Being a Beacon of Authenticity for the Community and Allies Alike with Lisa Sugarman

“I think the real joy in life comes when you just meet the people who mean the most to you exactly where they are, and you embrace them for where they are.” – Lisa Sugarman

Heather is joined by Lisa Sugarman, a mom, a parenting author, a nationally syndicated humor columnist, and a podcast host. Join them as they discuss Lisa’s journey of discovering her authentic self, her work with The Trevor Project, and her upcoming book to help encourage others to connect and share their own stories with others so that healing can begin. 

Do not miss these highlights:

04:37 – The two pivotal moments that lead Lisa to live her best life and to her own sexuality; her father’s suicide and the coming out of her daughter

13:40 – Having raised her kids to celebrate who they were, she took her own advice to celebrate who she was

15:00 – Increasing representation by being both an ally and a member of the LGBTQ+ community

18:21 – Exploring the differences between pansexuality and bisexuality. 

23:13 – How insecurities about asking questions hold back people from satisfying their curiosities about the queer community

26:21 – The importance of being a beacon of authenticity for yourself and for others

30:33 – Lisa dives into her upcoming book about the dynamics of experiencing her father’s death as a child and when she found out the truth about it 30 years later. 

39:27 – Finishing her training as a crisis counselor under the tutelage of the Trevor Project and how dear to her heart this foundation is to her. 

50:55 – The power of traveling through the “muck” and winding up better for it. 

Resources Mentioned

Lisa’s Books: 

About our Guest:

Lisa Sugarman is a mom, a parenting author, a nationally syndicated humor columnist, and a podcast host, creating content that helps empower parents, especially moms, by giving them permission to embrace their perfectly imperfectness. She’s also a survivor of suicide loss, losing her father at age ten and a member and ally of the LGBTQIA+ community. Lisa writes the syndicated opinion column It Is What It Is and is the author of How To Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids And Be Ok With It, Untying Parent Anxiety, and LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and everywhere books are sold. Sugarman is also the co-host of the podcast LIFE Unfiltered on iTunes and iHeartRadio, and a regular contributor on Healthline Parenthood, GrownAndFlown, TODAY Parents, Thrive Global,, LittleThings, and More Content Now. Lisa lives with her husband and two daughters just north of Boston. Visit her online at She digs company. 


Her life motto:

Because we’re all a work in progress…








JB Intro/Outro:

Welcome to Just breathe parenting your LGBTQ to the podcast transforming the conversation around loving and raising an LGBTQ child filled with awesome guests practical strategies and moving stories host Heather Hester always makes you feel like you're having a cozy chat. Wherever you are on this journey. Right now in this moment in time you are not alone. And here is Heather for this week's amazing episode

Heather Hester:

Welcome to Just breathe. I am so glad you are here today. I am really really excited to introduce today's guest. And I'm sure as you have noticed, now we are doing for the month of pride. I am just thrilled to be able to do a an episode a week for you. And Lisa is one of the reasons I am doing that because I really wanted this episode and and for you all to hear her story during this awesome month. So just a little bit about Lisa before I officially introduce her. She is a mom, a parenting author, a nationally syndicated humor columnist and a podcast host creating content that helps empower parents, especially moms, by giving them permission to embrace their perfectly imperfect pneus. She's also a survivor of suicide loss, losing her father at age 10 and a member an ally of the LGBTQIA plus community. Lisa writes the syndicated opinion column, it is what it is, and is the author of How to Raise perfectly imperfect kids and be okay with it. untying parent anxiety, life, it is what it is. And a fourth book that she is writing right now that we will be talking about today. And these are all available on Amazon, all of your booksellers that I will definitely link for you later in the show notes. So Lisa is also the co host of the podcast life unfiltered, which right now is on a little bit of a pause, but definitely look for older episodes. Because she is just absolutely as you will see in a few minutes. Fascinating. funny, interesting. So smart. So take a look, if you're looking for a new podcast to listen to this is a great one. She is also a regular contributor, contributor on how offline parenthood grown and flown today, parents Thrive global little things and more content now. So Lisa lives with her husband and two daughters, just north of Boston. And I am so excited to have this conversation with Lisa today because we have so many things in common. And she's just living the life that I'm like, Yes, this is what we should all be doing. So, Lisa, thank you so much for being here.

