top of page
  • Valerie Hope

Ep. 41 - Not Quite Strangers: Connection Through The Lens Of LGBTQIA+

Listen to the podcast here

Not Quite Strangers: Connection Through The Lens Of LGBTQIA+ 

Every moment that we do this show is an opportunity to bring two people together who do not know one another and have a meaningful conversation. Hopefully, for you, this inspires some curiosity and builds your connection, not only to yourself but to the people around you. I like to shake up the way strangers interact. This is a model and experiment of that. In this episode, we have two very special guests.

I'm going to start by first introducing Karen Romestan. Karen, you are my Reverend pastor. I would have said former but I don't think there's a former. Once you are, you are. At Unity Church in Dallas and you've relocated, you have been a wonderful guide on my spiritual path. When we've talked, you're sharing some of your passion and advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community. I thought, “We need to talk about this on the show. Who might I invite to connect with Karen about this?”

It’s Lindsay. Lindsay, first of all, you and I met at the Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute where you're also a certified coach. You coached me in your final exam and I was like, “Lindsay's amazing.” The two of you, Karen and Lindsay, have both been on my Time to Come Alive Podcast. We had beautiful conversations about your life and journey. Lindsay, you shared a lot with us.

My greatest honor, and I've told this to several people, is that you shared that interview with your parents where you hadn't talked that much about your experience being non-binary. I was so honored. I was like, “That's amazing.” I thought you and Karen would have a fascinating conversation about this because you're so open to sharing and educational to me, and I'm sure to others who read this. I can't imagine that this would be any different. The purpose is not education but if people learn something, it’s a bonus. With that said, welcome to the two of you to the show.

Thank you so much, Valerie.

It’s my pleasure. I asked all my guests, why did you say yes to meeting a stranger on a show?

Valerie, I know you and you're so interesting in how you bring people together. If you thought that Lindsay and I would have a connection and a dynamic conversation, I was all for it.

Similarly, the people that you interact with tend to be extremely awesome. I watched some of the other streams that you've put up and it's an honor to be one of the folks that you talked to. Based on the conversation last time, it was such an engaging conversation. I was looking forward to meeting whoever you were going to bring in to have a great conversation.

Awesome people abound. I have been so blessed by having awesome people around me. I want to create spaces where more awesome people come together. Thank you both for saying yes to this. I've asked both of you to bring some questions. I want to take a little bit of a backseat for the first question like this. Who has a question they'd like to start?

My question is, if you shut your eyes and think of the word connection, what do you experience, see, and think?

It was so visual. Atoms and molecules are all connected. I had a tingling sensation from my fingertips to my toes that was connecting all of that inside me. Thank you for that.

It's funny, I had a similar experience. As soon as you said the word connection, that's such an important word to me. I felt this wave of warmth wash over me and some tingling sensation as well.

I find that when I need a moment to ground myself, a lot of times, I have to shut my eyes to do it. It is a nice stretching out and an expansion of energy and bringing back in the people that you either know or don't know. I was like, “That seems like a good place to start.”

This is what we're doing. Another thing I want to bring up is the fact that it's virtual. We are still able to experience a connection virtually. Especially with the preponderance of virtual connections or activities and meetings during the pandemic, people were doubtful that you could achieve the same level of connection with people. In my experience, if not the opposite, there's no way that you miss connecting people. It does have to be more intentional. We all have to be even more present but I do find that it's as powerful sometimes as meeting in person if done well.

I agree because we're energy. It doesn't matter where we are. That energy permeates space. When we show up consciously and on purpose for each other, it happens.

We are energy. It doesn’t matter where we are, our energy permeates space. 

Lindsay, why did you ask that question? What was it about that question that inspired it?

I looked over all of the icebreaker ideas and I do a lot of icebreakers in my every day. Meeting people in a virtual space, which is something that I've had the honor to experience, is being able to connect with folks all over the world that I would have never met if I'd been going about my everyday life and hadn't stepped inside the four walls of a home and then stepped outside into that virtual space. I feel like it's very active. That's very much about what we are going to be experiencing.

