Sophie Santos on Lesbian Identity: From Denial to Pride | Crooked Media
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October 08, 2021
With Friends Like These
Sophie Santos on Lesbian Identity: From Denial to Pride

In This Episode

Comedian Sophie Santos joins the show to talk about her memoir — “The One You Want to Marry —and Other Identities I’ve Had.”  

It details Sophie’s life growing up as an Army brat in the South, while also being white, Hispanic, Asian, and gay – and the bumpy (and often hilarious) moments that led her to finding herself as an adult. 

For a transcript of this episode, please visit crooked.com/withfriendslikethese.

 

 

Transcript

 

Ana Marie Cox: Hi, I’m Ana Marie Cox, and welcome to With Friends Like These. This week I am talking to comedian Sophie Santos. We’re going to talk about her new memoir, which is surprisingly long for someone in their 20s, but she has a lot to cover. It’s called “The One You Want to Marry and Other Identities I’ve Had.” The title comes from the reputation of the sorority she joined at the University of Alabama, they were the ones guys wanted to marry. But Sophie didn’t get the Mrs. degree she was pursuing at the time. Today, she’s a queer feminist, writer, and performer, which is still marriage material, sure, but she probably doesn’t wear high heels as often. Her journey from the sorority to the stage was not linear. And she was never fake, she just didn’t get a handle on herself for a while. As an army brat, Sophie spent her childhood moving a lot, and she experimented with who she was and who she thought she should be. Sophia’s white, Hispanic, Asian and gay. She was also a tackle football player, a beauty queen, a theater kid and a camp girl. And more. But today she’s herself. I thought it’d be fitting to talk to her about her journey since National Coming Out Day is on Monday. And we’ll get to all of that in just a moment. But first, election season is just around the corner and Votes Save America has created a fund that I want you to know about. This time last year our Get Mitch Fund raised over $35 million for Senate candidates right before Election Day. How much more could organizers do with that money a year out? Your contribution today will help fund early organizing and lay the foundation for candidates to win next year. That’s why we’re aiming to reach $600,000 or $100,000 for each of the six key states by the end of October. Can you chip in today and help us get there? Head to VoteSave dot US/donate now. Again, that’s VoteSave dot US/donate. And now, Sophie Santos.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Sophie, welcome to the show.

 

Sophie Santos: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited.

 

Ana Marie Cox: So this book is kind of a tour of your identities over the years, I would say.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, I would say

 

Ana Marie Cox: I’m going to run through the ones I remember off the top of my head. You played tackle football. You were, you were a tomboy. You were a cam girl. You were a pageant—

 

Sophie Santos: We should also say I was a cam girl when I was 13, and but we’ll explain why.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yes, OK, we’ll add that. OK, cam girl, when you were 13, not recently a cam girl.

 

Sophie Santos: No.

 

Ana Marie Cox: But 13-year old cam girl.

 

Sophie Santos: Yes.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Pageant queen, theater kid, sorority sister, and baby dyke. I think that’s, that’s a lot of them. Did I miss any?

 

Sophie Santos: And now, and comedian. And now a New York, a New York-L.A. comedian.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, sure. OK. I’m wondering, have you found a through line through all of those?

 

Sophie Santos: I don’t know why I think that’s so funny.

 

Ana Marie Cox: The first thing I thought about, it’s like, they’re all Sophie. So what’s, what’s Sophie about?

 

Sophie Santos: I just laughed because you sound like my editor, and it’s like, What’s the through line? It’s like, That’s a great question. Um, I think someone who is, someone who is really, likes to go against the grain. And also someone who is slightly competitive and also just someone who is willing to put themselves out there and put themselves in, you know, I think some would say uncomfortable situations. I feel like playing football is an uncomfortable situation because literally you’re avoiding getting tackled. Being in heels is uncomfortable. But being on stage, like that, I think some, if you, if you’re not someone who loves me on stage, that would be, you know, out of the comfort zone. I’m thinking of that, it’s a kind of cliché, but that meme or that photo of like, you know, the circle, right, and then there’s like the arrow and it’s like, this is where your comfort zone is. And I was like pointing outside. It was on an episode of Girls, you know, I can’t tell you what episode, but for Girls fans, that’s where I’m pulling this from. And then, yeah, I mean, again, being on stage as a theater person and then also being a comedian, I mean, I feel like that’s really scary for a lot of people who don’t do it.

 

Ana Marie Cox: One of the things I hear in that a little bit is all of them are performances of a sort.

 

Sophie Santos: Yes, yes.

 

Ana Marie Cox: That’s not to say they’re not real.

 

Sophie Santos: No.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Right? But an interesting pattern in these identities is that you kind of study up for them, like you prepare for them in some ways, like you do research. Like I’m thinking of the baby dyke one in particular. But I feel like even with the sorority sisters, there was a handbook, you know.

