Artwork for podcast Just Breathe: Parenting Your LGBTQ Teen
The Continuing Journey of Self-Discovery with Connor Hester
Episode 6331st May 2022 • Just Breathe: Parenting Your LGBTQ Teen • Heather Hester
00:00:00 01:13:48

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Connor helps Heather kick off Pride Month with a fun conversation that ranges in topics from an update on how he’s doing to his thoughts on rainbow capitalism. For newer listeners who do not know who Connor is, first of all, welcome, and second of all - Connor is Heather’s oldest son whose bravery and life experience allows for this podcast as well as all of Heather’s other work. This is the fourth episode Connor and Heather have done together, so be sure to check out the others to get very real insight on the coming out process as a teen and young adult.

Do not miss these highlights:

01:52 - Catch up on what has been happening in Connor’s life since his last appearance in August 2020

13:08 - After leaving home, learn the changes in dynamics that occurred between Connor and his parents

21:17 - Utilizing therapy as a tool for self-awareness and uncovering how to address issues in a therapeutic context.

33:59 - The complexities of reconnecting socially as the pandemic restrictions ease up 

41:53 - Navigating the social media as a queer youth and the fears of parents having their kids faced with the hate that is out there

49:08 - Transitioning from queerness being a central component of your existence to being really just a part of who you are and how living in New York has allowed him to live openly

55:03 - A look at Rainbow Capitalism and it’s detrimental effects on queer artists and the pseudo support of businesses during Pride

About our Guest:

Want to know more about Connor and his story? Check out his earlier episodes on Just Breathe. 

Connor Shares His Story - Part 1: https://chrysalismama.com/connor-shares-his-story-part-one/

Part 2: https://chrysalismama.com/connor-shares-his-story-part-two/

Part 3: https://chrysalismama.com/connor-shares-his-story-part-three/ 


Transcripts

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 all here today. Today, this guest is a fan favorite. And of course, a favorite of mine as well. I am so excited to have Connor back on the show today to kick off Pride Month, and to kind of catch up and catch you all up so you can hear what he's been up to. And of course, he always has lots of amazing things to share with us and with all of you. So I am thrilled and grateful that you have taken time out of your day out of your Friday to hang out with me on online which you all I know is very funny. Connor and I typically are talking on the phone, but we are we are doing this today, which is very funny. So anyway, thanks, Connor.

Connor Hester:

Yes, thank you so much for having me. Nice to be back. Glad to chat and catch up.

Heather Hester:

I know well, this is this is a fun way of doing this. So Connor and I typically we talk about once a week. And I'm very excited because this is actually my first time talking to Connor. Well, at least like this and his new apartment, he just moved to a new apartment moved from the East Village to Brooklyn kind of in between Williamsburg and Bushwick, right? So I'm excited. I get to go actually see his new place in a couple of weeks. But right now I'm just imagining it. So super excited that we get a little peek here into Connors life a week after his big move. And finishing his junior year, which is amazing. So let's just start out with like a little update because I'm trying to think back to the last time we chatted, which has been a little while since you've been on. I mean, it was very COVID he I think

Connor Hester:

yeah, no, I definitely I was still at home. So I don't know if that was like last summer or like, longer. But it's yeah,

Heather Hester:

it's been a minute. So so let's let's just hear a quick update about you and what you what you've been up to what you're what you're doing all that gets Yeah.

Connor Hester:

Yeah, no, I guess it's been productive year. You know, I just finished like you said, it just finished my junior year, which is very exciting. got very, was very happy with the grades that I ended up with. And you know, I'm getting very close to getting Latin Honors, which is a exciting. It's a fun thing to work for work towards, especially given the starting point for my grades first semester. To where I am now is a huge improvements. That's very exciting. But outside of that,

Heather Hester:

can you share a little bit about what you're what you're majoring in and what you're doing? Because I don't think we've talked much about that. And it's

Connor Hester:

totally it's Mayfield's. Yeah. So my major Janine keeps changing, but as of right now, it is interactive design and media. And that is, I mean, I always struggle to explain necessarily what that encapsulates, but or encompasses whatever. But it's essentially just like learning all the different like, mediums of creative like design, digital design, that you know, ranges from like just basic graphic design to like 3d that 3d design and modeling, user experience design web design. I'm particularly interested in kind of like the post production and kind of like film aspect of that That's something that I've kind of been. And then I guess investigating a little more to see, like, what about it really interests me. Because I mean, like, the cool thing about the major is it essentially just like over the course of four years exposes you to like all the different kinds of design that you can do with your computer. And so kind of just like figuring out, like, what sticks, what really interests me, has been a journey. But also, you know, a very fun journey, because it's been like a lot of like, refining my artistic sensibilities and my aesthetic. And yeah, it's been, I mean, like, the coolest part, I think, is just like, I never thought of myself as like an artist or an IT person all through high school, I'd kind of just decided that I was going to be a stem student, and eventually a computer science student, and that was just fully not the right thing for me. I do not enjoy math or science. So you know, this is a fun, fun change of pace, where like, I was actually like, looking forward to my classes and like, really wanting to like put forth a good effort into like, my projects and stuff. So it's been a really cool experience. No clue. But I'm going to do with this in the future. But for right now, it's fun. So long winded answer, but no,

Heather Hester:

that's a good answer. And it's it's definitely. I mean, I think that you are, you're doing it the way that college should be done, right? I mean, I, I love that you have you went in literally as a computer science major in the engineering school. And this major is in the engineering school, which is really cool. So you are able to kind of over time, like, try things out, and you're like, oh, this fits better. I like this better. And you've just kind of been weaving your way toward this major. And the flexibility has been there to let you do that. But you've also allowed yourself to do that, instead of being like, very fixed mindset, like, this is what I'm supposed to do. Right? Because I'm good at it. And so, it's this whole, you know, conversation of just, just because you're good at something doesn't mean that you have to do that. Right. If you don't love it, then it's

Connor Hester:

yeah, no, I mean, I think like, that's definitely one of the huge things that we've, you know, kind of learned from the pandemic, it's like, we shouldn't be wasting their time doing shit that we don't like, enjoy, like, life is too short to be wasting our time. That was I was gonna be anyway, it's too short to be fucking around with like, you know, with math and science, you know, no one. No one wants to be doing that. Yeah,

Heather Hester:

yeah. Well, no, and I just was gonna say you're thinking about all the projects that you've done. And shared, Connor shares. All the stuff with SMA is a super cool portfolio. And he does, and he's so creative, and the stuff he comes up with, you know, he'll send to all of us and we're all like, oh, my gosh, did you come up with that? I mean, it is crazy, crazy stuff. A little dark, sometimes. Maybe. But like, Oh, wow. But Awesome.

