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Interview Episode with Sam Wittig

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[00:00:00] Laurin: Welcome to the Curiously Wise podcast. I'm your host Laurin Wittig. This podcast is all about women supporting women, mind, body, and spirit. It's a place where we will honor celebrate and share women's natural and experiential wisdom through curiosity provoking conversations, shared stories and tips we've all gathered along this journey. I invite you to join in the fun as we uncover the unique wisdom we each carry within us. Ready? Let's get curious!


[00:00:42] Hello, my wise friends and welcome to Curiously Wise. I am so excited today to have a very special guest. The one, the only Sam Wittig. I can tell you a lot about her, but I'll try to keep it short and sweet. She is a dog lover, an avid gamer, and audio engineer for me. She’s an Excel expert. She loves to travel.


[00:01:08] She's a Tolkien and Mercedes Lackey Novel nerd and I'll take credit for that. She is a really beautiful cross Stitcher. I'll have to, maybe we can add a picture to the show notes, but I'll have to take a picture of the beautiful cross stitch she did for me of my logo for my business, Heartlight Wellness. She's super crafty and super talented in so many ways. And she is my daughter.



Listen to the full episode here


[00:01:35] Thank you so much for being here, Sam. As I said to you earlier, when we were chatting, I'm, very excited and a little nervous. But let's just start off. I've invited Sam to be here with me today because she is my personal expert on all things gender.


[00:01:48] She is my go-to when I don't understand lingo or I'm trying to understand how the culture is changing. My son helps with that too, but Sam is really my first go to on that information cause she seems to be living it more than the rest of us are.


[00:02:02] And so Sam, one of the main things that I want to talk about is gender, because gender is something that I was raised there's men, there's women. We knew there were gay men, but you didn't talk about them when I was a kid. I look back and say, oh yeah, there were several gay men the community I was part of, but that wasn't really spoken of at the time. It was dangerous. So, but your generation is completely different.


[00:02:24] Your generation has grown up in this time of great shifts in our understanding of gender. And so just talk about some of that for me so that we can share it and I can understand it better.


[00:02:35] Sam: So, the millennials kind of thrown away gender. I do identify as non-binary and lesbian. And I know that's a little confusing because how can be lesbian if you don't have a gender, but it's, you know, they're all just titles to help you figure out who you are.


[00:02:50] So gender is a human construct first and foremost. It is not something that anybody outside of humanity really cares about. It might have some bearing over some things here and there in nature,


[00:03:00] it's really, it's something that people made up, the different gender roles, gender expectations, all of that is not even real.


[00:03:08] It's just human construct. So I think the millennials have really come in here and they've said, we don't need to conform to this. This doesn't serve us. We need something that is more open and that fits us better. And that isn't just put on us. We get to decide who we are and we get to decide how we identify.


[00:03:27] And I think that's really powerful. I think it's been a really powerful movement of the LGBTQ community. Just saying we don't need the old way. It's fine. And it serves and it's done what it needs to do, but it's now harming more than it's helping. And so we're going to move on, we're going to do something different.


[00:03:43] We're gonna make changes that help people, instead of forcing people into boxes, they don't belong in.


[00:03:48] Laurin: So you're an English major and a writer. I didn't put that in there either. But the, power of language is something I've always thought was important. It's if you [00:04:00] can't name something, you can't understand it. And so this idea of, of having this fluidity of names, I think is part of what's confusing to, to my generation, at least, to me, I'll speak personally. Because it it's still changing. It's still evolving, you know, first it was gay and lesbian and then it was LGB and then it was LGBT. And thank goodness we've added the plus. So we don't have to remember the whole listing everything off.


[00:04:23] Sam: Yeah,


[00:04:25] Laurin: And not, not hurt somebody's feelings by leaving out their preferred...I don't even want to call it label, but their preferred expression of themselves might be a better way to put it. So from a language point of view, how do you feel that being able to identify yourself or express yourself with these particular words that you've used, how do you feel like that empowers you or brings power to you?


