Is a dick pic just a dick pic? A recent conversation with a friend sparked the possibility that, sometimes, sending or receiving a dick pic is about more than simple sexual gratification, it’s also about a need to feel validated.
It is three in the morning. My eyes snap open, discovering my sheets are soaked through with cold sweat. Through my open window, the final chorus of Deniece William's "Let's Hear It For The Boy" blares from the street below. A part of me is relieved to pinpoint the source of the sound- it explains the sudden steamy turn my dreams took. "Let's give the boy a hand," indeed. The relief only lasts a breath as my mind catches up to what the song means. The first sign is always music. "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," "Born This Way," or any of Hayley Kiyoko's discography would have sufficed. As it happens, this year's harbinger of doom is Deniece Williams.
Learned helplessness is defined in the dictionary as “a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed.” For example, a person might grow up in a demanding or controlling household but due to the fact of being a child, they have no control over their circumstances or environment. The child then internalizes this sense of powerlessness, so that even when circumstances change and there is an opportunity for escape or the child becomes an adult and can make their own choices, the person does not try because they believe on a deep, felt sense that they are unable to. A felt sense of helplessness becomes inextricably viewed as part of their identity or as an unchangeable fact of the external world.
I saw you. The way I was positioned in my chair, it was in exactly the place it needed to be for you to have a direct view of me, and me of you—straight on. It felt close, yet miles away—you were all the way over there in the orange chair, overlooking the mouthwatering lake.
How could high school me have been so casual, so flippant, so blind to the film’s mastery of narrative and character? I should have been taking notes the very first time I saw it. As the credits roll, I order a final glass of wine and notice that “Bridget Jones's Baby” is also available for streaming. Hmmm. Better to wait, I decide. I hope the title is still available when I fly home a week from now.
There I was, alone and naked in a dive bar waiting for my Jack and Coke. I looked around at the 150+ guys around me trying to figure out what happened in my life for me to be standing in that spot at that moment. The month before, my fiancé broke up with me. I’d just moved to a new neighborhood and the wounds were fresh. A lot of trauma surrounding shame and lack of worth pulled me into such a deep, depressive, inescapable state. Much to my surprise, a naked social group had a monthly party at a bar in my new neighborhood. My heart immediately dropped when I got the reminder, I’d purchased the tickets in a drunk whim. But I was going to do this, and I was going to do it tonight.
When you’re a 17-year-old, regardless of your gender, orientation, race, or religion, you’re a bundle of nerves, angst, misplaced anger and emotion, and you tend to make stupid decisions because of those emotions. When I was 17, I was going through all of that turmoil and angst, and made two very important decisions: the first being to dropout of high school and run away and live with my then drug dealer boyfriend (ten years my senior), and the second decision was that I agreed to be a co-director of the Fairy Forest of our local Renaissance Festival for that year. These two decisions were made almost around the same time, and both had an enormous effect on each other, and on the trajectory of the rest of my life.
Three months ago, I told myself I was done with these, that there wouldn’t be any reason to write another—because I was closing the books on a period of time in my life and looking ahead. I said, “You, Mr. You, you are the last one I will write about in real-time.” I take it back now. I’m not convinced there will ever come a time where I can completely let go of the notion of sitting at a coffee shop, looking around at all the students and professionals doing their work, having their conversations, on their first dates, and writing to the men who have traipsed into my life for whatever reason—and made an impact of sorts. The story is never finished—until it absolutely is finished.
I am not advocating that the key to happiness lies in making peace with the concept of Instagram. I am, however, convinced that our Instagrams, Facebooks, and Twitters, are affecting us more than we’re admitting. If I’ve learned nothing else from this exercise, it’s that, somewhat ironically, sharing helps more than any other remedy I’ve found.
I’ll say that I do think we misunderstood each other, somewhere along the way, on that evening—a Friday, which I’d typically spend with friends, blowing off steam from another work week in the books. But you were new to town, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see what we could be.