I love the fact that you use the word intentionally because I use that all the time when it comes to connecting virtually. It's one of those things where if you set that intention and reach out, you can have such powerful connections and moments with people. Maybe meeting strangers for the first time, you’re feeling safe to do so because in person sometimes, it’s a wallflower. I love the connection of energy. I've done guided meditation with folks via Zoom before when we needed to refocus and be here. It's all around you even when you're inside of a little box.

Karen, I see you nodding a lot along. What's coming up for you?

It's that intentionality of this moment and everything that we do from brushing our teeth to meeting that stranger. I'm with you, Lindsay. In my life, I identify as an introvert. Groups and strangers that I have to step into are not my most comfortable place to be. Meeting on the screen, there is some safety there too. Knowing you, Valerie, and how you support a space makes it very safe. To be out of that comfort and still feel okay about it is not easy.

It's funny that both of you pointed to this idea of introversion. I did a workshop where that question was asked. The purpose of the workshop was to help people identify who they can connect with, expand their circle of allies, and be intentional about who they reach out to. One of the questions that came up was as introverts, it's exhausting to think about expanding your circle. They had asked, “What are some ways that I can protect my energy and also connect with people intentionally?” I asked the two of you that question since we're on this topic.

Ironically, before I became a minister, I was in sales and marketing, which is so not introverted. I would have to set goals for myself because I'm very goal-oriented in life. I would have to go to networking meetings and set very specific goals of what I was to accomplish at that meeting. It was my work so I held myself very accountable to accomplish those goals.

It might mean meeting one new person that I've never met before and scheduling a follow-up appointment with them. It was a very practical and focused goal. That's what helped me in my work world. Socially, I still am awkward in social settings where I don't know people. I feel all the feelings, stress, and anxiety. I try to take a less stringent version of that goal with me to a setting. Say hello to one person and know their name.

Lindsay, what's going on on your side?

I can resonate with that in a work context. By day, I do a lot of facilitation with small and large groups. I have done a lot of performances in my life. It's been a while since I'd classify something as a performance and not something for work but I did a lot of theater and film-related things growing up. For me, when it comes to protecting my energy, there are a couple of different buckets that I live in. When I'm facilitating, it is a connection back and forth. It's a flow of energy between you and the people that you're talking to. I find that in the moment, I get filled with energy.

The same thing went for performances as well, except you don't always connect directly with the audience. You're connecting with the other people around you and the source material. You're going into a place that is interesting because it fills you with energy but it can also drain and exhaust you because of how powerful that energy feels. It's one of those things where I have to set some boundaries in my time and give myself a landing space afterward.

Not Quite Strangers | Human Connection
Human Connection: We are energy. It doesn’t matter where we are, our energy permeates space.

No matter how powerful and amazing something might feel in the moment, the introvert of me comes out afterward when I realize that I'm crashing energy-wise. It was like you were holding the fire in your hands the whole time and it was beautiful but if you don't stop, you're going to get burned. I had a kickoff for a big onboarding program. After day four, there were so many things going on. I was using so much energy by day.

I'm also in the middle of a move. I was like, “I did not save enough energy for myself.” I had to sit in the dark in the living room. My partner flicked the lights off and sat in silence with me. We ended up getting a tent for me to go in and sensory decompressing after whatever it is that gives you that crash. It was one of those things that sometimes you want connection, silence, the lights to be out, and stillness. Finding a balance between those big moments and the time that you need to cycle back into yourself is very important.

Valerie, one thing that probably most of the people in my church Unity on Greenville didn't know was that on Sundays after the day of service, I went home and crashed. I'm not a napper but I would sleep for two hours after I go home and crash. There was nothing that I could do.

Expending all of that energy is not only producing the service but also connecting with all the people.

Being fed by it too, as Lindsay so perfectly said, is nourishing. There's a low level of capacity to hold that.

I wouldn't say extremely extroverted. There's no extreme to it but I would say clearly extroverted. I do get my energy from people but my version of holding fire in your hands comes from that becomes the energy source for me. If I'm down, I need people around me to feed off of. I'm down if I disconnect from that energy source. There are times when I need to be on my own, especially when it comes to time.

I find that if I'm spending a lot of time going to different activities and am very scheduled, that also drains me of energy. I need freedom to do what I want and how I want it. More than three days on my own, I can be low-key depressed and I'm like, “I need people.” That's important. This is interesting. I love that we moved the conversation and expanded the idea of connection and doing so, not only because we were talking about this in a virtual setting but also how to fulfill and connect with ourselves and others with the best energy.