[00:04:50] Sam: I think the most important thing to remember about language is that it evolves, it grows, it changes. Language isn't a set point. It isn't something that is immutable.


[00:05:00] So, you know, Shakespeare made up words. Elbow wasn't a thing until Shakespeare decided it was. So, we've been inventing language for centuries. That is how we have language to start with. So I think one of the more important things to remember is that it can change. It can be better. It can be more descriptive. Maybe we just don't have the words right now that we need and will have in the future. I know that the they, them thing has been confusing for people in the past and...


[00:05:28] Laurin: She's talking about me.


[00:05:31] Sam: Not to point fingers, but I think, especially with that, for an example, you use, they, them for people without even realizing you do so all the time. And it's one of those things where, if I'm writing it down, my computer is like, you're talking about plurals and then you're talking about singulars.


[00:05:48] It's one of those things that's evolving. I think the most important thing to know about language is to ask who you're speaking to what they prefer. And respect that.


[00:06:00] Everyone's different. I am comfortable with she, her, or they, them pronouns. I could use either. They don't bother me.


[00:06:07] Some people really triggered. Some people are really uncomfortable using pronouns that they don't identify with. And that, especially for trans and non-binary people that can be really like a struggle. That can be really frustrating to be mis-gendered like that. But a language is an always evolving beast. It is forever moving and changing.


[00:06:27] I know a few people who just don't like labels at all. They don't like to be put in a box. They know who they are and they don't need to explain it to anybody else. For me, personally, those labels helped me figure out who I am. They helped me put names to things.


[00:06:41] They helped me find other people who are experiencing the things that I was experiencing and had no vocabulary for had no way of understanding what was happening. So I think language is exceedingly important to the LGBT community because it helps us find other people in the community that we can identify with.


[00:07:00] And it helps us feel less alone. I mean, lesbian is just a term that you can use to be like, I'm not interested in CIS men. That's really all it means. You know, I, I'm not interested in dating CIS men. I find non-binary people very attractive. I find trans people very attractive. I find women very attractive.


[00:07:19] It's kind of like a, it's different for everybody. It might mean something different for somebody else. And that's what you can trip you're like, wait, this is what I thought it meant, but I think it's just important that you ask people if, and don't expect them to do emotional labor for you necessarily, just clarify, you've got a great Google machine in your hand at all times.


[00:07:39] So, you know, that's your first stop. Go to Google first and check there. But most of the time, most people are very open to explaining if they know you're coming from a place of curiosity and respect rather than judgment. But I think, I think language is really important. I think it's, how we describe who we are and it's just, we don't necessarily have the language that we need for everybody right now.


[00:08:03] So that's one of the things that I think is changing


[00:08:06] Laurin: Yeah.


[00:08:06] Sam: We're trying to discover new language.


[00:08:08] Laurin: Yeah. Yeah. And I love that you harken back to Shakespeare. Cause that's one of my favorites.


[00:08:12] Sam: Yeah,


[00:08:12] Laurin: He made words up all the time.


[00:08:15] Sam: All the time. that we use to this day.


[00:08:18] Laurin: Yeah. I hadn't thought about how it helps you to find the community that supports your journey to self-discovery, is the way I see it. But that's very, that alone is very powerful, I imagine.


[00:08:31] Sam: I think a good example is if you are from a teeny tiny town that has no exposure to anything that's outside of “the norm”. You just don't even know, you don't even know about those kinds of things. You don't even know that other people exist out there who are feeling the same way that you do. And you don't have the words to figure out how you're feeling.


[00:08:54] And that's really isolating. That's most difficult part I think is when you just don't understand your own feelings. When you don't know what this is that you are feeling, and then when you find that word or that identity or that description, and you realize there's other people out there, it is so liberating.


[00:09:11] It is so It is so wonderful to be like, I'm not alone. There are other people out there and that can be lifesaving in a lot of situations.


[00:09:20] Laurin: Yeah. Yeah. That's it was not a gender issue for me, but finding Alanon in my twenties was same kind of affirming and lifesaving, cause to not be alone on whatever journey you're on. We are humans. We are made to be in community. We are made to, to be supportive of each other. And I, that, that's very powerful. I hadn't thought about that.


