Essay, LGBTQ, Life, Love & Romance, Millennials, Movies, Thinkpiece


I watched Call Me By Your Name on a flight back from Amsterdam recently (brag!). And whether it was the combination of airplane red wine and altitude, or perhaps a human, beating heart, I was so deeply affected by the viewing that I’ve floated in a fog the last few days, one that I’ve characterized as a “gay funk.”

A gay funk is a peculiar and particular kind of funk for me – and trust, I’ve got plenty of funk genres. It comes from a place of mixed happiness and sadness – the font of queerdom, the well of homosexuality.

I’m not going to get into it here – for a multitude of reasons, including that you are not paying me, sis, and also I doubt my psychiatrist would recommend that I do it – but I’ve spent the last few months coming to terms with the fact that a lot of my high school experience was fucked-up, and painful, and distinctly not okay. It’s hard in a lot of ways, to recharacterize something after the fact, but I’ve felt lighter for it.

So the idea of watching a movie that essentially splays out the past traumas I’ve been dealing with – youth and queerness and masculinity and love – sent red flares in my vision and, if I’m being honest, I actively avoided seeing the movie. But with the stretch of eight hours ahead of me and nothing to do but sit, I finally relented.

It also comes from a very legitimate place of cynicism. Queer men, particularly gay, white men, are luckier than others in our community in the fact that we have had more and varied representation in the media. But still, the idea of a movie that depicted my experience made me wary and scared. We get so few chances, and I didn’t want one to be squandered. I wanted to remain unseen.

But in a similar way to Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name truthfully and honestly depicted shades of my life in ways that felt like a tribute, rather than an exploitation.

It was painful to watch, Call Me By Your Name, but it was a curious pain because I felt it lancing me softly and beautifully. I felt parts of me uncoil, spirals of sadness that have been clamped up for so long. I was sad watching the movie, and jealous in ways, and unjealous in others.

Surprise, surprise, but I did not have a love story like Elio and Oliver’s in my high school experience. I had one, very intense and unrequited love – in the way that only seventeen-year-old closeted kids can love – but I related to the breathless, heartsick trill of their relationship. And honestly, I can’t ignore the fact that Armie Hammer is of the same mold as my high school crush: blonde and strappingly all-American.

So much of the romance in my life has been wrapped up with shame, longing, sadness and guilt, and that what I felt the movie portrayed so honestly. How love is propelled by a desire to satiate your own loneliness, quell the turmoil and the self-sabotaging desire to jump. Despite growing up in a world that was growing more and more tolerant of being gay, I don’t recall any positive representation of queer love in my childhood. I had no interactions with gay people, had no inkling that they could be thriving adults.

Watching Call Me By Your Name invoked a sadness similar to the first time I read Giovanni’s Room, sadness that our experience of love is so often colored by pain. I know that this can be a universal experience, but it feels particularly like the nexus of queerness. It’s sad, but it’s also comforting; that we’re a part of a lineage and history that extends beyond your singular, mortal self, despite that mantle being so wrought with pain.

Hence the gay funk: so many of the queer people I know didn’t get to have clean, cut-and-dry first experiences. They were tainted by who we were, and how the world treated us. So watching Call Me By Your Name made me viciously jealous of a tenet of teenhood that I missed out on. The movie made me sad for the kid that I was. The kid who was robbed of so many things, so many experiences. For all the love that I did have, there was so much love spilled on the ground, wastefully draining away. I’m sad for what he had to go through, for what he didn’t realize he was going through, and for what he would be going through.

But the movie made me happy in a lot of ways, because that pain was clarifying for me – it crystallized, for good and bad, the person that I am. It made me a fighter and empathetic and clumsy, complex and ruthless and fragile. It made me question who I was – it made me fight for myself. It grounded me in my own soil. It also reminded me that, in spite of it all, I loved being a teenager. I loved feeling all the nuances and complexity of emotions – first best friends, first break-up, first disappointment, first triumph. Like Mike Phelps was built for swimming, I was built for feeling things deeply. A lot of that (lol) was depression, but I think that even without being depressed, my body would be carved for intensity of feeling.