Connor Hester:

Thank you. All right, thanks. So

Heather Hester:

I love that. And I think, you know, kind of the message that I love about this or one of the big messages is just kind of that watching you really figure out your passion, like what you know, makes you want to go to school, what makes you want to get up and go to those classes, you know, what makes you get on a train and you know, take a 20 minute subway ride to get to class, right? I mean, it's not like you're rolling out of bed and walking down the street to it's an effort and and you make this effort and because you love it and you're good at it. So yeah, really

Connor Hester:

kind of Yeah, explore figure out because they mean like, I mean, also just little but like, it's like largely been the stuff that like I don't expect to like stick or be enjoyable that I played, take gotten the most out of like I feel like I'm definitely much more oriented towards like animation and like 2d motion design, which I never would have thought I would have been into before because that's like typically something It requires like, or this I thought requires a ton of like artistic talent particularly like, you know, being able to, like, draw it and I cannot draw to save my life it is quite pitiful, but kind of like figuring out how to use all these, like different types of online tools and are not online, but like, you know, digital tools to articulate my kind of thoughts. It's very cool. So, yeah, yeah, it's very fun.

Heather Hester:

Very, very fun. And alongside this, you, you've also, you know, figured out how to, you know, navigate living in a big city.

Connor Hester:

Right, kinda, yeah, I mean, you know, to, to a very baseline extent. Yes, I am, you know, functioning. Well. Give yourself

Heather Hester:

a little more credit than that. You know, Connor has discovered the joys of Trader Joe's, which for you, you all know, whoever has Trader Joe's nears that near them knows how much how great Trader Joe's is. So

Connor Hester:

really, yeah, I treat. It just I mean, it takes so much of the effort out of like having a grocery shop to because I'm not trying to like, prepare meals for myself, most of the time. I mean, 99% of the time, so like having some like, actually high quality like frozen thing, I can just pop in the oven or whatever as well life changing. So yeah, it kind of is actually definitely the worst part about this new apartment is that there's no Trader Joe's than walking distance. So you're gonna have to, you know, adapt to the circumstances, but

Heather Hester:

you're gonna have to get like your grocery bags, you know, and know what fits in like two grocery bags, like your Oh, yeah. Reusables

Connor Hester:

Yeah, that's my like, body bag that I put all my groceries in. Taken out in the subway, it's gonna be far less pleasurable. So, but anyway, I will I will adapt and overcome.

Heather Hester:

Yeah, well, you'll, you'll be good. Yes. So I'm switching gears just a little bit. And, you know, as as Connor and I were kind of thinking about this episode, we, we came up with a couple of things that we thought might be interesting for, for you to hear and to, to learn about, as far as you know, Connors perspective and my perspective. But one of the things that we were talking about is kind of what you know, as he's moved from high school and everything that he was, you know, learning and going through and dealing with in high school, and moved into this college phase and living away from home and living in New York City. How has that changed kind of what you want or need from dad and me now as opposed to what you wanted and needed then?

Connor Hester:

Good question. I mean, like, I think in high school, I mean, I will say like, I just was obviously far more dependent on you guys for I mean, you know, everything. I'm not that I'm like, you know, that much more independent now? I mean, I guess I but, you know, in high school, it was definitely, like, I needed kind of a what's the word? A helping hand guiding kind of pointing me in the right direction sort of thing? To kind of stay on track? Yeah, I mean, like, also, yeah, it's kind of like, I mean, you really did kind of find all the resources for me. And, you know, you're the one that got me set up with therapy. I mean, granted, you got me set up with therapy here. So I can't really say that. That's much different. But you know, it was just I guess, like, you know, it's, I'll just say like, it was definitely a much more hands on experience.

Heather Hester:

I mean, you got yourself to therapy now. Right? Like you hold yourself accountable to whether it's in person or virtual. That's

Connor Hester:

right. Yeah. Yeah. No, no, I mean, it's like it is yeah, it's definitely it's different than that other guy. I'm much more accountable to myself, but in terms of, you know, kind of establishing that relationship, you were the one that found my lovely therapist. I have now had for like three years or so, or two years, something like that. I mean, the pandemic it's just been kind of a blur, so it was really just say, but Sorry, I'm trying to think of like little something a little more profound than just the fact that like, yeah, you guys are like, now you guys are not physically present. And like, there's a lot more that like, you know, just like a part of, I guess, you know, becoming an adult and becoming my own person and like learning how to be self sufficient. It definitely changed our relationship. And like, I mean, definitely in like a very good way, I think it's now it's much less of like, a dependent relationship. I mean, it's still like, you know, a parent child, but like, I think it's far more like, I, for me, at least, it just feels like you guys, like, see me as like more of an equal or more of like, you know, just like a well rounded adult. Whereas before I was obviously much more, I think just like, you know, understandable worry, and at the very least, you know, just like, concerned that, like, wasn't going to fall off the, the, whatever again. So, you know, now that it's like, you know, again, knock on wood, but like, now that it's, you know, a couple years of relatively steady, independent living and relatively successful living, I think, like, it's just like, it is much more like, amicable relationship. You know, like, Dad was here last weekend, and it was just like, you know, very pleasant, you know, like, being able to talk not that I actually care about business, but like, you know, asking him how business is going and like, how's the company and like, he feels fully like, you know, it's more than thrilled to talk about, you know, all these business things. And that's, like, really sweet. And, you know, like, we got like, drinks together, and you're just like, in the neighborhood. That's some like, cute little neighborhood bar, and like, just like, you know, people watching and it was just like, I don't know it, again, a very, very long drawn out answer, just to say that, like, you know, it is much more. I don't know, it's just like, I guess I do, I just see so much more positive relationship now. Not that it was ever like a negative relationship, but it's just like, it doesn't feel like I'm like. It's not the like, worry of like, Oh, what if mom and dad gonna think of the, you know, doing X or Y, it's kind of more like, I can come to you guys when I need assistance, or advice, but it's not like I'm necessarily accountable to you guys.

