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My Pride Story – Steph Schwartz

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A Quest for Happiness

When I was younger, there were many women in TV shows and movies that I found I deeply admired. They were so strong and powerful and beautiful; as a nerdy, frizzy-haired, bookish child, it wasn’t surprising that I would look up to them or want to be them. They were so attractive and wanted by others–especially men–and I knew that that’s what I wanted as well.

Or so I thought.

The Curse of Heteronormativity

Heterosexuality was forced on me, there’s no doubt about that. I was raised in a family that adored reading and movies, and so I was exposed to a very specific sort of romance, where a boy and a girl crushed on each other, and then eventually kissed and confessed their love, usually with a lot of drama and stress and miscommunication in between. This was the only right way to date, as far as I could tell.

So that’s what I tried, for a while. I had crushes on boys, and they almost never crushed back, but that was okay, because in all the books I read the nerdy girl always found someone, eventually, as soon as she discovered makeup and contacts and pretty clothes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it in myself to actually want to pursue those things, though. Out of laziness, probably. But I kept crushing on boys, determined to have the romantic ending that I had read and dreamed about.

Fake it ‘Til You Make It

It took me far too long to realize that something about those crushes and my few subsequent relationships with boys felt forced. I was trying too hard to replicate the feelings and actions I read about or had seen in movies. I was also finally old enough to realize that my “admiration” for the women I saw on TV was maybe a more similar feeling to the crushes I was supposed to have on my male classmates.

I resolutely ignored this realization. I was already a weird enough kid, what with the constant reading and general nerdiness. I didn’t need this other odd thing layered on top of it. I’d never heard of girls liking other girls before, and I didn’t need or want to be the one who had this strange attraction.

But then, in high school, I was introduced to the term ‘bisexuality.’ It was life changing! Suddenly, I could experience both the attraction I was supposed to have, to men, and have this attraction I had never really heard of before, to women. It was perfect. I felt as though I belonged somewhere, finally.

And Love is Love is Love…Cannot Be Killed or Swept Aside
(Lin Manuel Miranda, 2016)

Fast forward to college. I had fairly recently broken up with the last guy I would ever date, and, not for the first time, I was thinking hard about my romantic feelings towards men. Something about my relationships, especially that last one, just wasn’t sitting right with me. Everything that I had read or seen about what I was supposed to experience in a relationship just wasn’t happening for me, no matter how hard I tried. I knew that it was right and proper and socially acceptable to be attracted to and date men; why was it so difficult for me to fit in like that?

It was in the midst of this identity crisis that I was introduced to someone who is now one of my best friends–a lesbian.

I honestly do not know if I had ever heard the word “lesbian” before college. If I had, I probably would have had less of an identity crisis. But meeting my friend made me realize that there was this sexuality, and it existed, and, more importantly, it was okay. I didn’t have to be attracted to men. My attraction to women was totally validated. Finally, after years of confusion and self-doubt, I had a label and a community.

This realization, along with meeting other friends of various sexualities and genders, has led me to a place of personal acceptance and pride in who I am and who I love. I am allowed to be who I am, and no one can tell me otherwise. I can only hope that one day, girls like me won’t have to go through the same doubt and confusion that I had to, and know from the beginning that they are valid, perfect, and accepted.

I am a 22 year old queer individual from Brooklyn NY. I love to create great things and make people laugh. Obsessed with all things literature, theatre, comics and video games.

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Travel On A Budget

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It seems to me like people are taking shorter vacations or opting for trips closer to home, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you work a job that doesn’t pay as well as you’d hope, or maybe you’re a millennial (like me) who’s allegedly spent way too much on avocados and can’t afford a vacation (or a house).

Whatever the reason, this new trend of “I want to travel cheaply so I can buy groceries when I get back” is more popular than ever. But how does one manage this? Vacations seem to be expensive no matter what we do or where we go. And it’s true. Vacations always cost money, but there are ways to drastically reduce your expenses while away.

Off season for the win

Why get sucked into the tourist trap every single year when you can hit up the same spots a week before their tourist season begins? This can be tough depending on the area since some tourist seasons are dependent on weather. But you know what places don’t change much from week to week, whether it’s April or August? You guessed it: the beach. Most vacation spots will have dates for their busy season listed online. Once you have the dates, go a week (or two) early. Prices will be lower and hotels will be less packed.

Hostels and B&B’s

Speaking of hotels, don’t go near them. I’m serious. Go anywhere else. They’re expensive and boring, and bed-n-breakfasts are the hip new thing (unlike someone who still says “hip”). Not only are they cozier, they often have decent prices and are more laid back than hotels.

If you’re in Europe, hostels aren’t what the horror movies make them out to be. They’re actually quite comfortable, right in the middle of the city, and way more affordable than a hotel. If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, youth hostels are an even better choice. They’re more youth-friendly and you’ll be surrounded by people closer to your own age. Make friends while you make great financial choices!

