“Whatever is Mentionable is Manageable” with Chris Tompkins

Heather is joined by author, therapist, and TEDx speaker, Chris Tompkins to discuss the impact of heteronormativity in today’s culture.  Listen as they unpack the differences between queerphobia and homophobia, how the language and words we use create nuances that stop us from talking to our children about being gay, and the steps that we can use to build a “New Playground” around our subconscious beliefs. 

Do not miss these highlights:

04:01 – Chris’ motivation for writing his book Raising LGBTQ Allies: A Parent’s Guide to Changing the Messages from the Playground

07:47 – Messages from the playground is an analogy to describe the subconscious beliefs that we all have about everything

12:14 – The purpose of breaking the book down into three sections; awareness, willingness and change

17:14 – Unpacking the heteronormative message and beliefs that impact our ability to talk to our children about things outside that scope

24:45 – Working in a juvenile hall where the LGBTQ youth were separated from others for safety however that just continues to perpetuate the root of the problem

35:21 – Shift the language from “it’s complicated” to “it’s complex” to be more inclined to talk

42:59 – The importance of teaching kids to love themselves, as they will make decisions thatare based on the lack of self-love

53:14 – “Don’t let what you think is happening on the outside, determine what is going on in the inside.”

54:21 – A look at the steps to build a new playground

About our Guest:

Chris Tompkins is a therapist, spiritual life coach, TEDx speaker, and author of Raising LGBTQ Allies: A Parent’s Guide to Changing the Messages from the Playground. Chris believes connecting with our spirituality, loving ourselves, and taking full responsibility for our lives is where our strength lies at the deepest level. He hosts workshops and presentations for universities, conferences, and organizations across the U.S. on anti-bullying, inner advocacy, how to prevent queerphobia, and the importance of changing the messages from the playground.

https://www.aroadtriptolove.com/ 

Catch Chris’ TEDx Talk at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0P2GGcuJl6w

Get Chris’ book at https://amzn.to/3O16ISY 

Transcript
utroWelcome to Just Breathe::

Parenting your LGBTQ Teen. 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 happy you are here today. Today I have a really extraordinary guest to share with you that I am just so moved by the work that he has done throughout his life. And he has recently written a book called Raising LGBTQ allies, which a friend of mine had told me about. And that's how Chris and I were connected. And I will tell you that this book, I am just so excited for you all to read it it is reading for whether you are a parent of an LGBTQ child or just a parent, every every person needs to read this book because there are so many really beautiful lessons in it. But I want to tell you a little bit about Chris Chris is a therapist, a spiritual life coach, a TEDx speaker, and the author of this amazing book raising LGBTQ allies. Chris believes connecting with our spirituality, loving ourselves and taking full responsibility for our lives is where our strength lies at the deepest level. He hosts workshops and presentations for universities, conferences and organizations across the US on anti bullying in our advocacy, how to prevent queer phobia, and the importance of changing the messages from the playground. So Chris, thank you so much for being with me today. And for being here for all of my beautiful listeners. We're just honored to have you.

Chris Tompkins:

Thank you. Thank you, Heather, for having me. Thank you so much. I'm so looking forward to talking with you more.

Heather Hester:

I know, I know. We Chris and I have been having a really fun conversation before we even pushed record. And I finally thought well, we should probably Yeah. All right. I just had so many questions, because I will tell you all I just finished reading Chris's book, and I, you know, I've read all the time. And you all know that and I'm constantly talking about things, but I will tell you that this book touched me in so many different ways. And, and I cry told, I just told Chris and like I cried. And I called Connor last night. And I just brought up so many different emotions, as well as like light bulb moments of Oh, my gosh, this is awesome. So get the book is divided into really three sections, right? Awareness, willingness and change. And I, you know, have a million questions. But we're going to try to keep it succinct here for you and leave a lot of teasers for you all, so you can read them. But just before we get into the book, I'm wondering if you could just give a little background on kind of what brought you to this point of writing this beautiful book.

Chris Tompkins:

