The first and only time my dad spanked me for refusing to be pretty was on Christmas Eve. I was five, my sister was four, our grandmother had bought us matching dresses. Long lace sleeves. Dark crimson skirts. Lookalike bows for our hair. I said it made me feel itchy. I said it made me feel cold. I didn’t say wearing dresses made me feel like I was trying to squeeze into someone else’s skin, but it wouldn’t have mattered. My dad was determined to see me in that dress, for my grandmother’s sake, even though she protested when he was heading into the den with me and a belt.
“Don’t you want to be pretty?” he asked before the spanking, when he was still trying to reason with me.
“No,” I said. “I want to be a professional baseball player.”
We both cried when it was over. Me, because no kid likes being spanked. Him, because no parent likes to realize they hit their kid over a dress.
My girlfriend looks at me like I’m the best thing she’s ever seen. In a t-shirt and jeans. Or a t-shirt and pajama bottoms. Or a t-shirt and gym shorts or a t-shirt and yoga pants or a t-shirt and none of your business. Always a t-shirt. And sneakers and baseball caps and ponytails. She looks at me the way Harry Potter looks at his wand the first time Olivander hands it to him. The way Gollum looks at the ring. The way a puppy who loves you looks at you like you stitched the stars into place and tossed the sun into the sky and keep the earth spinning just by smiling.
In January, when I started receiving hate-filled anonymous messages about my appearance, I didn’t tell my girlfriend. I’ve been called way worse than a “fugly dyke,” and anyway, we had better things to talk about. Vacation plans. Books we read. Decorating our new apartment. I didn’t even tell her when the notes started getting specific. Someone calling out my “crossed eyes” in a Tumblr ask. My “pocked skin” in an email. My “hillbilly teeth” on Twitter.
I thought I’d ignore the messages and they’d stop, like all the other heckling I’d batted away over the years. I’ve been an employee of the internet far too long to let a little trolling bother me.
I tried to tell my elementary school classmates I was wearing an eyepatch because I was a pirate. But they knew it was because of my lazy eye. The after-effects of the surgeries were too gross for the other kids to look at, and when my eye was all cleared up from the slicing and dicing, I had to wear a patch on the good one to try to strengthen the bad one. It was not the age of Etsy. It was 1985. There were no cloth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle patches. No Superman ones. No cowgirls riding unicorns. No dinosaurs or rainbows or Super Marios. My patch was white gauze taped over an enormous pair of glasses.
In primary school, kids asked, “But why are you cross-eyed?” And I shrugged and refused to look at them, because I didn’t know, because I wanted everyone to stop talking about it.
In middle school, everyone’s favorite baseball team underdog said, “Don’t look at my face; you’re freaking me out,” and everyone laughed like it was the funniest joke they’d ever heard.
In high school, my best friend’s boyfriend often said, ‘”What the fuck are you even looking at?” when she wasn’t around. The guys on the football team sniggered if I tripped walking down the hall. “She’s so blind she’s practically crippled.”
It didn’t matter that I was a genuinely good kid. That I was pretty funny. That I was an all-state choral singer in middle school, or an all-state basketball player and runner in high school. It didn’t matter that I really wasn’t blind. I could hit a game-winning jump shot against our county rival, be lauded by the other team’s coach as the nicest player in the league, be plastered all over the newspaper like a local hero. It didn’t matter because the next day I was going to school with my off-brand clothes and my invincible acne and my lazy eye, in shoes that were so old and beaten up I had to dig them out of the locker room’s lost and found every couple of weeks.
I kept my head down, literally. I tried not to look at anyone. And I still hated dresses.
“Fugly dyke” was funny to me at first, when the messages started appearing in my email and Tumblr ask box. “You’re just a dumb virgin who can’t drive,” I’d say out loud as I deleted them. “Trang Pak is a grotsky, little byotch.”
It’s not like I was dealing with GamerGate-caliber cyberterrorism. It was probably a disgruntled shipper. It was probably someone who was mad at me for clowning on the cute boys on Pretty Little Liars. It was probably some 13-year-old girl who was furious that I made One Direction jokes on Twitter the day not-Harry Styles left the band.
That was probably it.
I’ve been doing this for ten years now, writing my life on the internet, and no one has ever trolled me about the way I look. Every social media platform I use is full of messages from people telling me how I made their lives better because of something I did or wrote or said. They have always cushioned their hate.
“I am a 36-year-old lesbian feminist,” is what I started saying out loud to myself when the Mean Girls jokes ran out, when the messages became more aggressive and more frequent. “Normative, unattainable beauty standards are bullshit!”
They are bullshit. I know they’re bullshit. Their life-ruining effects echo in every corridor of our society. Hundreds of magazines pushing the lie that we’ll be happier when we look like the women on their covers (who don’t even look like themselves, because: Photoshop). Thousands of women dying every year from eating disorders. Billions of dollars flowing into ad campaigns designed to convince us how miserable we are because of the faces we were born with, or because our bodies refused to stop aging after puberty, or because more men don’t want to fuck us.
It’s propaganda, plainly. I know that truth in my bones — but when the spiteful notes kept coming, I stopped feeling that truth in my heart. I didn’t want to go to brunch with my friends. I didn’t want to go to the grocery store to get milk. I didn’t want to Skype with my grandmother. I didn’t want to have sex with the woman who looks at me like she’s the east and I’m the sun.
It wasn’t just what the messages said that chipped away at me; it was the fact that they existed at all. My entire professional writing career has been about making the world better and brighter and warmer for queer women. Queer women don’t call each other fugly dykes! Or maybe they do. The messages were way too personal, way too specific, way too knowledgeable about the things I’ve written to come from someone who isn’t familiar with half a decade of my work.
