In its mildest form, depression can simply mean feeling low. For most people, feeling sad from time to time is just a natural part of life.

However, for some of us, feelings of sadness, despair and melancholia are present on a daily basis and can prevent us from living our normal lives.

If you can relate to this, it could mean you are suffering from depression and should seek help from a GP or therapist.

It is nothing to be ashamed of, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue in our lifetime, and depression is one of the most common illnesses.

However, despite this fact, the stigma that still surrounds mental health can often hinder people’s understanding of depression; some may feel awkward towards, or unable to help those who are experiencing it.

sadness, alleyway, person, hair covering face

Remember that not everybody will feel comfortable asking for help, but there are some signs you can look out for, including (but not limited to):

  • Avoidance of social events
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem
  • Unexplained anger and irritability
  • Reckless behaviour
  • Changes in their appetite/weight.

So what should you do to help and support somebody suffering with depression?

Here are 5 ways in which you can help someone who may be suffering from depression.

1. Compassion

Compassion really is key in helping someone to recover from any illness. Whether it is encouraging them to do something that might help them cope with their illness, like seeking out appropriate treatment, or offering to do something they are struggling with – even if it is just washing up the dishes!

You could encourage them gently to talk about their feelings or make them aware that you totally understand if they don’t want to open up just yet. Reassure them that their situation is going to get better and let them know you are there to support them no matter what.

person standing among trees

2. Understanding 

They are going through a really difficult time, and their behaviour may seem erratic and unpredictable – it’s likely they’ll behave in ways which seem out of character to you. For example, they may be acting more irritable or reckless, and this kind of behaviour is liable to be misunderstood by others who do not know what is really going on. 

It is not always easy when dealing with the negativity, hostility, and moodiness that go hand in hand with depression, but understand that they don’t necessarily mean what they are saying/doing in their current state of mind. 

Therefore, it’s important you don’t take it personally or blame them; try reassuring them instead. If they are displaying unusual, impulsive behaviours, try not to judge them but do try your best to ensure their safety.

Perhaps, when they are in a calmer state, it might be a good idea to help them in coming up with alternative and healthier strategies to deal with these impulses.

dark skies, clouds, silhouette of a person looking over the sea

3. But, don’t become a psychologist…

…and start diagnosing them or trying to give advice beyond your knowledge – that is best left to the professionals. Just listen to them, believe everything they tell you and let them know you’ll love and support them every step of the way.

Don’t force treatment on them, but remember to seek further help immediately if they’re feeling suicidal or showing no willingness to get better; if you feel there is a risk of immediate danger – tell a trusted adult or call 999.

You can always contact Ditch the Label or other charities like Samaritans or Mind if you feel you need guidance on this matter. Supporting someone with depression can be stressful and frustrating so be careful not to neglect your own needs too.

Taking time to look after yourself is really important; talk to others about how you’re feeling or consider joining a local support group with people who are also in a similar situation to you.

4. Have patience

Recovering from depression can take a long time and it is important that everyone goes at their own pace; this illness, for many, is an ongoing battle throughout their lifetime and they’ll have to gradually learn how to manage, so be prepared for relapses. It is important to remember that even if they’ve started treatment, it may be a long time before they really start to feel better. Therefore, having patience is really important.

What they really need at this point, is your genuine love and support. Show them how much you care by listening to them and appreciating them for who they are. They may feel like they’ve got no one on their side during this process, so it’s really important that you are!

5. Spend time with them

Someone with depression will have both good and bad days. They might show less interest in the things they used to enjoy, and might not always feel like going out – but if they do feel up to hanging out with you, then try and spend time with them by doing things you both used to enjoy. 

Keeping them occupied and offering them distractions where you can is really important, but make sure these are either within, or close to their comfort zone.

Equally, remember that sometimes they’ll just want to be left alone and that’s okay too. Just check in with them regularly by dropping them a message to let them know you’re there for them when/ if they need you.

If you ever need help, guidance or someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to join our anonymous Community.

In the first of a series of articles by our amazing team of Student Features Writers, Priya Toberman lays down her thoughts on how the stereotypes of women in the media can affect women today.

When I was younger, the girls in the books I read were my heroes. They were tough, they didn’t like the colour pink, and the idea of wearing makeup made them want to puke. They were what we tend to call ‘Strong Female Character’. 

Although well-meaning, the recurrence of this trope has the unfortunate side effect of creating a stereotype of those girls that do choose to express themselves as traditionally feminine. This isn’t because of its existence as a whole, but because it is often twisted into the idea that traditionally feminine values equate to stupidity, vanity and superficiality. The problem with this, is that there is zero evidence to prove that someone’s intelligence is affected by their outward appearance.