Yeah, yeah. Gosh, yeah. So many things. I feel like, you know, you I'm sure a lot of your listeners, and you maybe have heard a lot of people have said, you know, there's a book and all of us and, and so I feel like this really was something that was birthing inside of me really my whole life. And so I kind of write about it, and in the first chapter of my book, but really the impetus was, you know, my nephew's question that he had asked me at a family function, but really beyond that, it was kind of the intersections of my experience teaching social emotional learning, and working with young people for seven years throughout Los Angeles County, different ages and kind of taking a lot of what I was learning from the young people I was working with, because I worked with with young people for you know, youngest 12 to their early 20s. at different locations, whether it was the LGBT centers, homeless, homeless, you You shelter here in Los Angeles or juvenile hall, high schools after school programs. And then I also bartend it, I worked at a really popular well known bar in Los Angeles for 11 years. And then of course, I'm, I'm a gay man myself. And so I navigated coming out of the closet and religion is part of my my background, and so kind of navigating, coming coming out in a religious family. And so all of those things kind of came together. And at the time, when my nephew asked me that question, I realized because I had moved out to Los Angeles, I had been out his entire life at the time, he asked me, if a girl so that was it. For those of your listeners that haven't read the book. I was sitting next to a girl at a family function at my mom's house and my nephew, who at the time was six ran over. And as kids often do, they think something and they just ask it out loud. Well, he, he whispered at the time, he would always whisper, but he would talk out loud. It was really cute. And so his question of asking if, if the woman who was sitting next to me, my childhood friend was my girlfriend, that kind of it was like, it was like, time slowed down, and everything that I had experienced, all of those different areas that I just talked about, kind of came together. And it was so clear to me that, oh, my gosh, there are so many nuances. And if I can help kind of families, and people who are who are navigating this experience themselves, understand, there are these nuances and the nuances are really important to consider.

Heather Hester:

Right? Absolutely. Well, one of the things that you said in there, which I really thought was such a wonderful observation, an important observation, was that what you realized, and talking to your different family members was that you had varying responses, but it was basically he's not old enough, or we're not sure how to do this, right. And so it was that whole thought of, Oh, my goodness, this is where not only does the messaging get fuzzy, but it's the understanding the language, right. And and that gets, you know, if you listen to any media, or right, there's always a focus on a certain way that we use the language, which is not accurate. So I wonder if you could talk a little bit about kind of that realization and like, Okay, this is we need to do a little work here. Talking about this.

Chris Tompkins:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that's a really great question. Because you know, one of the kind of through lines with my books, so the title, the title is raising LGBTQ allies, and the subtitle is A Parent's Guide to Changing the messages from the playground. And so the, for your listeners, the messages from the playground is an analogy that I use to describe the subconscious beliefs that we all have about everything. And I mentioned you, I taught you young people, social emotional learning. And so pretty much the entire kind of curriculum that we worked with was all about kind of the, you know, we have our conscious awareness. And then we have these kind of programs that play in our minds that influence how we relate to the world. And especially that affects how we, how we go to school, how we interact with people, it impacts how we view others and get along with people, you know, bullying, and a lot of the classes I gave were about specifically bullying and, and for young people to be able to feel good about who they are without those, you know, feeling different and, and that's, that's a word that I often that I use. For your example of language, the importance of language is, I was, I would often hear certain words to describe communities, specifically the LGBTQ community, and because of heteronormativity, which we can talk about more, which is for your listeners, if they haven't heard that this word, it's the conscious or subconscious belief that we don't even realize that it's necessarily it's not necessarily something that you can see. It's more of an it's more of an experience. And so because we're kind of starting from a heteronormative normative worldview, just by being virtually socialized in a dominant heteronormative world, we look at certain communities, specifically the LGBTQ community, as being different or as being other or, as you know, I use I use an example in the book where when I was doing research, you know, oftentimes when I read an article or a headline it would say LGBTQ issues or in describing the LGBTQ community, right. And so this is an example of how words influence our beliefs, right? And it's just kind of this this mental filter that we just consume. And then that impacts how we perceive people. And so if a parent has an LGBTQ que child, or if there's an LGBTQ loved one, I consciously love you, I consciously support you, subconsciously, there are these programs that are playing in my mind that you're different issues other that we kind of have to parse out.

Heather Hester:

Right. Right. Well, and I thought that was such I mean, you know, and full disclosure at the I just cried my eyeballs out at that, because I was like, Oh, my gosh, like, this is what we do. And, you know, and holy cow, I mean, I've used that word different in describing, you know, when I tell our story, and that was, you know, it was Connors words, but where do you think Connor got the words from? Right. So it I always I use that one and issues. I use that word all the time. And, and certainly not out of any kind of thinking less of it's just so I think, to your point, that is something that we just subconsciously, yes. Even when we're like fully, like, consciously. Yeah, I love and affirm you for who you are. I'm, I've got your back. Yeah. You know, whatever your wording is, there's still all this stuff. Yeah. That we've been programmed with our entire lives. That is really important to reprogram. Yes, yeah. So what are what? What we obviously could talk about that alone for an hour? Yeah. What are your recommendations for kind of starting that process? Like coming, you know, kind of face to face with our subconscious? Yeah, you know, beliefs that don't align with what our, our conscious beliefs are?

