LGBTQ, Politics

How the “Love is Love” Mentality Can Erase Queer Political Struggle

Source: Wikimedia Commons


When a niche culture gets into the mainstream, there is always the risk that it will be diluted, overrun or misrepresented. In the case of LGBTQIA+ people, I feel like I’ve noticed two ways (one overt and one subtle) in which queer people are being sidelined in their own movement.

The first is through “rainbow-washing,” which basically describes companies that create rainbow-or-Pride-themed products in correlation with Pride month in order to get people to give them their business. They can do this with vague promises of “donating” certain portions to LGBTQ groups, but recognize it for what it is: companies deciding that queer culture is something they want to cash in on.

Second is the subtle, and this is something I’m only beginning to notice and vocalize myself, so I apologize if it seems clumsy. I’m going to say something controversial – I think that there are well-meaning straight people culturally erasing queer identity from Pride. Using the “love is love” surface mentality of LGBTQ Pride, straight people are removing queer people from the narrative and celebrating sanitized and wholly unpolitical general “love.”

I first noticed this with people across my timeline: people who I have known (obviously this is not the end-all of their sexual and gender identities) to be straight celebrating Pride, largely with other straight friends, and using it as an excuse to get drunk and wear rainbow.

First, let’s be honest: I have gotten drunk and worn a Golden Girls t-shirt to Pride (and looked amazing). I’m not advocating that we all stay sober on the day of the parade, and solemnly stand in libraries. But I think that there are straight people who go to Pride parades, and other queer events, thinking that pride is just that and justifying their participation in these events by saying that they are celebrating “love.” I’m not advocating for the banning of straight people from Pride events, but I think that the risk we run by making it open to everyone in the mainstream is the re-marginalization of the original message.

Heterosexual people celebrating Pride under the “love is love” banner kind of sanitizes and erases queer people from the narrative entirely. Yes, love is love and everyone is entitled to love whomever they want, but it is not just that. By straight people saying that Pride means celebrating Love, they are eliminating the fact that Pride was actually birthed from the political struggle for queer equality. It is, at its inherent core, a political act.

LGBT Pride originated after the Stonewall riots, June 28, 1969, marking the start of the modern queer rights movement as we know it. It was the result of a series of increasingly violent and aggressive police raids against the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Village. The clientele were queer people: gay and bisexual men and women, gender non-conforming people, drag queens, male prostitutes. These were people who came to the Village for the safety of its anonymity, because they were, in their essence, criminal in the 1960s.

During these police raids, the cops would arrest anyone dressing in the clothing of the “opposite” gender, anyone seen touching the same sex, any woman who was not wearing at least three pieces of “feminine” clothing. The police raids were a part of a larger effort to remove, penalize and arrest queer people. In the early 1960s, then-mayor of New York City Robert F. Wagner Jr. launched a campaign to rid the city of all gay bars. Police officers used “entrapment” methods (soliciting sex and sexual favors from men and then arresting them) to “catch” queer men. These methods ranged from police officers grabbing men they assumed to be gay in the crotch and seeing how they reacted, to engaging men in conversation and arresting them if the conversation veered towards going somewhere else or getting a drink.

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were two of the first people to fight back after the police raided in the early hours of the 28th, and are credited as some of the earliest proponents of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Rivera, a transgender activist and drag queen, went on to co-found the Gay Liberation Front (the first gay organization to use “gay” in its name) and the Gay Activists Alliance. With Johnson, she co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.

The rainbow flag was created by Gilbert Baker, an artist, gay rights activist and drag queen, as a new queer symbol. After being elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and the first openly gay man to assume public office in California, Harvey Milk asked Baker, his friend, to create a new queer symbol as an alternative to the pink triangle, which was used to identify gay men and women in Nazi concentration camps.

That same pink triangle was used by Nike on sneakers as a part of its “BeTrue” Pride campaign, a clumsy misstep that they addressed in their PR release as having a “complex past,”: “Originally used to identify LGBTQ individuals during WWII, the triangle was reclaimed in the 1970s by pro-gay activists and was later adopted by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in their memorable 1980s-era “Silence=Death” campaign.”

