07 June 2014

Beyond Bullying


Myself and Lea Delaria (Orange is the New Black)
I had a chance to sit down and talk with some of the most iconic LGBTQ people working both on and off screen in the media today during their panel Beyond Bullying: What's Next For TV's LGBT Teens. I am so honored to have met them and to have been able to talk to all four of them about the shows they work on, their views on certain aspects of gay characters on television, and also about their off-screen interests (re: the sexiness that is Adam Levine). Much thanks to Lea Delaria (Orange is the New Black), Carter Covington (Faking It), Wilson Cruz (GLAAD), and my awesome new friend Michael Willett (Faking It) not only for their admirable work on television but also for being awesome, friendly, inspiring people outside of their jobs as well.

I spent most of the panel listening intently (and even taking notes), planning to outline a blog post based around their views on what I thought to be some of the most important topics discussed during the panel. But, because this is a personal blog, that all got thrown out the window after the panel had ended. I may type up my notes into actual sentences later, but I want to use this post just to show my appreciation for these people (and for all of the panelists at ATX Festival) on a personal level .

Most people know that I had a fairly life-changing encounter with Brittany Snow at ATX Festival last year that led me to seeking more help for my mental illness. If not for that moment and her kindness, I honestly don't know where I would be right now, but I don't think it would be anywhere good. This year, I was honored to meet Michael Willett and to be encouraged and inspired by him. (I told him I was going to put him in my blog.) Not going to lie, before today, I had no idea who in the world he was. I actually didn't know who any of the people speaking in the Beyond Bullying panel were (except for Lea, who was not actually IN the panel, but sitting behind me during it). I just knew that it was a panel I HAD to go to because it was television that had helped me figure out and accept my own sexuality and identity. (Shout out to Olivia Wilde for that one!)

First of all, there is something about Michael that right off the bat makes you feel welcomed and accepted. (And, no, it's not just his gorgeous face. But if I was a gay dude [or a straight girl???] that would definitely play a part.) Unlike many of the people I have the privilege of meeting, he was very approachable. As was Wilson Cruz (who is equally as approachable as he is entertaining). I have a habit of hovering (even around people I already know). Do I say hi? Do I not say hi? Do I creepily stare and hope they notice me and say hi first? (Unfortunately, I tend to go with the last one and then judge myself for it later.) Fortunately, I did not have to creepily stare very long at anyone today. (Except for at my friend Allison as I was waiting for her to enter SFA bc I was STARVING TO DEATH, but she's way used to me by now.) I don't get the feeling of being accepted very often in my life. To meet Michael and then Wilson, Carter, and Lea put me at ease for the rest of the day. (And made me miss Daniel Manzano because he has always made it a point to remind me I am worth talking to.)

Which brings me to my next point.

Not many people I meet take the time to sit down and talk to me like both Michael and Wilson did. The main problem I have with going to television festivals outside of ATX is that I don't feel like a person. And I don't feel like the people around me are people either. (Why would I want that when I don't even feel like a person in my own daily life? Oh, right, because I want to be a writer and I might learn something new at TV festivals.) There are certain festivals I attend where, because I am a fan, I feel like I am less than a human while around those who work on television. To actually be able to sit down and speak to the panelists without security telling me to move along and treating me like a stalker just for existing in the same room as the panelists would only be a dream. Being a fan of something seems to make you automatically dubbed 'screaming fangirl'. Being a fan at certain conventions makes you less than fit to talk to the panelists, and occasionally makes you feel as though you are a lesser person. The best part of ATX is that I can stop to talk to people like Brittany Snow, Wilson Cruz, and Michael Willett and have an actual conversation without being treated poorly. (This blows my mind because I can't even get my friends to have extended conversations with me sometimes.)

Wilson Cruz, Michael Willett, myself, Carter Covington
I was floored by being able to have a serious, extended conversation with Wilson and Michael – and then later just Michael. Lately in my life, I feel as though I have been treated as less than human in many areas. For someone to sit down and talk to me like I was a person was a shock. (For it to happen again later as I was having dinner with Allison was like an electric chair). This whole post is now just turning into a 'oh my god, someone talked to me' post somehow. But I guess that's the point. These people took the time to talk to me and to listen to me and to encourage me and to make me feel human. And I am beyond appreciative and I want to thank them for that. Because I often lose sight of the fact I am worthy of being befriended in my life, and television festivals tend to only drive that home. I earn so many badges of 'last resort friend', 'someone to put up with', 'fangirl', 'wanna-be writer' and much more, but hardly ever 'worthy of talking to'. So, thank you Wilson and Michael for making me feel like a person today. I hope to meet you both again. (LA and Asbury Park, yes or definitely yes?)

To my readers not watching Orange is the New Black or Faking It, I highly recommend giving them a shot. I've not yet started Faking It, but with the amazing reviews I have heard and the even more amazing Michael and Carter, it will be the first show I watch when I return home.


Seriously, best tree ever. Carl climbed it and felt like a real bear.

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