Chris Tompkins:

Yeah. Yeah, that's such a good question. And I'm so grateful that you asked it, because that really speaks to why I wrote the book and broke it up into three sections is awareness. And that's really what my hope for the first section of the book was to really be, we have to get into the awareness piece. And so we have to be able to be aware. And then the willingness comes after we are aware. And then once we're willing, we can make the change. And so you know, really, the first section of the book is I kind of break down. Just this is kind of a side note, but just the process of writing a book, when you when you set out to write a book, you know, you kind of have your specific chapters that you're wanting to write about, well, I wound up my firt, my first chapter, I wound up turning into three parts. So in the book for the for the listeners, for those of you who haven't read the book, because there's so much to your point of that I can spend a lot of time on talking about the importance of language. And, you know, and so to your question is how we, how we become aware of whether or not our subconscious beliefs are in alignment with our conscious beliefs is we we have to have the awareness first. And so I can't tell you how many times you know, my mom, who I came out almost 20 years ago, and we've we've gone down that path, we've we've had that journey, and she's wonderful and loving and supportive. And I can't tell you how many times you know, she'll send me an article that I sometimes I'll have to read, and I just buy from the headline alone, I have to read it a few times to see if this is an LGBTQ affirming article, just because of the language and like used in the article to describe this particular group of people. And so my hope, and I've also volunteered with wonderful organizations, LGBTQ friendly organizations, and I can't tell you how many times I've stood in front of groups of young people and heard stories of people describing themselves as different. And this isn't about blaming or pointing the finger. This is simply for me, in my experience of working with young people and teaching that one of the biggest honors compliments that I that I received from my book was from a teacher who said that my book really centers children's experiences. And that's really what my hope is that this is about kind of getting on a child's level, right and imagining what it's like to sit in a chair in a classroom and they may Maybe LGBTQ. And they may, they may be thinking of themselves, you know, along their journey, right. And then they're hearing people talk about the LGBTQ community as different. And other and issues and choice. And, and so my hope is that we can bring awareness around that so that that young person who's listening, because young people, they just want to be a part of the group.

Heather Hester:

Right? Right. Well, that was one of the really powerful stories that you told to about the mother with the her daughter, yes. And oh, my goodness, was that just so such a great illustration of that very fact of how children they just want to be. I mean, I, even in my own experience, we all have stories to tell, right. But I remember about six months before Connor came out. And he was, you know, he was a sophomore in high school. So it was the summer before his sophomore year in high school. And he came to me and it's so excited that he had kissed a girl. And you know, he's my oldest, and we've always, like, had this lovely relationship. And it was so cute. And I realized, then looking back in hindsight, that it was this, like, I need to fit in, like I need to be this is where this is where I'm supposed to be box over here. And boy, did that not feel right. Right. And so it's just, you know, we all have these little stories where, you know, a lot of times it's in hindsight that we see. And I think part of your work, and this, this work in general is to begin to see it as it's occurring. Yeah. So we can either affirm or change that language, right? Or do what needs to be done in that moment. Right. Right. Right.

Chris Tompkins:

Yeah. Yes, yes. And I, if I could say to like, I think this is really important, because I think that we, for me, and my experience of working with people, even even my own family, if I were to go back in time, and when my nephew asked me the question of whether or not, you know, my childhood friend was my girlfriend. And if if I would have in that moment said that my family was homophobic. And if I would have said, the next day, when I talked to members of my family or friends, and just started asking people, you know, have you talked to your kids? And their response was, I don't think they're old enough, right? I want to I just don't know what to say, if I would have said, all of your responses are homophobic, that would have stopped the conversation. Because this is what I write about in the book is that, you know, I'm in grad school for clinical psychology. And so for your listeners, the DSM five, I write about this. I jokingly say that I wrote myself into graduate school because I wrote this book, prior to going to school. But I write extensively about the DSM five, which is the current edition of for therapists, mental health practitioners. It's what they use to diagnose mental health conditions. And so if you have insurance, and you have to have a diagnosis, right, and so and so phobia, is a diagnosable mental health condition that you have to meet criteria in the DSM five in order to receive a diagnosis. And there are specific criteria. And so using words like homophobia, transphobia, that can sometimes there's like a mental disconnect, because it's not that you have a diagnosable criteria meeting condition, right? Where you where you, you literally sweat, you have distorted thinking you fear, like there's little literal, specific criteria. Right. What we're speaking about is the subconscious beliefs, going back to the earlier point about uncovering the the beliefs that we have about certain people in certain communities and certain and so for my family, it wasn't that. If I were to say you're homophobic, they would say, No, we love you, Chris, we support you. I was living in Los Angeles working for a National LGBTQ organization. I didn't write about this in the book, but I was actually in Arizona visiting, giving a workshop at the Arizona equality and justice Conference, which is a statewide LGBTQ conference conference. So my family was very supportive. It's It's that when my nephew asked me that question, we really realized it's not how they're not homophobic, it's, it's that we live in a heteronormative world, right, and we internalize those heteronormative messages. And we, we perceive certain people in certain ways based on our beliefs that we have. And so as it pertains to gay being a gay man, as it relates to being gay, I had to really kind of unpack and explore with my family, the beliefs that they had, that were preventing them from having conversations with their kids, which was very nuanced. And so kind of bringing that back to social emotional learning. For seven years I worked in the classroom, and worked with with one of one of my favorite lessons to teach was called Who Am I. And the class was, you know, each student got a journal, and they would fill it out. And the whole purpose of the class was to just uncover what are your negative beliefs that you have about yourself, about your family, about school, that are preventing you from from exposure experiencing your life in a way that you really want to and so the whole purpose of the class is, it was fun, because we got to, they would fill out the journal, and then they would go through, and it was a whole exercise where they would go back and circle anything that was negative. So my family sucks, school sucks. These are these are kind of like a lot of, you know, of the things, you know, that right? Yeah, you know, just like little things like that would be an example money, I write about this in the book, because that was such a huge eye opener for me, big one. And you know, we had them about everything, and then they would circle what was negative. And then we would go back, and we would teach them how to write an empowerment statement. So basically an affirmation for your adult listeners. And then they would create a card, and they would write that affirmation or empowerment statement on a card, and they would keep it and that would be their, their kind of their self empowerment statement that they would say. And so I draw the same parallels. If any of your listeners are into self personal development, we have to become aware therapy, just like in therapy, I'm in Psych, you know, studying psychology, we have to become aware of our belief systems and our distorted thinking, that gets in the way of allowing us to experience more freedom in our lives. And so as it pertains to this conversation, with families, and especially right now with everything that's going on in the country, right. So that's really kind of it's it's a big conversation. But I'm so grateful to be having it because it's, it's more nuanced than homophobia, transphobia.

