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Those of you who know me well – OK, anyone who knows me at all – know that I’m rarely at a loss for words. Imagine my surprise, then, the first time I sat down to write down some personal-experience essays, in hopes of melding them together into a memoir.

I was 34, had just left my position as managing editor of Echo, now OUTvoices, moved to the Sedona “suburb” of Cottonwood, and my partner and I were just kicking off what would turn out to be 18 months of (mis)adventures, filled with melodramatic plot twists, positive and negative reversals of fortune, and the kind of wisdom that only comes after getting kicked in the proverbial can a couple of times.

By the time it was over, my partner and I had experienced enough during that year and a half to fill at least one volume of our collective autobiography. And yet, when I sat down at the computer to record what I recognized as significant memoir material, I hit a patch of insurmountable writer’s block. I couldn’t think of anything to write about.

I was wrong, of course. There was plenty to write about, even if I had skipped writing about the details of my juicy then-current situation. I had grown up in a Democratic-leaning family in a heavily Republican county in the Midwest; had a lifelong love affair with creativity; started my writing career at age 14 and had the opportunity to interview everyone from LGBTQ spiritual author Mel White to sexologist Annie Sprinkle; learned to shoot safety videos in an aluminum factory and dangled off a cherry picker 70 feet up to get an “aerial” shot.

The assumption that my life stories weren’t worth collecting was wrong at age 34, and that feels even more true nearly 15 years later. I’ve always been drawn to writing about how ordinary people live their lives. In my early years as a writer, I expressed that interest by writing human interest features and profiles; more recently, that passion has morphed into helping people tell their own stories as a personal historian. What I’ve discovered along the way is that every life, including my own, contains extraordinary moments – ones that are important to us, as well as to those around us.

Photo by Eugene Chystiakov on Unsplash

Collecting and sharing our life stories can be profoundly empowering, especially if we belong to the LGBTQ community. Here are three basic reasons why:

1. First and foremost, understanding our stories helps us to make sense of our lives.

We can experience epiphanies related to how our life has unfolded at any age; also, how we tell key life stories to ourselves or to others often changes over time. Making the effort to record our stories is an important step in this “figuring out” process.

2. Expressing our life stories, even the sad or unpleasant ones, makes us more resilient and better able to cope.

About 20 years ago, Emory University researcher Marshall Duke measured the resiliency skills of children and found that those who could answer the most items on a list of family history questions scored highest. He also discovered that the family storylines that helped kids cope the best were the “oscillating” narratives, the stories that told kids that family members have made it through both bad times and good times, which helped them realize that they can overcome setbacks in their own life, too.

3. The process of personal story-catching can connect us to something larger than ourselves.

This may be the greatest advantage of “owning our story” for LGBTQ people. So many of our community members have been rejected by their families, churches or geographic peers, which can make one feel lost and alone. And we have all lived through historic queer milestones such as the LGBTQ marches on Washington, D.C., the AIDS crisis, the women’s music movement, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in the military, the advent of marriage equality and much more. As we retell our life stories, including the ones that touch on sexual orientation and gender identity, we get a sense of how ALL our various identities and their intersections make us who we are, and connect us to others.

There are many ways to share your personal stories once you’ve collected them. You can start a blog, attend poetry slams or live storytelling events, contribute to an online video initiative like “It Gets Better,” or provide an oral history for the Arizona LGBT+ History Project (arizonalgbthistory.com). All it takes to get started is an open notebook, the willingness to dig deep into your memories and the belief that your stories matter.

I know the next time I decide to write about my life, the blank page won’t get the best of me. Because I’ve seen it happen with others, I know that when it comes to discussing my own memories, I believe, along with Mark Twain, “There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy and a tragedy.”

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Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.

Michael Feinstein


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Gilles Toucas

Michael Feinstein will commemorate Judy Garland’s life on March 20 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.


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The worlds of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms have completely revolutionized the fitness industry. Social media has, seemingly overnight, transformed virtually every facet of how we do business in fitness. It has forever changed information access, coaching, marketing, group accountability, perceptions of ideal physiques, trends and so on.

Love it or hate it, it seems as though social media is here to stay. So, I’ve put together my Trainer Tia’s Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to combining your favorite social media platform with your fitness journey.

Do vet the accounts you follow.

Social media can be a vast resource for knowledge, motivation and accountability. These are the three biggest things that most people want from a trainer or other fitness guide. If you find the right accounts to follow (easier said than done), you can get all three of these things for free! So, how does one find the right accounts to follow? Here are some pointers on what to avoid that will help you make that determination.

First, avoid profiles trying to sell things or recruit people to sell things (read: pyramid scheme). If they are constantly giving “shoutouts,” referrals, discount codes and tags, they are probably not in it for you – this kind of user is posting to promote themselves. Be wary taking advice from people who don’t want to really help you, in the end.

woman in brown turtleneck sweater covering her face with her hand Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Also, avoid putting a lot of stock in profiles that don’t reflect your values (i.e. if you’re a vegan bodybuilder, I’d advise against following the bodybuilders who worship the animal protein part of their process). This is different for everyone, so you’ll know when you see it. Just know it’s OK to hit unfollow.

Last, but not least, avoid thirst traps (unless you’re into that kind of thing, of course). If someone looks amazing but fails to accurately relay the details of their workout program, goals, or progress, just realize that they’re best classified as eye candy and not a fitness authority. And that’s OK too.

Don’t overwhelm your followers with nudes parading around as “progress pics.”

Let’s be real, there’s already enough of that out there. Tasteful displays of physiques are one thing, but when 80 percent of your pictures are in the same booty-popped pose with way too much skin, you’re probably not taking “progress pics” anymore.

Do ask for advice and help from your favorite fitness guides.

Again, this information is free and can go a long way. Let your favorite accounts know what you’d like to see or learn and I can almost guarantee that, if they care about their reputations, they’ll answer your questions. Give it a shot. You’re not the only one who wants to know that particular answer, I promise you.

Don’t be fooled by fool’s gold.

Meaning, don’t feel compelled to try that “amazing new ab shredder guaranteed to give you a six pack in six days” … it’s not going to work. Tag your trainer friend on the post or ask your trainer if that movement or program actually works. More than likely, it’s just another sensational marketing ploy that doesn’t actually transform your body. Remember, the old school basic movements have been around for thousands of years for a reason: because they work! This new fad, diet, juice/shake, program that looks seem too good to be true – is most likely a waste of your time. Instead, find profiles that relay the realistic amount of hard work and dedication that it takes to have an ideal physique. Remember, results take time!

Blue Facebook Thumb Up Blue Facebook Thumb Up Photo by Jackson So on Unsplash

Do participate!

Like that picture. Tag your fitness friends on something that you like. Post your story with courage and belief in yourself. With the new algorithms in social media, this will result you seeing more of what you like in your feed. It’s not like you have a finite number of “likes” that you can give out. Be liberal with your liking, it lets the platform know what you’d like to see more of. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and engage with the users you admire or the content you are interested in.

Don’t compare yourself to those heavily edited photos of perfection.

I write about this frequently because it’s so prevalent. Remember, Photoshop is an incredible editing tool that can completely alter a physique, before/after comparisons, adjust lighting, draw in shadows/cuts, slim a waist, enlarge a bicep, and much more. Many photos you see on social media are not real. Please remember this when you’re comparing yourself to anything you scroll past!

Social media has become a huge part of our daily lives, and it certainly has its own decorum. Hopefully, these Do’s and Don’ts give you a taste of how a professional sees fitness and social media working (and not working) together. In the end, though, it’s your journey so customize as you see fit.

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