[00:09:43] Sam: I think that's something that everybody can identify with. Just finding your people, finding your tribe, finding the people who you resonate with. And that's really a key, like a key tenant of the LGBT community is your found family is really a big thing. I think that's something that everybody can kind of understand and feel no matter what your journey is, no matter how you identify, everybody wants other people that they feel comfortable with that understand them.


[00:10:09] Laurin: Yeah. And that accept you for who you are right there in that moment.


[00:10:13] Sam: But you don't have to explain yourself too. You can say, I feel this thing and they go, oh God. Yeah, I feel that thing too. I totally know what you mean. And then it all feels valid and important. So


[00:10:23] Laurin: Good. Good. I assume that you've found that. I know you've found that.


[00:10:28] Sam: I have.


[00:10:29] Laurin: Sam moved across the country to find that.


[00:10:34] So you've answered a lot of my own questions. One of the things that I had asked you earlier, and I want to just now that we're recording, bring it back. For me as a, what am I? A cis female?

[00:10:47] Sam: Yep. Woman.


[00:10:48] Laurin: Cis woman. Okay. All I see is this big, bunch of letters that represent people and I can empathize that there's a whole different kind of culture to all of that.


[00:11:00] Are they a bunch of separate communities that of come under an umbrella or is it mostly like not, I don't want to say homogenous, but a combined community that has, you know, obviously not every community is homogenous.


[00:11:12] You can have different aspects to it or, focuses.


[00:11:15] Sam: I think the best visual I could give for it is a Venn diagram. There's lots of individual groups, but we all kind of overlap in places. And it's not so much of like a group over here and you're not welcome. It's more of like, these are the people who identify this way and you're welcome to come hang out with us, even if you don't identify this way, but you have to understand that this is, this is our community over here doing this thing. And these are the issues that are important to this community.


[00:11:42] And I think one of the reasons there's so many complications with like Pride month and everything, but one of the reasons I love Pride is because it brings everyone in the community into one space and we all just get to like celebrate being weird and queer and all together in one space. And I love it.


[00:12:00] It's a whole different issue that it's gotten very corporate and we need to get corporate and cops out of Pride, but it's great for the community to have a time where we can celebrate being who we are all in one place. Because we do have very different groups within the LGBT community and there are some groups that want to just be with their other groups. And there are some groups that want to build a larger community around that.


[00:12:22] But it's. I wouldn't say that we're separate, but we're not necessarily all together. We are definitely all under the same umbrella. It is one large LGBT umbrella. One large rainbow umbrella.


[00:12:32] Laurin: Yeah.


[00:12:33] Sam: There's lots of different groups and lots of different interests and lots of different agendas and issues and all of that sort of thing.


[00:12:41] Laurin: I know where you live. Do you mind me saying where you live?


[00:12:45] Sam: That's fine.


[00:12:45] Laurin: Samantha lives in Seattle and she's been out there for what? Nine years now.


[00:12:50] Sam: Nearly a decade


[00:12:51] Laurin: I think the answer to this is going to be no, but I'm gonna ask it anyway. Do you ever feel unsafe where you live because you're part of the LGBTQ plus community?


[00:13:00] Sam: On an average normal day. No. 2020. Yes. But that was a very weird year. And there was a lot of weird politics going on. I'm in a very progressive area, surrounded by a bunch of very not progressive areas. So Seattle's kind of a blue blip and we just take over the rest of the state for political kinds of things, but within the city on an average day, absolutely, I feel very safe and very welcome and very open. It's, especially where I live.


[00:13:29] I live on Capitol Hill and that's kind of where the gay community and the queer identities focus. It's where all the gay clubs are and where a lot of the queer owned businesses are. And so it's, it's a much better place I think. And I'm much happier since I've moved up here. It feels much more open and welcoming. But the city in general has been very, very good.


[00:13:52] And for an example, my day job, for the first two and a half, three years that I worked there I was the only queer person in the office. And it was a little intimidating to go in my first year and be like, we do happy hours. Can I do a Pride happy hour in June, even though nobody else in the office queer?