Determined to join the current cultural conversation—no matter how late—I finally sat down to watch Netflix’s ‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo’ last week. And although I only made it through a single episode before deciding to rewatch the ‘The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement’ for the sixth time, Ms. Kondo still made enough of an impact to inspire me to start tidying up. I didn’t have the energy to sort through my entire wardrobe, but I did manage to remove several piles of dirty clothing and Chipotle receipts to reveal most of my floor. Impressed by my ability to perform this most basic cleaning task, I couldn’t help but wonder: could Ms. Kondo’s methods be applied to my romantic life?
I do wish I’d gotten to see you once more before you flew back—to see a little more of that innocent snark. To maybe see the things that made you tick. But did anything? I got the sense that nothing did, that you lived your life optimistically, wishing people well, no matter their treatment of you. It’s admirable, really. And so was how gentle and understanding you were to me that night.
In the grand tradition of millennials shrugging off their small-town lives in favor of a bigger, greater, urban existence; I am thrilled to announce that I am a THRIVING New York City resident. Within six months, New York City has already presented me with more opportunities to grow than I ever thought possible. I have seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Tires on fire off the shoulder of West 67th street and Broadway. I’ve watched Drag Queens glitter in the dark near the dumpsters behind an Arby’s on East 34th.
It was just last night. And you should know how many times its rung through me. Sitting with you at that bar—we kept our conversation. You said your things and I said mine. And it mattered, because my face was flushing and Jennifer turned up next to us on her birthday to buy a shot of Fireball and tell us about the woes of her life. We said cheers to her. And I think we also hugged her goodbye.
I was 15 years old. I knew exactly what I was doing. I was chronically depressed but I was also clever. I was bullied but I was a bully too. Moreover, I did not see a future where I was not struggling to live. I woke up one morning in May 2009 with a plan. Prior to my biggest algebra test of the year, I poured out a bottle of my prescribed muscle relaxers all over my bedroom table. I grabbed a glass of water and I swallowed approximately 15-20 high dose muscle relaxers.
For the longest time, I CHOSE to associate within these confined stereotypical cliques because I felt I didn't deserve autonomy over my own body and that my worth is based on how attractive you found me. The worst defeating belief of it all: that this is all there is, that this is gay culture and in choosing to belong I had invited loneliness in.
For me, a new city presents a wide opening to extend or explore parts of myself that I typically wouldn’t back home—the parts that might not move on as high a frequency. This trip allowed me to bring those things out—I wanted to be more open, to explain, to pay attention, be real, and be patient—at least for three days. With confidence, I can tell you that’s what you got from me.
I know there are a lot of people out there who feel alone and invisible some, maybe all, of the time, and there are so many words of wisdom out there from “anonymous” or dead people. It feels like my responsibility, as a survivor of a darkened heart, to share a fresh message of hope.There is a fine line between being alone and being lonely. That line is called clarity.
When she said yes, I ran upstairs to gather the necessary supplies. A movie night! With other boys! This was new territory for me- most of my after school activity consisted of riding my bike around the cul-de-sac alone, reading alone, or… well really anything alone. So, with a backpack full of twizzlers and skittles, I set out with an apprehensious heart, unaware how changed I’d be within the hour.
Before this, I spent a year heartbroken, in a lapse of self-imposed exile, in a very small city where I never intended to spend the rest of my life. Here, I managed to make up for what I see as lost time. I met a lot of people. I formed bonds. I found real fondness for a lot of very different men. Mostly, I lived the shit out of that year, and surfaced from it feeling more grateful, more self-assured, more at ease, more accepting—maybe even, dare I say, more patient.
In knowing this, I chose to surround myself with a tribe of supportive individuals who accept every part of me. Who lift me up when I struggle. Who empower my voice and my sense of self-worth. I must continue to remind myself that I am always enough. That I deserve the best. Without that, I will never know who I really am.
I’m standing at a point where I am learning to love myself. I’m doing things for myself and I’m doing what’s best for me. That’s a powerful kind of love because I have my own back and it can’t be taken away. I’m DONE having anxiety and worrying about people are thinking, I’m DONE sitting silently because I don’t want to say the wrong thing and I am DONE looking for acceptance in the wrong places.
