You do not have to represent your entire community. I repeat: you do not have to represent your entire community.

As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce” I had the pleasure of interviewing Grey Crouch.
Grey Crouch (pronouns: they/them) is a non-binary model and advocate, founder of the social media campaign #VISIBLE. Grey believes being an out, non-binary individual in the fashion industry opens the door for others across industries to do the same. Grey has worked with media outlets and universities to create visibility and events curated toward the under-represented within the non-binary and queer communities. Grey is trained in marketing and social work and holds a degree in Psychology from Benedictine College.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Of course! The story that led me to my current path begins in university. I was invested at an all-Catholic, private school where I noticed many queer individuals had no idea there were others like us on campus. I dedicated my time there working with administration and clergy to establish a Diversity Panel discussing not only queer issues but also cultural and religious differences. This drive for representation and conversation spurred me to pursue my own passion for modeling and launch the campaign #VISIBLE through my Instagram, @fawngrey. Anyone interested in learning more can reach me through direct message there.

Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about “divorce”?

My authority actually comes from personal experience. When I moved to Los Angeles from Colorado to pursue fashion, I was married to my now-almost-ex-wife. Currently, I am in the stages of the divorce process while juggling this career pivot, my work as a marketing consultant and commitment to building the #VISIBLE campaign. In researching other queer individuals’ experiences with divorce, I noticed glaring similarities to my own.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Being an out, non-binary fashion model and reaching out to other community members for the #VISIBLE campaign — which aims to show the incredibly diverse face of the non-binary+ community — I receive a lot of incredibly moving stories. The most recent came from an individual living in France who shared with me the struggle of navigating a language that attaches gender to every object. We are very fortunate in the English language to actually have gender-neutral terms and nouns. This makes the shift to non-gendered language a bit less of a leap than, say, in Spanish or French. It is stories like these that make it so important to me to continue putting myself out there in a visible and vocal way.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

A funny mistake — or opportunity for growth — was one of my first professional photo shoots. I showed up perfect timing with my little bag full of things. Turns out, the other model was running late, my photographer hadn’t arrived and the house photographer was just setting up. Here I was before everyone and faced with the choice: sit on my phone or get to know the room. I not only got to know the photographer and designer’s young son — and everything there is to know about Roblox — but also to have the pronoun conversation with the designer. She was totally with it and encouraged me to correct her if she slipped up. The lesson is one I continue to learn every day: keep showing up. For the people that aren’t able to come out due to safety: keep showing up. For myself: keep showing up.

If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Give yourself a break from the perfect queer relationship.
When my wife and I got together, we garnered quite the fan-base. When we got married, it was a legal milestone. When we got divorced? Crickets. It can be easy to feel you are letting down your following. Take a break from the expectations. Take this time to sit with your experience outside of the character of your coupledom. Find the support who is there even now. They will be the ones cheering you through your thriving next chapter.

● You do not have to represent your entire community. 
I repeat: you do not have to represent your entire community. When people ask the inevitable questions, you may feel the need to answer “correctly” — to represent every queer person who has ever gone through divorce, ever. The only one you can represent is yourself. Owning your personal story will allow you to remember your individuality and re-set your focus onto your personal goals for the future.

● Allow yourself to feel: both the positive and the negative. 
At the time of the “event” (we all have one), all I felt was rage. I channeled it into a place of true darkness I never thought I would go. And as the months went on: I found myself remembering joyful memories I hadn’t even remembered during the relationship. Cry about it. Laugh about it. Minimize the damage in the dark moments and keep moving. You are strengthening your emotional muscle for all the potential to come. Channel it into a renewed commitment to self-growth.

● Look past the “good guy/bad guy” dynamic. 
“She/he/they was the evil b**** who ruined my life.” “I should have done x/y/z differently. It’s all my fault.” In my divorce story, I actually was not the “good guy.” I came from a deep place of pain from my own past experience and had to accept that I did some pretty awful things my wife did not deserve. Even in the most loving queer relationship, we don’t always treat each other well. It is okay to acknowledge your own place of pain. It is okay to acknowledge the other person’s, as well. The more you are able to accept your room to grow, the more you can do the growth it takes to learn for the future. Ignoring it will only risk having to re-learn the same lessons down the road.