I want to shift the conversation a little bit. One of the main reasons that I wanted to connect the two of you here is in the back of my mind, I thought that someone as a pastor who supports and advocates for LGBTQIA is probably not something I hear about all the time. Lindsay, I know you as an advocate as well and also your lived experience in that community. This might be a fascinating conversation. I want to start with the fact that the two of you use the pronouns they, them, and theirs. I want to talk about that because there might be people reading who want to know why you chose those pronouns at this point in your life.

I love what you say as well at this point in your life, Valerie. For me, coming into embracing self and identity, I look into the future and I ask myself sometimes, “Will these be the final pronouns? Will there be others in the mix?” There are some neopronouns out there that I resonate with. The only reason I don't use them is because I don't think folks, in general, will be able to use them in a sentence.

It's hard enough getting people to get used to using they, them, and theirs, and also to use these pronouns without apologies or excuses, putting more feelings pretty much out there into the process instead of rolling with it and trying it out. Coming into my identity as non-binary, Karen said it perfectly in the very beginning. We are energy. That is pretty much how I feel. I don't resonate with the gender I was assigned at birth. I don't sometimes resonate with the fact that I have to walk around in a physical form.

It's very constricting some days because, in the end, this is just energy and consciousness. There's a great book series, Gideon the Ninth, where they make a reference that we're just consciousness, driving a skeleton. I feel that so hard some days. My previous pronouns did not work for me and they, them, and theirs are as good as they get for now. It is just like I am. It's a good acknowledgment to not focus on physically what the form is and what people assume.

Two quick things. You mentioned neopronouns. What does that mean?

As it came out of my mouth, I was like, “I might have to define this.” People are often used to she and her, he and him, they and them. The neopronouns are other pronouns that have been crafted. Some have been in use for decades or longer. Some could be somewhat newer. zi, hir, hirs is one set of neopronouns that I've heard most frequently. One of my friends uses hy, hym, hys but it's with a Y not an I because he is non-binary, not masculine, or not a man but he still resonates with he, him, and his in a way that's a little bit different than if he identified as a man so using the Y instead.

There’s one set of neopronouns that I love dearly. Maybe when I'm 60 or at some point in my life, I might try to push it to use more. It’s a fae, faer, and faers. It’s like the fae creatures. There are days when that resonates so hard. I've heard people say with neopronouns too, “You're just making stuff up.” I'm like, “Is it just making stuff up if somebody has been using it for 40 years of their life?” Why is that so bad and difficult? We make names up and we can use those.

You mentioned the name of a book. I want to make sure I capture that.

Gideon the Ninth. Gideon is the name of a character. Honestly, it’s a fun little space sci-fi fantasy, lesbian necromancy rom.

There's a lot to unpack in what you shared. Before we unpack, Karen?

You have my full attention, Lindsay. I tried to stay current. I do better than others. For me, honoring every person, being present to every person, and how they show up on any given day went so far beyond he and she. When we started educating our spiritual community so that we would be not just an inclusive community by our words but actions, we had to learn how to talk with each other in honoring ways. It went even further than that.

When we are face-to-face with another, we're face-to-face with the soul. We're with that beautiful soul. It doesn't matter what we call it. It's a soul and it's perfection. I worked at using pronouns that don't identify gender. I don't describe people by their size, shape, and the color of their skin. This is a great way for me to not identify people by their gender as well and just to honor the soul of a person. None of the other stuff is important. It's what humanity uses as constructs to separate and divide when we are in a world that's screaming for coming together.

When we are face-to-face with one another, we are face-to-face with a soul. 

I can close the episode there. That dropped the mic, Karen. It’s fascinating. I'm going to react to some of the things that you shared that I thought were fascinating. The two of you are bringing this idea of connection where we started and expanding it even further. It’s the notion of not being attached to a physical form and the thought that came to mind.

I was listening to someone quote or refer to the Buddha. “Suffering comes from attachment. Attachment to some physical form creates suffering as well. Suffering in all forms, whether it's gender, race, or age is a temporary housing for the soul.” What you shared, Karen, is the idea that you're meeting a soul. You're not meeting a construct of a soul. Although we have these constructs to facilitate language.