 

Sophie Santos: Right.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And there was for the pageant girl as well. Like, you prepped for them.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah. Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: You’re just like, Well, of course I did. I mean,.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, yeah, of course I did. I’m Type A. You know, I used to prep for when I first started taking improv classes as a comedian, I was like prepping for them and I was like, Wait, okay, this is the whole point is to not, is to just go with the top of your intelligence and to not prepare. I mean, there’s definitely structure to it, but also like it’s literally you putting yourself out there and not preparing. So that actually was the first time that I was like truly able to let go. But yeah, but they all are all performances to an extent. And I like that you brought up, though, that it’s not that they weren’t real, because that was actually something that I was discussing with one of my editors. One of my editors was like, Did she really like, did she really like, like being a sorority girl? And my other editor was like, yes. And I was like, Yeah, no, I was fully, I was fully committing to it because a, of the culture that I was in. B, it was like again, that was just, I always had that sink or swim mentality because of moving around so much as a military kid and there was no other option. You know, you either, again, you either sink or swim. So this was me swimming again. And you know, when you’re just like, they, and they kind of promise you the world, you know, they promise you that they’re going to get you in like the top honor societies on campus. And when you’re 18 that sounds really fucking cool. And yeah, and so, you know, in the end, so that’s all there. And in addition to that, because I had moved around so much, I was really tired of just like having to start over and over and start over, and so basically being given the handbook of like, if you do X, Y and Z— which it wasn’t X Y and Z—it was like A through Z

 

Ana Marie Cox: And then some footnotes.

 

Sophie Santos: And then some footnotes, and then like three times. It was like, yeah, it’s a, what are the Encyclopedia Britannica? Then you’re, you’ll succeed. You’ll be able to fit in and you’ll be fine. And I was so tired of just trying to fit in all the time and like using just my own knowledge that I was like, OK, yeah, I’m done doing this, and let’s just, let’s go, baby, I’m ready. Put me in the heels in the stands as I, put me in a dress and heels while I’m out of football game.

 

Ana Marie Cox: You know, the sorority sister chapter of your life is where the book title comes from, and it might be somewhat the most interesting for a lot of people who don’t know you, except as a comedian. Right? It is the most unexpected, perhaps. But you were just talking about the handbook part of it, and I think some people might think that’s off-putting, but, you know, I moved every two years growing up.

 

Sophie Santos: Oh, really?

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah. Both of my parents were military brats, and they just had it in their blood, I guess.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And my dad also was an academic, is an academic and was chasing tenure all the time. But I would have fucking loved a handbook.

 

Sophie Santos: Yep.

 

Ana Marie Cox: You know, like when I was growing up in elementary, middle school, high school, I sometimes actually imagined that there was a handbook that other people got. You know?

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: On the first day of school that I just somehow missed.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, they pass it out right before you walked in the class.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, yeah. Right, exactly. And so the idea of getting a handbook of how to behave, like that sounds like a relief to me.

 

Sophie Santos: It was it was such a relief. It is and like when I, you know, when I did ultimately move to Alabama when I was 12, and I had moved around so many times, you know, I say 12 times—I don’t know. I think the number in the book is like seven or eight, but still, it’s still a lot, you know, once every year or every two years, I was like, really like itching to move again once we were settled in Alabama and we when we didn’t, I felt really uncomfortable. And even now I’m like, I’m really happy that I have a career where I can be like between New York and L.A. and then, you know, if, when I start to tour as a comedian, like I think that’s going to satisfy that for me. But it is such a thing that’s so ingrained in you and you’re just like, Yeah, I’m ready to go. I’m, you know, I’m in the circus and I’m ready to pack it up and get in the clown car. And let’s go, you know?

 

Ana Marie Cox: Well, there’s a freedom to it, right?

 

Sophie Santos: Sure. Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: People who don’t move around a lot may just see like the trauma of it, and I think there is trauma associated with it.

 

Sophie Santos: Wait, really?

 

Ana Marie Cox: But [laughs] I only, actually only recently kind of figured out that all those moves probably were not good for me.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, yeah. Same, same.

 

Ana Marie Cox: But you know, but I did as a kid, I guess, you know, maybe you have to look on the bright side, right? Which is that you do get to start over with a blank slate, which is helpful with all these different identities, right? Like, you get to be someone new. And did you feel like maybe, because you write also in the book about how you’re kind of a naive person.

 

Sophie Santos: Yes.

 

Ana Marie Cox: A little bit oblivious.

 

Sophie Santos: Yes.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And I’m going to try to connect these two things. Do you feel like you didn’t know who you were all these times? I feel like you know who you are now. That’s definitely the impression I get from the book. But in going through all this stuff, starting over again. And again, I was seduced by just the blank slate part of it, you know, like, I don’t know if I thought about who I was. But what about you?

 

Sophie Santos: Well, to answer your question about—well, you didn’t, it wasn’t a question—but you’re saying that I was, you were saying that I was naive. I just want everyone to know that I, Sophie Santos, I’m going on the record, believed in Santa Claus until I was 13 years old.

 

Ana Marie Cox: I wasn’t going to bring it up.

 

Sophie Santos: It’s OK. It’s in the book. It’s the first thing people read. It’s literally the first page of the book. So if that gives you any impression, there we go. But as far as like knowing who I was, there was a part of me that knew who I was. And if anything, I knew who I was more when I was 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. Then when I hit puberty. That’s when I lost myself completely. I mean, granted, my fashion style has changed tremendously because when I was like 7 through 12, I was wearing exclusively cargo shorts, closed-toed Birkenstocks with tube socks, buttoned up Hawaiian shirts. I’d slick back my hair and, well, I would put my hair, part of my hair, excuse me, in the middle like a butt crack, and then slick it back with water and then put it in the tightest ponytail that a Category 5 hurricane could not break that thing loose, baby. And there’s something, I don’t want to call myself charming, because that’s horrendous.

 

Ana Marie Cox: You can call yourself charming.