● One step at a time: for me, even writing this interview is a step in my healing. Every day, I acknowledge a different part of my journey. It is like when you lose a tooth: at first, it feels really funny — even scary. But every time you touch that missing spot, it becomes more and more normal. You feel more and more whole again. The key to thriving is taking the steps as they come, and envisioning what lies on the other side.

What are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

I think one of the most common reactions is the desire to shut everything out except how the story ended. Your brain wants to sit in anger, sadness, resentment. You may want to forget the relationship part even happened! It can be challenging to admit that at some point, you truly loved this person. Maybe you still do. You don’t have to throw everything out and start over. Accepting the whole story is the first step to healing and thriving.
Another common reaction would be within the queer community. We often have so many people rooting for us, it’s hard to admit when it’s time to call it. We fought for these rights, after all! The “minstrel period” actually refers to that length of time right before marriage became legal. Queer couples were doing everything to look the part of the non-threatening, heteronormative standard for a successful relationship. Our fate literally rested in our palpability! Three years later, it can still be hard to let go of that.
The way to avoid both of these is simply to give yourself a break. You can admit your care for this person, even if — in the end — they weren’t good to you or you to them. You can allow yourself to “fail.” The community forgives you. The other person will. You are allowed to forgive yourself.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

Honestly, there isn’t a lot in the way of queer-specific material on this topic. There have been some great personal accounts in outlets such as The Body is Not an Apology, Logo TV’s NewNowNext, and The FIGHT Magazine to name a few. I would recommend finding folks to have personal conversations with.
Share stories. As far as literature, the books I have recently digested are Good to Great by Jim Collins and The Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck. The principles I am learning for my own personal improvement and career go along with that commitment to self-growth I touched on earlier.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that helped you in this work? Can you share how that was relevant in your real life?

Any variation of the quote by Jack Canfield: “everything you want is on the other side of fear.” In my work as a model and advocate, my fear is challenged every day. This includes coming out every day. This includes, again, that fear of not representing the community accurately. It is imperative that I remain open to feedback on and the acknowledge of my own privilege — which can be scary. As a white, thin, female-presenting individual, I run the risk of perpetrating a standard. The majority of non-binary representation holds up people who look like me as the norm for this community. This is incredibly harmful. Conversation surrounding genuine representation for diversity across industries is what I aim to bring with me in my work in fashion and through #VISIBLE.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am launching a podcast for #VISIBLE in February 2019. This date coincides with both my divorce finalization and my legal name change — a huge first step for many non-cisgender individuals. The show will be tackling the tough conversations surrounding living as an individual outside of the binary. When do you broach the pronoun conversation? How do you maintain self-care? What are the added stressors when you add the intersection of cultural and racial bias, mental and physical ability, socioeconomic status? I aim to help build a platform for stories that often go unheard. The goal is to help any individual navigating the ever-changing realm of non-binary existence to know they are not alone in their journey. The goal is also to help those who don’t identify with these experiences understand and empathize with them.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement has to do with bridging the communication barrier between communities. I don’t just mean within the queer and non-binary communities. Though, we do model change through example. It is important to ensure that our social groups — whether they be cultural, political, socioeconomic — are learning how to speak to one another and build strong coalitions. I believe that when people can identify the common motivations we all share, acknowledge the pain we have inflicted and received, we will truly have a larger network capable of world-shaking change. Once we can have healing conversations in a diplomatic way, we can more successfully address the global issues we see repeating throughout history. It starts with the individual conversations.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

In November, Ruby Rose stated their desire to start a movement focusing on people who feel disenfranchised, alone or that they don’t belong. I would love to have a conversation with Ruby about how we can work together to bring this vision to reality. And how we can ensure it is not just people who look like Ruby and I leading this movement.