Just the day before, you’d moved into the building—when we must have spotted each other near the front entrance. You messaged me later, “Thanks for your help. We only had that huge mattress to carry up the staircase.”
In truth, I feel sad for you. I imagine that once I was out of sight, you rolled the window back up and returned to sitting in silence with your friends. Just a hunch. In my experience, the kind of person who screams “FAGGOT!” at a stranger isn’t particularly gifted in holding a conversation. Maybe you screamed at me to break the silence. Could it have been as inconsequential as that to you? I’ll never know.
The next morning, you had me spinning. I walked from your place to mine to the bar, where I met Jack for brunch. I stepped into the room and, almost immediately, I was floating. A glowing face, a gleaming smile, something that gave off the impression of, “I could die today and all would be okay.”
Before I begin, I would like to explain what ghosting is for those who may not be aware, ghosting is “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.” The person essentially vanishes from your life without a trace, as if they were an apparition here today and gone tomorrow. And just like a specter you would see in a typical horror film like The Conjuring, this ghost haunts you with the memory of your time together.
Leaving the autonomy of single life which permits oneself to explore any avenues that become presented, and entering a relationship where exclusivity opens a deeper level of intimacy with a single individual it made me wonder: What is the gay male experience and is it universal?
Perfect is a cruel god. It offers diminishing returns in exchange for sanity. It paints a pretty picture and presents an alluring promise which, ultimately, is dangled beyond human reach. Perfect a waste of time. So why are we so in love with it? Why do we strive and sacrifice for it? Why do we whisper hurtful things to ourselves when we don’t meet it?
Over the last few years, there has been a noticeable change in the industry. More gay roles are coming into play in film. And not just the super flamboyant ones that everyone likes to stereotype. More roles are coming out of gay people who are well; complex individuals who just happen to be gay. This is just great except the fact these roles are all going to actors who aren’t gay.
I can be fine for days, or even for months, but good days also mean bad days will come. You maybe feel as though I should just change and move past my anxiety and depression. Understand that anxiety is like a person standing behind me, whispering sweet nothings about how every decision I make is being judged. And in front of me, depression stands like a giant god-like figure, pushing me back and telling me to just stop trying to move past him.
I guess, we spent some time coming back to each other after that, but there was mounting pressure on both of us to make up our minds, to feel something, to really feel the need to need something. We kept at it, through summer, into fall, into winter—where we officially ended whatever we had started. Now, I can see that all of it made me nervous—the attempts to meet each other where we were at.
Ghosting. It’s trendier than millennial pink. It’s more popular than a matcha latte with almond milk. It’s as constant as the artisanal avocado toast in your Instagram feed. If you’ve somehow escaped being ghosted by 2018, chances are you’ve been in a committed relationship since high school or simply don’t own a phone.
One thing should be made clear from the beginning- no actual healing happened during my stay in psych. There were no miraculous breakthroughs, turnarounds, or life-changing pills. In practice, I slept a lot, met people who were nothing and everything like me. More than anything, I waited.
During my interactions with him, I realized that I had been cheating myself of fully engaging in the many adventures that life has to offer. Too often have I let fear keep me from saying “yes” to new experiences and moments. By having no expectation, I could allow this narrative to unfold as it was meant to, rather than trying to exert control of the situation. When time becomes limited, the ability to be present is a rare and precious gift. One that must be treasured and embraced.
It’s moments like this that can make a person nervous. Everything is good, things are new, but you don’t know where it will go—if it’ll last. I didn’t know what you were thinking or whether you’d made a judgment call. All I knew was that this was nice and exactly what I needed that day, that time of year—after the year that I had just had, all the things that I had put myself through. It’s something to be nervous about, but it’s also something to rejoice in. Stop this moment in time right now, I thought. Just pinch me before we have to go back to being something else.