My mom was furious when she overheard the kids at church making fun of my eye patch, my skinned-up knees, the dirt under my fingernails, and the scars from briars and mosquito bites all over my legs. Not furious with them; furious with me for being the kind of girl who’d invite such taunts. The church kids were the first ones to call me a dyke. My mom forbade me to bring baseball caps to Sunday School to put on after church, forbade me to wear gym shorts under my skirts. She took me to the mall and bought me four new dresses. A sea green one with pearl buttons, a pink and blue flowery one, a green and blue flowery one with a lace collar, and a white and black striped one with a gold zipper and shoulder pads. She said people would stop paying so much attention to my eye and my acne if I started paying more attention to my clothes.
The first time I got on the church bus wearing one of those dresses, the preacher’s daughter giggled and said, “I’ll bet you even walk like a man in high heels.”
My lazy eye hurts a lot, even though I can afford glasses and I wear them all the time now. It helps to press my palm into it, but it’s not very comfortable, so I press my eye into my girlfriend’s shoulder almost every night, while she reads books and the internet.
“You seem extra-quiet tonight,” she said a few weeks ago, after another email calling me a cross-eyed cunt came through. “Are you okay?”
“Do you think I’m pretty?” I asked her.
She shut her laptop and crawled over the bed and into my lap where I was sitting in a chair at my desk. I’d never asked her that before. I’d never asked anyone that before. She kissed my forehead and my nose, my cheeks and my lips. “I think you’re perfect.”
I let my dad’s second wife drag me all around Atlanta looking for a dress to wear to their wedding. She was gorgeous. Like supermodel gorgeous. Her hair was almost was as good as Tami Taylor’s. She sold makeup and could tell just by looking at you what color lipstick you needed to make your face say whatever you wanted it to say.
She rolled her eyes at me a lot. She worried. “Don’t they make t-shirts that look feminine?”
The dresses for the wedding were terrible, because they were dresses. She told me to stand up taller, take my hair out of the ponytail, take off my glasses, stop squinting. She scrutinized my form, everything about the way I moved. The shoes that matched the dress cost $400. I would only have to walk in them for a minute, she said; plus, I could lean on my boyfriend. He was singing at the ceremony.
She bought me an ice cream when we were done shopping. I was 24 years old.
When I came out, I stopped wearing dresses. Not because I flipped from Straight to Gay, or that dresses have a specific correlation to either of those identities, but because I decided that being queer out loud was about leaping outside the box of all of society’s rules that felt rigid, itchy and nonsensical to me. For some queers, this means dresses every day. For me, that meant giving them up forever. Not marrying a man was only the tip of the iceberg of things I was going to stop pretending to want to do.
I wore a bow-tie and a button-up the third time my dad got married. I wore oxfords I bought in the men’s department. I didn’t need to lean on anyone to walk. My grandma said I never looked finer.
The last Tumblr message I got about my appearance said, “I like how you’ve been using that photo of you in a baseball cap for about 10 years. I guess we can all keep pretending that is what you look like.” It was the only mean message I answered. I thought of saying, “This photo means a whole lot to me because I took it the day I published the best thing I ever wrote.” Or, “I love this picture because my dog Margaret is in it and I cherish every photo I have with her because she’s 14 years old and I don’t want to talk about what that means.” I thought of saying. “I’m fond of this hat because I got it when I took my grandparents to West Yellowstone to snowmobile for a whole week.” Or, “I bought the Captain America shirt I’m wearing with the first paycheck I ever got for writing.”
But I didn’t say any of those things. I sassed about it. I pretended I didn’t care. I posted more photos of me in baseball caps with a message confirming that I still have the same head.
I spent hours and hours and hours that night looking through all of my pictures. I don’t take many photos of myself, but the ones I do take are ones I love. Because my girlfriend is in them with me, smiling because her football team beat the Jets, smiling because we’re spending a rare day off together at the beach, smiling because she just likes how her head feels resting on my shoulder. My sister and I, standing in front of the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, or drinking one-too-many beers, or laughing at something only we would understand. My nephew, standing beside me wearing the same Batman costume I used to wear when I was his age. My grandma kissing my cheek. My great-aunt affectionately patting my face. My dogs nuzzling me and my cat biting my nose and my very best friends just being who they are at brunch and fandom meet-ups and TV nights and brunch some more.
They don’t care about my eye or my acne or my weight or my eczema; they only care that the body I’m in houses a soul that they adore.
Don’t you want to be pretty?
No. I want to be living this exact life, doing this exact work, surrounded by these exact people. It’s more than I ever would have dared to hope for.
I stayed awake that night waiting for the troll. I had a response for “fat ass muff diver.” I had a response for “fugly dyke.” I had a response for every horrible thing, and I fell asleep refreshing my Tumblr ask box. I awoke to the sound of my girlfriend flipping the pages of a book. She sat it on the nightstand when she saw me stirring, laid her head beside mine on the pillow, and smiled. “You’re beautiful,” she said, and she kissed me like it was the main thing she’d been needing to do her whole life.
“You’re beautiful,” she said again.
And I believed her.
I haven’t read the whole thing yet, I just wanted to say that this is really beautiful.
“She looks at me the way Harry Potter looks at his wand the first time Olivander hands it to him. The way Gollum looks at the ring. The way a puppy who loves you looks at you like you stitched the stars into place and tossed the sun into the sky and keep the earth spinning just by smiling.”
I read the whole thing. Absolutely gorgeous.
well said. beautifully written.
I love this. Thank you so much, Heather.