Lisa Sugarman:

Oh my god, it's my this is my pleasure. And that last line that you just said, about, you know, kind of living life that way, just like made my heart explode, because that's the point. That's the whole idea. And I've just embraced that in every possible way. Lately, especially the last year or two. And it's just leveled up my whole life is just sent me to a totally new place and inspired me and just kind of lit a fire that I'm not sure I can ever stomp out or want to

Heather Hester:

write well, why would you want to write? No, I wouldn't. I don't know. What do you think? kind of lit that fire? Like what other than kind of the obvious answer of COVID? Was there anything else that kind of simultaneously was occurring for you that you were like, You know what? I am going to live my best life and I am going to kind of order up from the universe, all these amazing things and just approach life in a different way.

Lisa Sugarman:suicide, which I did back in:Heather Hester:

I love that so much. I think that is such a great way of saying that. Just so real because I think sometimes we are all afraid to take those, we all have things that we keep in our pockets, right? And, you know, and kind of to your specific realization, you didn't know what you didn't know before that moment. But I love that as you learned that you were like, Oh my gosh, this is what that is that I wasn't able to articulate or connect with totally. That's what it is. That is what it is. And instead of like, trying to like cover it up, it'd be like, Okay, well, I'm gonna keep it here because it doesn't fit necessarily right, in like a conventional sense. You just took it out and put it on. I did. But

Lisa Sugarman:

keep in mind. I mean, this happened last year. So I was not even 53 years old. I did carry it as a ball in the very bottom of my pocket for a very long time. And I felt it every single day. I knew it was there every single day. And yet, I knew that it wasn't something that was that was taking me away from where I was now going to change who I was with or how I was living my life, because I didn't I didn't feel that way. I mean, if for whatever reason I had been in different kinds of a situation where was about, oh, well, I have found an attraction with someone else like that would have presented a whole different situation. And I guess I would have hoped that I would have had the strength to deal with that situation in all the right ways. But that wasn't the case. It wasn't like, oh, I figured this out. So I have to go do this. Now. It was no I figured this out. And I've always raised our kids Dave and I both together have raised our kids to believe that they should celebrate who they are. And I needed to do that for myself fully and also Have the other thing Heather is that and you know, this as well as anybody with the LGBTQIA plus community needs representation everywhere it can get it, because that's a we d stigmatize being queer. That's how we normalize our, you know, the different choices that people make, and how they live their lives and how we, you know, who they're attracted to, and how they, you know, how they identify. So, I wanted to, I didn't want to be an ally anymore. I mean, I did I do. But I wanted to be a different kind of an ally, I wanted to be the kind that is like, Here I am, I'm also part of this community. So I'm acting in the dual role. And I, you know, I want you to know that, when I say you, I mean, anyone, I want anyone listening to know that I like, I wanted to, you know, do this for myself for no other reason. And then to show my support and to be authentic and to say it is 1,000%, okay, to be whoever the hell you are, on the inside, on the outside, put it out there. And if for whatever reason someone does not respond to that, well, I guess they're not your people. Right. Simple as that.

Heather Hester:

And I think that is one of the most important ways that we can show up, right? I mean, that is such an important thing that you're doing and, and voice that you have to really, like you said, get rid of the stigma to normalize to say, however, you want to show up, whoever you are on the inside, and the outside just v. And don't let all of that staff all of the, you know, the hate or the just ugliness out there deter you from being who you are, who you authentically are. And, and I would love if you could actually because I think this is a really important thing. I mean, people, you know, understand LGBT, right there, people are pretty solid on on those. But as we get into, you know, other nuances, it gets a little trickier. And I know, a couple of weeks ago, I was having this conversation with two really close friends of mine. And they were just peppering me with questions, you know, what's the difference? To your kind of to this between pansexual and bisexual? What's the difference? What is non binary mean? What does? You know? How do you use the word queer? And you know, all of these things where people just don't know, right? And it's an it's all I in this, you know, in this sense. And in that sense, it was because they really want to be respectful. So I would love if you could really talk about, you know, what pansexual is, and kind of what the difference is between pansexuality and bisexuality? Just because I think it's good information for people to understand. Yeah, no,

Lisa Sugarman:

I'm more than happy to do that. And, you know, I'll preface it all by saying that, you know, there's a joke in my house, especially with my daughter, and a lot of our friends who are in the queer community. You know, I'm someone who is of the age that I should be considered like, an elder, you know what I mean, like in the LGBTQ community, but I'm actually like, a queer baby, because I was just born into all this like a year ago. So my learning curve, like I'm on the super, super beginning end of the learning curve. And even though I've learned so, so much, because of my daughter, and she's had a headstart here, and I've had the benefit of everything that she's learned. And I've, you know, we've taken it all in, in every way that we can. I'm still learning and I'm sure that I will continue to learn indefinitely, because, you know, we're all that work in progress. And it's things are always just fluid, and they're always changing. But So my understanding of you know, bisexuality is and I just had this conversation with someone else yesterday, and I clarified something for them that they didn't know, they thought that bisexuality was you are attracted to either a man or a woman. And it's actually not the case. I mean, if you kind of look at the root word by means too, so bisexuality just means you're attracted to more than one gender, right? It could be trans it could be women, it could be romantic. So it's, it's, you know, one or the other, but it doesn't it's not exclusive to being a man or a woman. Right. So non binary anyone. So that's kind of the quick and dirty definition for bisexual and pansexuality. And, again, if you had like 50, people who identify as pansexual, and I was one of them, you would probably hear 50 slightly different explanations of what that is to someone. Sure. So what it is, to me, I mean, the word itself, Pan means all, that's the root origin of the word. So it really just in simplest terms, just means that I have the capacity, I know that I have the capacity to have a sexual attraction to anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, their gender identity, could be a man could be a woman could be someone who's non binary, it could be someone who's trans. So for me, I know that it's not like, for lack of a better way to say it, like a body part thing, like, you're, I'm saying, it's not like, the fit the physicalness of a person, their, their, their body parts, or the way that they look. Sure, like there are people that you're attracted to visually, you don't know them, you've seen pictures, you meet them on the street, you don't know who they are, you don't have any way of knowing what's on the inside. So there is that like, attraction piece, but that, for me is the least of all of it, it's the it's what's on the inside. It's, you know, someone's essence, someone's personality, the way they the way they move about the world, the way they communicate, all these different things that are really like, internal factors are the things that really, that really connect me to someone in that way, it doesn't mean that I'm literally like standing on the street waiting for an Uber and I'm attracted to every single human being that walks by me, because that is absolutely not what that means. Right at all. It's just like, you know, a straight, you know, a straight man has some women that he'll meet in his life that he's attracted to, and, you know, would love to get with and others that he won't, and vice versa for a woman. And that's the same way for me. So it's, that is my interpretation of like, kind of my own pansexuality

Heather Hester:

Thank you. I'm so I'm so appreciative that you share that, because that is was basically my understanding to, again, through through my kids. And that's how I have explained it as well. And so. Um, so I just think it's something that we can't explain enough, right and share enough because I do everybody's curious to a certain degree. And and I do believe that there are more people than who want to know and to be allies than don't, right, they just don't know how to. So yeah.

Lisa Sugarman:

I think that people are fundamentally curious on one hand, and on the other hand, I think, you know, people have a lot of insecurities about asking questions, because they just don't want to put their foot in their mouth. They don't want to sound dumb or look insensitive, or, you know, and people like have genuine, wholesome curiosity, but they're scared to death to verbalize it. Because, you know, we're living in a world right now, where people really have to be incredibly aware of how they say things, and what they say. And I think everyone is so acutely aware of that, that people are just like, Oh, hell no, like, I'm not gonna ask the question. I'm not gonna say anything, because I don't want to put my foot in my mouth. I don't want to piss someone off. I don't want to be labeled as a hater. So you know, and it's hard, but I feel like, in my own opinion, like I love that you asked me that question. I love it. I appreciate it. Thank you a million. And I, I feel like as long as you lead with, Hey, I I'm asking from a genuine place of curiosity. And I really care about this. And I really want to honor someone or respect someone and you know, be appropriate. Can you clarify something for me? Like there's always the right way and the wrong way to ask and I think if you lead with something like that, like, Hey, I just I want to understand and I want to do it in a respectful way. Then someone will I think, be more than willing to have the conversation. I know that I it's so funny. i There's literally nothing I won't talk about at this point in my life, and it's just the most amazing feeling And it's hard to describe. But it's, that's the best way I can say it, it's that it's pretty incredible to walk around being that both that vulnerable and that comfortable at the same time. very liberating.

Heather Hester:

I, yes, I can imagine. I mean, that's one of the reasons why I started this all out with I aspire to be you. Because I, I love that. And I think that, you know, that's that as you just explained and shared, it takes work. And it takes awareness, and it takes a lot of just kind of picking through things and you know, leaving to the side, what is not just doesn't benefit you anymore, or does not work for you anymore, and embracing the things that do and, and, and realizing that, you know, if somebody else has an issue, that's theirs, it's not yours. Yep. And I think that is one of the most important things that any of us can learn. So I just love your like a beacon of light of authenticity.