This impacted me hugely when I was little. I didn’t want to do something that might make me appear ‘girly’, in part because I thought the word ‘girl’ meant being seen as less intelligent, more incapable and essentially, less of a person who could be taken seriously. What’s worse, is that I would see other girls as lesser for liking the colour pink, glitter, or for wearing makeup. It took me years to change this way of thinking, and I know that it’s not just me—this is true for so many girls.

Stereotypes pervade many of the problems experienced by young women. Telling girls that they should behave in a certain way in order to be taken seriously brings us back to the olden days when women were forced to perform femininity. Moreover, telling girls that if they appear a certain way, they have a certain personality, is reductive–it contributes to the idea that women are a homogenous group without individual personalities. Not real people, but simply a construction of what society believes we are.

The dehumanisation of women is what keeps misogyny on its feet, and is perpetuated by the media only producing the same stereotypical female characters, instead of creating characters which are believable as real people.

The reason tackling stereotypes is so important is because it can easily be fixed by showing children that the way people present themselves doesn’t have to have anything to do with who they are. If these stereotypes can be broken down while children are still children, then the problem would eventually disappear, but because the stereotypes we were exposed to as children are beyond our control, we must re-educate ourselves once we are old enough to properly understand.

I believe that the true issue experienced by young people is the lack of control we feel over our own lives. While the media we are exposed to will inevitably be out of our control, there are other issues within society which affect young people and could benefit from our voices. I’m talking politics, education, basically everything that affects teenagers more than anyone else. Decisions about these sorts of things are usually made by adults who can’t or won’t see things from our perspective. If young people could be included in the decision-making, if we are allowed to discuss problems in our society and in the media which affect us, we would be far better prepared for the future. 

And as for those stereotypes, although there is little we can do to control what’s already been done, I think it’s important that we can move forward recognising these stereotypes so that we, the next generation, can set about dismantling them. I can’t wait until I can finally open any book and discover new characters with fully fleshed out personalities from all genders, races and sexualities, and for that to become the norm. As the writers, inventors and creators of the future, the decisions we make in the future are crucial; it’s our time to set a precedent for what society should be.

Got an idea for a piece? Email [email protected]

As Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2020 is upon us, we caught up with body positive Instagram star and advocate for eating disorder recovery, @_nelly_london.

Tell us a bit about yourself

So my name is Nelly and I am a body positive influencer. My content mainly focuses on lingerie and fashion but I also talk a lot about eating disorder recovery and my personal journey.

When did you realise you had an issue with food?

I struggled to realise I ever had a problem because my issues started so early on, essentially I grew up with a very skewed view on food, eating and body image. From as young as I can remember I know I hated by body and I thought that food was the reason for that, so there was never a specific moment I realised I had a problem, I guess I just always had.

What was your experience of eating disorders?

Eeesh good question haha. So I started to experience disordered eating behaviours when I was about 12, these developed from there and at my worst stage of disordered eating I was suffering from 3 eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) concurrently and my life was controlled entirely by food and thoughts about food. I was also periodically abusing laxatives, something that has unfortunately caused permanent damage to my digestive system.

Woman standing in Ditch the Label T Shirt that says 'Woman Up'

What was your experience of recovery?

Finding help was the hardest part. I had been to my GP multiple times and received no help whatsoever. I had so many setbacks, so many doctors telling me that they didn’t think I had a problem because I was actually overweight and didn’t meet their criteria. When I think about that now I honestly feel so sad, I was suffering an indescribable amount and was extremely unwell, both mentally and physically, but at least 3 doctors told me I was fine. After years or trying, I was lucky enough to find an amazing eating disorder specialist who honestly saved my life. I was in an incredibly privileged position as when I finally asked my parents for help, they were able to take me to a private clinic. If it wasn’t for the help I received there I don’t know what my life would be like today.

What helped you most in your recovery?

Learning that recovery is not linear was a really important lesson that I learned. I used to really beat myself up if I had a setback or slipped back into dangerous habits, but when I finally realised that healing would involve a lot of ups and downs I was able to be a lot more forgiving of myself. There definitely were a lot of ups and downs, but I was supported throughout them all.

How have you found life since? What’s the best thing about your life since recovery?

When I was at my worst I honestly and truly believed that that would be my life forever. I thought I would spend my entire existence trying to lose weight and being controlled by food. I accepted the fact that I would never see my friends, I would never experience fun or exciting things, I would never have any meaningful relationships with partners because the only committed relationship I was ever capable of having would be with my eating disorder. So the fact that I now have an incredibly fulfilling life is the biggest blessing I could ever ask for. If 18 year old me saw the things I was doing now she would never believe it.

Woman in body positive social media campaign

Your social media is very body positive, how has the bopo community helped in your recovery?