Baker created the rainbow flag as a political act and a unifier for all queer people: “A flag fit us as a symbol. We are a people, a tribe if you will. And flags are about proclaiming power.” Baker refused to trademark the flag, seeing it as his life’s work and his gift to the queer community.

Everything about Pride is political. It is not just about “love is love,” because anyone can love. Pride relates specifically to the economic, social and political equality that queer people strive towards and will continue to strive towards. I think that we have been lulled into the notion that because same-sex marriage is legal, and because more mainstream society is accepting us more, that the fight is over. I think that there are many straight, well-meaning people who believe that this is just a chance to celebrate, wear cute clothes and drink. That is not true.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, trans people are unemployed and homeless at rates three times more than the national, country average.

In 2017, according to National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 44 percent of anti-LGBT homicides were committed against transgender women; more than 60 percent of the victims of anti-LGBT homicides were people of color. Almost 65 percent of the victims were under the age of 35.

According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, a quarter of LGBTQ respondents had experienced some form of workplace discrimination within a five-year period. There is no federal law against employment discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual identity. In 28 states, there are no explicit prohibitions for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in state law.

I’m not saying that every single person at Pride needs to be able to rattle off a list of statistics about the treatment of LGBTQ people; I didn’t even know all of this until I spent the time researching it. But what I’m saying is that we are not yet at a place where we can afford a “love is love” chill vibe. Recognize why you are here, whose space you are occupying, and what this means. Things are dire for a lot, if not most, queer people. To dilute that, or to paste over it with a general and vague “let’s celebrate” mentality, is not just annoying or stupid to queer people, but dangerous to our lives as well.

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2018, college, Humor, Life, Millennials

One year on from graduation: EAT, GAY, LOVE

It’s officially been one year since I graduated from college, and I weirdly felt fine about it. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that I was working that day – nothing distracts you like an endless array of customers screaming about groceries – but it also could probably be attributed to the fact that I spent literal months stressing and freaking out about the fact that I was graduated that I think I exhausted it out of my body.

But the official end of the first year, even without the heart palpitations, made me take stock of what I’ve accomplished since then. Lol! !!

🙂 EAT 🙂

Part of the unspoken (but passive-aggressive) rule of moving back home was that I was going to responsible for cooking dinner. This wouldn’t be a problem (I’d been cooking for myself for over two years !) except for the fact that my family is both rude and not shy about criticizing my cooking.

So I really tried to be better about cooking (i.e. not burning things and calling it “intentional” or “crispy”), and I’m excited to bring that with me in my next iteration: as a gay monster and University of Southern California Annenberg graduate student. My mom keeps saying, “Your roommate will be so impressed!” which for some reason, like, does not inspire confidence. “My mom thinks I’m a good cook!!” doesn’t roll off the mature tongue.

Before this year, I don’t think I knew what “dredging” was, and now it’s literally my favorite thing to do to chicken and white fish. Also, I never cooked white fish before!! Now I love a good sole!! A year ago, I was microwaving potatoes, and now I’m literally so obsessed with finding the perfect method for making sweet potato fries that I’m going to write a blog post about it.

😉 GAY 😉

The second, and skinniest, thing I accomplished is mah body. I feel weird talking about my body for like 8000 reasons, but one is that I’m thin. I’ve generally always been thin, and – thanks to future medicine and the plastic surgery I plan on getting – I’ll probably stay thin. But to combat depression and a freelance lifestyle, I recommitted myself to the gym and lost 20-ish pounds this year.

I knew going into this body journey that it could be a dangerous path: when I was at my most depressed, the gym was a salve that gradually became a crutch. I was obsessed with going, because when I was there I could zone out and forget everything else.

I think I went into this year of fitness a different way, and I set weight goals, yes, but I also set goals outside of weight loss. I’ve written about this before, but I became obsessed with doing unassisted pull-ups. Upper body strength was never a huge part of my workout-life; in high school, I was a long- and mid-distance runner, where the emphasis was put on stamina and pacing (shorter distances place a higher premium on upper body strength). So I never really thought about pull-ups, and kind of dreaded them.