Heather Hester:

All right. Well, I think I think it's a really great way of saying it, because I think you are, you know, from my perspective, I've just seen your confidence blossom. And, you know, every time that you like, proved yourself, like, I've got this, oh, my gosh, I can I can do this. Like, it's just like another layer of confidence for you. So you're now accountable to yourself, which is, I think, a really huge growth piece and being able to recognize that right? And just kind of making that shift to like, realizing I could, I could totally do this. Like, I I've got this. And I know if I need anything, or if I just want to chat or if I you know, whatever it is like, we're right there. We're a phone call away. Right? Right. We're a two hour plane trip away. And so, there is like that. Like, it's become more of, like you said, like this, the relationship has shifted. But from my perspective, it's shifted to, you know, it's, it's lovely. I mean, it's one of my most favorite things in the world. So I'm obviously you know, I'm a mom, and I'm biased. But I just, I think, for me, I get such joy from you know, as you talk about things, and you share different things, and just seeing your growth has been extraordinary. So, I think I threw that question in there because I was just curious, you know, what, you how you saw all of that, because, obviously, it's going to be different the way you post the way I see it,

Connor Hester:

so, yeah, pretty similar page though.

Heather Hester:

Yeah. Well, yeah, I think as you like, you know, kind of pull yourself you know, as you establish yourself as an adult, right. And not a dependent child. Like there's a lot of stuff that goes on there. And so, you know, like, with everything that you've done, you are very aware as you do things. So, yes, you're very welcome. Um, You mentioned therapy. So I'm going to, I'm going to ask you about that. Because I, you know, as as you know, that's one of my favorite subjects.

Connor Hester:

Familiar, yes.

Heather Hester:

But you now have a therapist who you love, and who you connect with and just have a good relationship with, I should say and good communication with. And that has not always been the case. Yes. And so I just would love to know, I wonder if you could share kind of, I mean, you've shared, we've shared a lot of kind of the beginning ups and downs with therapy, but as you've kind of moved into this now, two plus year relationship with your current therapist, how has that kind of changed the way you've thought about therapy and where it fits in your life? And? And then kind of the second part of that question is where that fits with the coming out process. Okay,

Connor Hester:

sure. Okay, yeah, I mean, so I guess so the first part was just like, where I'm at with therapy now. Yeah, that's right. Okay. Yeah. I mean, I think like, the most notable change is just like, the, the subject matter of the therapy, like, I feel like, I mean, it definitely was, like, you know, up until, like, a year ago, it was kind of just like, crisis therapy. Coming into session with like, you know, X problem y problems, the problem, you know, this is fucked up. This is the awareness was this, whatever. And, like, definitely, very, just like, I don't know how to describe it, just like very kind of early, early stages of therapy. Like, I definitely didn't really know how to like, I mean, I was like, self aware, but like, being a teenager and like having a very, like delusional confidence and delusional. You know, feeling like I have to have got it all figured out. So it's a lot of like, I guess, kind of unlearning and relearning. For the first portion of therapy, however many years that was, I mean, probably four years, but, you know, now, it's definitely moved into a zone of like, I guess it's just kind of most akin to, like, you know, just basic self care, like, I have it once a week, it's 4550 minute session. And it's really just like, I mean, it, in a lot of ways has become kind of mundane, but like, that's also kind of a good thing. Like, it's really just like, I kind of talk about my week, and if anything came up kind of talk about that, or like, you know, anything that's like, on my mind talk about but like, it is definitely, like, very different, like in tone. It's not as much of me like coming to session being like, how do I fix this? I mean, it's like, it still is, but it's like, now is much more, I don't know, I guess there's just like a much higher level of self awareness and like, kind of like what can be fixed with therapy? Or like, how do I address this in like, a therapeutic context? Whereas before, it was kind of like, before meaning like, you know, when I was just starting therapy, and first couple years of therapy, like it was much more just kind of unfamiliar with how it works and how to kind of, you know, like, navigate it, right. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Heather Hester:

What would be your, you know, kind of knowing what, you know, now, what would be your advice to, like, your 16 year old self? Right, like, you know, you're you're just coming out, you're in that place? What would be your advice? I mean, not just about therapy, but just kind of in general, like, just considering and you use the word delusional earlier, and I'd really That's so like, developmentally appropriate to think that you know, everything at that age, like that's just kind of part of being Yeah, high school kid, right. Yeah. So, but what would be your like now kind of knowing what you know, having been through what you've been through?

Connor Hester:

I guess just like I guess this is like If I don't know, I guess this advice kind of applies more so to like, the eyes very fortunate to have like, queer therapists, or at least people that were like very familiar with that. I don't know, realm. But like, truly just like, you know, these people are trained professionals, like when, with rest of therapy like these people, like, by generally, these people know what they're talking about, and like, you know, they're bringing something to your attention, or like saying, you should try this. Like, there's definitely a reason for this, like, I don't know, I guess it's like, it's a generic piece of advice to be like to just have an open mind. But like, truly, that's like,

Heather Hester:

did you find that it took you like, a while to trust? Where you are, where you just, like, not even trust, like, where you're just like, I don't need this. I don't want this. Why am I here? Like, was that kind of your initial?

