Interweaving comedy and advocacy, Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo have delighted and empowered LGBTQ youth through their project, “Everyone is Gay.” More of a platform than a website, “Everyone is Gay” combines videos, written advice, and a list of resources that is directed towards LGBTQ youth, striking a tone that is approaching, entertaining, and informative. Dannielle and Kristin also frequently tour colleges and communities around the country, where they are able to connect with their audience in person (and by connect, we mostly mean laugh).
After reaching such success with their initial project, Dannielle and Kristin are expanding their work to include resources for parents of LGBTQ youth with their newly created The Parents Project which is a first-of-its-kind digital presence, inclusive of videos, advice, and resources, dedicated exclusively toward helping parents understand their LGBTQ kids. On September 5th, Dannielle and Kristin will release their book, helpfully titled, This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids. Starting this fall, Dannielle and Kristin will tour the US talking to parents and youth across the country.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five with ‘Everyone is Gay’!
Suzanna Bobadilla: Thank you so much for speaking with us today! To get things started: How did ‘Everyone is Gay’ transform from a web vlog series to a printed book for parents of LGBTQ youth?
Dannielle Owens Reid: It’s kind of two fold. The idea first sprouted because, as you know, we have been talking to youth for so long and a lot of them ask us to talk to their parents. A lot of them are half-way jokingly, “Can you come out to my parents for me?” and then not joking at all, “Will you please explain to my parents what transgender means?” We have run into a ton of questions from youth who want us to talk to their parents, or that have questions about their parents, or how to communicate with their parents. So that’s the first part of it and why the idea arrived.
The second part of it is — once the idea did come about and we started to write this book about parenting for gay kids, we looked for resources to put in the resource guide, and there weren’t very many. And the ones that were, there’s PFLAG which is an incredible resource and their family acceptance project resources are kind of spread out, but we couldn’t find anything online that was a comprehensive resource where you could go and find specific information, stories, video. There wasn’t anything like that — it was kind of a necessity and we were surprised that there wasn’t anything. We just looked at each other and were like, “Let’s do it!” We created it on our own. The website has only been up for a couple months and it’s such an incredible resources already that we even though we are overwhelmed because we have like 15 jobs, we are both so stoked that we saw something that was necessary and pull through and did it.
Suzanna Bobadilla: What are some of the better things that a parent can say to their child as they are coming out and what are some of the worse things to say?
Kristin Russo: I think that a lot of parents are in the position where they think that their child might be LGBTQ and they ask them directly, straight out. My mom did that to me, Dannielle’s mom did that to her. Not to out our moms, but a lot of parents don’t know that actually it’s not a good step to take because even though you may be ahead of the curve and you might know something, your child might not even know and there’s a chance that you’re wrong. Rather than ask your child outright, “are you gay?” the better move is to work to create an environment that’s loving and accepting and you talk about things like, “Hey, did you see that Laverne Cox was on the cover of Time? I think it’s so incredible that the visibility is really increasing,” or using whatever terms you have in your household to make that sentiment a constant presence in your household. Then you are giving the signal to your kid that if they are gay, if they are queer, if they are transgender, they can come to you when they need to have a conversation and they can be a little less concerned that you might be upset about it or kick them out of the house. Young people, and almost all of us have gone through this, with a really great home environment are still really scared to come out to their parents because they are so afraid that “even though my mom has always said these positive things, maybe when it’s her child, it’s different.” The more you can put it out in a balanced way it’s better for your kid.
SB: So much of your organization is centered about fan feedback from the topics you discuss in your videos to the creation of this book. What type of feedback have you already with this new project?
Dannielle: We have been getting honestly only positive feedback. It’s a lot of ‘thank yous’ and ‘please keep doing this.’ It feels like people are seeing that we are doing the Parents’ Project and they are like ‘Thank God! I’ve been wondering about this for years, I can finally ask it.’ It seems like everyone was waiting for it to happen and now they have this really great resource, they are super open to asking questions. We have these incredibly supportive emails from parents that are so glad that the resource exists even though it’s still early.
Kristin: The other really cool thing about the feedback that we have been getting is that it’s not only from parents who need the resource, but we have also been getting feedback from parents who have gone through a lot of this process already who have been saying things like, “If only I have had this!” I think for Danielle and myself while creating this project, we thought a lot about our own parents. For example, my mom, if she knew that someone was a lesbian, like an actual lesbian, she would corner them no matter where we were to ask them, “Are you having kids? Did you have kids? Are you married? How is that?” Of course my mom didn’t run into that many out lesbians in Upper State New York in 1998, but hearing from those parents too is really encouraging because they know what they needed, more so because they have a distance from it than parents who are currently in the thick of it.
SB: Your project is a great example of how to combine digital media with advocacy. Now that more and more folks are creating their own projects, what best practices would you want to share with them?
Dannielle: We talk about this a lot with one another because we started this thing not knowing anything and accidentally doing everything. One of the main things that we both try to remember is that we try not to get bogged down by not having a lot of notes or comments. We talked to someone a while ago who was just getting started with a trans blog, who said, “I only have 100 followers, why am I doing this?” But what we say is, “That is 100 people who other would not have a resource like you.” If you start something and you have a story to be told and you have questions that you can answer and you feel like not enough people are paying attention to you, that’s not the case. You are helping people. Not getting bogged down is really, really important, especially to what we do.
Another thing is asking for help. That is something that we struggle with so often, but people want to help us. If you are doing good for the world and you are helping, people want to help you. It’s hard to ask for help and it’s hard to say what you need and it’s so, so important and it’s something we try to remember very often.
Suzanna Bobadilla wants you to have a great weekend.