I think discovering the bopo community completely changed my outlook on life (honestly!). I had no idea that there were men and women out there genuinely embracing their bodies and celebrating their “imperfections”. It was such a breath of fresh air to realise that not everyone is a perfect size 8, hourglass figured, smooth skinned, perfectly dressed goddess. I now no longer compare myself and my body to everyone I see on Instagram, instead I admire the beauty and uniqueness of all different bodies. Again, something I never thought would be possible.

So do you think you are truly recovered and your eating disorders are behind you?

This is such a tricky one. Whilst I now live an amazing life that I am completely in love with, I know that I will be working on my behaviours around food for the rest of my life. I still have days where I need to consciously make an effort to not let problematic thoughts control me, but other days I forget I even ever had an illness.

Is there any advice you can give to someone in recovery now?

Know that it won’t be a smooth road to recovery, but that’s totally okay and you will get there.

Use your support system whenever you need to, don’t feel like you are a burden to anyone and asking for help or just a bit of support is really important.

Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s, everyone is different and your journey is yours and yours alone, don’t feel bad if you think your progress is slower than others.

Look forward to the future but experience the present. Although you might not be exactly where you want to be, right now is important, don’t wish it away.

You’ve got this.

If you think you are suffering from an eating disorder, or know someone who is, you can get help and advice at Beat Eating Disorders here.

At Ditch the Label, we can also offer help and advice regarding this or any other issue you are concerned about. Reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

It’s LGBT+ History Month! To celebrate, here’s something we wrote about the amazing LGBT+ role model for young men everywhere: rugby star Gareth Thomas.

We’ve already covered how much of a hero Gareth is before, but we decided now would be a better time than ever to introduce this man to you and explain exactly why he should be given a bloody knighthood already.

Firstly, Gareth Thomas is a rugby hall of famer. He represented Wales exactly one hundred times and is one of their top try scorers. Not many players get to play for their country but Gareth has managed to do so in Rugby Union, Rugby League and international Sevens as well. 

Aside from rugby, Gareth has just as much impact off the field as he does on it. In 2009, he came out as gay and said that “what I choose to do when I close the door at home has nothing to do with what I have achieved in rugby” which is pretty bang on, if you ask us. He became one of the first rugby players to do so. 

Whenever Gareth has revealed anything in his life to the public, it is always with the hope of making it easier for somebody else to do the same. When he came out, he wanted to make sure that future gay rugby players could just be seen as talented rugby players and that if his story made it easier for just one young lad in a similar position then it would all have been worth it. This desire to empower others is incredibly selfless and speaks volumes about the kind of man he is.

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He was a victim of a hate crime in 2018. What was truly amazing about the aftermath is that he didn’t want to press charges. The assaulter was a young man and Gareth requested that he apologise and learn to understand the true effect hate crime has on the victims. 

A few weekends ago, he did something truly incredible. Just shortly after revealing he is living with HIV in a heartbreaking video, he completed a gruelling 140-mile Ironman triathlon just to prove the idea we have of people living with HIV is outdated. In 2019, HIV and asthma requires about the same amount of medication. Thousands of people now live healthy lives with HIV. He has now pledged to work on breaking the stigma around it and empower those in the same position. In the video, Gareth says that he was being threatened by a tabloid who said they would out this secret. So, in true legendary fashion, he released a video himself to let the world know that this is his story to tell and nobody else’s. 

There’s no doubt that Gareth has had a rollercoaster of a ride so far. But his desire to prove that you are not defined by one individual thing along with his work to break down stigmas and empower people by owning his life and his story makes him a huge role model for us and many, many others. By being so selfless and sharing his life with total honesty, not only gives others a voice to speak out but shows that support is out there. 

Countless celebrities, role models, as well as thousands of the public have shown their support and admiration for the strength and bravery of Gareth for sharing his story. This is a man who is constantly breaking down barriers and is respected by everyone. Even England rugby fans will give the Welshman a big cheer. Wherever Gareth goes, he is completely respected by those inside and outside of the sporting industry. From Princes Harry and William, to his best rugby mates, to the LGBTQ+ community, Gareth is inspiring so many people and empowering them all to feel comfortable in their own skin. Gareth, we salute you and applaud you, you absolute hero. But mostly, we’re so thankful for the work you do to help make this world a kinder place to live. 

If you want support or need to speak to someone confidentially, you can join our community here.

For more inspiration and daily motivation, follow our Instagram @ditchthelabel.

It’s instilled in guys from a young age that ‘men don’t cry’ and that we’re not allowed to ‘show weakness’. So, for our ‘fear season’, we spoke to an anonymous rugby player about a life-changing realisation he had in that environment.

