By Katie Marshall
Author, host and LGBTQ advocate Jeffrey Marsh has reached billions of people across the Internet. As the creator of the global trends #DontSayThatsSoGay and #NoTimeToHateMyself, Jeffrey has earned spots on Top Viner lists by both Buzzfeed and Vine with a positive, inclusive message.
In 2015, Jeffrey was named Official Red Carpet Correspondent for both MTV/LOGO and GLSEN, and as a featured writer for Huffington Post and Medium. Jeffrey is a Precepted Facilitator in the Soto Zen tradition of Buddhism, as well as a host, actor, singer, songwriter, dancer and comedian. In 2016, Penguin/Random House will publish Jeffrey’s first book, How To Be You.
1. What is the most liberating thought you’ve ever had?
Ha! I’ve got to get technical right away. Now, I’m Buddhist so my whole take on this is that the most liberating thing that can happen to me is a lack of thoughts. In short, when I’m “just me thinking” I’m usually constructing a whole world out of beliefs and assumptions and well…thoughts that may have little to do with the true nature of reality. (Caution: I like to get deep!) But, I’m not avoiding the question. If “thought” here is shorthand for an insight or realization, that’s an easy one. The most liberating thing I can remember is the realization that queer is OK.
2. What did it liberate you from?
This idea that queer is OK liberated me from years of self-hate and clinging to other people’s opinions of me. I don’t mean to make it sound like an easy quick process. It didn’t happen in a snap, but the clarity that I am OK just how I am was the beginning of something quite special.
3. What does it mean to live a good life?
This is a theme! The whole key to a good life is self-acceptance. This is related to happiness and self-esteem… but they aren’t all exactly the same thing. The kids on social media constantly email me: “how can I be confident like you?” I often point out that this not the best question. A better one is “how can I accept who I am now?” The difference is crucial. Do not seek to become something more or better than what you are, I tell them. If a person is shy, why not celebrate their shyness?
4. What illusion have you suffered from the most?
…that I exist! Stop me if I’m being too irreverent. A strong illusion my whole life has been that I’m a victim somehow – that the world is out to get me. The irony I suppose is that plenty of people on social media are out to get me and they send me death threats, but I do know that Life is not out to get me.
5. If you could go back and whisper in the ear of your 16-year-old self, what is the one thing you would tell them?
“In a year, you’re going to get stood up at prom, but don’t worry, it’ll make you cooler, like Bea Arthur.”
6. What does love feel like? (Real love, not hormonal love or I-like-the-idea-of-you-so-I’m-on-a-high love).
I feel love at the top of my chest like a lifting sensation, if the physical feelings are what you’re after. In a philosophical sense, love is acceptance. It’s a feeling that all is welcome: sadness grief, elation, and confusion. All is welcome.
7. What does your daily routine look like?
I am up early. I go for an hour walk first thing. I find that if I do not move things around, the energy in the body will go to the head. Literally. The energy will go into powering the brain to start a tumult of woulda, shoulda, and it’s-all-your-fault. I also practice Recording and Listening (recordingandlistening.org) and that is usually a part of my mornings. After the walk is always meditation. Because I make my living as a social media star (how many people get to say that?) the rest of the day is highly variable. Meetings, calls, writing…
8. What is your favorite thing to look at?
There is a lovely tree outside my window in the East Village. All throughout the day, there are various birds in there. No matter the time of year, they are always clacking to each other. We live near a park.
9. Describe your perfect weekend.
Here comes another Zen answer: the perfect weekend is whatever weekend I’m having. I have done a lot of good honest hard work and training to love the weekend (or the person or the sandwich) for what they are. This is especially handy when things don’t go according to plan. When I do plan a weekend for myself, I like to go places. Sometimes walking around the city. I live in New York! There is a ton to see and do. It makes me so happy just to participate.
10. What do you worry about the most?
I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t. Money seems to come and go. Career goes up and then it goes down. I have a friend who is Christian and when he’s stressed, he’s always saying “kiss it up to Jesus.” I started adopting that, “kiss it up to Life.” Let it go. Let life handle all of it.
12. What makes you cry?
Star Trek. Don’t laugh! It really does. Of course death and longing make me cry, but sometimes the things that “aren’t supposed to” make me cry too. I think Star Trek often brings on the water works because all of it’s iterations explore how human we are: we want to explore and we often get burned when we do. We want to risk being open to new things and we often get burned when we do. What makes us human is that we keep exploring after every burn. And we keep loving.
13. What do you doodle on the sides of your papers?
Gosh. It’s been hecka-long since I’ve had a physical sheet of paper in my life…fieldtrip! I just paused typing and went to look in my old journals. I don’t seem to doodle much, but there were abstract mutli-colored lines and geometric shapes and nature-themed stuff like flowers and vines crawling up some pages.
14. What is the most serendipitous thing that has ever happened to you?
Oh wow. Good question. I guess “my whole childhood” can’t be serendipitous, but I grew up on a remote farm. I felt isolated and alone a lot of the time. But also the whole experience helped me develop a huge imagination and a love for the solitude in nature. Growing up that way often feels like an accident or fluke. It’s a fluke and I wouldn’t change for the world.
15. How did your biggest struggles become the pathways to your greatest success?
I was always told that I am “too much.” I didn’t really get it until I was older that this was polite people’s way of saying that I’m too queer. I’m too flamboyant. I’m too feminine. I’m too un-manly. And, of course this is the thing that has made me a success. It’s not that being too much led to success per say, but when I embraced and celebrated my too-much-ness, I realized that that was what I’m here to offer the world. I tell people over and over: whatever that thing was that you were taught is too much about you is your greatest strength. That thing is exactly what you need to become more of; you need to become way too much.
16. What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Walk. It. Out.
17. What do you wish you had more of in your life?
This is a tough one for me. I am so lucky. I pass on this question. No answer. I really don’t wish for a thing.
18. What do you find to be the most genuinely beautiful thing in the world?
Brave people being themselves — which is a bit redundant! Brave goes with being yourself. It takes guts to be honest about all of who you are in a world that constantly encourages you to shut down and close off and not be open about yourself.
19. If you could be free of one thought or fear, what would it be?
I think you can predict what I’m going to say! None. I have learned over the years to simply not go there. Fear is not real and I don’t have a use for it. If I could rid the world of one thought it would be “there is something wrong with me.” Too many people have wasted a life trying to be what they think other people want them to be instead of fully living the free life that’s rightfully theirs.
20. If you had the chance to tell every single person in the world just one thing, what would it be?
There is nothing wrong with you.