And it’s funny, because if I saw that kid – seventeen-year-old me – I would think that he was beautiful. I would admire his grit, his humor, his broken attempts at concealing how deeply and tumultuously he cared. I would’ve found him brave, and witty, and endearing, even as he attempted to be as spiky as possible. It’s the lasting echo I’ve carried with me since watching the movie: deep, bursting love for the kid that I was, despite everything, despite all the pain. And that’s what the end of the movie was about. Closing yourself off from grief is another kind of trauma. Feeling things deeply is not a curse, it’s part of the experience.

So much of life is love tempered with pain. One doesn’t exist without the other.

feminism, LGBTQ, Life, Politics

THEN & NOW — the 1970s (ish)

This morning, I was walking my dog when I found a Polaroid on the edge on my lawn. A few months ago, my neighbor passed away. She was amazing, super fiery and funny; we were actually quite close. We would go to Home Depot together and pick out plants for me to plant in pots around her house, and I would help her if she needed it. She was in her mid-eighties, and a total badass, and I was sadly at school in Boston when she passed away. But in the following months, and the last few weeks especially, her children have been cleaning out her house.

This morning, the last remaining furniture and garbage (which had been piled at the end of her driveway) was cleared away, leaving behind a few scraps and this grimy, grubby Polaroid, picture-down on my lawn. I flipped it around and it was a picture, taken from the stoop of my neighbor’s house of our street—A silver-blue Volkswagen Beetle parked on the curb, framed by lush green leaves. I took it inside, cleaned the grime off the back and the edges, and really looked at it. There’s no date on the Polaroid, but judging from the make of the car, and the amount of time my neighbor lived in her house, I would guess it was taken in the ‘60s or ‘70s.


Source: Danny McCarthy

Continue reading

Humor, LGBTQ, Pride 2017


~Quality Content~

If you’ve ever wondered if anyone else ranks the various sexualities of ice creams (and/or gelatos, frozen yogurts), then you’re in luck. Because I’m here now. And no, I’m not doing this because I couldn’t think of anything else to write and it’s 4:24. 4:25.

Continue reading

Essay, LGBTQ, Life, pop culture, Pride 2017


My first laptop was a thick black Dell that required a near-constant source of power and hummed louder than a barbershop quartet.

It took minutes to load up and froze frequently, which I’m sure is entirely unrelated to the buckets of shady porn websites I was searching. Also unrelated to my search history was the Dell’s untimely and unseemly demise at the hands of a Trojan virus.

Continue reading

Essay, LGBTQ


A few weeks ago I was hosting my sister and her friends at my apartment. Cram five queens into a three-by-three-foot box, and it’s pretty hectic. But whatever, it was fun and they bought me Patron (the toilet Patron from “ONE-TWO-THREE”!) as a thank-you present. On Saturday, when they were heading out to da club and I was heading to a house party, one of my sister’s friends brought over a friend from the area.

He walked in and my high-school-heart beat a little bit faster. He was just like every frat boy-wannabe I went to high school with (an all-boys Catholic prep school)—non-psycho American Psycho hot face, slicked back long hair, Oxford shirt buttoned tightly over lacrosse muscles, canoe-like leather shoes and blue jeans. Yung Wall Street.

And when I introduced myself to him, it wasn’t me. It was a strong, firm handshake and a voice that was like mine, but several octaves lower and controlled. “Hey, I’m Danny,” he/me said.

It’s a voice I pulled out a lot that weekend as I met my sister and her friends’ straight guy friends. That afternoon, I was downtown and I got out of my car. “What’s on your sweatshirt?” said-shouted a straight guy on line outside the bar I was going to. I looked down. I had pulled on a cross country hoodie from my sophomore year of high school, underneath an olive-green bomber jacket.

I shifted my jacket and showed him. “Fuckboy Prep,” he said (name has been changed, because duh). “Yeah, do you know it?” I asked, my voice hitched in the bottom of my throat, my vowels pitching backward into my esophagus.

It’s difficult to describe the “straight” voice, but it’s like that: instead of projecting forward, the words make a boomerang: out from the bottom of my throat, below my Adam’s apple, jut forward and then careen back into my collarbone.

“No, but I went to Yung Money Prep in Maine,” he said. We nodded at each other. End of conversation.

It’s a voice that I unearthed from the deepest recesses of my early tweenhood. Monotone, soft, deep. A voice I had discarded when I came out at fifteen and, shaky in my gayness, hurtled towards the opposite end of the scale and went full “Agaytha Christie.” What a gay joke. Neither were my actual voice, which is decidedly average and can veer equally into deep monotone and higher-pitched modulation.