Heather Hester:

Right, right. Well, like a lot of things. That's kind of like an easy, that's the easy label. Right? Yes. Yeah, we just that create that answer. Right. It's that Right. Right. And then we'll just move past it. Right. Yeah. Instead of kind of slowing down and taking a look at it and thinking, Okay, what does this really mean? Yeah, I like that kind of circling back really quickly. Yeah, in talking about that, in the book, you give this exercise so that the readers can do this exercise, because this is something I love that you're doing this with kids, because oh my goodness, you know, another I was, like, limiting beliefs. Like, that's something that negative beliefs, right, yeah, that the work that we do, but starting it at that age, and giving them those tools to be able to recognize it. At that age is so powerful, so powerful, and will just save them a lot. Yeah, yeah. And their life, they can just start at a different place. And I just love that so much. But just so everyone knows, you know, when you read this book, there's, you have several different exercises in there. And this is one of them. That really helps the reader kind of begin to unpack this stuff. Yeah. And it's done in such a lovely, you know, non shameful way. Yeah, yeah. Because these things can bring up shame. Right. Right. Yeah. And you definitely a dress that and talk about it and in such a non judgmental, very calming, normalizing way. Yeah. Yeah, thank you.

Chris Tompkins:

Yeah, thank you. Yeah, I was gonna say to you know, I mean, I think thing I mean, thank you so much for saying that because in my experience, you know, I remember teaching a class I worked in juvenile hall and for two years and one of the reasons I started working there is I write about this in the book. But it was it was there I was I went there originally to help support the LGBTQ incarcerated youth. Because here in Los Angeles, basically, if a young person was arrested, and they were taken to juvenile hall, and they're there, they do, they do an intake. And so the person who's in taking the young person, if they suspect that the young person is LGBTQ, then they there are different parts of the campus that are broken up at juvenile hall, you have the main campus, and then you have the more. It's called care. They have different units for the young people who need more direct supervision. And then you have another area for the young people who are who are on psychotropic medications, they require more around the clock care. So yes, and then you have another area for developmental youth with with learning disabilities. And so there are, I think, four or five different parts of the campus that were broke at the juvenile hall that I used to go to teach. And what I what I found, and one of the reasons I went there is that when a young person was arrested, and it was they were thought to be LGBTQ, if they were to go on the main campus, they would get beaten up, bullied, sexually assaulted. And so they so literally to save the young person, they would put them on the care unit, which I understand it makes complete sense, because safety is the number one priority. Right That That said, the care unit is for the young people, like I mentioned, to have the mental health conditions. And so just by virtue of being in that area, LGBTQ youth are, are just subconscious, this goes to the kind of the probe or the filters that we take in, right, just by being in virtue of that area, they were in that area, they're taken to that area, they're placed on that area, they're kept on that area. They're separated from the main campus, right. And assert and put in a section specifically for people, the young people who require psychotropic medication around the clock care. And again, I understand that needs safety, but that really doesn't get to the, the root of the problem, which the root of the problem is we have these systems that are set up that that perpetuate, you know, the experience. And so all of that is to say that I remember I was teaching a class, and they had the Care Unit broken up by male and female. Okay, and so I was teaching a class to the boys, okay. And the male identified juvenile, the young people that were there were arrested. And I'll never forget, because these some, I mean, these, you know, some of these young people were from gang, some of them were, they had really, really difficult childhoods and lives. And I used to always say that, you know, young person doesn't just wake up one day, and says, you know, I'm gonna go to juvenile hall, you know, they they have they come from families, and or not families that that have given them experiences that that contribute to the choices that they've made. Correct. All of that is to say, I remember teaching a class, and the class was this, who am I? And we started talking about what are the exercises our bodies, like, what do we feel about our bodies, and I'll never forget, forget, because these young men who for all intents purposes, they seemed healthy, they seemed like they, they were physically fit. And they went around and we they were started, they started talking about how they felt they felt bad about their bodies, they felt their bodies were were fat or ugly, or they use these words that were so powerful. And I was I was thinking, gosh, like these young men have these, these beliefs about themselves that, for me, it was an example of kind of going through limiting beliefs that we have about ourselves, right. And so if we can give space to be able to talk about the deeper beliefs that we that we hold about ourselves or about other people, kind of going back to our previous conversation is whatever is mentionable is manageable.