Rugby has always been a huge part of my life. Team sport is a super-intense environment and we spent almost everyday together training or playing or dicking about. Obviously, you would’ve seen me have my good days and my bad days too. One of the bad days I remember more than usual because of what you all did. 

I hadn’t had a particularly rough day; it was all pretty standard from what I remember. We began training and went into a drill. I got hit. Pretty hard. I’d never really had a problem with the intensity or ‘putting body on the line’ style of play but for some reason this time it didn’t go down so well. I got up and walked off and I remember trying to act as if I was pissed off to try to cover up what was inevitably about to happen. 

As Sam Stanley said in his interview for Ditch, there’s this ‘super-macho’ connotation that a precedes someone who is a rugby player and so you buy into that; expecting people to see you that way and eventually only seeing yourself that way. I believed that everyone thought I was a super-masculine ‘rugby boy’ and that I should act in a way that shows exactly that.

I was always a bit of a sore thumb. Your lives revolve around rugby. Sometimes, I felt like I didn’t train as hard as you or run that extra lap because my life didn’t. You knew I had different goals. I’d get absolutely rinsed for saying I couldn’t play a game because I was acting in a music video and that I couldn’t make a social because I had ballet class.

Crying therefore wasn’t an option. But, I guess no one really chooses when they’re going to cry. I broke down as soon as I walked away – obviously facing away from you all because I couldn’t let you see (as if I thought you all hadn’t realised already). 

That was that. The facade came crashing down and I stopped being a rugby boy. I couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t manly enough to earn that title and I didn’t deserve it. I was waiting for the jokes and ridicule to begin as soon as I stepped foot in the changing rooms. As soon as we came off the pitch, I knew I was going to become the team’s laughing stock.

In reality, we carried on as normal. We trained as normal. You treated me as normal. 

There weren’t any jokes. There wasn’t any brutal banter. The captain came up to me and asked if I was alright and so did the coach. Trying to brush it off and regain some of that rugby boy mentality, I said I was fine. And fortunately, I was. But without that support and acceptance from you all I might not have been. 

If you had rinsed me and made me feel like a dick, then maybe I wouldn’t have been ok with the fact I just cried in front of twenty of the hardest blokes I knew. Maybe I would’ve caged up and kept it quiet. And maybe that’s what happens to lads not as lucky as I am to have that support. 

I realise now, the reason you treated me as normal is because what happened was completely normal. You all knew you had been in the same situation before and that it wasn’t a big deal. I had always been told not to cry in my life and so, for me, I really thought it was. 

The idea of rugby players and sporting stars is false. They’re not these unbreakable superheroes. We may see them as our idols but they’re regular people with talents just like the rest of us. Rugby boys do not need to be super-masculine. You can be the most fantastic player on the pitch and still have interests and traits that don’t necessarily carry a stereotypically masculine idea with it. 

You are yourself before you are anything else. I am myself before I am a rugby player, or a dancer, or a musical theatre fan. 

I am strong because the blokes around me were stronger and lifted me up when I was down. And I was there for them when they needed me. Sport gets a lot of stick for it’s apparent lack of inclusivity but, in all honesty, those are stereotypes that are proven to be false when you’re in that environment. 

A team is defined as ‘a group of players forming one side in a competitive game or sport.’ Nothing about your culture, sexuality, race, religion, hobbies, passions, skills, beliefs or the way you make tea can stop you from being part of a team (you might get a bit of stick if you put the milk in first). A team does not discriminate because if you put your body on the line for them, they’ll put their bodies on the line for you – no matter who you are.

Sport and the people I met in it, the teams I was a part of, and the crazily-strong bonds I formed with my mates, has developed me as a bloke. They’ve made me more open and honest with myself and, most importantly, be proud of who I am. There’s no facade anymore. So thank you boys – I owe you a pint or two. 

To the guys reading this – speak up and speak out. Trust in someone near you because I have no doubt they’ll support you the way my mates supported me. Staying silent kills.

To the guys unsure about their mate, ask. Don’t sit on the bench watching on. They might need you more than you know. 

Boys – we’re all rubbish at speaking up when we are feeling low. So let’s get better as a team. Help the guy on the floor back to his feet because you never know when you might need him to do the same for you. There’s nothing weak about being honest. 

If you’d like to speak to someone about how you’re feeling, you can join our community here.

A concert.

In this instalment of ‘Good Fellas’, we take a look at the story and work of musician Ben Coyle-Larner aka Loyle Carner.

Ben is a musician from South London whose music has been described as sensitive and eloquent as he raps openly about his life over mellow, jazzy beats. But, his openness and introspection goes further than his music.  