I'm a woman. I feel that that's part of the housing I'm in. My frame is more about the iterations of my soul over time. I do believe that I’ve been reincarnated if you want to put a label on it but I do feel that my soul has been on this planet several rounds. This is the iteration that it's in at this moment. I don't have any attachment to that. I've never considered that I would have to shift the way I talk about it.

This moment is having me question a lot like, “Do I have to shift how I talk about it?” I found that to be true with the construct of race. What difference does that make to say that this or that person has this color of skin? What does it imply to the meanings that we attach to what we hear that usually can be denigrating or disempowering? You guys are messing with my brain.

This idea of construct came to my mind. I got to be with my mom. This is a very positive story. As she passed from this realm to the next, to feel her leave her body and know that that soul was going for eternity was such an exquisite moment and a breathtaking realization. What I thought I believed validated that we aren't these bodies. When she left, it was apparent. That was the casing for this moment. It is beautiful to watch and feel that.

I felt very similar when my grandmother passed away. She said goodbye a month prior in a way. I was like, “I'll see you in a couple of months.” She said nothing. When she passed, it was clear. She was done. She had done what she needed to do. The physical body was so taxing on her. I still feel that in dreams and the moments where I talk out loud, the connection and relationship are still there.

I sometimes say out loud to whoever is listening, “If you are still hanging out, don't feel like you need to on my account.” There's so much more. She was brilliant and amazing. If she wants to do anything else or be anything else in another iteration, then you don't have to hang out and see how this generation is doing. Just keep expanding. I'm so glad to hear that in that way, it was a positive experience.

We aren’t attached to these bodies.

Love lives on. It’s pretty much like forever.

I wrote down the phrase, “The physical body is so taxing on her.” That's what you said, Lindsay, about your grandmother's experience. I'm thinking about the reader, someone who's participating in this conversation, who may not have the spiritual inclination to think of people or individuals as souls or spirits. I'm curious. What do you talk about with others who may not engage in the conversation at this level we're talking about? People are not the bodies that they're encased in.

When we say people or person, we're talking beyond. That's what I'm hearing from the two of you. Your interactions and connection to others go beyond the outer folds or encasing, which could pose some challenges in day-to-day interactions with others and how we describe, interact, or ascertain things about certain people. I'm curious about how you manage conversations like this.

The big thing is not to hold yourself back from what you are expressing. If you have feelings, thoughts, and curiosities, it's important to think of who you're talking about and respect who they are and their experience. It's one thing to say, “Who I am physically or how I was socialized is not who I am deeply,” but that doesn't change the fact that the way you were raised still impacts who you are in some way.

How the world perceives you still has weight and they're all part of our experience. I may think something and I'm not ever forcing my view on somebody else but I would willingly have a conversation. I'm a big fan of not minimizing or holding back what you think or how you feel for the sake of making someone else comfortable if they don't agree with an identity.

Identity is one thing. You can disagree on your personal opinions on things. Every time I hear the words agree to disagree and it has to do with someone's identity, I’m like, “No.” You are not agreeing on something and your feelings about somebody will never eradicate who they are or what they need. It's that line of being open and talking the same way I'm talking now. If someone doesn't seem to be on the same wavelength, take the conversation deeper if they seem interested and go there if it feels safe to go there.

If the conversation doesn't feel safe because somebody either doesn't want to try to understand a perspective or they don't get it, that's fine. The big thing is you have to keep a safe space, not go down that rabbit hole of trying to explain something or force your view on somebody else. You can't wipe out who somebody is. That's where I'm at.

I realized a long time ago that I don't have a responsibility to change somebody else's mind. People can stay in their line of thinking and experience the pain and suffering of that thinking as long as they choose, or they can lift their thinking, change their thinking, and experience the joy and freedom of their thinking. Listening to someone at the beginning of a conversation will often tell you exactly where you can take a conversation. What is safe? What is able to be spoken about and still honor that person?

Not Quite Strangers | Human Connection
Human Connection: When we are face-to-face with one another, we are face-to-face with a soul.