 

Sophie Santos: No, no, no, no. Well, if you said it. But no, but there is something like to me rolling up every year at a new school dressed like that with that much confidence that I look back and I’m like, You go, girl. You did that. You literally dressed like a cartoon character and took pride in it. And you dressed like, you know, if we’re talking about gender stereotypes, especially because now we’re talking about, you know, early 2000s, you know, like, and that was me I think being, you know, an authentic version of myself, you know? And so I knew that. I knew that I loved sort of like boy culture. I knew that I loved being on stage, you know, I would do talent shows and I was always in performing arts. Those are things that stuck with me. But as far as like really just like knowing like, you know, going on the journey of just like, OK, you know, who is Sophie Santos? Who does she like to associate herself with as far as friends, as far as you know, the sort of energy that she does give out, right? You know, which I feel like we give out to the wrong people when we don’t know who we are, or we stick, we tend to stick to groups that are maybe toxic for us, even as kids, when we don’t know who we are, and trying to fit in that way and trying to fit into the sort of social strata—that I did not know. And then it only got crazier, of course, when we moved to Alabama and then I hit puberty and then like sent my uniform off on an Icelandic send off with a bow and arrow down—[laughs]

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, you, there was a transformation.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah. Let’s talk more concretely a bit about the gender and sexuality portion of identity here. Because like you said, you felt really at home and authentic in the cargo shorts and Hawaiian shirt. And then you start a journey of kind of femininity stereotypes almost, right?

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Like, I don’t say stereotype because you were different, you were a little bit different in all these different things. Like you had a personality, and like, I think you were ironic about some of that. But you sent off your cargo shorts with Icelandic funeral.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, I was always a little bit of a ball buster, and I was always a little bit of an asshole, so like, that’s—

 

Ana Marie Cox: RIP, RIP cargo shorts. But then you went full on glam, right?

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah. Well, what I thought was glam. What I thought was glam with my whatever t shirt. Yeah, sure.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah. And it seems like that was almost a, that was a conscious choice, right?

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And that was a few years then after that of like cam girl—I’m going to call that kind of performing femininity a little bit—pageant queen, sorority Sister. But those were conscious choices.

 

Sophie Santos: They were conscious choices. So what’s happening is it really is as simple as I hit puberty. And I just, which to me, I had always feared because, and it made me really sad. And I talk about it in the book because I was so comfortable being this, you know, I guess at the time, maybe non-binary child, you know, really feeling like in my bones that I was like a boy or at least felt like that’s what I connected to the most. And so I mourned puberty because I knew that it would take over. And I think it was cut from the book because it was way too deep of a cut, but I think of it as that movie Baby Geniuses. I don’t know if anyone remembers the iconic movie Baby Geniuses where the babies are like, I think they’re on a mission and they take, they like, save the world. But then once they become toddlers, they forget everything that’s ever happened and so one of them, you will see one of them finally cross over and they no longer remember, you know what it was like before. And so I was like, so scared. I was like, I don’t want it to take hold of me. I don’t want to lose this, this part of myself and it, and I had hoped also that puberty would turn me into a boy, and that I would stand on my two, you know, one day I would be like, you know, my legs would grow so long and I would like basically be, you know, the size of a basketball player and I’d accidentally hit my head on the my light, and you know what I mean? And so all these things were happening. So then when I did hit puberty, the literal opposite happened and there was so much, I guess, estrogen now coursing through my veins that I literally was like, forgot—well, I crossed over, right? I guess if we’re going down, if we’re being like, we’re talking about metaphors in that sense. And so then it wasn’t even, I guess, yeah, it was a conscious choice, but it was also just like, that’s how I felt. I was like, OK, I’m girly. I want to really, you know, it’s almost like the inner girly part in my body was just like, I’ve been waiting for you. And she fully came out and took over. And now I was like, you know, wanting to be a part of the Mean Girls Club. And really committed to that.

 

[ad break]

 

Ana Marie Cox: And, you know, I,  just to speak for my own kind of experience of puberty and crossing over because I do think you forget a lot about yourself sometimes in that, is easier if you’re, you know. Identified by the outside world as a girl. That’s where, that’s where your handbook is.

 

Sophie Santos: Right.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Right? Like, that’s where you’re going to go. If you are anywhere in the middle, like what, you’re just going to be like, I don’t have a handbook for the one people don’t think I am.

 

Sophie Santos: Correct.

 

Ana Marie Cox: So I have kind of this like cultural handbook driven into me for the girl one. So I completely understand, that’s just like again, give me some instructions. Tell me how you can get an A. I can get an A in this. Then maybe—

 

Sophie Santos: 100%. Yeah, I was trying to, that’s how I live my life. I was always trying to get the A, literally in every aspect of my life.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And that is something that’s a through-line to. Like you said, a little bit competitive. But I would say that all of these identities, from pageant queen to tackle football to baby dyke, you were going for the A.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: You were. And for as a cam girl, too. So let’s talk about that because it’s, it’s an extraordinary section of the book to me. You write so frankly about coming of age, as they might say in more gauzy conversations, but, you know, straight-up whacking off, I would say is another way to put it. And being just super, super horny.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And you took matters into your own hands, literally.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah. Yeah. Well, to me, it was really important for me to write down, I think some people are putting, pointing in a positive way, in a positive way, the cringiness right, the cringe-worthiness of the book, and like how I really go there. And they’re talking about my sexual exploits because we don’t talk about, we don’t talk about what, you know, girls go through when we go through puberty and our own horniness. And the only things that I really had to go off of, and I talk about it in the book, is like American Pie or any sort of just like teenage boy, any movie, any movie ever that has a teenage boy, there’s some sort of joke about them, you know, jerking off to porn. And it’s like, I didn’t have anything to go off of. And it wasn’t talked—.