Ben’s a bit of a king when it comes to owning your story and being proud of who you are. His stage name, Loyle Carner, is a spoonerism of his real last name and a very cool nod to his dyslexia. He’s spoken openly about his ADHD before, referring to it as ‘the best and worst thing about him’. Cooking was something he found all encompassing and it helped to channel that energy into something productive. He now runs a cooking school for 14-16 year olds with ADHD to help them do the same. And he only went and named it ‘Chilli Con Carner’. Genius.

Coyle-Larner is also an ambassador for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), working on confronting the issue of male suicide – the single biggest killer of men under 45. You don’t need us to tell you that men don’t talk about how they’re feeling enough. And Ben doesn’t need us to either – his second album ‘Not Waving But Drowning‘ confronts the idea that battling mental health isn’t always obvious. It can look like someone’s successful and having a fantastic time in life, but really we can have no idea what people are actually going through. 

It’s a nod to the thousands of men who need to talk but won’t search for it.

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Ben entered the music industry with an EP called ‘A Little Late’ which featured a track called ‘Cantona‘ – a tribute to his late step-father and his idol. He then released his first album, ‘Yesterdays Gone‘, and the front cover is the entirety of his family and friends (and his dog). One of the most touching tracks is ‘Sun of Jean’. Ben’s mum – a huge presence in a lot of his music – reads a poem she wrote about him over a piano melody played by his step-father. That personal touch is rife throughout all of his work.

His second album, ‘Not Waving But Drowning‘, starts and ends with two open letters. The first to his mum about moving out to live with his girlfriend, and the second a reply to Ben to say “I’ve gained a daughter, I’ve not lost a son”. ‘Krispy‘ is a song to his best friend Rebel Kleff – who he stopped talking to – asking to move on from their differences and get his best mate back. He leaves half the song as instrumental for Rebel Kleff to write a reply. The album features recordings of him talking to his friends and family. One where he tells a music colleague that his son is “lucky to have a good dad like you”. Music doesn’t see emotional intelligence and honesty like this very often. A guy who wants to talk openly about his life to millions of listeners and empower them. A guy who wants to tackle the stigma around masculinity. A guy who knows that there’s nothing weak about being honest.

Even despite being a trailblazer for openness and emotional maturity in men, he admits it’s still hard even for him. We can’t blame him; can you imagine writing your life down and releasing it for the world to hear? On ‘Krispy’, it’s clear that men still struggle to talk and explain what they mean to each other. He wanted to say all these things to his friend but didn’t feel like he could just do it. So, rather beautifully, he put it all into a song. It proves that men can tell each other how they feel. We’re all fallible because we’re all human. However you want to do it is perfectly valid and means just as much because you’ve done it. You’ve opened up. And that’s a pretty great start.

Changing the face of masculinity is a hard thing to do. Slowly but surely, and with the help of role models like Ben Coyle-Larner, that face is changing. Being sensitive and vulnerable is a fucking strong thing to do as a man, but it’s one that will help you and your friends around you. Help a mate out and start the conversation. You’ll never know who’s waving and who’s drowning if you don’t.

If you want to speak to someone, you can join our community here.

For more inspiration and daily motivation, follow our Instagram @ditchthelabel.

Student, influencer, model, LGBT activist and all round great guy, Max Hovey writes about his experiences of being the last single guy in his friendship group.

‘You know that third wheel feeling? When you’re a complete spare part and feel left out? Well how about fifth wheeling? Or seventh or ninth wheeling? How about out of literally every single one of your friends, you’re the ONLY one not in a relationship.

It sucks.

Any form of gathering – “boyfriends / girlfriends welcome!”. I just end up on the floor with the resident dog (I mean not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’d probably still end up doing that even if I was in a relationship). My point is, I get it, it can feel very lonely. I’m in that situation myself, all of my friends are in relationships, and I mean every single one. Not just “oh they’ve got a new boyfriend again”, I’m talking long-term committed relationships. 

Then there’s me, a single man who carries his cat to his food bowl to make him feel special. Dating sucks, like really sucks, especially in this day and age. Gone are the days when you’d bump into someone in Sainsbury’s as you reach for the last apple, lock eyes and fall in love (we all want that love story, don’t lie). Or have someone offer to buy you a drink at the bar, you chat, take their number and arrange a date another day. No no no, that’s a rarity for millennials. It’s all about swiping, liking, posting, commenting, posing. Which eventually (9 times out of 10) can lead to the magical new concept of ghosting. Any wonder it’s so difficult?

But here’s the thing, not everyone is like that. It’s not your problem if someone doesn’t swipe right on tinder, or ghosts you, or just wants sex. That is NEVER your fault. It’s usually their own internal issue that they don’t quite know how to handle.