Connor Hester:

Yeah, I mean, I, I mean, there was like, obviously, a level of like, I mean, by the time like, that started therapy, like, it was, like, I knew that I needed it to an extent. It was just like, I was not inclined to actually, like, you know, give a fuck about it. I think it's, especially with like, my first, my first couple therapists, like it was very, like, I kind of just give a very edited version of the truth. That was, like, convenient for me at the time, because there was also this level of like, oh, like, if I say something that's like, too extreme, and they're gonna tell my parents and then that's like, a whole nother issue. So like, I have to kind of just like edit it down until, like, the family friendly version of what's going on. And so, I guess, on that note, there, don't lie to your therapist, because A, it's like you're wasting, you're wasting your time because like, then they're just going to be giving you this, like advice that's entirely unlike, or irrelevant to like your situation, because they think that you're like, in this entirely other scenario than like, the scenario you're in. I guess that's like, more specific to like, when you're in like, you know, crisis mode, but like, yeah, I guess just like it's corny, but it's like, it works. If you work it like, you gotta just like, really? Embrace it. I don't know. Cuz, like,

Heather Hester:

that's really good. That's,

Connor Hester:

thank you. Yeah, cuz I don't Yeah, it's hard to say because it's like, it is like, I totally get like, no one. I mean, especially Yeah, especially as a teenager, like, no one's like, dying to, like, see a therapist. Especially if you've never like been to therapy before. Like, not knowing what to expect. And like, kind of, like getting used to that dynamic is kind of art jarring. But, yeah, just like going like being receptive to it. Because like, I don't know. Sorry. So very piecemeal advice.

Heather Hester:

But that's, I think that's really It's spot on. I mean, it's, it's where you were, it's where you are, and I think there's this piece of, too, you know, it's complicated. And, right, it was, you know, like, we always say, like, being being a teenager is hard enough, right? It's complicated enough. And then, you know, yes, there are many awesome things about coming out as a teenager, but it also complicates things in a lot of ways. Right? So this is just like one piece of that, where you're just adding another layer of how do I navigate this, because I'm trying to navigate this. Now there's like 12, other things I have to navigate to. And I'm just trying to figure that out. And then on the parent side, like, we're trying to figure it out, trying to figure out how to support you, right? And what do you what do you really mean? What role do you think that when you are so comfortable in your own skin now? And, and you're, you know, that's something that you've worked really hard on? Really, really hard on to just you know, and obviously, that's something that you know, you'll work on your whole life, right? I mean, we all do, that's just a piece of like, just being a human being. But it that's been one of the, you know, more fun things for me to watch is to watch this, like, slow like, Oh, I really like this about myself and this is kind of cool and I'm just gonna be me. Right. And, and obviously, that's, you know, something that ebbs and flows again, because it's just being human. But what, you know, now that you're like leaning into that more and more, what about that just kind of makes you most happy? Like, makes you are most calm or?

Connor Hester:

Yeah, that's a great, great question. Yeah, I mean, I guess like, firsts are important because like, it totally ebbs and flows, like, are this definitely like, you know, and it's also I think, like, a very, like, situational thing, like, you know, I definitely see myself as, like, you know, the way that I, my self image, I think is like, you know, maybe the most ground level of the, you know, self confidence, like, it's definitely like, you know, it's transition from this place of like, Oh, I hate myself to like, oh, you know, like, I love myself, I see, like, the validity and like, who I am and et cetera. But there's still definitely the like, you know, the point now where it's like, okay, well, like, my, like, my, my confidence and being perceived by others. Which is, like, I guess, kind of hard to describe, it's just like, you know, I've definitely kind of found myself especially recently, like, in social situations, almost any social situations, it still is, like, extreme amount of effort for me to like, be in those situations and like, remain of competence, right word, but just like not like reverting to like this, like, very self conscious. Negative place. Because they think like, that's been the biggest transition is like, you know, kind of being able to avoid getting into that headspace of you, no, like, You're not wanted here, you're not worth it. You're not whatever. Like, just like the the negative self talk has become far less a part of the equation. And I just realized that kind of wanting a tangent. What?

Heather Hester:

No, I think that's an honor. I mean, that's what people want to, you know, that's what it's you being real. Right. So I think that that's important.

Connor Hester:

Thank you. Yeah. And, yeah, I mean, but I will say, you know, like, just in terms of like, general, like, self confidence, like, self image, like, like, has definitely been better. Like, there's just a, I will say, like, the pandemic, and I know, this is true for a lot of people that like that definitely, like, was a huge setback to like, just like my confidence in the sense of like, you know, being out in public and being perceived by other people. Like, I don't know, like, it was just something that like made me incredibly anxious, like, I just didn't want that. And so it's been like a, you know, of the past my third year, year and a half, it's been a lot of like, kind of rebuilding and rediscovering like how can I you know, how do I you know, just like approach the most basic things like being in Publix going grocery shopping going on the subway, you know, going to class going out with friends like how can I do these things in a way that I don't know just being like gentle with myself.

Heather Hester:

Like staying connected to you.