I just read this and I legitimately had tears rolling down my face by the time I got here: “I wore a bow-tie and a button-up the third time my dad got married. I wore oxfords I bought in the men’s department. I didn’t need to lean on anyone to walk. My grandma said I never looked finer.”
I identify so strongly with this piece, only I am about 10 years behind in the coming out process–It’s been about a year. I want to be able to have the courage to be me out loud not just in my house in my city far away from home, but me out loud when I visit my conservative Southern family in the town where the kids were cruel because I looked too much like a dyke. Yeah, cue plenty of self-hatred and problems with coming out to myself because of guilt/feeling like I deserved the treatment blah blah blah. I could wax on and on about being a queer from the bible belt who took 27 years to come out.
And for what it’s worth, I like your baseball hat photo, and I think you’re a beautiful human, too.
I love you lots and lots and lots, sister. You are the most remarkable person I know. I’d wager you’re the most remarkable person anyone knows.
She is ABSOLUTELY the most remarkable person I know. No contest.
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
I love your posts so much. Tomboy girls…masculine of center lesbians….so tough in some ways…but still a sensitive girl inside…. and wonderfully real. Your gf sees through to the beautiful woman inside, and that is where real love always has to be. You remind me so much of best friend from childhood.
You are beautiful to lots of us because you move our hearts.
heather this essay cements every good thing i knew to be true about you; i wish i could give you a baseball cap made of gold. i’ll keep everything you wrote here in my back pocket for a long long time.
“They don’t care about my eye or my acne or my weight or my eczema; they only care that the body I’m in houses a soul that they adore.” THIS!!!
Thank you for sharing this beautiful, moving piece.
So much love to you.
Gorgeous. the words. you. all the pictures of you. just gorgeous.
You did it again, Heather! Tears. Every time. Your way with words never ceases to amaze me.
And who needs “traditional beauty”. Fuck that! You’re beautiful just the way you are. The people that matter know this. Kudos to your girlfriend for helping you to realize it. She sounds like a real gem
The line that made me cry is this one: “She bought me an ice cream when we were done shopping. I was 24 years old.”
I’m so proud to work with you, Heather. Thank you for putting this into the world.
well this is the best damn thing.
Thank you. Thank you so much. My baby-queer heart finds great truths in your words. You’re changing the world with these powerful thoughts and your brilliant self.
That was a very beautiful piece! Wonderfully written! I don’t normally comment here but I felt like this time, I should. Nevermind what they say, you are a wonderful human being with a good soul. Your articles/posts & tweets can brighten up an otherwise gloomy day. You’re smart & hilarious! Thanks for sharing your thoughts & talent with us! Oh, and btw, I love that pic! ;)
Remember, chin up! And keep on writing!
Once again, I feel the need to thank you for continually baring your soul for all us queers on the internet.
In the immortal words of Holland Taylor as Professor Stromwell in Legally Blond: “If you’re going to let one stupid prick ruin your life… you’re not the girl I thought you were.”
On stupid prick on the internet does not counteract all the good that you have put into the world, and all the people who’s lives you have touched with your writing.
I have loved you and everything you write for the better part of 8 years, I couldn’t economically help when Scout got sick, but I followed her recovery with a happy heart that she was doing so well. PLL, Glee and your recaps introduced me to a community that literally saved my life. It’s so wrong that people try to tear other people down, and I’m angered that happened to such a lovely person as you. So glad you got to move past it, and remember that you always have people around you whom you’ve never met but would do anything for you. I count myself as one of those people.
And your girlfriend is right, you’re beautiful. Because you’re YOU.
I am grateful for your presence here, where the rest of us benefit from hearing the personal as well as the professional.
And that is the amazing thing about beauty; it is so so subjective. The intent of this asshole is to try to take your power and well-being, not just critique your appearance. Sometimes I look at photos of women such as Olivia Wilde and Angelina Jolie and I wonder about the complex process that makes me think “They are beautiful by society standards but this person standing next to me is more beautiful by far and is the person I’m sexually attracted to.” Or even when people talked shit about Alex Kingston’s age when they matched her and Matt Smith in Dr. Who – I’d rather be looking at/fantasizing about Alex Kingston than Olivia Wilde or Scarlett Johannssen or Blake Lively any day of the week.
You have an amazing soul and you turn your girlfriend on (and I’m willing to bet, other people). Beauty, that’s it.
unf Alex Kingston.
This broke my heart into a million pieces. I feel like I’ve gotten to know you through your writing over the past few years, and it makes me so angry that anyone would say such hateful things to you. Fuck them. You’re awesome, and your work makes the world a better place.
I never thought that I could identify so strongly with a piece of writing but here I am, bawling my eyes out in the middle of a Starbucks. I want to print this out and put it on my mirror every morning. It’s a big mirror so I think this is a good idea.
Oh, this is so beautiful and honest. Thank you for sharing this.
This was beautifully written. Thank you. Thank you for your bravery in sharing your soul so openly. I’m trying to be more open, but it’s f*cking scary. I think we can all learn something and grow from your writing. Thank you again.
I never met you but I feel like I know you through your writing. You write from your heart and your voice( and autostraddle in general) was one of the things that saved me when I was coming out. I also have a lazy eye and to this day it is something that I hate about myself. I hope on day I can accept myself as we’ll as you can. You are a beautiful person.
i had no idea how badly i needed this today. thank you <3
This article is brilliant. I yearn to have a woman look at me like “Gollum looks at the ring.” My heart fluttered when I read that entire paragraph.
You’ve captured so many emotions that most of us felt before. It took me back to my Holy Communion, where I felt awkward as all hell in a white frilly dress. My best friend at the time’s mother joked that her son and I looked like we were ready for our wedding. I replied seriously, “I’m not going to marry someone like David.” I was 8.