Heather Hester:

Right. Right. Exactly. Exactly. Which I love. I love that so much. Yes, we, we did talk about that. And it's it's that's such a great a great way of just breaking it down. Yeah. Yeah. It's along the same lines of name it to tame it. Which one that I always yes. If you can give it a name, then you can it's figure out a bowl. Right, right. Right, right. That's somebody else's thing. I can think of her name. But yes, everything is figured out a bowl. Right? Yeah. So I think that for fully Forleo Yeah, yes. That's what it is. Thank you. Like, I could see her in my head. I couldn't think of her name. Thank you. But yes, it is all. And I think especially doing that for, you know, especially for our youth being able to give them the language. And then the positive language, right. So they already know what their limiting beliefs are limiting languages, but then helping them kind of flip that into the empowering language is a such a gift. And, and it's something that every human can do. And, you know, I don't like to use the word should. But it is it is accessible to all of us. And I think it's something that maybe we don't realize as adults is accessible to us, right. So as I was, as I was reading this, I was thinking, Okay, I've done a lot of work on like, uncovering stuff from way back. Right. Like, where did this all begin? But then there's this work right here that you're talking about that is working through those limiting beliefs. Yeah. So you know, it's not Oh, I identified it, and I'm done. Right, right. Right. It's, oh, I've identified it. And, yeah. So yeah, I mean, that was a really important thing. And you also you talk about, and I don't have I didn't write her name down. I don't have. But the lady's book that you read that was so powerful for you?

Chris Tompkins:

Can you put me Yes, absolutely. Louise Hay, you can heal your life. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Heather Hester:

It's my next one.

Chris Tompkins:

Oh, my gosh, that book, you know, they say, you know, books. I mean, I think that, in my experience, I, in my conversation that I always loved that talking to people about, you know, what was that book that kind of changed your life? Or was there a book that you read that changed your life, and that book for me, was one of those books that I read that that really did change my life, it was like, before I read the book, and then after I read the book, yeah, but that book really is all about the importance of uncovering our limiting beliefs that we have, and that they come in layers, and we have different stages of healing, and all of us, and my biggest hope with with my book is that I truly believe that we can only take others as far as we've gone ourselves. And, and so for me as an uncle, as a LGBTQ advocate, as I call myself an LGBTQ inner advocate, because I feel like in my own journey of coming out, I immediately immerse myself and LGBTQ advocacy work, what I didn't do was focus on my inner self love, and my, my, my inside. And so in my own experience of working with with clients today, you know, my youngest client is 20, my oldest client is 63. And, and no matter who they are, where they come from, this is what I say in the book is that we all play on the same playground, the messages from the playground, the subconscious beliefs, you know, the playground is our mind or our consciousness. And the messages are our subconscious beliefs. And so whether my client is who's 20, or my client who's 63, they're uncovering the messages from the playground that they received about themselves and about their identity. And I hear story after story of the same, it may look different, the content may look different. Underneath, underneath, it's the same experience of I feel less than I feel different. I feel othered. And it's also wrapped up in kind of the all the different nuances of you know, it's like the glacier for your listeners, if they've seen the image of the glacier where you see the top of the above water, the part. And then underneath the glacier, you have all that other part.

Heather Hester:

Right? Yeah, right. Oh, that's such a good visual analogy. Yeah, that is so true. Yeah. And, and it's so easy to just kind of go after that. That's the part that's above water, right. Yeah. And then realize, and the part that's beneath the water is really uncomfortable. And, and I think that it's important to acknowledge that it's uncommon. Trouble. And that's, that's okay that it's uncomfortable. That's bad. You're not wrong. You're not, you know? It's uncomfortable. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But that's part of that's a necessary part of growing. Yeah. Yeah. Right. Moving. Yeah, that's

Chris Tompkins:

moving through that. And I think, you know, one of the things to write about our I invite readers to consider is that it going back to language, but you know, to look at this as not complicated, but as it's complex, it's human beings are complex. We're complex. And so I invite the families and the people I work with, you know, if we can just make the shifts. If I if I approach something that's complicated, maybe I'm less inclined. But if I approach it as like, Oh, this is complex like that, that I'm curious, like, I'm, I'm like, that's all I need. Is that curiosity? And that's an opening.

