Dillan DiGiovanni

Five things you can do during LGBTQI Pride Season to make an actual difference.

LGBTQ, GeneralDillan DiGiovanniComment

It's June! Which means it's my birthday and also Pride season, at least on the upper east coast of the United States. When is Pride season near you?

If you're hetero/cis (heterosexual and cisgender) and I lost you at Pride season, let me back up. 

Pride season is a term that (I made up and/or) is loosely used to refer to annual celebrations of LGBTQI Pride, i.e. parades, film festivals, parties, etc. If you suddenly see hundreds of rainbow flags flying all around, you know it's Pride season. It's a time of year where folks host events to honor the progress the LGBTQI communities (PLURAL, FOLKS. We aren't one big goddamn group) have made over the years to get more of the same legal and social rights and privileges that straight, cisgender people have been getting for decades. 

If you're not sure what rights and privileges you have been taking for granted, click here

And here.

And here

And here.

And you thought it was just about gay marriage! Well, you're not alone. GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) published their 'Accelerating Acceptance' report in January 2016 which "reveals a startling level of complacency and ambivalence among Americans on LGBT issues. The survey – fielded online from October 5-7, 2015 among 2,032 adults ages 18 and older – also shows growing levels of acceptance among non-LGBT Americans."

But maybe you're someone who isn't LGBTQI and you don't have to really think about things related to your sexual orientation or gender identity, but you DO want to know more or show your support for folks you know and love during Pride season. 

GREAT! Because... 

Complacency is the enemy of social progress.
— Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD CEO & President

AMEN. I actually think complacency is the enemy of ALL progress but especially if we're trying to get all human beings in all countries the same basic human and legal rights. Now, you might think you're one small person and you can't really impact the cultural shift we need to make a real difference. Trust me, I give over to cynicism and resignation about this stuff all the time. I came out for the first time as "queer" in 2001 and then again as trans* in 2012 and NOW AGAIN (surprise!) as demisexual in 2017. My sexuality is one ongoing, lifelong adventure and it's pretty awesome. What ISN'T awesome is how hetero/cis folks behave around me as someone who lives my life on the margins of what's considered "normal". People don't say or do unkind things but instead they infantilize or patronize or tokenize me. Please click on those words so you know what I'm talking about.

Many well-intentioned folks certainly don't mean any harm, of that I'm sure. But with all the videos and resources and websites and movies and tv shows and books and trainings available, folks still keep themselves pretty clueless and lean on people like me to help them catch up. I have to be 100% honest, it gets old. It's 2017 and there is a lot of information available and when you're someone who gets asked the same questions over and over, you get tired. And that fatigue leads to frustration which leads to anger and often deep depression. And depression is killing many LGBTQI folks for this reason and many other reasons (like all the rights and privileges we don't have). 

So, if you're someone who identifies as mostly straight and cisgender and truly want to help, here are five things you can do during Pride season to make an actual difference: 

1) Cease asking your LGBTQI friends and family to explain everything to you.

We know you're curious. We know you mean well. And we are tired of talking about it. Some of us make a living talking about our sexuality for a living. Most don't really want to. How many heterosexual/cisgender people do? 

Imagine yourself doing the same thing, day in and day out. For example, if you're a woman and believe sexism is real and pretty annoying and bad, imagine constantly explaining it to clueless men or non-feminist women, all day, every day. Imagine doing that for years. Imagine doing it for years and being tired and when you express being tired, people say, "well, sorry! I was just curious. This is new to me. We need YOU to explain it," and having to hear that over and over.

It's 2017 and we have the internet (yay!) and there are so many resources available and yes they say different, conflicting things and it's hard to know the "real" answer to things.

That's because there is NOT ONE answer for anything about anything regarding human beings.

Yes, there are some stereotypes and generalizations, much like the ones we can make for any group but the LGBTQI communities are made of millions of unique people with different stories. Each person you meet has a different life experience to share. Meet people and develop relationships with them and you will learn what life is like for LGBTQI individuals over the course of your life. 

2) Change your Facebook profile picture AND invite other heterosexual, cisgender people to have a conversation AND change your language.

