I had a very different post in mind for today. I had a post about Pride, because it’s June, and as part of my birthday “celebration” I’m going to my local Pride parade for the very first time at the youthful age of 43. (Well, I’m turning 43. I’m still bothered enough by society’s obsession with women’s youth to cling to that last week’s worth of being 42.)
And then I woke up this morning to the news that a celebrity I admired had taken his own life. It hit me hard. I sat down and scrolled through my Twitter feed. I saw a lot of posts about him, his life, all the wonderful things he brought to this world. And I saw a lot of other news to fill my outrage quota for the day, before I’d even had my first cup of coffee or hugged my daughter.
And then I saw a picture of an actor I enjoy. He’d stopped to take a picture with some young fans, and the fan’s delight brought a smile to my face. In the middle of all of this terrible news, here was this person who had been moved to actual giddiness by the kind gesture of a man I know to be busy, dealing with his own crap.
So, this month’s word is frivolous. The top definition of frivolous is “of little weight or importance.”
In the Western world right now, it can feel like everything is going straight to Hell. Social media is a wonderful tool in that we can educate ourselves as to the experiences of people who are not like us, but it can also be very disheartening to realize things we thought were getting better are still pretty awful. The political situation, certainly in the US where I live but also in other areas, is dangerous and is proving how precarious our hard-won rights truly are. Many of us are dealing with personal issues that are equally dangerous, and more immediate.
Add mental health issues into that mix. The assault on health care has a strong effect on mental health. Personally, I live in Massachusetts, and we have fairly strong protections for now. That doesn’t change the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health issues, or the fact that bisexual people are more likely to face mental health issues than our monosexual brethren.
What does any of that have to do with the word “frivolous?”
Well. For one thing, my profession is often attacked for being “frivolous.” Only recently, in an article on Electric Lit*, an author made a vocal complaint about the existence of male/male romance at all. He wasn’t the first, he won’t be the last. I’ve taken grief from my Spouse, because I’m “wasting time” on frivolous things like TV that I could be using for work or for study. Activists can be very hard on themselves, which has the end result of shaming each other, if they “indulge” in something as frivolous as a night at a house party instead of organizing against money bail or whatever their cause is.
And sure, study and fighting and High Literature are all important. So is joy. So is hope. So is connecting with our friends, our family, and our community – all of the reasons we’re fighting in the first place.
Someone once said, and I want to say it was the awesome Beverly Jenkins, “Romance is the literature of hope.” We’re in dark times right now. We need that hope more than ever. And even if some people out there want to turn up their noses, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to wrap yourself up in the comfort of a certain happy ending when we know about all of the evil going on in the real world right now.
There is a lot of ugliness out there. Isolating ourselves from it would be foolish. Some people have an easier time hiding from reality than others, but at the end of the day it’s going to be ugly for everyone at some point. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating beauty and joy where you can find it. Pop music, consensually taken pictures of fave actors or singers, hell even a funny TV show are awesome. We need that joy. That little bit of happiness, that small spark, can be a lifeline.
LGBTQ+ people face a double whammy when dealing with mental health issues**. Dealing with bias and discrimination exacerbates illness and can lead to anxiety and depression, and of course we have the fun of dealing with the stigma of mental illness on top of said biases. This is especially true of bisexual individuals, who face bias within the LGBTQ+ community as well. Medication can help – it’s been helpful for me – but it’s not effective for everyone, and it’s not accessible to everyone either. There is nothing wrong with doing what you have to do for your own mental health.
I can’t emphasize that enough. If what you need is to seek help, don’t let anyone shame you about it. And if you need to take a break and recharge, put your feet up and enjoy something for a little while, you do that. There is no shame in it. Don’t become a martyr to someone else’s idea of who you should be, whether you’re in or out of the closet.
It’s great if someone can put all of their focus, all of the time, into being a hundred percent serious about whatever it is that they’re doing – fighting the good fight, Making Great Art™, whatever. I think setting that as the expectation is a recipe for disaster. We’re living in an era of mental health crisis right now. Taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. “Frivolous” things like books we enjoy, things that make us smile, food that tastes good – these are all things that can give us the energy to keep on fighting, and every single one of us needs that.
* I am not linking to the article, because while there were some good points to be made I think a lot of it was rooted in misogyny and it was distinctly angry-making