I know that bullying has always existed, but it seems that bullying our own in the LGBT community is getting worse. I’ve never jumped on the Tumblr trend, but a new client of mine was telling me how often she gets verbally assaulted on it for her looks, her ideas, etc. etc. What happened to being united? There are bigger fights to be won like equality, equal pay, Trans awareness…I could go on.
Heather, you are an amazing writer and a beautiful person inside and out. My business partners and I have a phrase we say when awful stuff is said about us: “They hate us, ’cause they ain’t us.”
Thanks for being a beacon of love and acceptance in a world that’s hard as shit to navigate. You make this world better by being in it!
Truely fantastic piece. I just… yeah. One can hope we’ll all end up that strong.
I love this piece so so much.
It was exactly what I needed today, thank you.
This is a really great article and I love it. I also kind of love your grandma and your old puppydog.
Thank you for this beautiful reminder that you don’t gotta fit yourself into anyone’s idea of “pretty”.
I need to stop reading your posts in public because everyone is looking at me in the student lounge like “what is this girls problem?” FEELINGS guys. FEELING so much.
I have nothing eloquent to add to what others have said but wanted to add that I agree: this is so beautiful!
I have so many feelings right now, I don’t know what to do with them. I’ll just read this over and over. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I am always struck by the honesty of your writing, and how vulnerable and real you’re willing to be on the internet, with all the risks that brings. You really do impact people’s lives. You remind me of how honest I would like to be one day. And I love how you write – the exact phrases you use stick in my head because they’re so perfect.
“For some queers, this means dresses every day.”
Huge thanks and props to you for your ability to talk about your experiences without belittling the experiences of others. You really are a gem, Hogan.
word. You expressed perfectly how I feel about how my clothing and other things changed after I came out: “because I decided that being queer out loud was about leaping outside the box of all of society’s rules that felt rigid, itchy and nonsensical to me.”
This article is everything, very moving and inspiring. Thank you for sharing. I’m from South Africa and I identify with a lot of the things in the article.
“My mom was furious when she overheard the kids at church making fun of my eye patch, my skinned-up knees, the dirt under my fingernails, and the scars from briars and mosquito bites all over my legs. Not furious with them; furious with me for being the kind of girl who’d invite such taunts.”
This is my mom too. And was. So, so sad.
My heart grew three sizes from this. <3 <33 <333
As a fellow 36-year-old lesbian feminist who prefers T-shirts and jeans over anything else and was also made fun of in middle school (because middle school is the worst) and somehow made it to adulthood, a supportive partnership, and being a writer . . . Thank you.
This is an amazing piece. I think it is the first thing I’ve read on Autostraddle where I didn’t skip a single word or skim a single paragraph. It is just achingly honest and eloquent and completely spot on about a very real struggle. I’m femme with blonde hair, long legs, and big boobs, but compared to the most of the women I work with, I’m an awkward and overweight mess of a person with no sense of style. Outside of work, I feel pretty great about myself. I’m active and capable and dress for comfort and functionality. Naked, I think my body absolutely rocks. Clothed in dressy work clothes, I feel like, well, an awkward and overweight mess of a person with a disproportionate body and no sense of style. I, too, try to remind myself of those same points about beauty being a social construct and just bullshit propaganda and I, too, know that in my bones… but sometimes, it is hard to remember and believe. I think often of this quote by Erin McKean: “You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your spouse or partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked female.” In fact, I mentally reassure myself of this every day at work: “I do not owe to it to my employer to be pretty.” And it kind of does help. I’m awesome and capable and I rock at what I do, just like you, and that’s what they pay me to do. Prettiness is not something that I owe them on top of that. Bravo on this piece. I absolutely loved every word.
this quote is amazing, thank you for sharing !
This is so beautiful and heartbreaking and uplifting. I love the back and forth, the juxtaposition among these snapshots of your life. Your words remind me that our journeys towards self love and acceptance don’t just happen once, but are paths we must travel over and over again–hopefully side-by-side with people who “only care that the body [we’re] in houses a soul that they adore.”
you’re so amazing, heather. wow, this was so very honest and great <3
The main thing that scares me thinking about an apocalypse is without internet I would never be able to read HH essays anymore. Fangirling, am I.
The paragraph about the dresses your mother bought you for church made me think of Anne of Green Gables and getting fitted for new dresses. And she was so grateful to finally have suitable clothes, which she’d never really had before. But oh, Marilla, couldn’t she please, please have just one dress with puffed sleeves?
It’s not the same thing. It’s the opposite. But it is the same thing, because when will women ever be allowed to just feel comfortable with what makes them feel comfortable?
I love you and your words more than I am capable of saying, HH. Thanks for writing this.
Reading during my lunch break. Crying on my lasagna.
You are fantastic
This was so beautiful and honest. I am literally in tears right now. Being called “ugly” seems like the kind of juvenile insult that shouldn’t hurt once you reach adulthood but can actually be devastating to your confidence. I’m so glad you have someone like your girlfriend in your life who makes you feel beautiful inside and out.
ugh i hate it when autostraddle writers use the same photo of themselves in a baseball cap for multiple years
but really — i mean, you already know what i think. and that i think this is perfect:
““Don’t you want to be pretty?” he asked before the spanking, when he was still trying to reason with me.
“No,” I said. “I want to be a professional baseball player.”
you’re beautiful and exceptional in all of the ways, and it’s true, you make people feel good on the internet all day every day, that even one person would want to make you feel bad makes me want to punch them in the brain. but instead i’ll just say I LOVE YOU
I love this so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Well, now I’m having so many feelings, and many of them are that you are awesome. This was beautiful. Thank you for you!