So what can you do about it? Nothing. I know that’s probably not the answer that you wanted but it’s true. I think I was deleting and re-downloading tinder at least twice per month. The endless cycle of wanting someone, not finding them and deleting the app, then feeling lonely and re-downloading it. Online dating can be great, but it’s too forced. Don’t get me wrong sometimes it works! But it rarely does.

So just stop looking. Love yourself, and wait for someone else to love you back. Be happy as the single friend, buy that dine in for 2 meal deal and eat both, eat that share bag, go to the gym because it makes you feel good. Have a romantic meal in with your dog on Valentine’s Day. If you feel like you need to neck tequila to get through yet ANOTHER couple filled gathering, just do it.

So, my advice, just be you. The right person will come along. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true. Searching for love can be a lonely journey, but waiting for it can be full of enjoyment, self-acceptance and well, dogs.

Anyway, you do you – and others if it makes the waiting a little more bearable.’

For more from Max, follow his Instagram @max_hovey

Check out Max’s article 8 Lessons Coming Out Has Taught Me here

Tell us about yourself in one sentence

‘My name is Addison Rose Vincent, I use they/them pronouns, I am 26 years old, Canadian, and a proud transfeminine genderqueer non-binary person.’

Tell us a bit about your experiences as a transfeminine genderqueer non-binary person. 

‘Every transfeminine and/or genderqueer person has their own unique experience and definition of that terminology. As someone who was assigned male at birth (AMAB), currently taking oestrogen, now has breasts and curves, and has a full beard, my experience is definitely unique. For me, “non-binary” fits how I don’t feel like a man or woman but somewhere between or outside those binary points. “Transfeminine” aligns with my social (and medical) transition from masculinity to femininity, especially in my gender expression and presentation. And “genderqueer” refers to how I express myself in a way to intentionally play with and challenge traditional notions of gender and the binary.’ 

You’ve been a really vocal trans rights activist – what started that for you? 

‘When I came out as trans and non-binary at the age of 21 and as a student at Chapman University, I already knew and was repeatedly reminded that this society was not designed to support or empower people like me. I quickly learned that if I wanted to survive and thrive in this world, I needed to be fearless, take space, be unapologetically visible, and fight back. I also learned how important it was to be intersectional in my work, to prioritize, centre, empower, and follow those most vulnerable and marginalized by violence and oppression, keeping in mind that none of us are free until all of us are free.’ 

Why do you think it’s important? 

‘It’s important for me to be vocal because not enough people are. I hope that by sharing my story and the story of my trans and non-binary siblings on social media platforms that aspiring allies will understand how they can support and empower our community. But even more importantly, I hope that by being unapologetically visible that I can be a possibility model to people of all ages and inspire them to explore their own genders and expressions, to find the joy in journeying beyond the binary, and to know that they are not alone.’ 

What do you want the future to look like for trans rights in the US and the world? 

‘There’s so much to say! I would love to live in a future where trans people can access medical transition medication and procedures easily and affordably (ideally free), and not have to sacrifice fertility by transitioning (access to fertility banks and storage); where trans people are not reduced to our genitals, medical transitions, or as objects of desire or experimentation; where trans people can work, attend school, use bathrooms and locker rooms, love openly, and live without harassment or judgment; where trans people are visible in all sector and forms of media, not because of our identities but because of our skills and qualifications.’

Why did you start @breakthebinary? 

‘I started @breakthebinary as my own personal social media platform, and “break the binary” was a phrase I loved and constantly used as a personal motto. Over time, I grew more followers and recognized that I could use this platform to share my journey, my transition, my story, and my beliefs. My account has grown a significant following in just the past couple months since I started growing out my beard and adding more hashtags in my posts. 

I’ve been so grateful and humbled by the outpouring of love and support I’ve received, and messages from strangers thanking me for my visibility and the impact I’ve made on them always make my day. A few weeks ago, I also received a lot of hateful, threatening comments and messages, one describing me being hit by a bus, which is why I changed my comments setting so that only people I follow can comment on my posts. If only I had a setting like that for real life haha!’

What do you love about Pride month and pride celebrations? 

‘I love being around community! I’m so grateful to be living in Los Angeles, and during Pride I feel like I have a whole month to be even more unapologetic in public spaces with how I present myself. Pride month also gives me and so many others a chance to understand our history, to honour our trailblazers like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and reflect on where our community is 50 years after Stonewall and so many other pivotal moments like Compton’s Cafeteria and Black Cat Tavern (here in Los Angeles).’ 

What does Pride mean to you? 

‘To me, Pride means celebrating my identity and showing the world how wonderful and amazing my identities and gender expression are. Pride means peeling back the layers of shame and stigma I have accumulated throughout my life (especially during my childhood and teen years), and replacing them with foundations of joy and self-love. Pride means walking out my front door each day as myself and into an often violence and hateful world to spread the message of love, peace, and freedom.’ 