Lisa Sugarman:

That's like, honestly, the highest compliment I could I could ever get. And it's, it's funny that you just chose to use the word beacon. Because I've been doing a lot of writing, especially, you know, since it's Pride Month, I've been doing a lot of writing out there about my own experience and writing about, you know, how to support our LGBTQ plus youth. And that's a word that I've been using quite often lately, because I use it in the context of, we have these stories, or these identities, or these experiences, that in a lot of ways we're afraid to share, because their ego issues and pride issues and judgment issues, and all those things that that freak us out and make us not want to share. But when we do that, when we put our stuff out there, it acts as a beacon for people, whether it's me talking about my father taking his life, or me talking about coming out as queer, or whoever or the or the person who has been struggling with alcohol addict, you know, or drug addiction, or, you know, whatever your thing is, once we put it out into the world in any capacity whatsoever, that flips a switch, and it creates that beacon, that then kind of radiates out there into the world and attracts people. It's like the bud light in a good way it attracts people who need to be attracted. And you know, who are either curious or questioning or, you know, or allies or whatever, whatever it is, but it helps to start conversations, it identifies the places that are safe to have those conversations. And then that's how you build community in flip on that beacon, and then the community grows. And so that's become, I think, my, my sole motivation for for, you know, being open and being honest, and I can't do it enough. I really do at this point. It's all I want to do.

Heather Hester:

My definitely understand that. I mean, it is a passion and a purpose, right. That we are, I mean, I feel I feel similarly in a very, you know, in a very different way. But similarly in that this is this is why I'm here. And it can it is consuming in a good way. And a very good way. So, I love it. That's so funny. I mean, I think we you and I have talked about this so many times since we, since we just met, but in our conversations that we've had just how, you know, either words come up or thoughts come up or things happen in a way that you could never have planned. Right. And it's just it is always extraordinary to me every time it happens. So I love that that's that is because it is such a specific word. So the fact that that's what fell out of my mouth is pretty cool.

Lisa Sugarman:

And I don't think actually when we talked before I don't think that that word came up we didn't have this little recession so that I think that's that's pretty serendipitous that it came out today.

Heather Hester:

Yes, it was it was placed right. Oh my goodness. I love that. So I'm trying to decide there are a couple of different ways we'll let's go into because we've touched on it just a little bit with your writing. And you do have this book that you are working on right now, that is kind of your, your reason for shifting some things around, and really making space to get this book out into the world. So could you share a little bit about this book give a little teaser, so people know what they

Lisa Sugarman::Heather Hester:

I love that I love that the the knowing that you're not alone. And in whatever it is, that you're going through. And you know, in this particular case, a suicide is huge, is so huge. Oh, my goodness, I actually have a really cool resource. And I'll just share it quickly right now. But as you were saying that I was thinking, Oh, my goodness, I interviewed a few months back, a lady who founded and I hope I don't get this wrong, because it's a lot of words. The teen suicide prevention society, I believe, that's the wording of it. But what she does is what I think is really cool. And so they she founded this after finding out probably 25 years after her daughter attempted multiple times, and thankfully, it was never successful, but it she had no idea was ever going on. So it was this whole, like, holy cow, this happened. And thank god, she's still here. So how do we prevent this? You know, what do we need? She did all of this background research and on the brain and neural pathways in the brain. And so her whole thing is, it's called the talks that save lives. And it's essentially, like having the, like, the biggest thing is, what are three reasons that you love being here on this earth? Right? And, and whatever the answer is like, that starts to build a new neural pathway in the brain so that when a person you know, the theory is when a person gets to that state of just such extraordinary hopelessness, and depression, and you know, it's so perplexing and so complicated, but that it least provides a pause. So I can share it, you know, I can share it with you offline, just so you can look at it more. But I think it's an interesting. It's just, it was something I'd never heard of before. And I was like, wow, that's really, that's different. It's a really cool way to look at this. And it's a great way to you know, have these conversations, not only with your kids, but just every person on this planet that you love. Right. So anyway. But I was just loving as you were talking about all of this, wanting to ask about the Trevor Project, because we've talked about this. And, you know, everyone knows how much I love the Trevor Project. And it's one of my go to Resources for so many different things. And you have just finished your final training to be a counselor, a crisis counselor, right?

Lisa Sugarman:

That is correct.

Heather Hester:

So can you talk about your whole experience of finding Trevor Project and what you know why you decided to do this and all of these good, wonderful things.

Lisa Sugarman:, there are:Heather Hester:ust a child, just imagine the:Lisa Sugarman:oing. There's, they're saving:Heather Hester:

Absolutely. And it's extraordinary.