HH your writing has consistently amused, delighted and enlightened me since I began with reading your recaps, they were my only PLL goings on source until UK Netflix optioned the show. I always look forward to them and anything else you write. Thank you for this brilliant, honest and resonant piece, so many childhood memories were stirred up, adults and children can be so cruel…and wow the Internet harbours some totally pathetic cocksnots.
From one T-shirts always human to another Thank you for your work.
Heather, I’ve been reading your work for years. Your essays these days are so damn beautiful! Here’s to you and your girlfriend and all the good kind people in the world. I know love prevails because of writers like you.
This is so amazing and you’re so amazing and I just love it so much, “no, I want to be a professional baseball player,” “She bought me an ice cream when we were done shopping. I was 24 years old,” “I didn’t need to lean on anyone to walk.” This is all so wonderful and you’re totally the best.
I just wanna say I love that baseball cap photo too. Because every time I see it, I know I’m about to read something that touches me, whether it will make me cry, or make me laugh (even on some of the worst days of my life). Thank you for existing Heather. Really. I wanna be you when I grow up!
This whole thing is so goddamn beautiful.
Especially: “My grandma said I never looked finer.”
Well done for pulling beauty out of the ugliness that comes from other people’s hearts sometimes.
this was so real and so amazing, heather. i forget exactly how my mom said this to me when i was younger and getting bullied, but it was something like “people try to find something wrong with you when they cant stand to admit all the things that are right about you” and it felt like something so relevant to your piece. this person is obviously blown away by what a talented, funny, smart, unique, sensitive, and BEAUTIFUL person you are so they try to tear you down. i am a relatively new reader of your work, but it is so obvious to me already that you are a fantastic writer who has been making so many lives better and brighter for a very long time. thank you for doing what you do and working on the internet despite it being a place where it can sometimes take unmeasured bravery just to do your job everyday.
also i wanted to tell you that i have a 14 year old dog too! i read this piece to him and he was so moved i have attempted to include a picture of his face because it says everything (um i hope it workssss). he thinks you are fucking perfect. also hes pretty sure he and margaret are both going to live forever so. i mean he is a collie/border collie mix which means hes hella smart im just saying he’s probably right about this.
I know this piece is going to stay with me for a while. You’re a beautiful person and I love your words.
Thank you for writing this and sharing it. I don’t want to speak for everyone here but I think we are so lucky that we have someone like you in our generation who will write about these things so that one day we might have the strength to do so also.
this was great! you are great!
Oh wow wow wow this is so many familiar feelings, so beautifully articulated!
I loved: “Not marrying a man was only the tip of the iceberg of things I was going to stop pretending to want to do.”
Thanks so much for writing this, Heather. And may the gross internet haters all leave their wallets on a bus.
this is gorgeous
I love when I read something that just touches me to the core. I love your writing Heather and think you are a magical human who is beautiful and kind.
Btw, did you ever figure out what the heck was going on? Was it one dumb person? Has it stopped? That stuff is scary.
This is beautiful and resonates a lot. Thank you for writing it.
You are awesome.
Wow… look at all this love. All of this empathy. It’s moments like this that make me think that women loving women could save the world.
Heather Anne I love you so much and I don’t even know you in real person. Bullies are the worst most pathetic cowards to walk this fine earth.
I’m glad that Avon lady got you ice cream, it’s the least she could do.
I printed this piece out and have it taped to my bedroom door for any day that I need extra help going out into the world. Thank you, Heather Hogan. You continue to inspire and help so many of us. I cried reading this; my girlfriend cried reading this; my roommates cried reading this. I’m sending it to the high school youth I work with. They will surely cry as well.
Thank you for saying all of the things I have never been able to articulate
Heather, this was so incredibly well written and moving. And really fucking brave, considering the lengths trolls go to online to mute, well, basically anyone that has an opinion about anything. This is one of the best things I’ve ever read on Autostraddle, which is saying a lot (obviously). Thanks for such a beautiful essay. You are definitely the sun and I’m glad your girlfriend looks at you like she’s the East (that was an incredible way to put it—your writing is gorgeous.) May we all make our loved ones feel that way.
<3 Thank you, Heather!
I hope the person/people who sent you hateful words are reading all these comments because….HA! If you ARE reading, everything you tried to convey, every mean word, every ego-driven phrase that you thought was building you up has just been torn down. With every single positive, loving word each person above has commented, your hateful vitriol has been for nothing. Now…how does that make you feel, Troll?
I adore you Heather. Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece. You write from the heart, and it is a beautiful heart.
I don’t now how I endend up here reading this.
And it doesn’t matter..
What does matter is that I read every word of it and was moved by your message.
You, as a person, determine what you stand for and who you are. Other peoples fears, insecurities and emphatic shortcomings shouldn’t be – but quite often will turn out to be – your stumbling block. As you well know..
After reading this I can only conclude that you are a lucky person with a rarely wonderful partner backing you up (cherish that, I for one feel slightly envious of such a warm and loving connection). Embrace the luck you have in that and please ingnore the stupidity that comes from the ingnorent ones that share the internet only to use it as a medium to ventilate their small mindedness. And I wonder.. will those people ever be receptive to forming a pure and honest opinion of their own.. An opinion that is not clouded by inherited or nurtured prejudices..
I’ve never read you before. I don’t know what you look like. I am impressed, moved and I know you are beautiful. ; )
Speaking as a rural church girl: this. This is good. Thank you so much for writing, and sharing, and hoping, and writing again.