Heather Hester:

Yep. Oh, my gosh, yes. see another example of how language makes such a big deal? Yeah, yeah. Right. Because one is like, oh, no, thank you. And the other is like, Bring it on.

Chris Tompkins:

Yeah, yes. Right. Yeah. Yeah. And as far as language too, you know, I do think as I as much as I'm a big believer in language and its importance, and it is so important. I have a chapter about language and how words matter. And in my own experience, I don't want us to be so hyper vigilant about not wanting to say the wrong thing. And having the fear of getting it wrong, that we don't say anything, or, or we kind of dance around something. And so what I invite people to consider is that we're going to, we're gonna get it wrong. And that's okay. Right? Yes. And wherever there's a rupture. And this is just parenting in general. There will be ruptures it's that we have the opportunity to make a repair. Yeah, it's it's in the repair, that we grow stronger in our relationship, we can grow stronger in our relationship.

Heather Hester:

Absolutely. I'm so glad you said that. Yes. Because that is, that is a definite and, and one that is so important to acknowledge knowledge, because you can really get stuck in that way. I don't want to say the wrong thing. I don't want to be offensive. I don't want to hurt somebody's feelings. Yeah. Yeah. And I, you know, I always think, to, so my 16 year old daughter uses all three pronouns. So, and it's kind of at the heart, you know, the user, you know, whoever wants to use whichever one. So, you know, I always say to them, you know, do you want me to refer you more as he or them or whatever you want mom? So, of course, as her mother, and she's my daughter, that's my default, right? But I'm in my brain. And I'm always thinking, What do you want me to do this, like, what feels better? What's more comfortable? What's and, and real? And she's like, you're, essentially, she doesn't say it this way. But you're gonna step in it, like, you're gonna mess up. Just the important thing? Is that, what they want? What our kids want? What humans want is an effort. And then when you do step in it, and apology, and just move forward. Like no big deal made about it. Yeah, right. Yeah. So, yeah, that's, you know, so interesting.

Chris Tompkins:

Yeah. Yeah. Well, and I think too, you know, I have to say, because, you know, I'm studying LGBTQ affirmative psychology. And so all of my classes, most of my classes, not all of them, but most of my classes are, are about LGBTQ practices and specific, you know, subject matter and, and even in our classes, with our professors, you know, the human brain, we interpret things through a binary system. And so it's really, it's really important to be able to, like you just said, to be able to honor and, and see someone for who they're wanting to be seen as, and if we do, if we make the effort, and we may get it wrong, or make a mistake, apologize and move on. And it's it's in our effort, it's in our trying, that we're developing that intimacy that that that alliance, so to speak, you know, using the big words but yeah, but I mean in a parent child relationship, and so it's, it's, it's not to you know, and that was one of my real hopes with with my book is to not point the finger and, and be blaming more of like, bringing together an invitation invite Add, let's talk about this let's I have these, these these messages from the playground myself. Right. And so I acknowledge that you have your messages from the playground. And so let's, let's talk about our messages from the playground, let's uncover them. Awareness, willingness, and then we can change that.

Heather Hester:

Exactly. Exactly. That just kind of speaking back on the relationship I, with your children, with children in general, is that, as adults, we, we think, incorrectly, that we're supposed to be perfect, which doesn't exist, right. And so it's this, I'm an adult, so I need to behave as XYZ, or what, you know, one of my lessons has been that my kids just want to see that I'm human. Yeah. So when I do mess up, and I apologize, and I own it. And a lot of times I cry, because that's what I do, because I'm a crier. But, you know, however you handle that, like, whatever your who your person is, and you handle it in a very authentic way. That's all they want to see. Right. And they want to know that it's okay to mess up. Right. Right. Right. Yeah. So because many, many of us, you know, grew up in it's just generational, but grew up, think, you know, with the example being perfection. Yeah. Right. Right. So just know that it's okay to mess up the map. There's a lot of beauty in that. That messing up. But I did want to say too, that you would said your attempt was to be very gentle and inviting in your approach. And you did achieve that very much. So. So, you know, when people read this book, absolutely. That will be the feeling is okay. Like, I'm not like, Oh, bad. You. Yeah, right. Yeah, it's very much of let's all this is a collective All right, because we all have our own messaging. Yeah. Yeah. So. So really well done. Because you definitely could have taken a lot of different routes with that.