Thanks for showing other people that you support LGBTQI individuals! Now, strike up a conversation or demonstrate why you're changing your picture. Engage people in a dialogue to change their minds (or open them)! Speak up on Facebook and in the checkout line when people are thumbing through a magazine and call Caitlyn Jenner by her former name. Three people did this at dinner the other night. I corrected each of them three times each in a span of three minutes. Be brave and vulnerable with your advocacy because while it's scary, it's less risky for you than it is for us to be alive sometimes. Ask questions of other heterosexual, cisgender people to question why things are still the way they are and ask what people commit to changing or doing to change things. Changing your picture is a nice gesture but to create real cultural change, we also need you to take action to actually move our culture forward a notch. Engage people in compassionate conversation and make them just a little uncomfortable. That's how we move people out of complacency. 

Another major thing you can do is change your language. If you see someone and aren't sure about that person's gender identity or sexual orientation, you can do what I just did. First, don't worry about it. Second, refer to that person as a person. For example: "hey, see that person over there? I like that person's haircut" or "yes, I asked for directions from that person standing over there in the blue shirt" or "I wonder if that person needs help, should we find out?" or "that person seems really cool. I wonder if that person would be interested in dating me!"

See? If you don't know, just refer to that person as a PERSON until you find out. Super easy. 

3) Donate to local or federal organizations working to support LGBTQI rights.

You are one person making a difference with your presence on the planet. It's not a small thing and in fact:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead

There are also MANY large organizations doing amazing work each and every day to help change things at a cultural level. Here is a big list.

Pick one or ten and donate to them. Or better yet, contact them and ask how you can get involved and help. Your actual beautiful face can make a bigger difference than your dollars can. But both are awesome. :)

4) Commit to openly supporting LGBTQI people all year, every year.

It's so easy to get in the spirit when something is in focus. It's fun to grab a flag or paint a rainbow on your face and say you did your part. But the need for LGBTQI pride and visibility is a year-round thing, especially in countries or even US states where folks face discrimination and harassment on a daily basis. And that is what most folks actually deal with, every day, in some form or fashion. Commit to educating yourself and attending events and showing your support or speaking up in whatever ways you can throughout the year. Interrupt homophobia. Correct people commenting about transgender people. Show up and be seen, mostly to bring more hetero/cis people on board to be more active and vocal. The biggest threat we have to make real change is the ignorance of other people. Many hetero/cis people actually think all LGBTQI issues are already solved. I know, it's pretty crazy that they don't know what they don't even know. It's ok. Help them learn by talking about things and engaging in activism (eek! now you're one of "us") on the regular. 

5) Experiment with your own sexuality.

Sexuality encompasses who you love or want to hook up with (sexual orientation) and how you present yourself to the world (gender identity and presentation). Explore your own sexual attraction and gender identity. Express different gender presentations and roles. Explicitly share what you come to learn and know about yourself. I'm not kidding. In my opinion, the biggest help you can provide to LGBTQI folks is overcoming your own fear and ignorance about your own sexuality. When you're aware of the full range of identities and experiences available (and there are many!) and you can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that you're comfortable and not at all unclear about what you like and what you don't, you help us all. Why? Because then sexuality becomes normalized. It becomes obvious. It becomes a non-issue. It becomes a no-brainer by virtue of it being no big freaking deal. Much of the violence LGBTQI folks face may come from folks who repress their own sexuality and act out from fear. And then there are well-intentioned folks who think they might be something of the LGBTQI variety but don't know and ask tons of questions instead of just jumping in and sampling things for themselves. Just try. Explore. Experiment. All of dating and loving is constant experiment anyway--I mean, isn't LIFE just one big experiment?!

Put yourself out there and help normalize the experience of evolving sexuality so we gradually move away from certain things being socially acceptable and others not. 

This short list contains just a few ideas to help you do something with your daily life that will actually help move us forward as a human race. If every person committed to doing one of these things, it would have a tremendous impact. Which one sounds most exciting or interesting for you? Leave a comment below and please share this article to inspire others toward doing something truly innovative this Pride season. 

Thank you! 

Actually, I'm an asshole.

Dillan DiGiovanniComment

Spring is here! It's my most favorite season, representing all that's invigorating and hopeful about life and rebirth. I began this blog eight years ago, and as April arrives I think carefully about this theme of being reborn or coming back to life after the dead of winter.

This year, there was no struggle or confusion about what I'd share. 

This year included more death than I anticipated as well as my own rebirth.

And in this incarnation, the truth is actually, I'm an a**hole. And it's so liberating to share that after too many years of hiding and hoping no one would notice. I laugh to think the hiding was effective at any point along the way. I surrender to accept the glaring and obvious reality that's been blinding people this whole time.