I have always found you put an extra bit of heart in your writing, even just in recaps. But this, this was beautiful and raw and real. That’s tougher to put out to the public than those little glimpses of yourself we get in recaps, and I thank you for having the guts to give it to us. Because it means something. To you, obviously, but to so many of us, it means something. Thank you. <3
I hope you can see the humor that when kids asked why you had a lazy eye you wouldn’t look at them. For a long time the only pic I had in my brain of you was your cartoon icon which always make flesh heather so odd but wonderful to see.
I love you.
I love you too, Kunkle! :D
Trolls are the sign that the end of the world is coming (no, recalcitrant christian, the civilized world is not coming to an end because we’re pushing the “Gay Agenda” down your throat or forcing you to march on the next pride parade).
It seems that trolls have no problems with puking, saying or typing the first stupid thing that comes through their minds, no filters whatsoever (common courtesy, tolerance, respect, etc.). Nobody seems to have a problem with looking like a duchebag, a moron or a disgusting human being.
Heather, sometimes I don’t agree with your views on some issues and I sincerely apologize if any of my comments offended you, because that was not my intention at all.
This is gonna blow my apologize, but I was quite prejudiced with your writing on AE. Now I’m convinced that the problem was the editorial line in that place (the shallow idea that everything is alright in the world if we only look at show-business).
But I did learn from my mistakes and my prejudices, and it didn’t took much effort, I just needed to read your posts here, and this one is the best example.
So, whenever you find yourself with troll-troubles or feeling insecure, you just need to click in this thread and read some of the replies you got. Because you’re helping people.
Thank you so much for this.
PD: Just an existentialist question/doubt. Your GF has a fetish with t-shirts, no?
Heather, you are the MVP of our hearts and I vow to wear more baseball hats in your honor. ESPECIALLY IF I HAD AN AUTOSTRADDLE HAT CAN THIS BE A THING I REALLY WANT THIS TO BE A THING. <3
I want an Autostraddle trucker hat/ snapback. Just a that says the logo super huge. That’s what I want in life.
Thank you for this!!!
I guess this is more about bullying but the parts about being pressured to look certain way….It hits close to home…
I grew up in eastern Europe in the 90’s/ 2000’s where nobody was talking about gays in real life or on tv, internet wasn’t a thing yet (not here anyway)…. It took me a years to figure out what the feelings i had for my friends meant. But i was always a tomboy. Playing with boys, wearing a t-shirts and baggy jeans…
Funny enough i was never really bullied, never called a dyke…I don’t know if it was because the kids around me didn’t have that reference for my not so feminine looks or due to my ‘alfa female’ like personality :DD probably bit of both…
But I WAS the ugly girl with no fashion sense for people who knew me, i was called a boy by people who didn’t. Always told that i could be pretty if i tried little more, wore a dress or put on some make up. Maybe i could finally get a boyfriend… I can’t that i didn’t struggle, that it didn’t hurt. It did. But i’ve put on the poker face and pushed through without thinking about it much. And soon enough people around me stopped talking about my clothes and the boyfriend i’ve never had and i started to smile at grandmas calling me a boy at bus station…
I thought i have it all figured out, that i’m above it all. But than i moved to western europe where people make connection between my looks and my sexual orientation much faster and i realized it bothered me. Not because i was ashamed, i’ve never really was in the closet but for a first time in my life i did fit the society’s expectation on how i’m suppose to look like. And i didn’t know what to do with that. I still don’t. I guess i’m so used to going against the flow, screaming and kicking against the box everyone is trying to put me in that i have a hard time to stop that even when it fits…I wish that people, esp. parents and teachers realized that it doesn’t take bully to cause a damage. That just side comments and implied expectations can do the job.
Anyway, thanks again for sharing
And sorry about this rant everyone :D
Not a rant, really interesting. Wish you all the best.
Thank you so much for writing this. You’re awesome.
this is very sweet.
also, fuck internet strangers who have anything to say about how you look, tho being an internet stranger to you, I have always found the way you present yourself to be unpretentious and disarmingly endearing. So much so that I’m like YOU SEEM SO NICE. THERE MUST BE A REASON YOU WANT SOMETHING BESIDES TO BE SO NICE. (bc I am a shifty-eyed marmot who is sometimes unsettled by people’s generosity)
That is the idea I have of you based on what you look like and how you seem on the internet.
I have nothing new to add to the other comments. This is just beautiful and honest and relatable and I want to hug you. Thank you for being so open.
You are an incredible writer n your work not only introduced me to PLL but has always been validating, corrective and real. Thank you!!
I can only really add on to what everyone else has already written on here, but I think you deserve as many comments as possible telling you what a beautiful, thoughtful, and brilliant writer you are. Thank you for posting this, and for every other awesome thing you’ve given the internet. Despite what a few pathetic trolls say, it’s much appreciated :)
First, listen to your Grandman and Girlfriend, they seem like they know their stuff.
Second, I wish we could reclaim terms like Fugly Dyke because when I realised I was gay, a lot of things changed for me in terms of how I perceive myself. I was never “pretty” or “delicate” in the straight world. I have the biggest feet, wide shoulders, big head. I stand out, and I thought “not in a good way”. I thought my nose was too big, my jaw is crooked, my hair is too thin and i’d already lost so much of it when I turned 21.
And then I learned I was gay. I looked at girls, and I was in awe of them. and of how attracted I felt to so many of them, and how i didn’t find any single one of them “fugly”. And I learned through some of them that they feel the same about me. The first girl I slept with literally did a double take when she saw me for the first time, and she later told me it’s because she thought I was so damn gorgeous.
And I thought “no man has ever said that about me. My best friends have, my mom and sister have sure, but no man”. And that didn’t matter anymore. For the first time as a dyke, I felt beautiful.
