Name: Grace Manger
Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Occupation: I work multiple jobs, but most notably, I manage content and development at The Parents Project, a website that gives comprehensive advice and support to parents of LGBTQ young people.
Where did you come from? A single-parent home– and then a blended family home– in west Michigan. I grew up surrounded by loving parents and a million siblings, a conservative school district, some hard times, and a lot of figuring things out as we went along.
A Fear: Disappointing those I care most about.
A Goal: To help people fully and unapologetically inhabit their bodies and their identities.
A Memory: I was painfully shy as a child, and there was a time when I exclusively communicated with my mom through written notes that I hid in a make-shift mailbox in our living room. She kept every single one, and they range from “Can we have macaroni and cheese for lunch today?” to “I’m really sad, can I have a hug?” I still read them every once in a while, and the emotions and vulnerability of my 4-year-old self consistently bring me to tears.
A Mistake: I was so terrified of being labeled a lesbian in high school that I remained complacent in instances of bullying that I witnessed, out of fear that my standing up for someone would turn the target on me instead. We didn’t have a GSA or many positive and out LGBTQ role models, and the kids who were thought to be gay were ostracized. I remember hearing some kids make fun of those participating in Day of Silence one year, and I couldn’t bring myself to say anything while fighting back tears. I didn’t know if I was gay or not at that point, but my biggest fear was being labeled as something before I was ready. College turned out to be an amazing place for me to figure out my sexuality, but I still feel incredibly guilty for not being a better ally to my peers during that confusing time.
A Hero: A magical little girl named Maia, who taught me more about loving myself during her 8 years on earth than anyone else.
A Fault: Basing my self-worth on what other people think of me.
A Talent: I am very good at handstands.
A Prized Possession: My voice.
A Need: Affection and affirmation.
I want More: Courage to say the big things and take the big risks.
I want Less: Doubt and disillusionment. Also, guns.
What would you change about the world? I wish we could have less emphasis on productivity and more emphasis on pleasure. We base our success as human beings on how much we work and produce, and I wish we paid more attention to how much we love, how much we smile, how much we connect with others on a daily basis.
What do you love about yourself? At 21 years old, I think I have been through more than most: some destructive relationships, an eating disorder, coming out to myself and to others, and the loss of a loved one. When I look back on it all, I am incredibly proud of my resilience and my ability to use those experiences to transform my life into one that I never could have imagined for myself just a few years ago.