 

Ana Marie Cox: No handbook.

 

Sophie Santos: There was no handbook! And it wasn’t talked about, it wasn’t talked about my house. And I was like, and I, were still so many steps, we’re still not there as a society when we talk about like, you know, female pleasure and like going through puberty as young girls and like actually what that means. And not just like, oh, our boobs grow and now we like thongs. It’s like, really like, you know, we’re doing the same thing thinking about Paul Dillon in our rooms as 13-year olds, as Paul Dillon is doing about us. And I really wanted to write that down, and I thought, and that was such an important part, not only of my story, but I just felt like needed to be included. Because I never had that and I wanted other people to be able to have that, even though, you know, yeah, now people know how I masturbated for the first time or me having a good cam—

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yep, pretty, pretty graphic. And I will say I’m slightly older than you are, maybe a lot older and I still have some discomfort around this. But I feel emboldened by your writing. So you’ve, if you’ve touched one person—maybe I shouldn’t use that metaphor and I have some questions about this section.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, no, ask me away. I mean, that’s, this is why we’re here, here to talk about it. Are you blushing?

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah. Yeah, I am blushing.

 

Sophie Santos: OK. All right. Well, here we are.

 

Ana Marie Cox: A remote control Sophie?

 

Sophie Santos: Again, I had no idea what to do, and I just knew that downstairs, which I call my Tudie, which was just something that I had called, you know, as a young child, I had called my vagina, Tudie, you know?

 

Ana Marie Cox: Tudie has a mind of her own. It’s really less your vagina than I think the other parts. But, OK.

 

Sophie Santos: Yes, right, right. Yeah, I should know exactly, as a lesbian, I should know what—

 

Ana Marie Cox: I know what was talking to you and it wasn’t the inner space. It was, the hungry part.

 

Sophie Santos: It was, the hunger part. It was a hungry part. We’ll call it that. And so I call her Tudie, and she’s personified in the book and really wants to be scratched, and she has an itch and wants to be scratched. And I just, yeah, and so again, because I hadn’t see, anything I was like, and my cousin at the time was, basically said, you know, try a remote. And so I’m not thinking, you know, Oh, I should rub up against the remote, which makes sense, right? That makes sense. I’m thinking—

 

Ana Marie Cox: I would be completely baffled.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Just honestly, like the couch arm? I get.

 

Sophie Santos: Right, right. Which I didn’t again, didn’t understand, wasn’t there yet.

 

Ana Marie Cox: But the remote control—anyway. So she says the remote control is your friend.

 

Sophie Santos: And then that was really all I got out of her. And so then I just like, inserted it. And I was like, well, this isn’t this isn’t helping, and it also hurts, and this doesn’t feel good at all.

 

Ana Marie Cox: But did you did you get cable? That’s the only.

 

Sophie Santos: [laughs] Yeah, somehow it turned on Seinfeld, and I was just watching Seinfeld for the next 10 hours. Yeah, so that’s the power—

 

Ana Marie Cox: But that leads, the confusion here leads to the cam girl actually.

 

Sophie Santos: Right.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Like, that’s—

 

Sophie Santos: Well after well, after removing said remote, I did realize, I realized that oh, whatever was pulsing just needed to be, needed to have attention drawn to it. So then I joke, and I rode Lamby, who is my, who is—not even was—is still my comfort animal to this day. I’ve had since I was a baby and I rode her to Wyoming, until, you know, I saw, you know, the mountains. And you know, so then—

 

Ana Marie Cox: I mean, we do, we all work it out somehow. Most of us.

 

Sophie Santos: Yes, yes.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And Lamby came to your rescue.

 

Sophie Santos: And she came to my rescue and she she did one for the team. But the, but the cam girl—

 

Sophie Santos: But I was going to say, but what happened with the, there’s a connection here with the cam girl part for me because you were just kind of like trying to figure this out.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Like, how do I get off?

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, exactly. And I was like, so horny. And you know, when I would talk, when I would hear my friends at school talk about—well, they wouldn’t really be talking about horniness—they would just, when I would just like kind of want to, you know, broach the subject, I could tell that this was not a conversation I could be having because, you know, girls doing anything to themselves for pleasure is gross or slutty or anything like that. So I just knew that I wasn’t able to confide in them, but I knew that I was so horny. I was like, Well, what can I do? And I just via Skype in my room I started what we call DMing now, but just messaging boys from across town and we’d get on video on grainy webcams, and the webcams that like the Logitech webcams that are, like, plugged in. And it was strictly P for V, and you know, they would take off, you know, their clothes and I would take off my clothes and we would, you know, we would, I guess, have virtual sex together, and then log off. And then I would, I’d do it over and over again until it was like, I felt really, I felt so empowered!

 

Ana Marie Cox: You felt empowered.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, I did.

 

Ana Marie Cox: While it was happening and after it was happening. Like, did that power come from being able—I can’t believe I’m going down this road—but I am curious because I think this is a blank space in our culture. You’re right. But did that power come from being able to get yourself off? Did it come from having these guys kind of need you or want you? Where were you, why do you feel like bally?