Lisa Sugarman:

Yeah, there's some incredible, incredible people out there, and the people that I've been fortunate enough so far to become connected to, through this, the counselors who have helped me and the supervisors, and, you know, the others who are kind of training along with me, we do a lot of, you know, Zoom workshops, and just the people who are a part of this organization are just like some of the most beautiful people that I've been able to meet, and they're just doing such incredible powerful work, that, you know, it's pretty humbling to even be going through this with them. So it's good stuff, fairly good stuff

Heather Hester:

is met. That just makes me so happy. So thank you for sharing that with me and with with all of my listeners, because I think it's always great to get a little a little peek and a little bit more understanding of what, what specifically Trevor Project does. But you know, there are other great organizations out there too. But just knowing is huge. Huge. Yeah. So thank you. Thank you. So we are running up on an hour. Oh, my goodness. So I, I know it's so fast. It's always fast. I'm wondering if there's anything that you would like to kind of final thoughts, anything that you would like to end with, that you would like to share words of wisdom, advice to parents, I let the floor is yours.

Lisa Sugarman:

I appreciate that a lot. There's so many different things that come to mind. But I think you know, if we're if if I'm talking as a mom, as someone who has, you know, been creating content in the parenting space now for a really, really long time, in lots of different ways. I think the thing I would want to kind of leave hanging in the air as as we wind up is meet your kids exactly where they are right now. Because they are fluid. We are fluid life is fluid and We can't bog ourselves down, I don't think, with expectations, because I feel like expectations has a very negative connotation. That means that you're planning something, you're predicting something, you're expecting something. I think the real joy in life comes when you just meet the people who mean the most to you exactly where they are, and you embrace them for where they are. And you're willing to take the trip with them to see wherever it is that you're going to go, and they're going to go. I think I think that's the best advice I would give anybody.

Heather Hester:

I love point. Well, and it's so much more enjoyable that way, too, isn't it? Yeah, yeah. Yeah,

Lisa Sugarman:

just be, you know, recognize respect, and appreciate, embrace the fact that we are all a work in progress. And we are all supposed to be a work in progress. You know, so much of what I talked about all these years, has to do with kind of embracing your perfectly imperfect pneus. And that can mean anything that could mean being a parent, that could mean as your child that could mean with decisions that you or your family make, it could mean your work life. But when you do that, when you embrace that, for what it is, you don't try to make it into something it's not. That's where the growth happens. That's where the the the juiciest nuggets are. And, and I don't know about you, but those are the nuggets that I want to take in. Those are the ones I want,

Heather Hester:

oh, my goodness, every single day, every single day. That is that's funny, I use a similar phrase. Embrace the beauty and the messiness, which is Yeah. Right. And it is mean, that's where it is, like, all of that stuff. Oh, my goodness, I would take that every day over. The alternative.

Lisa Sugarman:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, the, the winds and the happy moments, and the things that you know, that we predict, that come to pass, those are great. Those are all great. But data, no, there's something about this, this struggle, there's something about the climb, you know, what is it Miley that says it's all about the climb. And it's true, because that's what creates resilience, that's what creates growth. And makes the space for all of that, and it makes it that much sweeter when you've gone through the muck and the crap. And the stuff that didn't go right. And you've wound up in a better place in spite of that. That's, you know, right. That's, that's the, the end game as far as I'm concerned.

Heather Hester:

Right. Right. Well, and I think too, when you have that, that becomes your mindset, then you can sit through those moments of being really uncomfortable, or, you know, when things do just blow up or fall apart or whatever, when their struggle and know, okay? This is impermanent, right? This is, there's a reason. And so just being able to kind of, okay, I'm gonna, I'm gonna go and keep keep moving forward. And it doesn't feel nearly as this is, like the end of everything. Yeah. So awesome. Well, thank you so, so much for being here today. Thank you for reaching out to me. We didn't even talk about our, our serendipitous meeting. But I'm so delighted that we connected and we're just able to make this happen. And I'm just so thrilled, thrilled for you, and so many different ways. So there's lots of things we'll have to check in on and see, see where you are. So yeah,

Lisa Sugarman:

I would absolutely love that. And this has just been so much fun for me. A couple of times you and I have talked, it's like we've always done this twice a week for 10 years. You know, just it was just so easy and comfortable and real. And those are the conversations that I love to have the most so like Thank you. I appreciate being here.

Heather Hester:

Wow. And it's my great pleasure and I totally agree with you. So this is this is what makes this so much fun and and why I continue continue on right all right.

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