RADrabbit team member Rachel Bauer Eskite always felt unique but she didn’t find the language or means to talk about why until she took a queer theory class in college. Since then, she’s helped others talk through their challenges while working at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and, now, as a priest in the Episcopal Church. As part of rabbit’s LOVE ALL campaign during pride month this June, we spoke with Rachel to learn more about her journey and what she’s learned along the way. Read the full interview below.
Eric: Rachel, to start, I understand you just moved from Tennessee to outside of Philadelphia.
Rachel: Yeah, so I grew up in the Maryland, Virginia area. Then I went to Tennessee for graduate school. It was fun running around there. It was at like 2,000 feet and very mountainous. But we just moved back to King of Prussia, which is just outside Philly. It’s a completely different environment for running so I’m excited to explore.
Eric: You said ‘we’, so I assume you have a partner of sorts?
Rachel: Yeah, yeah. My husband, Colin, and I have been married for–let’s see, 2015, so six-and-a-half years.
Eric: Now that you’re back in Pennsylvania, what races are you getting ready for in terms of racing?
Rachel: I’ll run the Philly Marathon this fall. Back when we were in Tennessee, I was going to run a marathon in Alabama, but that weekend there were thunderstorms and tornadoes so they had to cancel the race. I was trained so I decided to run it myself in the mountains. I ran my first sub-4, 3:44.
Eric: Awesome! Congrats. Do you primarily run the marathon?
Rachel: Thank you! I love the marathon. I have run a 50k and I keep flirting with the idea or running longer because I really like being on trails. It’s pretty incredible. I think that’s my next plan, to go longer. But I would also love to run fast and try to PR in the 5k, which is from high school. So, it’s two things: get fast and run far [laughs].
Eric: This month rabbit celebrates everyone from A to LGBTQ to Z. What does it mean to be part of a brand that promotes inclusivity and wants to hear from all different voices?
Rachel: It’s incredible. It feels like a breath of fresh air, like coming home in a way. I have always been one of those–well, trendy is the wrong word, but when I talk to my friends, it’s always like, I’m somehow queer. I mean that in the sense that I just love people as they are. I would fall in love with a person as they were. I think a big part of being queer for me is accepting who I am and being in my body. It’s really cool to have a running brand that really gets that. Running is such an in-body sport and, at least this happens for me, when I run long, it helps me accept who I am. To have a running brand that puts that as one of their primary purposes is just really great.
Eric: Can you talk more about how you identify, and what that journey has been like for you?
Rachel: Of course! I’ll probably tell you more than you want to know [laughs]. I’ve always been kind of my own person, kind of unique. I was always in Rachel land, even when I was little. It was really at the end of high school and into college that I realized that maybe I love women too. And that’s ok. It took me a while to sort of land where I am–and I’m still figuring it out. I’m a four on the enneagram so fitting myself into labels is something I resist [laughs]. I thought, ok, maybe I’m a lesbian. That was sort of right but not completely right because that ignored part of my identity. This is when I started having conversations with people who are still my friends now about how I love people for who they are.
That’s how I met my husband. He came into my life. I was like, this person–I love this person. I struggled a little bit because I thought, now I pass as straight but I’m not straight. What do I do with this? He’s just incredibly supportive in wanting me to be who I am. So, I thought, ok, I’m bisexual. I think that’s sort of correct but I have been learning more and connecting more with the demisexual community and so much of it is about building relationships and being connected with a person on a personal basis. It’s really–I think that’s the biggest part for me, loving the person for who they are.
Eric: You used a term I’m not familiar with. What does it mean to be a demisexual?
Rachel: Yeah, I’d be happy to. Let’s see if I can get an official definition. So, really, it is basically–ok I’ll read the official one and tell you what that means. It’s sexual orientation characterized by feeling sexual attraction after feeling a strong emotional connection with a person. What it’s about is the emotional connection and building relationships. That’s what’s so important to me–connecting with a person for who they are and not matter so much what is on the outside.
Eric: Thanks, I’m glad I learned that. What was that journey like in terms of your relationships–has it been challenging at times?
Rachel: That’s a good question. You know, the conversations that have been happening lately–I graduated college in 2009 and I think we have so much more language now than we did then. One of the things that helped me was we had a visiting professor who taught this queer theory class. It was such an incredible class because it gave me some language and ways to talk about what I was feeling. At the time, it was hard for me to feel like I could fully be me. The friends I made there never really questioned me. I was in a long-term relationship with a woman, and then after I took time to heal, I met my husband now. And my friends were like, of course, you just love people for who they are.