I don't have a desire to change their mind. They have come to their opinions and conclusions the same way I have come to mind, by reading, experiencing, and feeling. I don't want someone to try to change my mind when I've come to my opinion. I don't have an obligation to change their mind. If we can have dialogue around any topic without oppressing the other person, that's wonderful. That's as far as I'll go. As long as it's not name-calling, finger-pointing, and things like that, we can talk forever about any topic.

Karen, when you said at the very outset of the conversation that you know how safe or how much you can go into whatever subject with that individual, can you give an example? You as a minister interact with so many different people and likely, I would imagine, especially in your function, some fairly intimate or deep topics. I don't know if that space is any different than when you're interacting with people at the grocery store, bank, or something but I'm curious about what has been the experience where you identify that this is a safe conversation to get into or not.

We push a little bit. When resistance comes back, I know to soften. Push it a little further and test it a little more. You can know when to stop. There are conversations that we're going to blow this out of the water, push it for all it's worth, and let the pieces fall where they may. Those conversations happen too. Not with strangers. Sometimes it’s with family or close friends when a lot is going on. We push it until there's nothing left. Agree to honor and respect each other.

Karen, you have some questions for Lindsay as well. What questions would you like to throw into the mix?

Think back to the first time you felt a need to stand out of your comfort zone and for someone else. Say you got past that, be it fear or hesitation. What happened? What did you feel after you took a stand for somebody else?

I love that focus on when you're taking a stand for somebody else. I find that it's a lot easier to advocate for other people instead of myself. There's a lot more discomfort and not standing up that I'll take but when it comes to people that are close to me and then general folks out there that are uncomfortable, it's very hard to sit there and watch something bad happen to them. As a kid, I was a very solitary and quirky child.

I tended to have maybe one friend at a time, in a couple of acquaintances, that I was socialized with. With that, I felt that otherness and loneliness. Seeing somebody else get picked on for similar things was much easier to make biting comments like, “Leave them alone. That's not weird.” It's interesting because I feel like that also carries through all the time. The empowerment of acknowledging what you are saying to this person isn't accurate.

They're not weird. They shouldn't feel shame. When will that sink into the self as well as a curious question? That's something I come back to a lot. Do not put someone down or make someone feel bad for who they are or what makes them different. Look in the mirror because you have to apply that there too. It's what comes back to me all the time.

Do not put someone down or make them feel bad for who they are or what makes them different. Look in the mirror and apply that there as well.

Advocating for others seems to be a more comfortable space for you to occupy than advocating for yourself.

Yes. I’m working on it but it's something that in the past few years, especially, I've become aware of. My one friend always jokes that it's the Pisces in me.

Others who know me well might be able to say something different but I feel that my advocacy has less to do with speaking out about another person readily and more about understanding a person. I've always been like, “This person is doing, experiencing, or expressing something controversial, is not appropriate, or whatever it is. Let me understand where they're coming from.”

Once I understand the person, then I'm more able to advocate for them. Even my family, I wouldn't call it a peacemaker necessarily because sometimes I like to stir the pot too, but I do learn things about family members that most people don't know. When someone makes an assumption or some sort of judgment, or there's some conflict or tension, I find myself helping diffuse it. I say, “One thing you should consider is that this person did XYZ or considering XYZ.”

I have some frames of reference that I can offer. I don't think I was ever clear and able to articulate that until this question. I do it so instinctively but I don't think I ever considered it being advocacy because I think of it in terms of fighting, standing up, and being confrontational. Mine's a little softer. My approach comes on the side. “Let me understand this person,” and then I can provide other people with some context that hopefully shifts their interaction or perception. Thank you for that. That was rewarding. How would you answer that, Karen?

In my family, I'm still known as the one saying, “Don't mess with my family. Don't mess with people that I love and care about.” This goes back to elementary school. Somebody was punching my younger sister and I beat them up royally. I was terrified when the mother of the boy came and asked, “Who hit my son?” My mother made me own it and then I thought, “There's power in that.” There's power in people knowing that you're going to have their back.

Now, I don't punch or beat anybody up with my hand or words. At the same time, it’s knowing that people are walking this earth knowing that I'm going to have their back and I'm not going to just sit quietly while something horrible happens to them. I will take a gentler approach than a punch but I'll still do it. I'll still stand up for someone. It used to be not participating in gossip and then walking away when it happened to not participate. It then became like, “No. We're going to stop and maybe be more vocal about it.”