But as I started working out more – and probably aided by losing a few pounds – I began feeling the unassisted pull-up coming into my grasp. Currently, I can do 4×4 unassisted pull-ups (with 12 lbs dumbbells clamped between my thighs) and 4×4 unassisted chin-ups. My new goal is to do 3×8 pull-ups (I’m currently able to do one set of eight, and can maybe do two sets on a good day).

Setting these goals that existed outside of any weight loss put the emphasis not on cutting calories or excessive cardio, but building up my strength. I began feeling like I was training to be some sort of gay, chic spy. I’ve leaned out more, and I can see the whisper of those 11 abs that lady yoga instructors have sometimes. Goals. Also I’d like to hit (however briefly) 169 pounds for the hilarious joke. It will not be funny to anybody but me.

😀 LOVE 😀

Despite the fact that I’ve gone back – officially – on dating apps, this section is not about my quest for a man. I know that my future husband, wherever he is, is probably in his last year of medical school, and has to gather a net worth of a couple mill before we even meet. And I love that for me, and he loves that for me.

I’m talking about self love. I went back into therapy this year, after a tumultuous few months away from it. and while it has not been easy – it’s actively been very hard – and I don’t think I’m nearly there yet, I feel like the work I’ve done, and the realizations I’ve made, have been very positive and very important for me. A lot of therapy is recognizing patterns you’ve engaged in, how they relate to larger behaviors, and what those behaviors mean in the grand scheme of your psyche. It sounds kinda simple, but lol it is tiring y’all.

🙂  😉  😀

I’ll be honest, I’m sure I would feel very differently about this year being up if I didn’t have my next step planned out. I’m excited to go onto my next step, and I can breathe a little easier on this anniversary knowing that I’ve got at least one thing in the future planned.

It also matters very much to other people. It’s socially acceptable, in what I’ve witnessed, to have something coming down the pike. People like knowing that you’ve got some sort of plan that fits into what they think you should be doing.

I had a customer the other day lean over and say, eyes kind and completely unaware of how condescending her question was, “Do you know what you want to do with your life?” In her eyes, working at Trader Joe’s was not good enough; it had to be a transitional station and not a destination. So I can’t pretend that part of my chillness about being a year out from graduation is the fact that my plan lines up with societal expectations on me.

This took a turn, but it’s all connected in my mind. This year out of school has been emotionally trying; facing professional uncertainty, rejection and trials have really made me think about what I want to pursue. And while I’m currently so excited and happy about where I’m going, it’s important for me to acknowledge that this year was not just about passing time or waiting for the next thing to come along. This year, in its entirety, was meant for me – it was meant for me to grow and to challenge myself and to experience new, sometimes uncomfortable, things.

I’ve included this because it’s a bop and it’s what i’m listening to as i’m editing this. 

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Body Health, celebrity, fashion, LGBTQ, pop culture

THINK TWINK: “welcome to the age of the twink”

T, the New York Times Style Magazine, published a piece yesterday called, “Welcome to the Age of the Twink.” Firstly, I love that title and it makes me think of a Jetson’s-era world of beautiful twinks in Lycra bodysuits and astronaut helmets, jetting around on those little space-cars. Oh! They could go to Hamburger Martian’s for drag queen bingo!

But after I got over thinking about that (a good twenty minutes) and after I realized that T is something I’ve not really gotten around to reading much of (it’s shocking!), I put Troye Sivan’s “Bloom” on repeat, took a hit of poppers and read the article. Just kidding, I didn’t read the article!

The thesis of the piece, the piecis if you will, is this: as women begin to dismantle the “legacy of toxic masculinity,” twinks represent a similar departure from the male shackles. “These twinks, after all, aren’t just enviably lean boys or the latest unrealistic gay fantasy, but a new answer to the problem of what makes a man.”

First, after bingeing several T articles, I’ve noticed that they’re (mercifully, because I can’t handle some long diatribe) short and typically include a final graph that pivots to make some larger, societal point. It’s a cute look, and one that I definitely am guilty of, but I wish that this piece was longer. Give me more, hon!

The piece introduces itself with a scene from Call Me By Your Name, where Oliver (Armie Hammer) steals Elio’s (Timothée Chalamet) drink and gives him a brief, tense massage. The author notes that Oliver’s body – broad, hairy and muscled – is in stark contrast to Elio’s – smooth, lithe. In the negative space, it draws comparison and highlights the youth of Elio as well as the older appeal of Oliver.