Well, some people. Others think I'm this totally relatable, nice person. Inspiring, they tell me.

Perhaps it's all true. But here's a nugget that's worth sharing: to be inspiring, one must first be a real a**hole. And know it. And accept it. The reason being, nothing real or authentic comes from willfully ignoring or glossing over the often painful or unsavory nature of who we are as human beings. But too many of us spend so much time either pretending we aren't a**holes or, worse yet, hardly acknowledging we are if we can even bring ourselves to see it.

But we are. We're all a**holes. I am, and you are. We all are. We have aspects of us that manifest as wretched scarcity toward ourselves and other people. We deprive ourselves and other people of the love and resources and energy and compassion and patience we all need to thrive in this lifetime. We are mean. We are judgmental. We cheat. We withhold. We are impatient. We settle for less. We skip dessert. We drink too much too often and have plenty of time for Netflix binges but can't find time or money or energy to make ourselves dinner.

We are polite to a fault. We are fake. We are self-deprecating. We are "nice".

We limit ourselves and project those limitations onto others. We doubt. We mansplain or momsplain. We are ungrateful. We are manipulative and engage in explicit or implicit power struggles and say things like, "sorry I didn't return your call from three months ago. I am JUST SO BUSY! Hope you're ok."

We do this. I do this. And we do all of it until it's habit and becomes who we are for ourselves and other people, many of whom we claim to love. It's so interwoven into our daily rituals of behavior, it becomes barely discernable and, without a sense of self-awareness, remains a blind spot. Who we actually are lies outside our consciousness and we may go about life acting like a**holes with no idea at all.

Until we come to it, as I have this year. I came to see the things I do and the ways I am that make me a real a**hole. It's certainly not all I am, but rather than only focus on my strong points, I find a lot more freedom actually attending to and accepting the parts that make me an unsavory character. Addressing the a**hole in me actually makes me the best person I'm capable of being.

The self-awareness I've nurtured since opening the pages of New Age books in my early 20s has become a lot like the glaring streetlight that finds you through a bedroom window at night. You toss and turn and try to pretend it isn't there, but it waits patiently, bright as the sun, as your head finds the perfect spot on the pillow. 

But it's so comfortable here, can't I just be comfortable? Nope, says self-awareness. You need to see this.

And I see it. As the old me became a relic, I see plainly who that person had been.  That person wanted to be loving, but was selfish. That person wanted to be powerful, but often blamed. That person wanted to be right and seen and heard, so would silence and ignore others. That person wanted to be loved, so gave beyond healthy limits. All this and more I did subconsciously and without intention to be an asshole. 

But Dillan! (you're perhaps saying to yourself) you look so happy and seem to be successful in your life and especially in your career as a health coach. People seem to think you're a swell person. Have you been lying to us this WHOLE DAMN TIME?!

No. I haven't been lying. I've been sharing the authentic truth as best as I understood it from day to day, month to month, year to year. If I need to use the gender transition for the ultimate death/rebirth story, hell I'll do it. I'm not above symbolic metaphors. I was raised Catholic, after all, and it's Easter. 

This year was the year I completed a long journey that began when I opened the pages of a book titled Ishmael in 1997 and started thinking about my impact on other people. And I thought I was a lot less of an a**hole than I still am 20 years later. This year revealed that if it's true, it's only because I am finally able to admit it. And that happened only when I stopped long enough to reflect on what was going well and what wasn't and why I was the source of it all. 

This year was the year, as I struggled to find meaning and purpose in my personal suffering, and prayed or hoped for things to just go back to the way they were before or work out better than they seemed to be, it finally came to me: I was an a**hole. I had been one and was one and the only reason I wasn't more of one was because I had taken on this incredibly challenging path of personal development. I realized with this subtle nudge that felt like someone somewhere saying, "yeah, duh" that I would never go back to the person I had been, physically or mentally or spiritually or emotionally because I had evolved. I had transformed. And I wouldn't become the person I desired until I fully accepted who I had been. 

When I took on the transition, I naively thought it would be the slightly more male version of the old me. Turns out, the person I became is a much better version, inside and out.  

And it was because I decided to embrace my inner a**hole. When my transition went from empowering and exciting to debilitating and discouraging and eventually despairing to the point of suicidal tendencies, I figured it was time to reassess. Maybe this was here to teach me something more than I signed up for.