 

Sophie Santos: I felt, I mean, it’s both. Like I was able to get what I wanted, but also like it was clearly consensual. And also, it felt really cool to be like, I’m really horny without saying, you know, without saying that I had to be like, you know, coy about it. And then to have, you know, all these boys be equally as horny and be like wanting to participate, that I felt like, I was like, Oh my God, like, I’m like, I’m like a star over here. I’m able to like, get off and they enjoy it and they like, they’re coming to me and I have all these boys coming to me. Like, it felt empowering. Obviously, until the shoe dropped.

 

Ana Marie Cox: I was going to say, nothing, nothing good can last. And I did, even when I was reading this, I did think, Gosh, you know, Sophie, having the guys be just across town, I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s, that’s enough distance. And sure enough.

 

Sophie Santos: And sure enough, I moved to the school that I was, playing webcam sex with with the boys. And it, you know, it wasn’t even that, it was just like it was starting to get around town anyway because I was like, I wasn’t just doing it with just kids from the high school that I ultimately went to, but I was doing it with boys that went to school just in the county. And, you know—

 

Ana Marie Cox: And you’re having a blast.

 

Sophie Santos: I mean, I’m having the best time. Having a great time.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Literally, I guess, you know? And that, we have to, well, you know, got to shut that down. Like, you know, we can’t handle that as a society, a girl up there having a blast coming over and over and over, like by herself—that’s, that is bad. But and yeah, so—

 

Sophie Santos: And ruining the boys, the boys of the county. Yeah, ruining, I ruined those boys. Yeah. Single handedly.

 

Ana Marie Cox: So you wind up, you wind up, yes, people find out.

 

Sophie Santos: People find out. Yeah. So people find out at the new school and I really want to go to this new school because they had an amazing musical theater program. But, and I also like academically, the other school that I was at was just not with it. And so I go to this new school and then I start to see the boys that I had been seeing on the internet. And like I knew that they went there, but it was different from being like in via grainy webcam to like actually seeing them in the flesh and then realizing that some of these had, some of these boys had girlfriends, or just even not, but just like seeing them in the hallways and I was just like, Oh my God. And obviously, like as it was, as that was like the first thing—I was just so paranoid that people knew. Because I just didn’t want to be shamed and I could feel the shame creeping in. And then, like the meanest of the like, the bully of the school like came up to me and was just like, People are talking about you, that you do stuff. And you know, and then the word slut was thrown around and it was horrifying. And I, you know, I remember like I wouldn’t even walk past the student section at a football game because I was so scared everyone would be looking at me and being like, There’s that girl who’s like the slut that’s doing all those slutty things, you know, on camera, you know, the new girl. You know, there’s nothing worse than being a new girl, but then also like having a scarlet letter, right? And, yeah, it was really hard, it was really hard, and I felt my power completely, you know, disintegrate.

 

Ana Marie Cox: I read that section with some horror, you know.

 

Sophie Santos: Which part?

 

Ana Marie Cox: And a lot of empathy. The getting found out.

 

Sophie Santos: Right, yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Because it seems like it’s like the plot of a, you know, emo teen movie. I believe literally it might be the plot of something.

 

Sophie Santos: Could be or could be soon. Hollywood.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, and, but you got over it or you got through it.

 

Sophie Santos: I did get through it. And I eventually like, well, again, it was the sink or swim mentality and I didn’t have a choice. And I started associating myself with, like, you know, I found friends and you know, and eventually after my sophomore year, I became really good friends with the people who, with the girls who were friends with those boys and it kind of just went away. And also, like, I never confirmed it. So, you know, it was just like it was, you know, did it happen? Did it not? Who’s to say? I say now.

 

Ana Marie Cox: You cultivated an air of mystery.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, exactly. And then I was like, once I became really good friends with the girl who was like the most liked at school, and it was, I mean, it wasn’t, I didn’t become friends just because she was the most liked, but it was just like we did become really good friends. And ultimately, she was also probably the love of my life. Well, she was the love of my life at the time, I just didn’t realize it. You know, I felt like I had some extra armor and I was protected.

 

Ana Marie Cox: I want to take a quick break and then come back and talk about the love of your life.

 

[ad break]

 

Ana Marie Cox: I want to switch gears just a little bit, although I guess it’s still about identities and change, but you mentioned this girl in high school, love of your life, and you eventually come out as a lesbian.

 

Sophie Santos: Yes.

 

Ana Marie Cox: It takes a little while, and that’s fine. It’s all fine. We all go on our own journeys. No shade on that, right? But it’s particularly interesting to me because your resistance isn’t religious or political at all? Like, it’s just resistance. Like you just, just didn’t want to say. I don’t know. Explain it to me, because you have, you literally start making out with girls and say—actually, not just making out—you go down on a girl and then first thing at your mouth afterwards is, I’m not gay.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah. Yes, that’s exactly what happened. I will say, I will say for just the sake for them they are, they do go by they/them now and they are, they are trans. And shout out to Gabe, because Gabe and I are still friends, by the way,

 

Ana Marie Cox: You went down on a person.

 

Sophie Santos: Yes.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And immediately afterwards . . .

 

Sophie Santos: And immediately afterwards—

 

Ana Marie Cox: Wiping your mouth.

 

Sophie Santos: —I shouted: I’m not gay! And ran away. And we were at a gravel parking lot.

 

Ana Marie Cox: In a fraternity’s gravel parking lot, so . . .

