I spent the holiday weekend camping around Yellowstone National Park. If you haven’t been, go. Just don’t go for Memorial Day, when apparently it’s snowing. Yes, I said snow. I wasn’t expecting snow in May, but hey. There’s a lot about van life that’s unexpected.
Snow plus a 2-hour bison delay made for a long driving day. I was so excited to pull up to my beautiful campsite with views of peaks in every direction. (Follow me on Instagram to see the views). As I went down the short, muddy hill toward the picnic benches that marked the parking spots, I slid a little bit. Then, as I pulled in I felt a sinking feeling.
Not the emotional kind, the literal one.
I was stuck in mud. Thankfully, my bounce back factor kicked in and I calmly reviewed my options. First step: text the people who live here. “Sorry to bother you, but I’m stuck in the mud. Can you help?” To which they happily replied, “of course! Be there in 20.”
I was happy for the help, but a worry washed over me as I realized who I am and where I was. I’m a trans person in rural Montana. What if these people aren’t friendly? What if they see me and something bad happens? I’m in the middle of nowhere. I want to believe people will help, but these scenarios still race in my mind. It’s not because I assume the worst of people, but because I know the statistics. I can read the headlines. I know how many trans people are murdered every year.
The worry washed away as my hosts arrived with big smiles, happy to help whoever was stuck in that huge van. We started talking about all of my van mishaps. “This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten stuck,” I shared as we marched around the muddy grass. “At least this time I didn’t wait 6 hours for the tow!” After this laundry list of things going wrong lately, I’m finally getting a sense of humor about all of this.
We talked about their travel plans, too. “We’ve been considering van life,” the wife mentioned as we pushed on the bumper to rock the van out of the sinking spot. “Well, let me know if you want to take a tour,” I said with a smile.
I just outed myself.
Instead of giving tours, I was trapped in my van thanks to a wave of downpours. I texted my host the night before I was supposed to leave to confirm they would be around before I tempted fate and tried to get my van back over the muddy ditch I got stuck in before. I wanted to make sure I’d have backup. After we confirmed my departure time, my host brought up van life again. “I have wanderlust imagining where you’ll go next!” In response, as I’ve done so many times before, I suggested they follow me on Instagram. “You can see all the sites that way.”
A few seconds later, that familiar panic was back. I just outed myself.
I live out loud on social media, but in every day life? I am silenced – by choice. For my safety. For my mental health. I try my best simply to pass, to pretend to be whatever you think I am. It keeps me safe and allows me to exist without threat. However, if you follow me on social media? You can’t miss the hints. The flags. The pronouns.
Now my hosts were following me and I needed their help. Would they help me now that they knew I was trans?
I held my breathe as I sent the text asking for help. Worried.
There’s some part of me that holds my breath every time I come out. If knowing more about me makes them like me less. If my first impression is enough to make them like all of me. I’m always hoping I didn’t ruin everything just by being trans. It reminds me of coming out at 16 all over again, sobbing to my mom and begging her to love me still in the same breath as I said “I’m gay” believing she could not possibly do both. Some part of me still holds on to that fear that the two aren’t possible in the same place even after all these years of knowing better.
When people ask me why Pride exists, I think about all these little moments of wonder. The fear. When I stand in front of teams this month to teach them about pronouns and say “this is about making people safe,” I hope they understand. It’s not big, cinematic moments. You’re not saving the day and you won’t be on the news tonight for allyship. But for one person, you can make them believe that it’s possible to love someone no matter what. To love them no matter what.
Even more importantly with the recent news cycle and legislation, you can help someone believe that helpers exist and there are not two sides to humanity. If you’ve read the headlines lately, it’s easy to believe that’s impossible – almost as unbelievable as snow in May. But you have the opportunity to be one of those people. To make people feel safe. Just like my hosts did, especially when they sent me a sweet “happy Pride” message days after I left.
Even if it’s just keeping them safe from the mud.
Stay safe (and dry) this week –
PS – Don’t miss this week’s blog by Three Ears Media’s own Melissa Martini sharing her experience with spam job posts and what to look for. Please share this with anyone you know that’s looking for a job. These scams are happening to everyone – even the tech savvy. Read that here.
Katrina (Kat) Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive, unbiased job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.