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.

Movies, pop culture


Watching any award show can be frustrating—they’re long, they’re tedious, and there are too many commercials—so I’m not going to make this intro any longer/more frustrating than it is already.

Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture. End of Sentence. Let that be the end of the sentence.

Moonlight, the story of a black, queer man growing up in Miami, won the Oscar for Best Picture. Yes.

To change the headline, to say “HOLLYWOOD SCANDAL: STEVE HARVEY MOMENT AS MOONLIGHT ACTUALLY WON THE OSCAR” is to take away from this moment. This very important moment.

In a year and time when the rights and bodies of LGBTQ people are being arbitrated over, when people of color are being targeted, when minorities are being further marginalized, let us not sully this moment. Moonlight, an exceptional film, won. It won.

In their speech, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty touched upon diversity, boldness and strength represented in artistic works. Those are very important lodestones for us to carry with us into this next year—a year that has been marked by several different upsets of various sorts. La La Land, despite whatever accolades it deserved, wasn’t a movie that represented all of that. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t imporant. But it’s like how 25 won “Album of the Year.” It shouldn’t have.

“Of the Year” should indicate something that encompasses the entire year. And in the same way that Lemonade touched upon Blackness, womanhood, police brutality, and politics—Moonlight did that. And in this moment, in this time that is so fraught with chaos and darkness and meanness, it is such a relief that there is some recognition for the accomplishments and contributions of black and queer artists.

I think it’s a tough act to balance art with artists. It was tough to see Casey Affleck take the Oscar for Best Actor. Especially in this year, it is tough to watch men who have accusations of sexual assaults leveled against them receive widespread validation.

It was tough to see that as much progress the Oscars made this year—Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor as the first Muslim Actor to win an Oscar, Viola Davis won her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and is the first Black woman to win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony for acting, obviously Moonlight, and more diversity in the nominations—we are still affirming white men with allegations of sexual assault.

Maybe Casey Affleck truly had an amazing performance, but what does it say about us that we validated that? That if your performance is good enough, we’ll forget those three instances of assault? That if you have enough money, not even a Pussygate scandal will cost you the Presidency?

On another note, Patricia Arquette pointed out that her sister, trans actress Alexis Arquette, who passed away in September of 2016, was not included in the “In Memoriam” at this year’s Oscars. And unfortunately, when talking about what the wider public can do for trans youth on the Vanity Fair Post-Oscar livestream, Arquette was cut off to make way for Jon Hamm & Co. talking about licorice (unclear). So I did a little research—you can donate to the ACLU, donate your money or time to the Trans Lifeline, get involved at your local level, and be vocal about support for trans rights.

Sometimes validation comes from the top, but most importantly—and most crucially—it comes from the roots, from the people, from us. On a $1.6 million budget, Moonlight grossed $25 million world-wide. Gavin Grimm, a young trans student from Virginia, is bringing his case to the Supreme Court. Change happens, great things happen, from the ground up. Small things become big things, and then those things become world-changing.

Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Essay, Humor


Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.45.25 PM“Can I get a venti caramel iced coffee?” I tell the Starbucks cashier. She nods and scribbles my name across a plastic cup the size of a baby crib.

“I’ll pay for it,” he says, pushing his card across the counter. I smile at him.

“Thanks!” Fucker.

We sit down at a small circular table, him fiddling with his car keys and me leaning forward, perched on my elbows.


I’m sitting in the library, books strewn across the table obnoxiously, forcing my tablemates to cramp into the corner of the space. They shoot glares at me, which to me are like Nerf pellets but to them are probably daggers. My phone gives a small, discrete bzzz.

I slide it open and click on the yellow Grindr app, the black mask of the icon like a gay Phantom of the Opera except even less faces and more torsos. A message has popped up from a cute Latino guy with curly hair and a mild-mannered smirk.

“Hey. At first I thought you were looking for a centurion, but then I read it again and I’m mistaken,” he texts. Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.44.16 PMI laugh out loud. My profile, a 10/10 picture of me, has the caption, “Looking for centenarians. Anyone born after 1914 need not apply.” The fact that someone A) knew what a centenarian was and B) knew what a centurion was, is enough to make me text back an answer.

His name is Corey, and he goes to a college near mine. He wants to hang out—no sex, just mac n’ cheese—but I’m swamped in finals and migrating back to New York directly after. After a few more minutes, I find out that he’s actually from the adjacent town to mine in New York, so I give him my number.

Eventually, I delete Grindr because having it on my phone always make me feel like I need to shower incessantly. But we begin texting back and forth, at first gingerly, and then more frequently.

Corey is dorky but funny, and works for an engineering company back in our college town but travels back to New York occasionally. He’s two years older than me, a junior to my then freshman. I find out his last name, immediately stalk him on Facebook and find that we have three mutual friends and he’s not Hispanic, but Mayflower white.

Corey keeps asking me out, so after the fourth or so attempt, I accept his offer and we make a plan to meet up when he’s back in New York.

Weeks pass, and I kind of create a boyfriendish allure around him. He’s at the top of my messages, and has sent me enough pictures for me to be relatively sure that he’s not a forty-five year old serial killer looking to make me into a sports coat.

“Do you want to see Maleficent with me?” I ask. Looking back, I don’t know why I keep insisting on bringing dates to children’s movies. I’ve brought a date to see Frozen—pre hype—and that ended about as well as the Hindenburg. Additionally, Maleficent was so subpar and I really would’ve liked to see Angelina Jolie portray a more fleshed-out “villain.”

“Yeah!” he answers, and we make a plan to meet up that night at a public mall.