It’s something I do when I’m meeting straight guys for the first time. I drag my voice back into low-pitched “sups” and “yo.”

I do it for a few reasons: I want to be taken seriously by another man, and I want to survive.

“Survive” sounds so extra, but let me remind you—I went to an all-boys Catholic high school where I was already harassed enough. Lowering my voice into a monotone was at least one attempt on my end to make myself seem like less of a target.

I have one vivid memory of sitting at a lunch table at fourteen. I was saying something when across the table, a mean hot redhead said to me, in brusque masculine tones,

“Talk like a boy.”

This was before I came out, so I was vibrating with anxiety about being “found out.” I couldn’t respond to him, so I picked up my tray, shakily threw out my trash and hid in the library. In the moment, I was doused in ice-water dread. Later, I would feel a coiled mixture of revulsion and attraction to him. Revulsion that he could embarrass me with four words, and attraction to him and his masculinity.

Because that’s what it comes down. We as queer boys are taught to hate our femininity and strive towards masculine attributes. It might be why gay guys work out so hard at the gym, sculpting Adonis bodies and artfully manicured scruff. Why we put “masc for masc” on our Grindr profiles. We eschew femmes and shame bottoms because we never, ever want to be put in that vulnerable position again.

So instead of living our truth, we shut it off and hate it. We fight against it. We slit the throat of our femininity and let it drop to the floor, a sick survivalist instinct to protect ourselves in a masculine, heteronormative world.

But in that “passing” is a hidden desire uncomfortable to admit: that part of passing for straight is not just out of a survivalist instinct, but undeniable envy.

I would imagine that queer people have thought about it; some of us have the ability to pass as straight in a heteronormative society. To not appear different or othered. It’s a dangerous thing because it’s a temptation to step outside of your marginalized group.

In a day-to-day scenario, it’s easier being straight than it is gay. When I’m walking late at night, with a female friend and we come across a group of straight guys, I put my arm around her, or I move closer. We both tacitly understand that those guys won’t respect a woman not wanting to talk to them, but they will respect a boyfriend because there is the notion of women as property.

And as much as it is a protection against catcalling for her, it provides me with a dangerous taste of heteronormativity. It provides me a glimpse of the luxury, respect and authority that being a straight white male awards you. The ability to express physical affection without wondering if it could get you gay-bashed. The respect given to you by straight men who don’t see you as Othered or predatory or sissy.

In a lot of ways, when I lower my voice, I’m still that skinny little kid who wants to impress straight boys. Look how manly I can be! Hear how low my voice can go!

It’s a muscle-memory reaction, a hit of fight-or-flight adrenaline, and it’s something that complicates me even now. It complicates my relationship to my sexuality because for so long, I have been taught to hate it. And when that didn’t do anything, I moved on to hating myself. And others. And everyone.

It’s easy to forget, six years on, that I have been irreparably damaged by the strain, stress and assault of living in the closet for fifteen years. And it’s easy to forget that that strain and stress does not disappear when you come out. That the reason I dress more plainly and simply now is a way to avoid being labeled as flamboyant. That I keep my hair messy to not seem prissy. That the reason I like mean guys is because in the hidden depths of me, meanness is associated with masculinity, and thus, idolization.

There is damage in having been Othered. There is damage in hating a part of you because society has deemed that part to be malignant.

But there is power in reclaiming that damage. I started wearing nail polish recently. And even that small bit of femininity has eased me a little. Because I am a feminine person in some ways. And in just as many ways, I am also masculine. Everyone is masculine and feminine; labeling or coding one as negative only serves to incur further damage.

My voice rings up high when I’m excited. I talk fast. I use my hands a lot. I’m expressive. These are just descriptors. They’re not bad or good, they just exist. My voice is my voice.

Essay, LGBTQ, Life


I took a “What Kind of Gay Are You?” quiz because, in a world that is rapidly changing and mutating, I needed at least one answer in my life.

That sounds dramatic, but that’s only because it is. So you’re astute. Congrats, hon.

It was a slushy snow day. We were huddled around a tall Starbucks table, damply drying off and cradling inappropriate iced coffees in between our hands. It might be winter outside, but my sweat glands knew no season.