Chris Tompkins:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Heather Hester:

Yah, yah. Oh, my goodness. So I'm wondering, I'm looking at our time, and I'm thinking, Okay, I have three questions that I really want to ask. But I think two might be kind of quick. So, too, and they're the ones I kind of told you ahead of time, but what would be your advice for a young person coming out? And then kind of flip your advice to the parent of a young person coming out?

Chris Tompkins:

Yeah, gosh, my advice. And I love that question. My advice to young person coming out and immediately when I, when you say that, I think of myself what I would say to myself when I was coming out. And I, my advice would be to remember to love myself, to remember to love yourself. I think that we don't teach kids in general, how to love themselves. That even sounds kind of like woowoo in some spaces. It's the most important thing, in my experience of all the people that I've I've young people that I've worked with, no matter who they are, or where they come from, there's a belief that somehow they're, they're wrong, or when we when we kind of get into the the work. And so my advice to a young person coming out, is to love yourself, to develop to cultivate it, and in the language that would be relevant for the person hearing it, to really to love themselves, to learn to learn and to remember through this process to love themselves.

Heather Hester:

Yeah. Thank you. That is, I mean, I think that, you know, there's a lot of talk about being confident. But sometimes it's a very obscure word. Yeah. What does that mean? Really? Right. But when you say love yourself, that you understand I think, beings we can we can connect with that. Yeah. So much more. And how to do that. Yeah. Yeah. And I don't know if that's just my interpretation of the two but just thinking of, you know, my own personal experience and also like, with my kids, yeah, right. Like what resonates?

Chris Tompkins:

Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, I mean, I just think about myself, you know, not to get into this whole long story. But you know, when I moved, I moved out to LA to work for a very large National LGBTQ organization. And it was my dream job. It was I had, I had been out of the closet, not very many years, I was immersed in LGBTQ advocacy work, I was really, really out there doing it outwardly. What I what I wasn't doing though, was I wasn't loving myself. And I skipped that part. And so that created a lot of unhappiness in my life. And I made a lot of poor choices and a lot of decisions based on my lack of self love. But no one ever told me about self love. I didn't know what that even meant. Right? So for me, as an LGBTQ person, as a gay man, I kind of thought that I was, you know, I come out of the closet and in it, and I was immersed in LGBTQ advocacy work and, and part of that was true. And part of that I was very out there and loving, loving my, my love is directed outward. And I feel like I could have benefited from that love some of that love be directed inward.

Heather Hester:

Right. Right. Well, and I think to your point, it was never talked about, right. Like you didn't, you weren't even aware that that was something that was either available to you, or a necessary part of your personal growth. Right? Because really, what 20 year old is thinking, you know, what I need? I need to make a list of what I know.

Chris Tompkins:

Right? I need an army. You know, I mean, it's funny, because I have to say, I'm in the mental health field. And some of the spaces that I'm in if I use language, like self love, like some of the people will look at me kind of with eyes glazed over, like, what does that even mean? Yeah. Right. And in my experience, it's something that is so important.

Heather Hester:

Well, and yeah, I mean, when you say it and talk about it, it it's one of those, like, Well, yeah, of course. Yeah. Why don't we all know this? Right. I mean, it seems like something that is, it just makes so much sense. And, you know, working not only in this space, but really any space, right, just to be a, a, to have that full, complete human experience. That's a piece of it.

Chris Tompkins:

Yeah, yes, yes. Yeah. I mean, I remember with my nieces and nephews, you know, when they were little kids, I would have them, you know, stand in front of a mirror and tell, say things that they liked about themselves. And what was really shocking, and broke my heart is how difficult that was for them. And they received a lot of love. And I think that for me, and my experience, and all the young people I worked with, saying nice things about themselves doesn't always come natural.

Heather Hester:

No, no, it doesn't. No, it does. I mean, in to your point, it's, it's, it is not proportionate to the love that they're receiving from their parents necessarily mean, it could be. But I think they're, you know, there's so many different factors that work into it, that a lot of times parents aren't even aware of.

Chris Tompkins:

Yes, yeah. And if I could just add to, to that, going back to my I mentioned, you know, we can only take others as far as we've got ourselves. And my, my second piece to that is that, if I love myself so much, especially as an LGBTQ person, I believe that we're all teachers, and then we teach through our demonstration. And, and so if I am demonstrating that I love myself to young people, in my family, then I'm teaching them that my identity who I am specifically as a gay man, as a person as a human, right, they're learning that.

Heather Hester:

Yeah. From me. Exactly. Exactly. Well, action is often the most powerful teacher. Yeah,

Chris Tompkins:

demonstration. Yeah, right. Yeah, yeah.

Heather Hester:

So bravo to you. Your nieces and nephews are so lucky to have you.

Chris Tompkins:

Thank you. Yeah. Well, they're, they're becoming teenagers now. So the relationship has shifted.