ATM vs. traveler’s check

Traveler’s checks were great when ATMs weren’t a thing, and they can still be useful if there’s no ATM in sight and you happen to know where the closest bank is. But more and more, ATMs are the best option on vacation. You don’t want to carry all of your spending money all at once at the start of the trip, so when you get low on cash, find an ATM. Because there might be fees, take out larger amounts at a time, to limit the number of withdrawals while away. To save money, set yourself a spending/withdrawal limit. It’s tempting to treat yo’self while vacationing, but remember that once you get home, bills and food are still a necessity.

Guidebooks!

You are a strong, independent woman/person/man who don’t need no help. If you’re traveling somewhere unfamiliar, skip the travel agency/service. They’re a rip-off. A good guidebook sells for about $20 and will have all the same information you’d get from a travel agent, without the hassle.

Blend in, eat local

If you ignored my hotel advice, then at least listen to this. If the front desk or concierge recommend a great restaurant right down the street, go anywhere else! Chances are they tell literally every guest to go to that one restaurant, and it will be packed (and not that great). You might end up having to go a little farther from your hotel for a bite, but finding local places are a far more interesting experience than the chain places. And are often cheaper, as they’re not targeting visitors and tourists.

Shop big

A couple of months ago I went to Hawaii with my sister and parents. Before leaving, we’d all promised various friends and family that we would return with souvenirs for everyone. A local in Kailua-Kona was kind enough to warn us away from the touristy “ABC Stores” that seem to be taking over the islands. He said that if we wanted good, cheap souvenirs, we should go to Walmart (I know, I was surprised too).

Local shops are nice, too, of course, and it’s good to support small businesses (and not evil Walmart) but for large quantities of souvenirs, going the cheaper route goes a long way in not breaking the bank.

Free activities will free you

This one is easy. Go to the beach and find free parking. Sit in the sand and catch some sun. Splash in the surf to your heart’s content. Go hiking and find hidden waterfalls and creeks to play in. Anything free is your best bet (and gets you some fresh air).

Vacations mean spending some money, but it doesn’t have to empty your wallet. If you follow these tips and stay aware of what you’re spending, you’ll still have money left over for when you get home (and can buy all the avocados you want, maybe).

Originally posted 2017-09-06 11:10:28.


Also published on Medium.

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Love It, Leave It: The Boston Edition

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This little firecracker of a city is one that gives me the warm and fuzzies. It’s known as the quintessential college town, with 35 packed into a city that clocks in with less than 675,000 residents. More specifically though, it’s my college town. This is where my exorbitant student loan checks go every month…heartwarming. Alas, it’s a city where I came into my own — I read a few books, made some friends, stumbled into love and played a little rugby (what a lesbian). Oh, and I ticked off tons of restaurants in the process; I strived for the sophomore, junior and senior 15.

With several visits on my calendar each year, I make a point to pop into long-standing favorites while leaving time to sample some new joints. P.S. I’ll confess something now that I’ll most likely deny later; even though I’m a diehard New York Yankees fan, catching a Red Sox game at Fenway Park is a must-do…just don’t wear a jersey of the aforementioned team unless you enjoy some expletive-laden Bahston heckling.

Love It: The North End

Fuhgeddaboudit. I think there’s an actual official way people phonetically spell this out, but I went with my gut. If you’re a fan of Little Italy in New York City, you’re going to figuratively (not literally) lose your marbles — unless you have a shaky hand and typically travel with loose marbles — over the North End.

This was the OG neighborhood of Boston, settled by English Puritans in the 1600s. I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re gettin’ up there, North End. You can practically feel the rich history seeping through your Frye boots as you saunter down the intimate cobblestone streets; feel free to pause and give a quick shout out to that famous guy Paul Revere who once lived here. After you’ve eyed up some of that Freedom Trail everyone’s always going on about, it’s time for the main event. Head to one of the North End Italian institutions, kiss a large man named Tony (there will be a Tony, trust me) on both cheeks, tuck your napkin in your shirt, and start twirling some spaghetti. There are plenty of cozy, casual, and cash-only joints like Giacomo’s on Hanover Street (aka the main drag), where the menu is written on the wall, portions are anything but small, and you feel like you’re sitting in a Nonna’s dining room. Elevated dining experiences at high-end restaurants can also be found with little effort; spots like Mamma Maria exude elegance and romance with dimly lit, cozy nooks and plate riffs on typical Italian staples–rabbit pappardelle anyone?

Dessert is another hotly debated topic in the North End. You’re either a Mike’s Pastry or a Modern Pastry person (gasp, I’m into both). Grab a cannoli at either spot and maybe some napkins to wipe the powder off of your goofy, satisfied smile.