Connor Hester:

Yeah, yeah, definitely just being in touch with like being in touch with myself and like also I don't know I guess it's just kind of like yeah, like just like exposure therapy if that makes sense. Like it is kind of just like and it is like I mean, I will say this is like very I mean not that it's like very unique to me as in no one else experiences like everyone experiences this some extent and like with their own things, you know, like mine in this case right now is like you know, just like being social in any capacity connecting with other human beings being around other human beings I think like a most basic level like that's my my, my new frontier of things that I'm struggling with oversharing with the internet right now, but like, I don't know, I just like it's it just takes practice and like

Heather Hester:

It's been harder to I mean, the, you know, the pandemic has hit. I mean, obviously, it's affected everybody in some way, right. But I feel like, especially for, you know, adolescents, teenagers, young adults, because you are all in such a stage of development and change and transition. Anyway. And so adding this kind of on top of it has had a huge effect on on all of you, right, and you've all kind of now that we're coming out of this, are now having this kind of reentry, right. And so it's like a reentry struggle to a degree, but it affects you, the way it is affecting you is it's affecting, you know, your sisters and your brother in a totally different way and right, every other kid out there in a totally different way, or young adult in a totally different way. And so, I think there's a huge amount of validation that needs to go with this and that. This is, sadly, I think, part of this whole process, and it's something that we're all unfamiliar with, right? How do you navigate something like this? And, and navigate it, and at a time where you're, you've changed in a million different ways, since the pandemic started? Yeah, just in the sense that you're better, thank God. All right. For Absolutely, but I mean, just in the sense of like, you know, your, your age is different, where you know, where you are in college, you know, as far as, like, you're learning and what you're developing and all these different pieces. Whereas I'm, you know, for me as an adult, like, it's very different. Right, right. It's kind of the point that I'm trying to make is that Sure. It's, like, amplified. For you, and for your, you know, your generation. And then, I guess I'm just curious kind of on, on top of that, you're also navigating like, you know, how to be social, how to connect with, you know, your authentic self. Right. So I think that's kind of the, I guess, my thoughts and my question to you is, like, is that something that you feel like much bigger?

Connor Hester:

Yeah, I mean, I think, yeah, that's a very good point, like, it is like this, you know, Gen Z, I guess, generally speaking. I mean, like, everyone, you know, has, like, experience some form of trauma from the pandemic, but like, I think there's like a very new Gen Z being in a very, like, pivotable pivotal time, just like in your life, you know, being a teenager and kind of like learning how to interact with the world and, like, socialize in a very basic level. That, you know, of course, was entirely cut off at the knees. Since pandemic hit. So I think, yeah, it's just like a very isolating experience for everyone. But then, you know, on top of, you know, coming out experience, which can be a very isolating experience, and it sounds like it's just like that much more difficult. But I guess also, at the same time, like being in that kind of, like, heavy pandemic phase, where it's like, the only connection you really get is like, through the internet, that's already like, you know, people can find a lot of community and belonging on the internet. And so I think like that can't you know, making broad generalizations but like, you know, I think the internet especially recently has become a place of actually, I'm gonna, I'm gonna, that thought wasn't very well developed. So, it's just like, it's rambling. But, you know, like, it's being around, you know, teenager early 20s Whatever. Being gay being at the early earlier part of your coming out process. It just, you know, it's just like adding on to the already very chaotic experience what is already a chaotic experience is that much more chaotic experience, and perhaps even more of a even more individual experience. Right. So anyway,

Heather Hester:

do you think that happening? No, no, no, that was, I think the very good because they're they're very good thoughts. I'm just wondering, and this is like a total off the cuff question, but I think as parents, we're very much like hypersensitive to the effect of the internet and social media and all, you know, knowing what is out there, right, or being very afraid of what is out there. And just thinking about, you know, kind of how you how you just stated that there are actually positive parts, right there, there are things that there is good that has come from having the internet and having social media, especially these past two, two years, right. What would be your, as we kind of look at the whole as a, like a big picture thing, but two kids who are coming out? Who are, you know, high school, college, young adult, so like that, that age group, right? Not the really young ones, you know, middle school, which is a totally different kind of ballgame, right? Of what we would have what we would recommend, but as far as you know, what would you say? Like, yes, you can find community there. What are things that you would recommend, as far as like, not even necessarily where to look, but like, kind of what to look for? And what to be aware of. So you don't have to go into like, I mean, unless you want to offer very specific things you can but otherwise, just kind of like a general like, you know,

Connor Hester:

yeah. I mean, like, I guess, like, just Yeah, as a very general, like, I would say, the way that I use and consume the internet and social media and things of the like, is definitely much more passive. I don't really, I yeah, I don't find any joy and like contributing to it, if that makes sense. You know, like, I'm not posting stuff on Tik Tok, Instagram, etc. But I do enjoy, you know, scrolling through and kind of taking in the content of others. And, you know, especially now, like, all of these, particularly social media apps are so like, algorithm is so tailored to you. And like, you know, because they have all your personal information, they, you know, you get a very well tailored algorithm, or, like, you know, feed of like, stuff. And that's all just to say, like, for me, especially now, like, it's like, I have a very queer centric feed on, like, all of the social media that I use, like I, you know, follow queer creators and follow, you know, like, people drag queens, you know, like stuff, like, fly to examples, but like, you know, just like, in people that like, you know, I like what they have to say, and I know, this is kind of common sense, but like, just like, with the internet, you can entirely like insulate yourself from, like, all the other gross, like, hate and nastiness, like and kind of just live and like, in my case, you know, just live in like a queer little bubble. Like my little like, niche part of the internet. It's, like, clear, and that

Heather Hester:

I just, I'm gonna stop you right there for a second, because I think that's a really, really important thing that as parents, that is something that we're very afraid of. Right. That's something that I mean, and I'm speaking for myself, but I think that there are many out there who would agree that one, one thing that we definitely think about is, oh my gosh, you know, is there all this hate that's coming at my child? Or are they just going to trip into, you know, something where I'm like, you know, they're not aware of what's going on, or it's, you know, they could be preyed upon, or, I mean, and I'm obviously speaking in like huge generalizations here, but I think these are like, big fears. Right. So for you to say that is really a, a great piece of information, and I think very calming for both parents, and, you know, yeah, for young adult.