The author, Nick Haramis, touches upon the rising popularity of “twink” models in more mainstream culture: Ryan McGinley’s photo-series of slim, sloppily dressed Saint Laurent models; leading men Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One), Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird, Manchester by the Sea), Nick Robinson (Love, Simon); singer Troye Sivan and celebrity-child-savant Jaden Smith. As these men, and their bodies, are being pushed to the forefront of culture and propped up as sexual objects as desire, their twinkiness, and its entrenchments in effeteness and femininity, are similarly propelled.

However, It’s a little too close to Chris Pratt having to totally reinvent his entire body in order to get a leading role in a movie for me to safely see the rising prevalence of twinkish body types as anything more than a trend or the beginning of a movement.

I do agree that prioritizing body types other than the traditional “Leading Man” body – any of the Hollywood Chrises – is a step in the right direction, and the appreciation for androgynous, lithe and sometimes-feminine bodies in men is worthy of attention. But what that made me realize is that, for the most part, twinks still operate within a certain paradigm of toxic masculinity.

Twinks, at least the ones that came to mind when I read the piece as well as the ones who were mentioned in the article itself, are typically portrayed as white or white-passing. The cover photo of “Welcome to the Age of the Twink” includes men of color, but the overarching notion of “twink” is young, cis, white, attractive, slim.

There is the notion that twinks are, inherently, slim. There can be branches:  Haramis discusses “twunks” (he mentions Zac Efron; I counter with Tom Holland), Euro twinks (the BelAmi boys) and femme twinks (Adam Rippon). I would argue that otters – slim, hairy men – exist on the twink spectrum; and who among us has not fallen in love with a tattered-knee skater boy or a stoner, drawn gaunt by the love for their respective crafts?

So twinks can be slim, or muscular, or hairy, but they are never fat. They always adhere to the beauty standard that thinness is ideal. Through the promotion of twinks in mainstream culture, we are saying that we are widening the lens of attractiveness – but not that wide. We will dip outside of our ideals, but just slightly.

An essential part of twinks is the idea of prioritizing youth. I’m not saying there aren’t old twinks, looking at you Charlie Hides, but when you look at that through a critical lens, you realize: if twinks are young, then they are meant to idealize youthful, boyish figures. I wonder if their bodies are prized only because it is implied that they are temporary; no one stays young forever, so the twink body will eventually evolve into something else. You can be feminine, but only because eventually you will become something else.

The point of the piece, in my eyes, was acknowledging and celebrating that different types of bodies are being seen as viable, valuable and attractive. And I loved thinking about twinks and bodies and queerness for an hour, so I’m grateful for the piece. But I love it more for reminding me that we still have a long way to go in terms of body inclusivity. Ugh, I did the T thing of putting my thesis (my piecis!) at the very end!


Alternative titles include, but are not limited to, “Pretty N’ Twink,” “Twink Twice,” “Twinkin’ About You,” “Twinkpiece,” or “Twink or Swim.”
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2018, Life, Things Happening RN

TRYING TO BE HOT AT MY FIVE-YEAR REUNION

On Saturday, I had my five-year high school reunion.

I went in with low expectations, and by that I mean that I went in with the highest expectations and fully expected to be disappointed.

I regularly make jokes about the kind of person I was in high school; “I looked like a thumb with eyes” is a common one, given the fact that I had red, horrible skin, didn’t figure out a haircut that worked for me and I plucked my light eyebrows into impossibly high, thin arches that rendered them completely invisible in photos.

Embarrassingly (although everyone is guilty of this) I was obsessed with maintaining a façade even more than I was obsessed with maintaining a severe eyebrow arch. I probably even loved saying the word “façade” in high school. Difficult pronunciation and a squiggly accent mark? Chic! Essentially, I was kind of geeky and not-chic, except that I thought I was the most chic. Animal-print? Yes please. Neon? Why not! I was also perhaps most famous in high school for having a blog, and by that I mean, I was gay and literate and wrote about it.