 

Sophie Santos: Which I thought we were a very—

 

Ana Marie Cox: You know how to put on a show, Sophie, you know how to put on a show? I will say that for you.

 

Sophie Santos: Should have sold tickets. Listen, I, no, well I thought we were far. I thought we were like down the street. I didn’t realize we were part of that fraternity house.

 

Ana Marie Cox: But like, your mom was an ally, like you were sort of very, you know, positive, like LGBTQ positive as a kid, even.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah . . .

 

Ana Marie Cox: But there’s something, there’s something there.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah. Well, I think it’s because I didn’t, I never, again, it comes down to representation. And I mean, I can’t just blame it just on representation, right? But this is why representation—

 

Ana Marie Cox: It’s not blame. It’s just—

 

Sophie Santos: But this is why representation is so important is because, like I thought, every lesbian look like Ellen. Like, honestly. Or looked like my mom’s friends who, you know, beautiful human beings, I think they would, but they would identify as bull dyes, you know? And so I really thought that that’s what a lesbian look like and so, and also when I went through puberty and didn’t make the connection, that like, oh, these close friendships with my. With my girls-based friends are, you know, more than just close friendships, you know, these like really intense feelings that I’m having are more so crushes. Because I didn’t make that, I didn’t recognize that. Then when I finally was in my early 20s and I met someone who made me feel the way that I had felt going through puberty—so I call it my lesbian puberty, Puberty 2.0.—it literally was an awakening. And it was like all of these things that I had, you know, clearly had been building towards, you know, the gates finally opened and I was like, I was terrified. Because I thought, I just generally thought, I was like, I would have figured out I was gay, if I knew I was gay, I would’ve figured it out when I was 13. That’s what I thought happened. I didn’t realize that it’s not necessarily linear and that it can happen later in life. And even, now that I’m, you know, older than my early 20s, I will say that’s still not even that old, you know? So, yeah, I was so confused.

 

Ana Marie Cox: To me, it speaks to how powerful the cultural messages are.

 

Sophie Santos: Right.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Around femininity, around sexuality. Because you can be a, you know, well-meaning liberal person but still, those cultural messages are going to bind up what you think your options are.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah. Yeah, and it wasn’t in our, it really wasn’t in our society to. There was no again, no handbook on this is what happens when you realize that you’re, you know, when you realize you might be a queer kid. And God bless my parents. I mean, they obviously, they were so supportive—when they outed me, I didn’t come out to my parents, they both outed me, later on—but I think they wanted me to figure out my own journey, and I didn’t think they wanted to, you know, to tell me what I was, and they, you know, wanted me to figure it out. So and I also think it was weirdly the universe probably helping me because I think probably coming out in Alabama, especially in a town called A-rab, spelled Arab, pronounced A-rab.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, you might have, there might have been some self-protective stuff going on there.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, for sure. For sure.

 

Ana Marie Cox: I think that’s, yes, that’s very wise. Let’s talk just a little about your parents because your mom was a southern belle basically, right?

 

Sophie Santos: Mom was a southern belle. Yes.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And your dad was a Filipino career army guy.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, Filipino-Spanish lieutenant colonel.

 

Ana Marie Cox: A ranger, is that right?

 

Sophie Santos: Tanker ranger. Yeah, he, he’s going to really appreciate—

 

Ana Marie Cox: Impressive. Ho-rah.

 

Sophie Santos: There you go. He’s going to really appreciate that you said this, by the way.

 

Ana Marie Cox: My dad did ranger parachute school. Wasn’t a ranger.

 

Sophie Santos: In army.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Jump. Yeah. Yeah. Jumped out, jumped out of perfectly good airplanes, as they say.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, that is what they say. [laughs] That is what they say.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah. And it’s an identity we haven’t talked about is the Filipino part. And I found your writing about that kind of interesting because you were in Arab, right? And what you write about is just feeling like the other, just kind of ambiguously the other.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Do you think that had impact on your other sort of identities?

 

Sophie Santos: I don’t know if they had had an impact on it, but I think like it definitely was just another thing that I had to deal with, you know? When I actually recognized I was in other, though, was when I was still in Kansas City and I was taking SAT test and I had to—it’s not the SAT, obviously, because I was in like sixth grade, but it’s like the PSAT and they’re just getting you ready for, you know, to take standardized tests for the rest of your life. And I was, you know, had to fill out the census survey. And mind you, I was like, such a kiss-ass to this one teacher because I also like was so in love with her,—Miss Rast, shout out wherever you are—and so I would constantly go up and ask her questions and like, you know, she knew that I was just trying to get attention. So this was a conflicted situation because like, she’s, I’m raising my hand to ask a question you know about, like, how should I fill out the census survey? And she sort of, she thinks that I’m just again just trying to get her attention but really, I was actually confused because it was telling me, like, when you look at the bubbles, it was like Hispanic not white, white not Hispanic, which I was both. And we’re talking like 2000 and, I don’t know, early 2000 census surveys. And obviously they’ve changed a little bit, but like not by much because I still see Hispanic not white, white not Hispanic. And I just was like, didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know what to put. And I also, like once I finally, like, suffered through it and figured it out and like 15 minutes have gone by and like everyone is already taking the test and now I’m like behind taking the test and freaking out, I then realize once I start the test that I completely forgot the Asian-Pacific Islander part. And I was like, Oh my God, I joke in the book. I’m like, I forgot about PPaw. Which was what we called my grandfather, which, by the way, is not a Filipino thing. That’s just, it’s not a Filipino thing to call you over your grandfather, PPaw. I thought it was a Filipino thing, and my Filipino like friends will like, you know, well, or my, you know, people like people that are people of color that I’m friends with will be, just roast me for that. Because I genuinely thought that’s what you called your Filipino grandfather. And they’re like, No, that’s the whitest thing I’ve ever heard. I was like, OK. But anyway, basically, back to the census survey. Yeah, that’s when I first discovered that something was off, and not necessarily off, but, you know, I was an others. So and there is an ‘other’ box, which I did start eventually just checking just to be sane.