Connor Hester:

Yeah, I mean, I will say it's like to that end. You know, like, they're, you know, I could definitely understand the worry of, like, you know, as a parent, you know, like worrying about like, you know, our people's And he should have bought my kit online. And like maybe not that specifically but like, you know, I think that for me is definitely like one of the reasons why I don't I choose not to post very often like I you know, I have an Instagram I post on Instagram every once in a while but like, that's still like very much like a much more personal thing, versus posting stuff on Twitter or Tik Tok or whatever. I don't do that, because I feel like it just sets you up for, you know, getting, receiving hate because people on the internet, like the internet is a great thing. But it's also like, can be a very nasty and hateful fed. And, you know, obviously, it's like, you know, people can choose do what they want. But like, for me, it's just like, avoiding it entirely. Because like, well, it would be nice, you know, to maybe get like the validation of like attention and exposure, it's not worth the potential like, you know, hate negativity.

Heather Hester:

Right? Well, I think that's a really, that's a lovely piece of your self care. And, and also self discipline, that I know, both you and Isabelle go through times, where you just completely get rid of Instagram altogether. And then, you know, then you'll hop back on after a while, but kind of taking that like break like, Okay, I need a break right now from this. And but then, you know, it's the whole, like, knowing yourself and being comfortable enough. And I think this goes back to like being comfortable enough in your skin. And maybe you don't, you don't give yourself enough credit for this, that you're like, I I don't need that. I don't want that. That doesn't, you know, that doesn't define me. It's it's fun to look at, it's fun to you know, to pick up bits of information, right? You can act in a way that you want to connect, like, you're very much taken control of how you navigate the Internet, and social media, which is cool. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I just think, you know, it's kind of a, it's a such an interesting thought on that. So that kind of goes into just thinking about, you know, we talked talked a little bit about, just like the fears and the challenges of the internet and social media, but do you have like any trumpet trepidation, or concerns, or fears, flat out fears? You know, kind of specific to where you are right now. In your experience, and in your life, and kind of, at the same time for the LGBTQ community, like the greater community? What are as a gay man? What are your concerns? Because they're gonna be different than what mine are? Is the mom of a gay man. Right. So

Connor Hester:

like, concerns, I guess? Yeah.

Heather Hester:

Like, what do you think about the community when you think about, like, where we kind of are, and I know, this could obviously go in a lot of different directions. So I asked this kind of with you know, we could spend a couple hours just talking about, like, very specific concerns here. But yeah, I think my question is more like, is that something that kind of enters your thoughts on a daily basis? Like, gosh, this, this really concerns me about me? And then about my community?

Connor Hester:

Right, okay. Yeah,

Heather Hester:

I have a clear question. Sorry. I'm not

Connor Hester:

no, no. That's a that was a good clarification. Yeah, no, I mean, I think it's obviously again, it's like this should all be taken very much with a grain of salt because mine is just one opinion. And I am coming from a place of, you know, a very specific perspective. But I will say like, you know, as I've continued to come out and continue to grow and learn and change, etc. You know, where I used to kind of view my queerness as a a very central component to my existence, but like, be also something that was like kind of entirely separate from the other aspects of who I was or am. You know, like, that's a part of my identity for sure, but like a separate portion, and I think that overtime has kind of transitioned into like, like, like, that's just, you know, that's not how it's not how I work. That's not really, unless it's not how it works. Like, you can't really, like have things in like these, like little categories. And so now it's kind of just like, you know, being queer is just like, it's a part of who I am. But it's like, it's just like, every little facet of who I am. I mean, not every but like, it's just like, it's, it's my perspective, it's where I'm coming from. Not necessarily, like, a second component of who I am. And that's kind of like, meta and hard to like, I don't know, just like, put into like, a clearly defined thing. But

Heather Hester:

oh, I think that could not have been more clear. You actually, like literally, like that is that is crystal clear.

Connor Hester:

Yeah. But yeah, I mean, so like, I also again, like I do have privilege, in spades, but like, particularly, and like living in New York, and living someplace very urban, and very open and queer. And just like, you know, it's very accepting of, like, embracing of creepy people. And so like, again, like, that's part of like, why I kind of like, it can just be a part of like, my day to day existence and stuff. But I have, you know, like, especially like, you know, when I leave New York, I realize how lucky and how truly rare it is to, like, have that kind of experience of like, you know, I can walk out in the street wearing whatever the fuck I want. And like, no one will, you know, give it a second thought. Whereas, you know, quite unfortunately, in a lot of other places, that's still not the case. And like, you know, people don't have the same, you know, luxury of being able to, like, you know, really outwardly Express, you know, just authentically express their creativeness and who they are. And, you know, I think that is something that's, like, very scary for a lot of people today, because, and again, I'm trying to, like, get into like, preachy or meta on this, but it's just like, you know, in a time where, particularly our government and like those in power, are doing everything they can to kind of like silence and prevent otherness and prevent autonomy and prevent, you know, for any minority group. You know, like we've seen with Roe v. Wade, and, you know, what else is to come? Anyway, not take it too far down that direction? Because obviously, we could talk about that for a while. But it's, it's, it's, it's, it's complicated?

Heather Hester:

Well, it is, but I think that that's important. I mean, that's, I know, that was a tough question to ask and ask you to give, like a general answer to so I apologize for for that. But in the same way, I also felt like it was an important question to ask, because I think that's important. It's important to discuss to a certain degree and to kind of, I want, you know, as, you know, everyone who's listening to feel like this, like, this is okay to have these conversations, right. Like, you know, it is okay to discuss these things. And it's okay to feel, you know, whatever your feelings are, and, and to feel validated in having whatever those feelings are. Right. So that's kind of why I wanted you to touch on it just a little bit. Because I think that, you know, again, you do come from a very you know, it's a unique perspective, you know, living in New York City now, coming from the suburbs of Chicago, and having visited a lot of places in the country, like you have seen a lot of different communities. So kind of being able to speak from that perspective of, you know, being aware of your, of your privilege right now. And that that is, gosh, we're lucky. Right? And that's, you know, I've said to so many people, like I feel safer with Conor in New York City than frankly, I would with you and, you know, living in the city of Chicago right now. Right, which is a crazy statement to make, but so there's just it's one of those. It's just one of those things. So that kind of actually like goes right into the last the last thing that I wanted to talk about with you today because we are already hitting an hour which It's

Connor Hester:

fun to edit down.