Going into this reunion, I had one main goal: make everyone want to kill themselves with jealousy.


I assumed that this goal was very much attainable and also very much in the bag. However, things started to unravel very quickly. A tussle with a sheet mask ended up with me having a slight allergic reaction. A haircut ended up looking a little too egghead. My skin, which has been on a journey not dissimilar to Arya Stark trying to find her way back to Winterfell, decided to have a flare-up! Everything was coming up rosacea!

For reasons that I discuss extensively in therapy but will not disclose here, I feel a powerful need to prove myself to everyone, but particularly people who dislike me. Given the fact that I went to an all-boys Catholic prep school and was gay/wore leopard-print, I was not wanting for enemies or bullies!

I showed up to cocktail hour an hour late and dressed fucking cute, and immediately realized that I would not get through this night without alcohol. I was sucked into a conversation with a former classmate about his career track. He does something client-facing, and wears ties, and honestly that’s all I could remember because I was too busy scanning the faces of other classmates and making mental notes of everyone who got hot.

As I mentioned, I went to a prep school, whose main exports are insecurity complexes and people who work in square professions – finance, real estate, anything that has you start as an “analyst.” I was one of maybe four people who was in a creative industry, and reminder, I barely have a job! I was back in an environment that both fostered trust-fund fist bumps and discouraged me making any sort of “anal-yst” jokes! It was tough!

To overcompensate, when people asked me what I did, I formulated a square and safe response. “I’m a writer, and I’m going to grad school in July.”

Over the course of the evening, I got progressively looser and more annoying. “I’m a writer” became “I’m a freelancer writer,” which became “I’m a freelancer writer and I work at Trader Joe’s,” which somehow devolved into “I write about gay stuff!” and then completely deteriorated into just “Gay!”

To be fair, it always ends up that way.

But sometimes I realized, as my answers about “What I’m Doing” became sillier and more honest, is that people responded in kind. I got an accountant to admit that if I don’t pay taxes, there’s a possibility that nothing will happen (don’t do this though, pay your taxes). I asked a civil engineer if he got inspiration from that underground cavern in Marvel’s The Defenders. He did not laugh!


When I was saying hi to somebody, the person next to him saw me and made to do the “How are you doing!” facial shift.

The problem with this was that we never had a conversation in high school. I knew who he was because he’s hot, and he knew who I was because I’m gay, but no words passed betwixt us. So when he said, “How’ve you been?” I responded with “I’m good – I’m excited to have our first conversation ever!” And all he could do was laugh because literally it’s true.

And once we got over the truth, we actually had a conversation. We talked about high school, his work, my work, marijuana dispensaries and being hot.

I detest small talk because it kind of defeats the purpose – it’s meant to facilitate conversation, but it actually becomes a barrier against having real conversation. It becomes “Where did you go to college again?” and “What have you been doing?” instead of “Did you love college?” and “What do you think of Cardi B?”

By the way, people have high praise for Cardi!

I understand the impulse to put your best foot forward – I’m the fucking mayor of Putting Your Best Foot Forward – so I’m not sure exactly what snapped in me, but I’m glad it did. Because instead of exchanging meaningless pleasantries, I actually dug into real conversation with both old friends and people that I had never connected with in high school.

High school was messy in roughly eight thousand ways, and these all made going back into the Vineyard Vines viper’s pit quite stressful, which is probably why I became acutely obsessed with my appearance. A classic redirect to avoid confronting past trauma, sis!

But despite it all, I’m glad I went. I got a chance to look hot in suede boots, call everybody “hon” and “handsome” and snag an alumni baseball cap. And at the end of the day, that’s really all I could ask for.

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Humor, Love & Romance, Millennials

THE ONE WHERE I GO ON HINGE AND TRY TO FIND LOVE

“Do you want to date?” my psychiatrist asks.
“Ugh, no,” I scoff.
Ten minutes later. “I just really want to date!” I whine.
“You said you didn’t want to,” she points out, rightfully.
“I know I said that, but I lied,” I answer. I’m petulant, and she’s beginning to learn that.
“It’s kind of hard for you to be open to dating when you say, explicitly, that you don’t want to date.”