I want to bring in the idea of advocating for oneself. Both of you seem to be in your ways very like warriors for other people. You alluded to this that you're still working on expanding that same approach to you. For the two of you, how has that shifted in your lives as you've matured? If you've seen and experienced other things, how has your expansion of advocating for yourself shifted?

It comes with knowing what I want, need, desire, and will accept, socialized, and conditioned to take whatever and make the best of it doesn't exist for me anymore. It was a metamorphosis of, “No, that's not okay. This behavior towards me is not okay anymore because this is what I expect in a relationship.” It was an internal educational process of deciding what I wanted, what I would be willing to receive, and setting that clearly. When it's not that, I can return the anger and harshness to the person and hand it back to them. That's come with age.

Handing back to them, the anger. Say more about that.

Sometimes I've said, “I can feel that you're angry. That's not what's moving in me so I'm going to give that back to you.” Sometimes it's been the verbal and sometimes taking my cupped hands and handing it back to them as a visual. “I'm not going to receive your anger. It feels misplaced so I'm going to return it to you. You can do with that anger, what you need to do with it.”

Not Quite Strangers | Human Connection
Human Connection: Do not put someone down or make them feel bad for who they are or what makes them different. Look in the mirror and apply that there as well.

It sounds like for you, advocacy has been getting clear on who you are, what you need, and what you want, and being able to articulate it. Whatever response you get, if it doesn't align with what you want, need, and express, you can return it to the sender.

That did not happen overnight. I'm pretty certain there's still room for growth in that.

What are you reflecting on there with that, Lindsay?

I resonate with part of advocating for self and all of these things are first, establishing what is self. Letting things in like accepting someone's anger or perception, a lot of that is a weight that can hold you down. I've reached a point with the role models in my life where I don't accept anger in the sense that if someone raises their voice or is hostile towards me, I'll get myself into a safe position but I will not respond or rise to the challenge. I am one of the least competitive people you'll ever meet.

If someone is trying to what up me, I am like, “This doesn't matter to me. You can win. Have fun with that.” It doesn't need to go in. Growing into that self and advocacy, some of it is about what you let in. A lot of it for me is what I let out because it was very easy for me to have feelings, knowledge, beliefs, and experiences, keep them to myself, and share them with no one. I keep my words and feelings to myself.

As I get older, the thing that I challenge myself to do is to not just bottle it up but express it. It's easy to share with people who feel safe and with friends or new acquaintances who are either on the safe wing length or curious in a safe and positive way. It's difficult to share with people who already have their perceptions set, especially perceptions around who I am, or who don't want to change their way of looking at the world, and the efforts they make, going back to changing the language that your congregation uses in talking to people.

There is an element of effort that goes into interactions. It's hard to push against if someone doesn't want to make the effort. Pretty much at this point, the biggest thing I can do is be honest, be as open as possible, and try not to be scared about how vulnerable that is and how it will be received. You can't control other people's feelings or reactions. At that point, it's like, “At least I don't want to keep it trapped or bottle up any of it.” The next step is putting it out there.

The other thing that comes to mind is that the two of you have created yourselves to be safe people to share in the interactions that you have with others. It sounds like the idea of advocating for yourself requires there to be a safe space. Karen, maybe for you not so much. You're like, “I don't care. That's yours, not mine.” Lindsay, you could probably be like, “Go have fun.” It sounds like you may walk away with some of those things.

Not knowing whether the space is safe or the other person is safe or the other people are safe, how do you generate a safe space for yourself? Maybe I'm missing it but there seems to be inherent in what the two of you are saying that there's this level of safety that one must create for oneself to be expressive, be able to walk away, or be able to push back. How do you create that if you don't already inherently see it or experience it?

Make yourself vulnerable, walk into a room, be honest, don't hold yourself back, and be aware that it makes you vulnerable. If you misgauged a situation and the energy or the people in the room and that it’s about to get uncomfortable, get yourself out of it if you can or find yourself allies. That's another huge one. Honestly, having allies in that space is the difference between speaking and being silent a lot of the time.