Heather Hester:

I know um, but So Connor wrote and correct me if I'm wrong about how I how I named this class. One of Connors classes that he had to take this last semester it was a required he, for his major for engineering programs require that you take a writing intensive course correct? Yeah. So you took this course that was okay, I forget the name of it was about the AIDS epidemic. But

Connor Hester:

yeah, me I was essentially like, the focus was on the AIDS epidemic, but it's kind of like using the AIDS epidemic as a lens to examine kind of like, I don't know, just like larger themes in our culture and the way that we view progress. So yeah, okay, that's great.

Heather Hester:

So, Connors, final paper for this class. I just got to read this week. And oh, my gosh, I mean, Connor is a very, very gifted writer anyway. And I do always love to read what he writes. Because it's, you know, it says unique perspective. And it's, it's always very well thought out, and very well written, which you all know that I'm big on being the grammar nerd. And my kids all have always made fun of me, because I do always read their papers with a red pen. It's weird, but anyway. It's Yes, it's useful. Yes. There's something about that. But anyway, this paper, not only is it so extraordinary from a technical viewpoint, I learned so much and I learned so Connor wrote his paper on Tama fenlon, which I don't you know, some of you may know who he was, as a queer artist, and a queer erotic artist, I had no idea who he was. So I was very, like, this was a huge learning thing for me to be like, Oh, wow, this fascinating. I mean, it's just like one more person where you're like, oh, my gosh, the life that that He lived and the path that he paved in a very small part of the world, right of life. And so I found his whole story to be fascinating, in and of itself, but what you wrapped in this was this whole discussion about rainbow capitalism, which, you know, you and Isabel and Grace have all, you know, talked about, and I've had Dad and I have both been like, like, what, what is this exactly? Like, I mean, I've, you know, you hear it, and you kind of get the general gist of what it is. Right. But not until reading this paper, did I have that like, Aha moment of, oh, this is why it's kind of used with negative connotation. Because the initial, like, if you just say it, it's kind of neutral, right? Like it's just describing. Right? Right, right. But in reading this, I was like, Oh, now I really understand why this is. I mean, you use the word insidious, which is a very strong word. But I think well used so I could quote that I can either quote or I'll give you the option. I can either quote your paper or you can you can share with us kind of your thoughts on this because I found it to be very educational.

Connor Hester:

Thank you. Well, yeah, I mean, I guess I can talk a little bit about it but I know that you had found that a good quotes and I'm sure that you know, anything I say will be much better articulated through what I've written so I guess I can you know, kind of just at a base level kind of touch on that but yeah, first of all, thank you God I'm always very grateful that you read and give very supportive feedback on work I do. But yeah, it you know, kind of started out as like my fascination was taller Finland who's like, you know, essentially just like a very explicit pornographic artists. You know, who is particularly I don't want to say inspirational but like his his His work was particularly influential and kind of creating or giving, I don't know, it created kind of like a subculture within the queer community within, like the kink community. So it's like a very, like, specific part of queer history. Thomas Mendez. So it's like,

Heather Hester:

it's like to be noted, just so people who don't know who he is, like, this was like, we're talking like 40s 50s. Right, right. Art was draw drawing, right? He was. That was his. I mean, he did it with the drawing, right? You did? Yeah. Like charcoal drawing charcoal. Yes. Okay, so just to give context of what kind of art we're talking about here.

Connor Hester:

Yeah, I guess like a little more like, yeah, like, you know, I would say, Google him, you will check the images, you'll see some interesting stuff. But like, you know, truly like, is just a very talented illustrator, illustrator. And, you know, his work, you know, kind of evolved over time. And like, as, you know, laws censorship and pornography, distribution laws kind of changed, like he, you know, it was kind of more mainstreamed. But anyway, like, I guess, like, the point that I focused on in the paper was kind of, like, you know, going from when he was alive, he passed in, like, the 90s. Kind of like, any more towards, I don't say, the middle of the AIDS epidemic, but you know, like, a decade or so, decade and a half after it started. But it's the kind of like, I was focusing more on like, the post mortem kind of fame that he gained, which was this very authentic kind of bastardization of his work that, you know, the whole premise of like, Rainbow capitalism, for those who don't know, is that it consists essentially, just like, you know, now that queer people are seen as, you know, productive members of society, like members of society. They are now like a target market, because, you know, they most of the time, you know, that have more disposable income less kids, you know, most of them don't have kids. But like, you know,

Heather Hester:

a larger percentage,

Connor Hester:

yeah, so anyway, it's like, you know, so it's like, they're just seen as, like, a much more viable market to, like, you know, advertise to, and select some, like, really clear examples are, you know, ones that are most cited, are like, if you go to a pride parade today, that's one of the sad things is like, I never got to experience like an authentic pride. And that's like, you know, because like, now when you go to a pride parade, and for those of you, Ben, I'm sure you've experienced this, but like, a predominant and hundreds of the floats and the stuff that are coming through our, you know, advertisements for, you know, people running for mayor, you know, Chase Bank, JP Morgan, like, you know, play things, groups that have no business being there, and have no general like, actual, you know, desire to engage with or to support the LGBTQ plus community. You know, it's strictly just like an as another money grab for them. Another example being like, if you look, you know, during the month of June, Pride Month, all these companies will now you know, they'll change their logos, they'll change their slogans to be rainbow and like rainbow adjacent, but you know, come July 1, it's nothing to be seen. So it's like the, it's very, like, it's not actual support, it's just a cash grab. So anyway, sorry, kind of long, drawn out explanation. But, you know, I tied it back to, its the way that they kind of like the country of Finland, and also some, you know, the Museum of Modern Art and Los Angeles, and a couple other places have kind of like, they've co opted his work. And they've made it into this commercially viable thing. So like, you know, they're taking these like explicit pornographic drawings, which holds extreme, like, cultural value to queer communities. And they've turned them into fucking fuckin like postage stamps and bags of coffee, and beach towels, and stuff that are like, you know, they're sold at like, the fucking supermarket in Finland. And, you know, mind you, it's like, it's not just that it's like they've taken the drawings. It's like they've taken the drawings and they've taken out all of the like, the pornographic elements and these like the the overtly sexual themes from it. So it's like, it's just like this, you know? So I say like bastardized version. and of his work, of Jonathan's work, and, you know, the the overall significance of it is like, it's not to say that, like, you know, this is the worst thing that's ever happened, it's just to, like, highlight the fact that like, this is something that's very common. And like, don't know where it's going with that, but it's just like, you know, Rainbow capitalism sucks. Businesses suck. And

Heather Hester:

I think it's just a great statement on like, being aware, right? Like, yeah, the awareness of and it's the awareness of the intention. And, and the meaning behind, behind different actions, right, because, you know, another, another word that, you know, I think we're all starting to hear a lot of is performative, right? And, and really understanding what that means. And I think especially, you know, for for my generation, right, so we, as you know, Gen Xers are trying to understand, like, what does this mean? And and I think, you know, many of us come from this place of like, we, we want to do the right thing, we want to be safe, we are supportive, we are full of love and care, but doing it in a way that you know, so what does that mean, exactly? What does that look like? And so I think this is such a great example of this. So here's this, this is just one like one sentence from your paper, but I thought this was like this, just so hit home for me, because it like really explained so much. So you said celebration of queerness in the public arena aren't for the benefit of queer people. They are performative measures designed for heterosexual people to feel cultured and accepting. Ouch. So Wow. And good, right. I mean, and I know, that wasn't, you know, that was like, such a great way of explaining this. And, for me, I was like, the clarity that came from that. I was like, Ah, I mean, first of all, I know, I know, that's not toward me at all, but like, it helped me like, really understand. And I wanted to share that too. Just because I think a lot of this, you know, sometimes it's like, I don't, I don't understand it exactly. Am I doing that like, right, I don't want to do that. And so I just am grateful to you for being able to articulate that in a way that just makes this very clear. And, and that is not to say that, you know, any celebration by a company or a heterosexual cisgendered person is, is not genuine and not supportive, right? There are like a million examples of those that are, this is simply pointing out those that aren't, and it feels kind of icky. So when you know, when you are watching things, and you're like, This feels kind of icky, but I don't know why it feels icky. This is why it feels icky. Right? It's, it's disingenuous. Yeah. And it's, you know, taking advantage of, and, you know, this, this is like another example, right, of just have this happening.

Connor Hester:

Yeah, exactly. It's not something that's like unique to the LGBTQ community. It's like any minority group.

Heather Hester:

Right. So I just think it's something I appreciate the fact that you were able to name it, right, you were able to articulate it, and to share it in a way that, you know, it's just a piece of, of awareness of education. So that everyone can be like, Oh, okay, this is what I'm looking at. This is right. It's kind of a guiding. Yeah, a good guide. Right. Yeah.

Connor Hester:

Just like, you know, yeah. It's like, it's, it's the bottom line, you know, it's like, it just like, you know, increasing like your awareness in general with these things, and like how these like systems work and like, you know, it's been an incredible learning experience for me too. So like, I don't know, I just think like, it is like, it's like a lesson that like, can be applied to you know, just truly like any, any group, any minority group any like, you know, because there are just so many issues that are like happening in our world today to like, all these different groups of people. And so it's like, you know, just kind of like how can we best How can I be of most support service, whatever to this issue, and like, you know, at the bottom line is just like being self aware of, you know, how you're engaging with that group how you're not engaging with that group? Yeah,

Heather Hester:

okay, beautifully stated. Thank you. I mean, really, I'm just so proud. And you're my kid. And I just feel so lucky. And I feel so this is such a, there are times where it's like, almost surreal, because I'm like, this is like, you know, how lucky are we that we get to have these cool conversations? Right. And, and I appreciate you doing this, you know, recorded and videoed. so other people can can learn from you and, and I just, I'm grateful, I'm so grateful. Thank you.

Connor Hester:

We'll say you've become quite the astute interviewer.

Heather Hester:

Have my skills improved?

Connor Hester:

Yeah, it's not say that they were like, you know, bad before. But like, it's just it's, you know, it's a very, very comprehensive understanding of how to keep the conversation going. So, kudos to you.

Heather Hester:

Thank you. Thank you, I have been studying, you know, listening, listening to how others do things and studying and learning. And, you know, as I've done, this whole thing is like, learn by my mistakes all along. So

Connor Hester:

yeah, you've had a lot of practice. I've had I

Heather Hester:

have had a little bit of practice for sure. Yes. I guess that tends to be the way I do things. I jump in, and then I learn as I go, right.

Connor Hester:

freefall fall?

Heather Hester:

So yes. Oh, my gosh. Well, is there anything that you would like to share or add or anything before we before we wrap up today?

Connor Hester:

Um, no. I mean, it just, I guess, you know, grateful for you having me on and express your genuine interest about this stuff. Because I know it is a lot of just like talking about myself. I'm glad that like other people can find, you know, take connect to something I say it is. It's cool. It's nice. It feels good. And

Heather Hester:

yeah, yeah. All right. Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, my darling. And what an awesome way to kick off. Pride the official celebration of pride, right? Yes. Awesome.

Connor Hester:

Awesome. Happy Pride, everyone.

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