 

Ana Marie Cox: It is kind of tragically beautiful metaphor that we have an ‘other’ box. You know? Like there’s just ‘other.’ you know,’ other.’ it’s just, you figure it out.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, literally. I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know what to tell kid, figure it out, literally.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Your dad was in the military, and he seems to have been, I would say, somewhat preoccupied with preparedness. Like being prepared for bad things to happen, is that safe to say?

 

Sophie Santos: That is like that’s, that’s safe to say, but like, that’s not even close. I would say neurotic, would say paranoid. Would say—

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, he’s the kind of guy who has a go bag packed all the time.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, go bag at the ready, yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Right?

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And he, did he, you write about that in your childhood as definitely being a part of like you’ve thought about that as a kid. And I’m curious if that continues to be something that you think about In your life?

 

Sophie Santos: Well, I definitely think my sort of paranoia stemmed from that, at least because like he used to send me anti-terrorism PowerPoint manuals, you know, that he would receive. And so that way, like, I was always ready just in case there was a terrorist attack. Like he’d send it, especially when we went on vacations, but like, and I still have the anti-terrorism PowerPoint training manual, which is like 100 pages, and he literally emailed me and said, Make sure to go over all of this, there are quizzes in the back, before we leave. And I was like, you know?

 

Ana Marie Cox: But he was serious.

 

Sophie Santos: 100% serious.

 

Ana Marie Cox: I want to just be real careful to not draw like a direct line between that and your own OCD. It seems like it it gave you a specific thing to worry about, if nothing else. Like at least to begin with, and it seems clear that your anxiety, like all of our anxiety, grows and blossoms and becomes its own thing.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, especially when you’re not working through it. Yeah, I didn’t, so I wasn’t scared at the time. I was just like, especially because when he would send those things, I think by that time I was like, you know, late teens and I was just like, whatever, Dad, you know? And making fun of him for it. But yeah, when I, when my OCD peaked and my anxiety peaked, because I was, like in the middle of a tornado that destroyed my university, that destroyed like a lot of the University of Alabama where I was at the time, that was like my first almost like near-death experience. And then everything just sort of, everything collapsed in my brain. And then I was scared to just go to a local pizza joint because I would think that some sort of terrorist would blow it up or I would be scared to even go to sleep in my house because I’m like, there’s going to be a sinkhole or plane’s going to fall out of the sky, and all of these irrational fears. And I don’t blame my dad at all for the manuals, and I don’t think they actually go hand in hand. But I will say, like, you know, I did start to believe that those things could happen. And, you know, until I got help.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, I want to be real clear. I don’t think there’s a direct line at all. I think sometimes it’s just those things that we pick up on in childhood give our, you know, neuroses and various mental disorders like something to grab on to.

 

Sophie Santos: 100%. Yeah. Yeah. And I also, if anything, I had wished I was, could find the the manual in my email that I couldn’t find at the time, so I would know what to do. But honestly, I think that would have made me even more, like it would have made me believe, a nosedive into something that was, wasn’t real, right? Like, obviously things happen in life, but you know, they are irrational fears and . . .

 

Ana Marie Cox: Did, but this bottoming out in terms of those mental health diagnoses, you wound up getting some help.

 

Sophie Santos: Yeah, I did get help. I was went to an outpatient facility where I was in therapy eight hours a day and I had a van come and pick me up. And this was right after I was like, I had just finished my sophomore year at Alabama. So and, I had, like literally a month before I was out with my friends drinking, you know, doing the thing, and then, you know, the tornado hit and the tornado hit my brain, basically. And so I was like, no longer felt like I could drive. I thought like I would somehow jerk the wheel off the road or semi would come and hit me. And so they were, I was now like in a van being taken to this facility, being dropped off and then being dropped back off at home every single day for two weeks, for eight hours a day. And at first, I was really against it because I was like, I’m normal, I’m normal. Like, what, like, it’s fine. And you know, but thank God for both my parents who were like, you know, recognize—and especially my mom because she was around me. And as a nurse, she knew that I wasn’t in a healthy mental state and and it was the best thing that happened to me.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Let’s fast forward, who are you now? What’s the identity you have today?

 

Sophie Santos: Oh, the identity that I have today is, well, definitely queer and a lesbian. And I like to say that because I feel like a lot of times there’s this whole horrible narrative that being queer, being a lesbian is a phase. And I went through so many phases, and that’s why I label the third phase as this is the phase that isn’t a phase. So I do like to throw that out there because, you know, we need to start recognizing that. And we are as a society, but, you know, we’re not for men’s pleasure. This is not about you, men. I’m not even sorry to say, it’s just not about you. And so, you know, I’m queer and I’m a lesbian, and I feel very confident about that. Is this the time where I say, and I’m a, I’m a wife and I’m a mother and I’m a son and I’m a daughter. [laughter]

 

Ana Marie Cox: You know, well we’re not in a pageant yet.