[00:14:10] And they were so supportive and so open and so excited. And now it's like an annual thing that everybody looks forward to is the Pride happy hour. And I get to host it every year and it's so much fun. And I loved having that opportunity to kind of educate my coworkers. And since then I've had a few more people come into the office.


[00:14:23] I'm not the only queer person in the office anymore, but it's great to have that support. And that's something that I don't think is it, it wasn't necessarily non-existent in Virginia when I lived there. I think things have changed a lot in Virginia since I left. Every time I come home, it seems more comfortable and more open over there, but it was definitely, it wasn't necessarily that it wasn't welcome.


[00:14:44] It was just, wasn't talked about when I was there. And so the fact that I can go to my, not queer community coworkers and say, I want to do this Pride thing. And they're completely supportive and completely excited to do it incredible. It's not something I would have expected to find the East Coast when I lived there.


[00:15:04] I think I'd probably find that on the East Coast, but on the West Coast, that's been kind of ingrained here a lot longer. So.


[00:15:10] Laurin: Well, this kind of cultural change often starts out west and has to...


[00:15:14] Sam: It pushes east.


[00:15:15] Laurin: I'm not sure how much of the central part of the country it's, it influences.


[00:15:19] Sam: It skips over a little bit there since


[00:15:21] that's yet.


[00:15:21] Laurin: gets to the east coast you know, a little bit behind.


[00:15:25] , cause I remember the last time you came home you were commenting on how there were people with the color of yours and who were obviously...


[00:15:32] Sam: Yeah, brightly colored hair, tattoos showing. I got complimented on my hair color a few times. I'm like, well, that now that wouldn't have happened when I lived here. So yeah.


[00:15:41] And I went to your Wise Women group last time I was there and everyone was wonderful and super open and, you know. It's, it's feels like a lot of things have come into the Williamsburg area since I left.


[00:15:55] And not just on that front. I mean, you guys have so much more restaurants for one thing.


[00:15:59] Laurin: Oh, yeah,


[00:15:59] Sam: I was there before, it's just like, it's a livelier town and there's a much younger crowd, I think. You don't have quite so many of the retiree crowd.


[00:16:08] Laurin: Right.


[00:16:09] Sam: That are running things in that area anymore.


[00:16:10] Laurin: I agree that. I agree totally with that. We've got a lot more families that have moved in since, since we moved here 20 plus years ago.


[00:16:19] So I I, It's a much livelier place and it's much more diverse age wise.


[00:16:25] Sam: Even the older crowd, I think even some of them have really kind of been exposed to those things more. And it's been even some of the people I wouldn't have expected be as friendly to me necessarily when I'm openly exhibiting who I am, have been wonderful when I've been home. People I feel like have really learned a lot and really been exposed to a lot more just because of a different crowd coming into the area.


[00:16:51] Laurin: Yeah,


[00:16:51] Sam: And I honestly, and that's actually one of the things I would like to talk about, representation, is one of the biggest key ways to change things. It's subtle but important and not just in like media, but in just everyday, you'll find with most people if they're closed minded about something they're closed minded about it until it affects them directly.


[00:17:12] So until they have an experience with somebody they care about who is now in this identity group, that maybe they didn't have full understanding of before, now they're much more attached to this person and they can see the harm that's being done to them, or just the difficulties that they have to experience. Suddenly they're much more empathetic.


[00:17:33] So I think that representation, whether it is in personal life, or media, or politics, is extremely important there as well. I think having that representation is what's going to shift the view into a more accepting and empathetic and open kind of a view.


[00:17:49] Laurin: Yeah. Yeah. I was noticing not too long ago that, I can't remember, I was watching a movie, or show, or on ... pandemic. I watched a lot of stuff in a lot of different places, but I realized, and I have, I mean, I've been a Grey's Anatomy fan since it started just about, the idea of having people of alternative sexual orientation, and I shouldn't say alternative, not the one that I was raised with,


[00:18:14] Sam: Sure.