Hours later, after I’ve planned my outfit but before I’ve prayed to the gods and made my ritual sacrifice, Corey Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.46.27 PMsuggests that we buy tickets ahead of time, online. When I point out that it’s unlikely that the movie will be sold out, since it’s been out for two weeks, he insists that we “don’t want to miss out.” Also, he can’t order the tickets because his laptop is broken so can I please order them and he’ll “pay me back with coffee or…other things ;).”

“Coffee is fine,” I text back and order the—per his request—IMAX tickets, knocking me back about forty dollars. I don’t think I would pay this much for a prostitute, much less a date, but the metaphysical check has been cashed and I’ve selected two seats—so basically we’re married—so I can’t back out now.


“You’re tall,” is the first thing out of his mouth when I walk up to him. He’s been leaning against the metal railing.

I have no idea how to respond to this fact. For some reason, because I’m over six feet, people feel the need to point out that I am tall, as if that’s a secret my parents have been hiding from me for 18 years and they’re springing it on me in an Italian restaurant. Being tall is one of those things that people assume is socially acceptable to have an opinion on. No one walks up to someone else and says, “Hmm, I didn’t think you be as ugly as you are,” or “Oh, you’re Jewish? You don’t look Jewish in your pictures.”

I answer with a “Ha, yeah,” mingled with a fake laugh. He is still looking jarred, but manages to pull it together enough to walk with me towards the escalator. We still have a little bit of time before the movie, so we’re going into a Toys “R” Us because apparently going on dates regresses us into middle school.

“I actually turned down a threesome to be here,” Corey says, in what I can only assume is an attempt to break the ice and not an attempt to get me to break his neck.

“Oh,” I say, laughing. Note to reader, I will be uncomfortably laughing throughout this entire date. Brace yourself.

On the list of things that have been said to me that hover in between Flattery and Fuckery, this is right up there next to someone saying that it “wasn’t your looks” that made me single.

I’ve texted out three SOS’s, so this date isn’t going categorically great, so I breathe a sigh of relief when he suggests we go get coffee, which means A) I get coffee B) the movie is nigh and C) I get coffee.

I decide to forgo my usual grande and get a venti, because I’m going to eke everything I can out of this $40 dollar date. The barista gives me the venti iced coffee, which is large but barely even a movie theater small.


We sit down at a small circular table, him fiddling with his car keys and me leaning forward, perched on my elbows.

I’m rambling on. He’s quiet. When people get quiet, I tend to talk more. So I’m all chattering mouth in the silence, chattering teeth from the iced coffee, and gesticulating arms. At this point, the date is basically a dead horse. Not even one you want to beat, just one that was formerly stumbling on weak legs and now has completely given up.

We chat, and he’s perfectly nice, but it’s obvious that I’m carrying the date. And my arms are not that strong.*

*This statement has now become false, as I have been working out and my arms are pretty toned.

“Should we go over to the movie?” I asked brightly, rattling the melting ice around.


The movie is good but not great. Much like myself, Angelina Jolie is visually stunning but seems too skilled for the meager sliver the writers carved out for her. I wanted her to be violently cruel, tantalizing evil, all scorned and scorching.

Times I get up to go to the bathroom: 3

Times our knees knock together: 5

Times I awkwardly crane my head to talk to him: 2

Times he seems about to put his arm around my shoulders: 1

By the end of the movie, I am exhausted from getting up to relieve my bursting bladder, which has been going full steam ahead from the massive amount of coffee I just drank.

We parked in different levels of the same lot, so we walk over together. His car is closer, so I mosey over with him. “I can drive you to your car,” he offers, standing next to his car.

“No that’s fine,” I laugh. He offers again, and I survey him and realize—for the first time—that I would be nervous to be in the car with him, with anyone that I didn’t know, and that makes me squirm.

He leans in and I lean in for a hug. Out of the corner of my eye I see his head swivel and feel a kiss placed awkwardly close to my ear. I pull back from the hug and see him looking expectantly at me.

Oh, fuck.

Our heads careen towards each other as we kiss. It’s all scrape and stubble and the lingering acrid embers of the coffee. What do I do with my hands? I think. I unclench them and swing them halfway towards Corey before swinging them back and keeping them firmly at my sides.

The kiss ends and I smile and say goodbye. I can feel his eyes rolling over my neck as I walk away and I don’t look back until I can hear his engine breathe to life. I wave then, and I can see him waving back through the slant of the windshield.


It’s only later—when I’m recounting the date to my friend—that I realize that I’ve just had my first kiss, my first boy-to-boy kiss.


Corey and I exchange a few texts after our date, but the connection we had via digital communication has fizzled with the reality of our selves. I don’t think about him until eight months later when I accidentally swipe right for him on Tinder while trying to find subjects for a photo essay.

I blindly send him a message detailing my photo essay without looking at who the profile belongs to. A few days later, I’m at dinner with my friends and am alerted to a new Tinder message. My phone gives a small, discrete bzzz.

I slide it open and click on the app’s red flame. It’s one of my potential subjects. I look at the message:

“Um, hi to you too?”

My eyes flash to the name at the top of the page: Corey. I let out a half-shriek-half-laugh. Okay, it was more like three quarters shriek and one quarter laugh.

My friends ask me why I’m gasping. This time, it’s a full laugh, and I tell them all about Corey and the threesome and the hands-clenched kiss and the coffee peeing.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.45.03 PM

P.S. Thanks to my dear friend Nina who helped me brainstorm what I should write about for this essay and who accepted the fact that I had texted her solely to shoot down her ideas until I could think of one better with grace and aplomb. Thanks, N. ❤