The process took a lot longer than I would have liked but phew! I made it! And what I see will hopefully be a balm for masses of people who grapple with feelings like mine. If you're feeling left out because you're cisgender and not trans*, please don't. Everyone's included in the personal transformation life adventure of discovering and uncovering yourself as an a**hole!

I began my process by asking, "who am I, really?" over 20 years ago and persevered through more changes, choices and challenging than I can count on all my digits. 

It was the final choice, the choice to claim my inner asshole or the ego as it's often referred to, that made the ultimate breakthrough possible. 

It's quite a challenge to see ourselves as an asshole, let alone embrace and accept it. But if you can start now, you increase your chances of not ending up as an older version of yourself with no clue as to why things go as they do and why you feel like something just won't quite click into place no matter what you do, say, eat, watch, wear, buy, or build. 

If you can start seeing that actually, you're an asshole, things will begin to move in the right direction. The a**hole keeps you limited. Admitting you're an a**hole makes much more possible. And don't worry about what people will think, they already think it anyway. 

So, are you ready to become who you truly are?

Why You Should Fire Your Coach

GeneralDillan DiGiovanniComment

 There comes a time where you just need to do it. You need to fire your coach. Whether it's a health coach or life coach or business coach or athletic coach. Or lactating coach. Or...I'll stop there.

If you have ever hired someone to support you in changing, improving or shifting some aspect of your life, it's important to know when it's time to end that relationship.

Ready means different things to different people, as I've learned from both being a health coach and also hiring different coaches or other practitioners to support my own health and my business.

Readiness determines action which determines success. 

And it's usually time to fire your coach if you're really not ready to do the work involved in that relationship. If you DO feel ready, however, another reason it's important to know when to fire your coach (or other support person) is if you can tell it's not a good fit. You want to change but you need the right person to help you. 

So, how do you know which it is and what to do?

1) You'd rather complain than take action. Hey, we're human. When we aren't ready to change, we make excuses in the form of complaints. The excuses are a defensive mechanism to avoid the pain and truth of taking responsibility for our lives and our health. "You mean I have to actually cook for myself if I want to eat better--my partner/friend/parent/boss doesn't count?" I say this as someone who has personally fought tooth-and-nail to understand and overcome this, and witnessed hundreds of others do the same. BEWARE! Your excuses can often be highly-credited and widely-agreed upon amongst your circle of friends, family and colleagues--why else would you hang around those people if not to have the feeling of being "right" most of the time?? We could complain our lives away and probably surround ourselves with people who listen and do it too, as long as we want to stay the way we are. If you find you're complaining about the tasks or assignments you're being given by your coach, it's time to fire that person.

2) You keep rescheduling appointments. My gosh, your life is busy. You have SO MANY things to get done and the hour needed to catch up with your coach is just...the straw that will break your back. It's nothing personal, you are just too busy. 

3) You find yourself resenting the support or recommendations. Your coach asks good questions or makes recommendations and you find yourself instantly coming up with rebuttals or reasons why it wouldn't work for you. If you hear from your coach between scheduled sessions, it annoys you. The questions the person asks make you think and/or feel things you'd just rather not deal with. Or maybe you've clearly asked what you need and the person seems to miss it. They talk over you. They aren't really listening to you, they are talking to hear themselves talk. They are bringing an agenda, consciously or not. Either way, the "support" isn't occurring like support at all for you.

4) You dread appointments instead of count the hours between them. Similar to the above, you find yourself trying to find ways to get out of your scheduled sessions and you spend time crafting perfectly-worded emails or planning to call when you're pretty sure the person won't answer the phone. And then you put off calling because now you're not sure if they will answer or not ...

5) You don't trust the person. Something just doesn't feel right. You can't put your finger on it but it's there. You've done all the right things and you sincerely crave a change but this person doesn't seem to get you or hear you. Or for some other reason, you just don't trust this person really gets what you're going through or can be the person to help you through it. 

6) You just aren't getting the results you hoped for. You've stuck with it. You've done everything you can think of . You gave it the old college try but, nope. You feel little to no progress and things aren't shifting despite your best efforts. 

Maybe it's timing. Maybe it's chemistry. Maybe it's your readiness for change. Maybe it's the person's limitations. Whatever the reason, get clear on your part and decide if things aren't working because of something you're doing or not doing or because you just need to fire your coach. Do you need to take time away from whatever change you're trying to make or find a new person who might be a better fit?

If you're not sure, don't keep doing something that isn't making you a better, healthier, happier version of yourself. Only invest in a relationship that helps you do this.