[00:18:15] Laurin: Is normal to me and I, it doesn't it doesn't even shock me at all. I think it did a little bit at the beginning because it just was so unusual to see that on, openly on television. It’s not anymore. But think that I have seen in the last couple of years, something that I didn't understand about that representation, is that yeah it's really important for those who are being represented to see themselves in that way.


[00:18:41] But for rest of us, it's really important because we get to see them as just people. And so for those outside the community, seeing this normalization like language, it's evolving. It hit me that it, it gave me so much more empathy for things that I didn't understand by seeing them in dramas and comedies and movies and you know, I look at, and I don't know her name, but there's a black actress who's trans and she is gorgeous.


[00:19:11] And she is, I think she was in the color orange.


[00:19:14] Sam: The Orange is the New Black, yes.


[00:19:17] Laurin: The color orange... I didn't watch the show but a couple of times, but anyway but


[00:19:21] Sam: Yep, Laverne Cox.


[00:19:22] Laurin: I have been taken with how open she is about being trans, how she is at representing herself as herself. I mean, she's hugely talented and she is gorgeous...


[00:19:36] Sam: yeah. Yeah.


[00:19:37] Laurin: But she's also articulate and she's thoughtful. And she's more full rounded than just an actress on the TV show as far as representing. And so I think the more of that we can get, we need people like that in government, more who are up there speaking for all of us. It's this,


[00:19:53] Sam: You guys have Danica now in Virginia, right?


[00:19:55] Laurin: We do. I haven't heard much about her in the last few years, but as far as I know, she's, still there.


[00:20:00] Sam: First trans representative in Virginia. Yeah.


[00:20:02] Laurin: Yep, and you we're getting more and more. I mean, Virginia is pretty conservative overall. I mean I live in one of the purple areas course. And up around DC where we used to live, it's quite blue. But it's getting more accepting, at least in my experience of it.


[00:20:21] Sam: I think one of the most important things about representation that people don't consider that it's doing the emotional labor, that the real people living in the situations then don't have to do because people are seeing this. And I think that's something that people don't really take into consideration very much how exhausting that emotional labor can be.


[00:20:39] Just having to explain to other people who you are, is it most straight CIS people never have to think about that. Nobody has to explain that they're straight. Nobody has to explain that they're Cis .Everyone gets that. And I think these TV shows and these movies and these things are really showing that it's labor, that the community then doesn't have to do as much of. I think that's really important.


[00:21:01] Laurin: Yeah.


[00:21:02] Sam: Laverne Cox is a great example. She's incredible.


[00:21:04] Laurin: Yeah. That's her name!


[00:21:05] And yes, and I think the other important. Yeah.


[00:21:10] I know. Laverne Cox is incredible. I think she's doing incredible work. I think the other important thing to remember, and I want to say this for myself too, is every single person, in this community is their own point of view.


[00:21:20] We don't represent everybody else in our same identity groups. Laverne Cox is one trans woman sharing her experiences in her story. She doesn't speak for all trans women or all trans women of color. She is one person who's out there doing a lot of emotional labor for a lot of people. And that's incredible.


[00:21:37] And I applaud her for it every day, but a lot of us don't want to just be modelists of our own community. We don't want to be the example, necessarily. You know, we we want to be an example. We don't want to be the example. So I think that's important to remember too, but she's doing amazing work. There's a lot of people right now doing amazing work.


[00:21:56] There's a new TV show I'm in love with right now that has a non-binary actor it, and they are incredible. And I love everything about them and everything they do is incredible. And they're just like this bright, beautiful joy of energy and excitement about their personality and who they are and their identity.


[00:22:12] And they're out there supporting people. And they're relatively unknown at this point, but it's one of those things where it's like we get more of those kinds of representation on television and people are more familiar with it. And also if they have questions, if they're watching a TV show, they're going to go Google it.


[00:22:29] They're going to find the answer really quickly. You know, they're not going to go track somebody down and ask them personally to explain identity to them. And I think that's also really important. It's one of those things for example for at Pride events,