Heather Hester:

I don't know what you're talking about. Have you got, like the greatest ever to you could not be more dumb.

Chris Tompkins:

Literally, I'm going next week to Eric. I'm from Arizona. I'm going next week to one of my nephew's high school graduations. Which I can't even believe. But I kind of have to like, squeeze time in between all the other things, you know, versus five years ago. It's like, Oh, Uncle Chris is in town. Let's, let's play. Yeah, so it's a little different. You're gonna get a high five as he goes by. I'm like, Oh, okay. I can go to your high school graduation. And that's where I'll see you. Okay, great.

Heather Hester:

Yes, I hope you have like a telephoto lens on your

Chris Tompkins:

right, right, right. Right. Right. Right.

Heather Hester:

Oh, my goodness. Well, you know, just that, yes, that is that sounds just about right.

Chris Tompkins:

Yeah, yeah. But I genuinely trust and believe that, that we are planting seeds. And in the lives of the young people and the kids that I taught in class, I can't tell you how many times I taught a class. In the in the early years that I've literally thought the class didn't go well. Like I thought that was the worst class. And at the end of the year, the person who I thought I didn't reach would come up to me and like, I'll never forget. And I want to go take too much more time. But I'll never forget when I was in juvenile hall, and I was working with a really challenging population, this is, you know, they were on medication, they had to have the presence of, of the probation staff, probation officers. And, and I'll never forget, like, this young person after the 10 week course, I literally thought that I every day, I was just speaking, like, I just was up there, and they weren't listening. And this this young man, I, as I was leaving, you know, he looked up at me. And he gave me a fist bump as I as I left, and the main therapist and the Ward said that he hadn't interacted with anyone to any of the visitors at all ever that way. And so for me, that was a huge change, like moment that I realized that, that and this goes to the purpose of my book is that young people, they have this whole inner world that is happening and going on right now. That I can't necessarily see on the outside. And if I determine something based on the outside, then I'm really missing a lot.

Heather Hester:

Yeah. 99.9% of it. Yeah. Yeah. Yes. Because I think that, especially teenagers are even better than adults at putting up a front. Yeah, putting putting something out there. But that is not at all reflective of what's going on in here. Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah. So yes, that is so cool. Oh, my gosh, yeah. So we never know.

Chris Tompkins:

We never know, we never know. And that's why I really hope with my book, that if there's anything that people take away from it, it's it's it's taught, taught to the young people in your life, and keep having conversations. And don't let what you think is happening on the outside. Determine what is going on in the inside. As far as the calmer the conversations that are that are taking place or not taking place.

Heather Hester:

Exactly, exactly. Oh, well, that is just a lovely way to I think, and but I'm wondering if we could kind of tease a little a little something here. You one of the things that you end the book with, and I don't want to totally give it away, but it is steps on how we can build a new playground. And I found them to be extremely helpful and great points to kind of end the book and move out into the world. Right. Yeah. So I'm wondering if you could just pick one. Yeah. And that's how we'll

Chris Tompkins:

we'll Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's really great. I think that, gosh, the I like giving folks practical kind of things that they can do it's get books have have resources available, in your families in your households. Have your teacher have something that includes the conversation that invites the conversation that invites curiosity, because I find that in my own experience of working with young people, it's they really pick up on everything and they pick up on the things that we don't talk about and they pick up on the things that aren't in the spaces that they're in. And they'll notice those. And so I think books and anything that kind of is something that can invite the conversation that can invite the curiosity. Because if kids and this is a big, huge tick, kind of question I get asked a lot. Well, what age is a good age to talk about, you know, LGBTQ or what? And I always say if if a young person is is asking questions, they're old enough to understand the answer. Absolutely. And so for me, that's kind of a good gauge of in my book, I have specific books that are broken up by age. Yes. So that maybe a easy practical, you can do this today kind of thing.

Heather Hester:

Thank you. Yes. That's awesome. Thank you. Thank you so much. Oh, my goodness. Yeah. Well, I am so grateful that you made the time to be here today and share so much of your shot of so much of yourself. And I just can't wait for everyone to read this. It's so good. I mean, when you talk about my quick aside, kind of circling back to what you said earlier, the books that changed your life. I have to this is now my second. My first one is Susan controls. Mom, I'm gay. Oh, have you ever read that? No. It's one that is it's around religion, because that was definitely as played a big role in your life also played a big role in mine. Wow. And I mean, life changing? Yeah. Wow. This is the second

Unknown:

so Wow. Thank you, Heather. Wow, very welcome. Wow.

Heather Hester:

That with utmost sincerity. Wow.

Chris Tompkins:

Wow. Thank you. Oh, wow. Thank you. Thank you. Wow, that's a huge honor. Thank you. Thank you.

Heather Hester:

You are welcome. Thank

Chris Tompkins:

you for having me.

Heather Hester:

You are so very welcome.

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