# # #

She also points out that dating is work, and requires effort. These are two things that I am unaccustomed to, but I begrudgingly admit that she’s right. Almost to spite her (healthy?), and prove to her that I can date if I want to, I download Hinge, a dating app that purports to set you up with people within your Facebook friends-of-friends network.

Of course, I do this the week that Facebook is in the news for allowing Cambridge Analytica to siphon off private user information. With my luck, Facebook will shut down and I’ll die alone.

I picked Hinge for a few reasons – Tinder is essentially the new Grindr and Bumble won’t let me use a photo of me giving the camera the middle finger. If I can’t show my personality, then I won’t find love.

I also picked Hinge because that’s how Phillip Picardi, the digital editorial director of Teen Vogue and Allure, met his totally-crazy-hot boyfriend. And if there’s one thing you can say about me, it’s that I can operate with a near-lethal amount of optimism.

So I made my profile. I put in a few funny quips, but I tried not to overwhelm it with humor. Surprise, I use humor as a defense mechanism. I tried to be honest (and cute) and earnest (and cute) and actually give myself a fighting chance.

Yes, the photos I chose showcase me doing essentially the same pose over and over (I know my angles) and I will almost never do a smile that shows my teeth (I have good teeth, I just don’t feel like showing them off) but the photos are all recent, and g-damn I look good in all of them! I’m in a very – well, not right now because I made the decision early on today to wear a hat and, honey, it’s one I’m regretting – good place about my body and my face.

So I made the profile, and I’ve been trying to – without sounding like American Pyscho – lower my standards. Okay, yeah that sounds awful.

But here’s what I mean. I love quitting while I’m behind. Frankly, I love quitting. I love a good self-sabotage. I set impossible standards for the men I look to date – they must be funny, but not funnier than me; they must be tall; they must be mean, but not nasty; cute, but not hot; smart, but not intimidating; not annoying, not rude; not clingy, not antisocial – usually this pares the group of eligible men available to a party of one, and I can’t date myself. Not again.

I also fall into the dangerous pattern of finding men whose flaws I forgive, because they’re so unattainable – straight, or in a relationship, or dead – that I’ll never have to worry about coming into contact with those flaws. I can safely yearn from 500 yards away (not a restraining order thing, I just wear glasses now and I don’t need to be that close) and never get hurt.

I’m trying to quell the inner saboteur, that messy, clumsy-fingered little goblin, and try to find one thing to “like” about each profile I see. Surprisingly, it’s easy. The questions are designed to yield answers, and damn some of y’all are cute! I’ve been liking more than I’ve been disliking, and it’s led to some interesting conversations. Not amazing conversations, and certainly not any love connections yet, but still: progress.

However, since I’m admitting to be a greedy little goblin, let’s be hateful for one paragraph. Loving brunch is not original. Loving SoulCycle is not original. Be the hottest one in a group photo, or just do a solo. Stop posting photos from vineyards; frankly, stop going to vineyards. Stop talking about Antoni from Queer Eye (I am a “he cannot cook” truther to the grave).

There are certain things I am willing to forgive, but hawking avocado/being 20/loving Antoni are things that I simply, for my own health, cannot abide.

Okay, done being hateful.

My most recent foray into “getting out there” is coming to the realization that I’d like to date somebody. I denied this for a long time because I hate being vulnerable, and damn that’s lame to say that you wanna date. But I do, and so I’m gonna say so. I dated a decent bit in college, but that was easier because I was surrounded by people constantly. This is harder, and we all know I love things that require little-to-no effort.

Snow White found love, and all she had to do was sleep. Lucky.

While I am pale (and tall enough that I’m constantly surrounded by aggro little short men), I’m no Snow White. Me sleeping just leads to morning breath and unfortunate hair situations.

So I, awake, am going to put myself out there. If you know someone in his twenties, with a job, who is good-looking enough that people wouldn’t describe him as “having a great personality” but does have a great personality, send him my way. He can have a weird face; that’s fine by me, but then he has to have good hair. I will not bend on this.

I’m sure my 900-word diatribe about Hinge will not frighten him off in the least.

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

CALL ME BY YOUR SAME

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.

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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.

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Source: Danny McCarthy

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