If you can't tell and you don't know who's here, having somebody else in there that makes you feel safe is extremely important. When we talk about the adverse case, say for others, the main thing is being there for other people and being that person who will have their back, which is what I offer. A lot of the time, if I don't have that when I walk into the room, I'm probably going to be quiet or super uncomfortable. Those are my two options.

Ditto. We can do a lot internally to, “I am.” That hit me. We can stay in our “I am” and all that's true for us and we can hold that inside so that we don't crumble. If we gauge that space to not be safe, yes, I'm going to be quiet. I'm not going to stir up things but I can be safe within myself because I know who and what I am.

Say for yourself would be being grounded and centered in who you are and what you want.

Taking charge of what I'm thinking, those energetic thoughts, and not allowing fear to consume me.

Can you give an example of that, Karen?

Being mindful. If I recognize that I'm in an uncomfortable space and I feel threatened or fearful, I can affirm to myself and say in my mind, “I am safe, whole, and all those things I know about me.” Affirming it and also allowing my energy of love to expand. I know that might sound corny to some people but I have living proof that our energy of love impacts and shifts the energy of any space. I was sitting on an airplane and the man next to me was escalating because he had the last seat.

We had the last seats on the plane. They didn't recline or anything. He was a large man compared to the flight attendant and me. I kept having thoughts of love and didn't send him forward. I sent him left in his direction and sat. It was at about a five-minute exchange and all of a sudden, he calmed down. Our energy can shift all of that. If I'm confident in this power of love and I'm emanating love into the room, I can shift whatever's happening. That's a bit too corny but it happens.

That's powerful. That was not corny at all. It reminds me of A Course in Miracles, the spiritual book. It talks about everything that we do or say either offering love or asking for love. It boiled down to an essence. This gentleman, as he was escalating, has a need for love but like in nonviolent communication, we often start with the strategy like, “This is how I want my needs to be met rather than asking or requesting needs. I need safety, space, freedom, and be heard.” We say, “I want you to change my seat,” or we say whatever the strategy is rather than the need. It sounds like energetically, you were able to pour love into him, which is what he was requesting.

I could easily become excitable in that. I could feel nervous and anxious. As soon as I started feeling my feelings rise, I said, “No, I'm going to contribute to this.” I started working. We walked into a room. We feel that downer or that person that's crotty and cranky. The room fills our love, too.

Taking a page from that is a good idea. There are a few responses and one is that fight or flight. If I feel unsafe or uncomfortable, I start going towards the situation. That's bubbling up anxiety that I will process later as I step out of the moment and step into a gray space of, “We're going to not process. We're going to breathe a bit but we're just not here.” Something that I tend to do afterward when I'm trying to de-escalate what's going on inside of me is to meditate and breathe.

A lot of that meditation is there's grounded in myself and connecting with others in a positive way. One of my frequent mantras is, “The green washes through from my heart to you.” I repeat that over and over until it's a connection, flowing in and out, and that resonance between people, love, and connection. I let it wash out what was there before.

Instead of disassociated in a moment, it might benefit to go there first, as opposed to waiting until later when I'm deescalating the anxiety. Hold that space for love and connection at the point in time when it is uncomfortable. If someone is receptive to that and someone also picks up on what you're putting and cycling out there, that could have a very positive moment to change. Either it'll change what's inside or maybe it will have an actual impact on the world outside.

This conversation has been so fun. At this point, I'd love to shift. I'm curious about your experience, first of all, having met each other on a show. Share with us what's it been like.

It's been so fun to hear you, Lindsay. You've opened doors for new things for me to learn and experience. You've been so kind, gentle, open, and vulnerable. It's delightful to be here with you. Thank you.

It's an absolute delight, honestly. That is the exact word that is ringing in my mind. It's wonderful to be in your presence. The feeling of the conversation and being here is so warm and lovely. It's also exciting always to meet other folks who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. I find that we're all at different points in life. Every time I meet somebody who is either further in having embraced their identity, no matter what age they are, knows who they are, or has been part of the community in any way is good and powerful. It's a reminder of not being alone. No matter who you are in life as well, it's never too late to embrace who you are. I did not expect that I'd be hanging out with a Reverend. I'm super excited. I'm like, “That's awesome. I'd like to share this with others who I know.”

No matter who you are in life, it is never too late to embrace it.