 

Sophie Santos: None of those, none of those are real.

 

Ana Marie Cox: You mentioned that your parents outed you. What was it like to tell them that you’d figured it out? Like you had two conversations with your parents, both of which they were like, why don’t you have a, I think it was kind of, why don’t you have a girlfriend, if I recall correctly. But what happened when you finally were like, OK, this is me?

 

Sophie Santos: Like, not the time where they outed me and I was like, scared.

 

Ana Marie Cox: You can talk about that if you want, but I’m, both maybe. Like, it is interesting to me that they both, I think, asked, you really, I mean, like any parent would, out of concern for your happiness?

 

Sophie Santos: They did. I mean, my mom asking me was just in her truest fashion because she’s just such a crass southern belle, you know, unfiltered person. And so we were driving down the road and I had been like, we were living together at the time, and I was, I had been holing myself up in my room, watching the L Word ,and telling her about it because I was like, you know, she was my roommate and I was like, I just watching the show. But I would just kept going back in and out. And then to the point where then I just stopped coming out of my room except to eat and to go to the restroom for weeks and then class. And she, we were driving on the road and she just like, turned down the music and was like [in southern accent]: Honey, when are you going to stop didling yourself to the L Word and get yourself a real woman!? And I was humiliated. But I just said I’m working on it.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Fair. Fair answer. Fair.

 

Sophie Santos: And then we, and then we, and then I didn’t bring it up again, and I was like, horrified. So yeah, so that’s how she outed me. Oh no, my dad actually was no, my dad was after. My dad was actually after. Because at this point, I had a girlfriend. I had my first girlfriend and my, and my college girlfriend, which I think for a lot of people, you know, unless you’re high school sweethearts, that’s a pretty significant first relationship. And I had, I was eating with him at a restaurant, I was just on a break from rehearsal and he took me out to lunch and he was just asking me really simple questions, which I always chalk it up, it’s like, especially with dads, they don’t really know what’s actually going on in your life so they just ask you the most basic questions possible, to the point where they’re asking you about friends that you haven’t been friends with for 10 years, you know what I mean? And then finally, he was like: so kiddo, uh, you got a, you got a boyfriend? And I was like, no, as I was like stuffing a chimichanga in my mouth, like trying not to choke. And then he’s like: uh, OK. And then it was like dead silence. Of course, because he also was very, very silent individual. And he goes: well, you have a girlfriend? And I lied and said no. And then eventually it was like, well, I guess this is, if he’s asking, this is your chance, Santos. And I piped up and I was like, No, actually, yeah, I have a girlfriend. You know, very squeaky, very squeaky voice, very much like, you know, just stuttering all over the place. And he goes: well, you know, you always had good female relationships. Which was a big, mind-blowing moment because it’s like he had recognized all these years, and yet I’m now being told this fascinating thing about my life.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Would you say the implication of going through these different identities—and again, emphasize they’re all real, you’re not faking it. Do you feel more yourself today?

 

Sophie Santos: Oh, my God, yeah. I feel completely myself. I’m like, so, I’m just finally so just like—well, as my mom said, which is, which is in the epilogue that I used to be so frenzied and it’s nice to see me so calm. And I know the people who are friends with me, they’re like this bitch? She’s not that calm. You know, because I’m Type A and I’m always, you know, really, you know? But I think those are two different things as far as like being Type A, trying to get shit done. Versus just being calm and light as a person and trying to just really be, you know, centered and trying to be present, trying to be present and things like that. And I do feel like, you know, I mean, obviously, I know that I’m going to keep growing, but I’m really trying to grow into the direction of, you know, building on this, this foundation that I have been building, on this identity that I’ve been building on for like five six years. And you know, and I, a lot of that, I have to thank to my queerness. Because I think, like and I think a lot of queer people can relate—obviously don’t want to speak for the whole community—but when you finally are like, when you’re finally able to accept being gay and letting that be a part of your identity—because it’s not my whole identity at all—it’s almost like, you’re finally free, and you can really just be, you can just be. And that, to me, was like taking the shackles off in my brain and just I was like, Oh my God! Here I go. And you know, and now as a person, as a comedian, like centering my comedy around my queerness, you know, feeling empowered to sort of like, you know, especially being a TV writer, like having queerness be a major part of my writing. And not, and just like, you know, in my lifestyle and, you know, in dating and stuff like that, like, yeah, I’ve just, you know, I’m in a place that it took me a long time to get here, but I’m, I’m so happy.

 

Ana Marie Cox: I can’t think of a better way to end the conversation, although I would I would love to talk further.

 

Sophie Santos: I would love to talk further, too. But . . .

 

Ana Marie Cox: Sophie, thank you so much for coming on the show.

 

Sophie Santos: Thank you for having me. I’m actually, I’m very honored. This has been really cool and hopefully we can chat again.

 

Ana Marie Cox, narrating: I loved talking to Sophia Santos about how she’s landed at the beautiful place she is in her life. Again, her book is called “The One You Want to Marry and Other Identities I’ve Had.” And a reminder, Monday, October 11th is National Coming Out Day. It’s the 34th year in a row that this day has been celebrated to raise awareness and support for the LGBTQ+ community. This show is a product of Crooked Media. Andy Gardner-Bernstein is our producer. Patrick Antonetti is our audio editor. And please take care of yourselves.

 

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