My family was really the same way. My middle brother–I have two younger brothers–my middle brother always questions things. He was like, what does this mean? Tell me more! But what’s been more challenging for me is that I’m also a priest in the Episcopal Church. Coming into that process there is quite a formal–it’s an endurance challenge. They call it discernment, coming to be ordained. And the first mentor I had was basically like, uh, don’t tell anyone that you’re queer at all. You don’t need to bring that up. And I was like, what? I had someone else telling me to be myself. So it really wasn’t until I got to seminary that I met other women–especially other bisexual women–who were like, no, God made us who we are and God likes all of us. Meeting these amazing women helped me step into who I am.
Eric: And what drew you to that profession?
Rachel: So, I was working at a crisis and suicide hotline because mental health is something that I’m really passionate about. I didn’t think I wanted to be a counselor yet. I worked overnight and people tend to be in great crisis at that time, or are thinking some really deep spiritual and philosophical thoughts. A lot of conversations about religion came up because people are searching for meaning and something to give their life purpose.
From there, I thought, I like moving my body so maybe I’ll try some yoga. I did yoga teacher training, got certified, and taught for a while. But something wasn’t quite right. I knew that I needed to do something in my body and be embodied, but the yoga tradition was not the one. So, I ended up back at the church which merged the wanting to help people and celebrate being embodied. And I’m still figuring that out, right? Discernment is life long. I’m like, ok, cool, I’m a priest but what does that mean now? How do I want to access that?
Eric: Going back for a minute. When you got involved with the church, one person was telling you to hide who you were, and another was telling you to be who you are. It seems like conversations are especially valuable in this space. Could you speak to that, and how it helps build relationships?
Rachel: I love conversations so much. I’m like an extroverted introvert. The one-on-one or small conversations give me a lot of life and energy. Starting to have these conversations gave me permission to be who I am. They made me feel less alone and less crazy or weird. Having those kinds of conversations where both parties are willing to be open and vulnerable is like an act of love. I’m thinking especially of those conversations I had early on at seminary that really helped to shape me and form me. I cherish those so much. They meant the world when I was feeling so lost. I knew there was someone in the world who got it and heard me. And I think that’s how it helps other people. We want to change the world, but sometimes having one conversation with someone changes their entire day, changes their entire world, and I think that’s really meaningful.
Eric: Well said. Given where you are in your life now, what kind of advice would you have to younger people today who are struggling with their own journey?
Rachel: Advice, that’s hard! [laughs] I first want people to be who they truly are, want people to be themselves. The caveat to that is that they have to feel safe. For example, if you’re struggling with coming out, if you’re not in a safe place, please find a safe place before you do something that could put you in danger. Finding people who accept you for who you are helps you be who you are. Because I have this mental health background, I also think about suicide and suicide prevention. Finding people who believe who you are is suicide prevention. Accepting people for who they are is what we’re supposed to do as humans, I think.
Eric: Do you have any resources you’ve used or would recommend for someone struggling?
Rachel: Yes, I can pull them up. First of all, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They are incredible humans. The thing about that helpline, because it’s national, all the call centers are connected, so you will always reach another human. There’s also the Trevor Project. It’s incredible. Those are the main ones.
You know, it’s this funny thing, working in mental health and telling other people to take care of their mental health–somehow we don’t do that for ourselves. That came much later, for me. It wasn’t until my dad died that I seriously started seeking treatment for my depression, and it changed my life. I’m happy to be alive and that is amazing.
Eric: Was that by way of seeking out a therapist?
Rachel: Yes, I did the combination of therapy and medication. For me, personally, the medication helped the chemicals in my brain come to a level where I could actually receive help from a therapist, and receive the skills that are learned in therapy. I had such an incredible therapist, and it’s hard to find a good therapist. Alexi Pappas actually talks about this in her book, Bravey. It’s worth it to do the work to find a good therapist but it’s very hard. It’s helpful to have in your life someone who can walk along with you, and who believes in you, and who will help you make appointments if you need it.
Eric: In other words, you need to find someone who you trust and can be open with?
Rachel: Yes, yeah, absolutely. You have to be able to connect with that person and talk about things that make you feel vulnerable. If you don’t really trust a therapist or you get some bad vibes from them, it’s ok to look for someone else.