People sometimes feel intimidated by that but I don’t feel that.

It's so good. It's super rewarding. Representation matters. It’s such a powerful thing. You’re seeing people throughout the world, people you wouldn't expect, or people that aren't the same as you. There are more of us out there and you are not alone. We don't know as well if somebody feels alone and hasn't met that person who shares any of their experience, that doesn't mean that they're not out there. They just might not have a chance to meet them yet.

It sounds like everyone should be referred to as they, them, and theirs then, considering the conversation we've had about the soul as the key to all interaction and true connection. I'd love for the two of you to challenge our readers. This is the right topic or area. We've talked about so many things. We've talked about identity, safety, energy, and love. What would you like to say to the reader to challenge them to apply any of the things that we shared in their lives?

I had a flash. Most cities have an organization called Every single person connects with PFLAG in their community to learn some things. There are speakers that they have and activities. You'll learn about legislation that's on the dockets. Connect and learn something new that would support and honor the LGBTQ+ community.

Lindsay, what challenge would you extend?

Consider that shift in vocabulary, like that observation you have. Everybody could default to they and them until someone tells you who they are. You could still be misgendering somebody but the chances are them or they can correct you. If they tell you their pronouns are whatever they are, you use what pronouns they give you. That's who they identify. They've told you who they are. Challenge the idea that the default is, “I visually see you and I clock you as this or that so I get to choose.”

They, in my opinion, is the term, that happens when you don't know. You haven't met somebody yet. You don't know who's coming on the call. If you said that I was going to be meeting Reverend Kay, I'd have no idea before we got here. I'm going to be using they and them until I'm told otherwise. Practicing that individual they is a person who hasn't told me who they are yet.

They are someone that I look forward to meeting and they are somebody that I will find out what their pronouns are, who they are, and what matters to them but I'm not going to assume who they are until it's established. It's a muscle memory. Getting it into your vocabulary about people you haven't met yet or people you haven't had that conversation yet helps you practice it so that when you meet somebody and that is their pronouns, you're already pretty used to it. The muscle's still working there. That's also a nice side effect of not making that assumption when you first meet people.

Not Quite Strangers | Human Connection
Human Connection: No matter who you are in life, it is never too late to embrace it.

It's like the name. We don't assume people's names until we've learned them. We don't call anybody Robin like, “You're Robin until you tell me otherwise.” Lindsay has been a great teacher. You were the first non-binary person to have a meaningful conversation about this. It did challenge me to start thinking differently. Not only thinking about pronouns, that's one piece of it, but you've expanded through this conversation what identity is.

Specifically, what was challenging for me was that everything in the space of LGBTQ had to do with sexuality. What both of you are bringing to this conversation has nothing to do with sexuality per se. It's about the soul of a human being and how we identify and classify or not. Any final words for the audience or one another before we close?

Lindsay, thank you for being present and willing. Valerie, thank you for the invitation.

Thank you both. This has been an absolute delight. It's been wonderful talking with you and I'm also taking away a lot of inspirational words. It’s super exciting to meet you. Valerie, it's good to see you.

I'm so grateful that we were able to have such an enlightening light, deep conversation in a short period. This is what this show is about, to inspire people to go beyond the surface. Look how deep the two of you were able to go with a stranger. I get that I created a container for that conversation but the tools and the experiences that the two of you have shared could empower someone to create that safe container for themselves and extend that container to other people.

I'm so grateful for what you shared with us and the difference that's going to make. We will never know the difference is made but it will be implanted into someone's brain and hopefully activated in some way. Thank you two for this time, your generosity, and your care. For those of you who are reading, thank you also for sharing this time with us. I hope that you're taking something away. There are some challenges in our conversation so I challenge you to take those on. I'm going to sign off. Have a wonderful rest of the day, everyone. Thank you for reading. Bye.


Important Links

Strangers: Meet Karen Romestan & Lindsay Tierstein

From: South Carolina, USA /New Jersey, USA

Talk About: LGBTQIA+ and how a connection is agreeing to love and respect one another.





Subscribe to my YouTube channel and access new and past episodes! To receive episodes and personal 'Connection Challenges' in your inbox, subscribe at



Let's Connect

• Website: 

• NQS Challenges: 



bottom of page