I was taking a “What Kind of Gay Are You” quiz on my phone, because—frankly—I needed to know. After selecting one that seemed thorough—I didn’t want your run-of-the-mill quiz; I wanted a deep dive—I started checking boxes.

The problem, if it’s a problem even, and the reason for this erudite season is that my body exceeds gay boundaries. I’m tall and rangy—thirty pounds and three inches ago I might’ve been a twink. But as I stretched upward, the hours at the gym making me dense with muscle and bone, it became a lot more difficult.

I couldn’t find a physical category that seemed to fit. I’m not stocky enough to be a bear; not hairy enough to be an otter; neither hairy nor muscular enough to be a wolf; not effete enough to be a twink; too big to be a twunk; not geeky enough to be a gaymer. I could go on; I won’t.

Jock. Pup. Gym Bunny. Cub. Silver fox. (Just kidding; I went on).

Nope. Nope. No. Nope. No.

You might think that with as many categories as that, finding a niche would be easy—or at least possible. But instead my long, lean body—toned but not muscular, solid but not stocky—spills over any box, muddying the distinctions. I wanted some answer that might offer me a semblance of geace™ (gay peace).

So this outside, impartial source took in my body weight, my height, my musculature, my style, my activities, the timbre of my voice—average but deceptive because the pitch wildly vacillates based on whatever mood I’m in. But before I could get my answer, it produced the dreaded text:

Register an account to find out your answer!

“Fuck that,” I said, finding a small button at the bottom:

Proceed without account

I clicked it and the small circle at the top of the screen spun. The same screen popped up again. Clicked again. But every attempt to click the button led to a Sisyphean cycle of reloading that same page.

Eventually, I had to give up. I’m not made of steel—I rarely put energy into anything that isn’t writing, Real Housewives, or grilled cheese—and my phone battery can only withstand so much blunt trauma.

But I was disappointed—much more disappointed than I realized I would be, and more disappointed than I think anyone should be about any Internet quiz.

Would this one Internet quiz have changed my life? No. Would I be able to order a custom license plate with my assigned tribe and be inundated with romantic pursuits? Likely no but one can dream. It’s not like each category requires you to pay dues, or offers you any networking possibilities. There’s no “Bears In Media” except for Smokey. The only thing that’s likely is that I would’ve been disappointed with any answer.

But still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would’ve been nice to have at least one answer in a life that seems to hold very little for me right now. Days later, I was having a conversation with classmates about baby names. I really like the name Betty, spelled Bettie. One classmate offered up “Bette” as also being cute.

“But then people will always wonder what kind of gay I am,” I argued. “Am I a Bette Davis gay or a Bette Midler gay? ‘Cause that’ll affect how people try to pronounce her name.”

As I’ve been applying to more jobs, I’ve been in stasis, uncomfortably but evenly pulled between my Imposter Syndrome and my inescapable anxiety about being jobless.

The former tries to stop me from submitting my application, and the latter reminds me that if I don’t do this, my future remains as cloudy and voided as it currently is. So I remain largely in the middle, occasionally jolted into movement by a particularly strong wave from either end. My limbs—those rangy long limbs—are pulled to their full extension, tendons popping and bones straining at the joints.

I’m in a drawn-and-quartered life crisis.

Too tall to be a twink, too slim to be a jock. Too lively to be the reporter I’m training to be. Too timid to be an opinion writer. Too dumb to be a genius, too smart to be an idiot. Too cocky for my own good, too self-conscious for my own health. Too good in too many things, not good enough in one thing. Perfectly at the center of so many identities, sticky strands of confliction pulling at so many different parts of me.

Everything is up in the air. On social media, all I see are these static pictures of people in their things. The red-carpet one. The photographer one. The writer one. The engineer one. Steel. Silk. Definitive things. Not some thing, but this thing. Do I go for this or for that? Do I put all my energy into one path, or do I spread my eggs like it’s Easter Sunday?

I want answers to questions that haven’t even fully formed yet. For the first time in 21 years, my life is opaque. And the more people I talk to, the more common I realize that feeling is. So I might not be a thing one, but I’m not the only one.

I closed the tab of the “What Kind of Gay Are You?” quiz, quick darkness swallowing the cartoon drawing of a jock intertwined with a twink. I didn’t really feel like a twink or a jock. Or a bear or an otter or a silver fox or an otter.

I really only felt like myself.