritual awakening, leave an esteemed college, and spend seven years developing your talents and clearing karma. You will have your heart broken no less than half a dozen times, and will break just about that many hearts, yourself. You dog, you!

    Oh, and, surprise surprise, you will meet someone that makes you think about gender and you will come into your body with your meditations and you will gradually realize that you’re a boy. Or, something like a boy. Definitely not just a girl, though. Definitely not.

    Then you’ll go through a long process of discovering that sexuality and gender and physical sex are all different and often shiftable.

    You will discover a passion for cooking. You will gain confidence in your poetic talent.

    You will embody the truth you knew existed in those fateful days at the end of your college adventure.

    You will feel love greater than anything you have ever known before, and it will not break your heart. You will become a celebrator of God and a teacher or the light.

    But the cool God. Not that idea that those nutso people on TV have.

    Don’t be too scared. Keep going. You think life is good now, wait until you let go of all your inner baggage and opinions!!!!

    I’m so proud of you, little me. Your name is Amanda, now.

    Soon enough it will be Lucas. And every time someone calls you by that name it will make your heart swell to bursting. Every time you look in the mirror you will feel so glad to think of yourself as “handsome”. You will cut off your tits and swim naked in lakes and love your friends with a ferocity.

    Just so you know, your natural essence is pure joy, and reality is just a bunch of empty space.

    Love, light, and blessings,
    2012 Me

  85. Dear 14 year old self,
    I know there are a lot of things you are afraid of right now and I want to put at least one of those fears at rest. You are afraid of coming out. All of the people who loved you before will love you after. Aurora will never, ever reject you. Your sister cares for you more than you can imagine. Your father and you will even become closer now that you don’t have to hide your girlfriend from him (yes, you will have a girlfriend; now you don’t have to be afraid of dying alone either!). Your mother… well. She won’t react well and so will some other people, but they aren’t the people that matter. The people who matter are the ones who stay by you and love you no matter what. And you will have plenty of those people there for you, even after you come out. Stay strong, and don’t worry bout a thing :)

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