Leave It: Faneuil Hall’

Historically speaking, this is also a place you should swipe right to. Quincy Market has been in existence since 1826, slowly creeping up on its 200 year anniversary. The Mayor of Boston — Josiah, you guessed it, Quincy — thought the overflowing marketplace, full of wooden stalls hawking seafood and vegetables, in Faneuil Hall had become what we today would calleth a “hot mess.” Thus, the market was born. Today, the Faneuil Hall area is jam-packed with parents donning cheesy souvenir store t-shirts, with family in tow, heading to the kitschiest of chain restaurants; yes, including the likes of Cheers and Dick’s Last Resort. Plenty of smaller vendors like the Boston Chowda Co. line the market’s walls, but this is more for the 9-5 downtown work crowd that needs to pick up something for a fast bite. It’s not the place to head for memorable Boston grub. Pro tip: if you are looking for some quick eats, head to the Boston Public Market just a few minutes down the way; it showcases tons of local purveyors and has stands that sell everything from ramen to doughnuts.

Originally posted 2017-09-05 17:00:46.

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8 Homophobic Brands to Avoid

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Here at TravelPRIDE, our goal is total inclusivity and acceptance. Bigotry of all kinds is all too common, and we like to promote a message of love as much as possible. If you’re looking to do the same, knowing where not to spend your money is a great place to start. There are plenty of gay-friendly companies, but there are also plenty of homophobic ones. Boycotting these companies (not giving them your support/money) is the perfect start to ending hate.

Chick-fil-A

Plenty of LGBTQ people already avoid Chick-fil-A already (partly because the food is not great, but that’s my opinion) because of company president Dan Cathy’s open homophobia. According to Huffington Post, a report was published saying that as of 2010 the company had donated almost $2 million to anti-gay groups across the country. So if you want a chicken sandwich, I suggest going somewhere that’s open on Sundays.

Urban Outfitters

People are getting whiplash from Urban Outfitters’ stance on marriage equality. With a conservative chairman and recent push back for pulling a pro-gay-marriage shirt from its shelves, Urban Outfitters reportedly, according to an article from SFist, “donates 100 percent of its ‘Marriage Equality’ t-shirt sales to EQCA and NCLR,” which are two group leading the charge against the recent Supreme Court challenge on legalizing same-sex marriage.

With its history of flip-flopping on the gay marriage issue, it’s best to stay aware of Urban Outfitters’ current stance. They seem to be supportive now, but this could change as homophobia remains present across the United States.

Barilla

My little gay heart has been overjoyed at seeing gay couples featured in various advertisements. But according to Barilla’s chairman, you’ll never see this from the pasta company. In an interview with LGBTQNation, he went even further in his attack on the LGBTQ community, saying “I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose.”

So much for gaining more customers, Barilla. I think I’ll be buying generic from now on.

Exxon

This one will have you taking the bus to work from now on. With a history of eliminating domestic-partner benefits for same sex couples, according to an article on Queerty, you might want to reconsider that gas-guzzling car as your go-to mode of transportation. Taking the bus will not only take money away from big oil’s profits and homophobic practices, you’ll help the environment too.

Salvation Army (according to the same article from Queerty)

Between Salvation Army’s open homophobia and Goodwill’s exploitation of differently-abled employees, as revealed by Huffington Post, I’m at a loss as to where to donate my stuff. That being said, knowing that Salvation Army actively fights pro-gay-marriage legislation, I think I’ll be holding a lot more garage sales in the future, and you should too if you’re part of the LGBTQ community.

Purina

On the same Huffington Post list as Exxon and Salvation army, the Fancy Feast company refuses to provide benefits to same-sex couples. While they haven’t confessed anything more openly homophobic than this, partner benefits are still a huge deal and spending your dollars on other pet food brands might be a wise choice.

Boy Scouts of America

Surprise, surprise. A male-dominated group not supporting same-sex couples? Astonishing. This isn’t a company, per se, but the BSA relies on donations, and you can decide to support a better, more gay-friendly organization. While the Boy Scouts do allow openly gay males to join, it’s still taboo to be an openly-gay leader. It’s progress, but not nearly enough. If I were you, I’d donate to a worthier cause, such as the Girl Scouts of the USA, a group that is openly pro-gay and pro-choice

Cracker Barrell

While not at all shocking that a southern-themed restaurant wouldn’t support the LGBTQ community, it’s not exactly funny. In another Huffington Post article, it was reported that “In 1991, 11 employees were fired for not displaying ‘normal heterosexual values,’ as was prescribed by an intra-company memo.” The same article reports the company has been known to segregate its customers in restaurants. So add racism into the mix, and you get a company not looking good for any minority. So if you’re craving grits and biscuits, I’d recommend finding your favorite southern dishes elsewhere.

I think we all know that this list is far from complete. It would take weeks or maybe months to find and list every single company with anti-gay practices. If you want to help out your fellow readers, let us know in the comments what other companies you boycott because of their homophobic policies. We’d love your participation in adding to this list, so we can continue to fight hate wherever it appears.

Originally posted 2017-09-05 13:55:21.


Also published on Medium.

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