This is what I want “fugly dyke” to mean. I used to think I was “fugly straight”, and now I think i’m a beautiful dyke, and the contraction of the two is my story :)
Thank you Heather for sharing this with us.
This is my first post here. I’ve been following you since the early days at Afterellen, and Riese when she first started recapping The L Word before Autostraddle even existed outside her brilliant mind (not to sound stalkerish or anything!) After years of enjoying your writing at AE and celebrating your move to AS, and just as long loving Riese’s work, I’ve benefited so much from not only the writers’ pieces, but also the comments. As a lesbian with little to no real queer community in my area, you guys have been my lifeline.
That being said, Heather, so many of the articles you have given us over the years have entertained me, made me think/laugh, etc. You are truly gifted and your work is a joy to read. This article in particular compelled me to comment, as I’m insecure about my looks and such as a 30-something, and am generally unhappy with my life and lonely. Just knowing you’re out there in your t-shirt and baseball cap, loving and owning your life alongside your wonderful girlfriend, makes me smile.
You’re beautiful as you are, and who doesn’t like a girl in a baseball cap? That’s why I sometimes wear one myself! I’m not gonna lie, reading this made me cry a little, which I never really do. But I cried my eyes out because a lot of what you said resonated deeply within me. I’m glad I popped my Autostraddle cherry on such a deserving piece.
P.S. I have a bit of a literary crush on you and Riese. Lol.
Trying not to cry in a coffee shop. All I can say is Thank you. Thank you for writing this, and for living a life that lights you up. For wearing the clothes that feel like you. It gives me hope that I may be able to say the same thing someday too.
I was going to post the same thing – I’m sniffling in a coffee shop and hoping no one noticed the one stray tear that escaped.
This was really lovely.
This writing made me (finally) register and join autostraddle+. The work you guys do!
Heather, I have never met you but I like so many others here I can feel and tell that you are beautiful and also very, very brave. Thank you for this and everything else you have written and shared.
Also, I want a baseball cap with a text “not pretty”. (Or “fugly dyke” – but I am not sure I would be brave enough to wear that)
Thank you Heidi!
Such a beautiful piece, written by a beautiful person. I’m going to have to bookmark this page, because it has so many great reminders in it. Thank you
Just. The biggest hug. This hit me right in the feels. Thank-you so much for sharing.
“I didn’t want to have sex with the woman who looks at me like she’s the east and I’m the sun”
This. This is the feeling which until now, I have never been able to put into works. Thank you so, so much
Heather, thank you for being so honest and vulnerable – I think your ability to say the real shit when everyone else is just thinking it and hoping to find something that they can see themselves in is why you’ll be remembered as the queer writing champion of our generation. This is a downright manifesto, and I’ll return to it often for strength. Thank you~
I don’t know what to say because this piece struck me so much, but what I will say is that I have admired you for a very long time and thought you were one of the most amazing writers and funniest people I had ever seen on the Internet. Now that I am getting to know you, I realize what an absolutely amazing human you are in every single way. I think you’re just the bees knees, Heather! Beautiful piece <3
this is every kind of wonderful. <3 <3 <3
This seriously brought me to tears.
I hope you know that you are beautiful, Heather, in every way that matters. I knew that when you got me hooked on Batwoman and when I randomly mentioned on twitter that I wanted to start reading it, but couldn’t find the first few books, and you actually SENT them to me so I could share in your Batwoman flailing. I will always remember thinking “She doesn’t even know me, I’m just a random commentor/tweeter, and she is going out of her way to help me get into something awesome. Now that is a good soul.” And you have done nothing to change the opinion.
Keep on being awesome.
Who could hate on the creator of #BooRadleyVanCullen!?! That’s a crime against humanity! I hope that the love you feel from readers like myself counteracts the stupidity from a computer thug.
you’re great, you deserve all the good things. you have friends, an S/O, great work to keep you busy, people who love your writing… i bet that troll is just jealous in some way. fucking asshats.
You are so, so beautiful.
Really, really amazing writing.
Heather Hogan you are a remarkable human being. Thank you for sharing that with the world. And thank you to the Autostraddle community for continually restoring my faith in humanity, especially online.
You have always been my favorite writer, starting at afterellen. I used to watch glee all the time and then when it went to shit after season 3 I would only watch it so I could read your caps after. I follow you and genuinely love your writing whatever the subject may be. This piece is just another example. I relate so much to your point of view and it’s so nice seeing it in writing. So thank you.
Hi Heather! I just had to stop lurking around and leave a message on your post. Thank you for pouring out your heart to us. I hope you know and believe that you are beautiful; amazingly so.
Your Pretty Little Liars recaps are what I wait for every week. And when there are snippets of Harry Potter references, I laugh out loud as though it’s a secret between you and me and the other Potterheads.
Thank you for being you. You are perfect the way you are.
And when in doubt, sing T.Swift out loud; “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate,hate….” :)
Are these tears in my eyes? Thank you for this.
I’m afraid I don’t have anything witty or insightful to say.
I’m just shocked and unspeakably sorry that this has happened to you.
What the hell is wrong with people?
I mean, there is something essentially wrong with them and I do wonder what that is…
Didn’t they read about little Hermione Granger with the bushy hair and awkward Neville?
Don’t they want to be the heroes in their own stories anymore?
Heather, you’re making a difference, don’t ever stop believing that.
These little turds who have sent you these hateful messages just haven’t understood about love and life,yet.
That everyone’s got their own, specific flaws and quirks and that you love a person for them, not their unblemishedness.
Otherwise, we’d just be Cylons dating Cylons.
Hot? Yes, for a little while.
But there’d be no more poetry, and no more stories to tell.