For more from Addison, you can follow their Instagram @breakthebinary

If you have a question about sexuality, identity, relationships or anything else, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

Hi everyone! I’m Yasmin Benoit, a model and asexuality activist. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to write another article for Ditch the Label. This time I’m here to tell you how you can be the best ace ally during Pride this year – and all year round! It doesn’t take much to be an ally and make a real difference for an asexual person, or the wider asexual community. 

1) Educate yourself about asexuality

If you’re going to be an ally for asexual people, it’s important to understand what asexuality is, and what it means to be on the asexual spectrum. There loads of information online about asexuality. It might also be helpful to speak to an asexual person and ask them respectful questions, if they’re open to it. Keep in mind that there are a range of asexual experiences, which vary depending on where you are on the asexual spectrum, and what your romantic orientation is. If you want to find out more you can read about asexuality here and this article on 10 Things You Need to Know About Asexuality here

2) Don’t exclude asexual people from Pride events

Pride is supposed to be a welcoming and inclusive space for those who don’t fit into the heteronormative box, so there is definitely a place at Pride events for asexual people. Debates surrounding whether or not asexual people should be included in Pride celebrations are alienating for the community. If you want to be a good ally to asexual people, then you should support our right to celebrate who we are in an LGBT+ space, as part of the wider queer community.  

Yasmin posing in front of the asexual flag

3) Be morally supportive

There is nothing wrong or abnormal about being asexual, but pressures from our society can make asexual people feel like they’re broken. If you know someone who is coming to terms with their asexuality, listen to them and be encouraging, just as you would to someone who is coming out as gay or transgender. Don’t be dismissive of their asexuality, or think that you know more about their bodies and their minds than they do.   

4) Use inclusive language

Asexual people have a rather unique perspective of sexuality and romantic relationships. It’s important to keep that in mind with the language you use. Statements that make sex, sexual relationships and romantic love sound like a universal necessity for every human being might seem harmless, but they’re actually alienating for those who don’t feel that way. It’s important to remember that not all sexual identities or romantic relationships actively involve sex, and they don’t need to involve sex to be valid. 

Yasmin holding a pink sign saying activist

5) Include asexuality in the conversation

With Pride celebrations comes discussions around sexuality and relationships. These conversations are incomplete without an asexual perspective. Whether you’re just having a casual chat in the park or whether you’re hosting a panel in front of a hundred people, remember that asexual people exist and our experiences count. It doesn’t take much to add, “But not everyone’s interesting in that,” during a conversation, or to find an asexual writer or speaker to lend their voice on a larger platform. Anything that contributes to positive asexual visibility is helpful for the community. 

6) Do your part to spread the word

There are a range of resources online about asexuality – whether you want blog posts, journal articles, YouTube videos, fiction, or advice straight from the mouth of asexuality activists. Even if you have come to understand asexuality, there are many people out there who don’t, and this contributes to misunderstandings and stereotypes surrounding the community. Share asexual content with people you know. You might intrigue people who are eager to learn more about asexuality, as well as people who might be asexual themselves without realising it yet. 

For more from Yasmin, you can follow her Instagram here

If you have a question about sexuality, relationships, or anything else that might be bothering you, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here, and we will listen to you. 

Getting over a breakup: How I did it in 7 days

I was always the friend in my social group that didn’t date so much, so I saw breakups happening around me and I never really got why my friends were so upset. That was until it happened to me. I can now relate – it hurts like nothing else I have ever experienced and it quickly takes over your entire life temporarily. It hurts even more if it ended suddenly, especially when you’re not expecting it.

When it happened to me, I looked at the options the media promotes through movies and decided that eating a load of ice cream and drinking alcohol probably wasn’t the best way forward for me. Over time, I’ve developed different ways of tackling stress and so I decided to put them into action to see if it could help me get over my breakup in a faster, healthier way. And it did. Here’s what I did:

1.) Understand the cycle

A psychiatrist called Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed a model used to forecast the typical emotions somebody goes through when they are exposed to sudden loss. The Kübler-Ross model, as it is aptly named is usually used to guide somebody through grief after the death of a loved one, but it can also work for breakups too. Knowing the cycle of emotions is a powerful thing because it assures you that you are normal and that your behaviours and attitudes are going to change. The behaviours follow:

  • Denial: the first stage can lead to confusion as you struggle to accept that the breakup has actually happened, it will take a while to settle in and to feel like reality.
  • Anger: once you do accept that your relationship is no longer, you may feel anger towards your ex-partner for putting you through this, or may feel angry at yourself or the situation as a whole. At this point, it’s best to acknowledge that it is okay to be angry, but don’t stew on it for too long.
  • Bargaining: we’ve all heard the term ‘never text the ex’ and it couldn’t be more key at this point. Here is the period where you’ll feel like doing anything to get back together, you’re even willing to compromise on yourself and “change”. Knowing this in advance is powerful because you must resist the temptation. Most couples who get back together don’t last, so unless you did something wrong, please don’t try to change yourself.
  • Depression: this is when you fully accept the reality of not getting back together and fully grieve the relationship. You may feel tempted to eat junk food and to be idle, but you must fight it. I’ll talk more about this later on.
  • Acceptance: ahhhh, moving on. Give yourself time to fully accept that you are no longer a thing, don’t avoid it by getting with somebody else straight away. Allow the cycle to happen and you will reach acceptance and closure.

Knowing the cycle is really powerful. Everybody processes things at different times and so for some people, getting through the emotions can be quicker than others. There is no set time – everybody is different. Allowing yourself the time and space is vital in your recovery.

2.) Choose 2-3 people to talk to

Don’t bottle up how you’re feeling, it’s okay to be obsessed with it for a few days but don’t let it take over your life in the long-term. Finding a few key people who you can talk about it to is important. If you don’t feel like you can talk about it to them, consider writing a diary or documenting your progress. It’s good to just let your thoughts out, regardless of how daft they may seem at the time.

3.) Meditate

This was key to my recovery. My relationship ended suddenly and wasn’t even in person, so I didn’t receive the closure I needed. So I meditated – I got myself relaxed, focused on my breathing and visualised my ex-partner stood in a room. I approached them and hugged them for one final time (whilst crying hysterically through my closed eyes) and then gradually imagined them getting smaller and smaller until they vanished. It took me a few sessions to finally let go, and a lot of tears, but it was a really healthy way to let out the bottled emotions. There are loads of tutorials online if you’re new to meditation, but it can be really powerful and it helped me a lot.

4.) Cry and be sad

It’s okay to cry, in fact, it’s a really healthy, natural way to let out negative emotions. I found myself awake in the middle of the night doing the uncontrollable crying thing and it helped me a lot. It’s better to do this sooner rather than later. I’d also recommend making sure you’re in a safe space where you feel comfortable and like you’re not going to be interrupted. Allow yourself some time to feel down and upset about it all, just don’t let it go on for too long because then it can start to take over.

5.) Don’t rebound

I know how tempting it can be to message a previous partner or somebody you were going on dates with before you got with your ex, but don’t do it yet. Spend some time grieving the relationship and getting to know yourself again. Rebounding will only prolong the period and make it harder for you in the long-term.

6.) Exercise and eat well

This, along with meditation, is the most important piece of advice I can give to you. Your emotions are heavily influenced by your diet and levels of activity. I know you won’t feel like it at the time, but force yourself to eat healthily and to exercise. Cut out processed foods and refined sugars and reduce the meat in your diet. Get plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts and go for a run or swim once a day. Make sure you don’t slack and stay on it. Trust me, it will help you get through the process much faster and both your physical and mental health will benefit.

7.) Reduce face-stalking gradually

When you first split up, you’ll no doubt want to keep checking their social media. That’s okay, but try to reduce it each day. It may be a good idea to count how many times you’re looking at their Instagram and keep a record of it. Set yourself targets until you’re no longer looking at their social media. It’s up to you as to whether or not you remain friends on social media or not. For some people, it’s easier to process by deleting all digital footprints of the relationship and for others, it doesn’t make a difference. You have to do what is right for you.

8.) Think twice before contacting them

People will tell you to not contact your ex, but I disagree. I think sometimes it can be important to help you process what has happened, especially when you’re in the Denial or Depression stages. It’s probably not a good idea to contact them during the Bargaining stage as this can be dangerous. Limit the amount of contact you make and try not to establish an imbalance of power. For example, if you have some unanswered questions about the breakup, it is positive to ask if they will answer them for you, but if you’re feeling low and want to tell them you’ll change – don’t. If they aren’t receptive, respect that; everybody processes things in different ways and stop contacting them. If they don’t reply to your message, don’t send another until they do. Your objective here is not to get back together, it is to help you process the breakup in your own way.

9.) Finally, know that you’re not alone

I know it may feel like it, but you’re really not alone. This process will make you stronger and so many people are going through it right now. The cycle of emotions are perfectly normal and everybody processes things in different ways. Don’t let anybody make you feel like you shouldn’t cry or feel low about it, because that’s a healthy and natural response.

Breakups are hard and I hope that my first-hand experience will help you to overcome yours much faster than alternative methods of eating rubbish and avoiding the issue. You will be okay, I promise.

If you are having relationship issues or you’re struggling to move on after a breakup – you can speak to one of our mentors here.