Sorry for the rambling, I’m still just really sorry and shocked.
Before I go, I just wanted to say, that I very much approve of any and all base caps and might be slightly jealous of the Captain America shirt.
So who else is loving #hatsforheather on Twitter?!
I cried at the end. Thanks for sharing :)
Please read my message sent to you…
I’m so glad I read this. This is poetry. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go find my girl and tell her she is beautiful.
This was so beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this. You put so much love into what you write and do and I’m so happy to see that love coming back to you.
I’m the “troll” who left that last comment on Tumblr, and I left that comment because you literally have been using that photo since you started writing for AfterEllen and I thought maybe it was time for a refresh. I never saw your response or followed up because I don’t actually care. I find it interesting that you were waiting for my response. I think your writing is overwrought, pretentious and is incredibly self-centered — and this post only proves it. You didn’t choose that photo of yourself because that hat meant something to you, or to acknowledge your first paycheck for writing, which is an amusing bit of literary license but bullshit. You chose that photo because you thought you liked nice in it. Which fine. But it is like 10 years old. You did, however, write this post so everyone will tell you how wonderful you are and so everyone will sympathize with you. Yawn. I’d be shocked if I ever saw you write something that didn’t have an undertone of “aren’t I so great?!” It’s fitting you joined Autostraddle, land of special snowflakes — each snowflake thinking everything is all about them. Enjoy writing for the polyamorous woman-in-a-man’s-body “lesbian” crowd.
i never leave comments on autostraddle nor do i like to feed the trolls, but the sheer hypocrisy and idiocy involved here is mindblowing. you say you “don’t care” and accuse this woman of being “self-centered”, yet you apparently care enough to read and follow her tumblr (and are able to offer critiques of her writing, which means you’ve read quite a bit of it) and you are self-centered enough to think yr opinion matters to her, a complete stranger to you. you sound creepy and obsessed and completely unaware of it. a sensible suggestion: if you don’t like something, don’t read it, and move on to things that do interest you.
Go fuck yourself!
If you dislike Heather’s writing so much, why do you follow her work on multiple websites and even keep track of how long she’s used the same photo? If you don’t like her writing, just don’t read it – there’s no need to be so rude and disrespectful.
You obviously don’t understand how the Internet works, so let me sum it up for you:
The Internet is a huge space where you can choose what you view and whose content you read. Nobody is making you read the stuff Heather has written, or follow her on Tumblr or anywhere else. Nobody is making you read this article.
The fact that you felt the need to post this asinine comment also makes you a hypocrite. Newsflash: you are the one who’s self-centered.
First of all: I hope you do see the irony in following someone’s every move online and bombing them with messages criticizing them for not adhering to the standards *you* set for them and then calling *them* selfcentered. I think it takes a special kind of person to do that – the kind who should seek help about this.
It also takes a special kind of person to assume that only a “polyamorous woman-in-a-man’s-body ‘lesbian'” would read Heather’s essays. I couldn’t be less polyamorous if I tried and the fact that my boobs are so big that heather’s cap couldn’t even begin to cover one sort of defies the man thing. (Though I wish it were different because huge boobs are annoying!)
You appear to have missed this: Yes, everyone is telling Heather how wonderful she is. But everyone is also telling you that what you are doing isn’t.
So yes, it’s fitting you took to Autostraddle, too, to post your vitriol. Because you really are a very special little snowflake.
Well, count on me to fuck up the blockquote. ;)
cool Life you got going there, bro
Yes. Yes yes yes yes. Thank you so much for this.
Sorry I fed the troll, but well I just felt such “shade” at that person and tritia you said what I could not form the words to say
Heather I’m glade you wrote this and that you survived the journey to self acceptance
Fuck yeah badass normals.
No matter what I wear, how I keep my hair, the genitals or gender identity of who I fuck or date to my brother his wife and my other I’ll always be fugly pathetic dyke.
I learned way too young and in a cruel way that one will never be acceptable to everyone, no matter what I’d always be unacceptable to someone and all one can do is rise above because fuck them an’ their shit.
Those people will never achieve what you have. You’ve touched innumerable lives and turned them for the better. You’ve made thousands of people laugh and feel happy for a moment with your recaps. These recaps were once the only thing that made me laugh, and I’ll always remember that. You have created an enormous, wonderful community based on shared sense of humour in #BooRadleyVanCullen. I don’t need to know what you look like to know you’re beautiful.
This is so great, Heather. Thank you for writing it <3
Thank you. I was trying not to cry when I was out eating with my family but I looked nutty anyway haha.
It’s when I read pieces like these that i want to be a stronger, braver person.
I want to also give you a damn hug.
I’m straight, and I didn’t grow up as a “tomboy,” but I related to this piece, and I wanted to tell you that it meant the world to me.
I read it, and I felt less alone. Thank you.
I’ve got a lot of feelings about this, most of which were addressed more eloquently than I can by other commenters. But I would like to add that this reminds me of all the painful work I’ve put into letting go of prettiness as I trait I care about in myself, and it’s so encouraging to hear other queer women talking about their own experiences struggling with the pressure to look just so. I’ve heard feminists say that all women deserve to feel pretty, but that fails to question why women’s value, to themselves and others, is expected to be measured in appearance. Stories like yours remind me how important it is to stop placing such exaggerated value on women’s looks, and inspire me to push harder for change among my immediate circles of friends and acquaintances. This is rambling because I’m tired, but what I’m trying to say is your words do inspire people and make a difference. Thank you.
Hey, Heather. You’re my hero! Your article was brave, honest, forthright and excellent. In short, an inspiration. Keep up the good, hard work. We should all do the same. Perfection is in the process, grrlfriend! ?