So you’ve found yourself in a mental hospital. Learn from my mistakes and pack your own reading material. My own encounter with a bonafide, legitimate, Girl-Interrupted psych ward happened in the deep winter of 2016. I hadn’t planned on spending the weekend interred. I had groceries to buy, laundry to catch up on, a life to live.
My life revolved around making sure I was the perfect, most non-threatening form of a person as possible while still being cool enough to hang out with anyone that was thrown my way. I got fit, without getting too fit. I was outspoken without trying to ruffle too many feathers. I made myself strong through my traumas without being overpowering or willing to fight for anyone else. I dulled my natural glow with the mud of being a bite sized morsel for people who under no circumstances deserved it. I watered down the aged whiskey that I am with as many mixers as possible to ensure everyone could have a swig.
I never wanted to risk doing anything that might draw suspicion or invite ridicule. I now understand how harmful homophobia is to everyone it touches, not just gay people. It creates an unhealthy environment that forces people to conform out of fear of violence. For the first time in my life, I had a serious issue that I knew I could not discuss with anyone, not even my mother, whom I often confided in like a best friend. I decided to fix my horror by never giving in to my desires or even thinking about them. If I kept my thoughts and actions pure, my disease had to go away.
I attribute a lot of my success from the discipline that I learned from the gym. The consistency that you need, drive and the "never give up" attitude that is necessary reach your goals can help you in any aspect of your life. I am extremely thankful and grateful for my mother for first introducing me to my sanctuary. Since that day, my life has changed for the better. That skinny, shy kid is gone.
Deep down I have always craved intimate connections with other men- a brotherhood, if you will. This desire for male bonding transcends my sexuality. Ideally, my sexuality should not be a hindrance to the development of these kinds of bonds. Too many times, I have been deemed the token gay friend by my male friends. Both through what they say and how they act.
I felt the floor swallowing me up whole. Everything faded away around me and all I heard was the sound of my heart hammering in my head. Dimly, I heard myself repeat, “this can’t be happening” for probably the tenth time in the span of a few minutes. My world crumbled around me. I felt helpless and alone, but worse, vulnerable and afraid upon finding out I tested positive for HIV.
Suicide is what you die from, but depression is what kills you. You don’t commit suicide, you die of depression. At least, that’s what I will live in fear of for the rest of my life. I’m medicated now, able to feel extreme high’s and low’s without losing control, and extremely hopeful for my future. But every time someone in the news calls into question the seriousness of depression, or when someone I dearly admired loses the fight, the cloudy demons inside my mind will blur the edge of my vision to make sure I know that, while I have them under control now, they are not ever really gone.
By now, you couldn’t deny the fondness I have for you. It’s the little revisitations that pull me back to that very day, when I was living in a period of innocence—unaware of possibility, naïve to what it can do to you. It’s these little revisitations, always messy and always brutal and always so heavenly, that take a notch right out of me and replace it with something else.
The room where you held my face in your hands. The room you ran back to, emergency Advil in hand and an I-told-you-so smile on your face. The chair where I practiced mini surgery on myself for the first time. The room where you clutched at me like a life raft. The bed where I found you with another boy. Hands trailing down and mouths open and smiling. The bed where you brushed my hands away and said things had changed beyond repair.
Why are juries of our peers so eager to rationalize the actions of our murderers; to legitimize the irrational fear of our existence? Why are queer advances seen as more traumatic than the unwanted advances cis straight men routinely impose on women everywhere from the train to the street to the workplace? As long as gay/trans panic defenses maintain jurisprudence, queer people are potentially disposable under the law.
This is usually the part where, if I am lucky enough to speak to someone about it, I am advised that I should seek a mental health professional. Believe me, I would love to. However, like most of my generation in the US., I can barely afford to live basically let alone live with amenities like mental health support. I save up, trying to treat myself to an appointment… but, as usual, something happens: the car needs repair, I get sick and have to spend the mental health money as physical health money, I don’t get scheduled enough shifts to pay my rent, utilities, insurance, debt… I get so close to digging out of the hole, but then the dirt crumbles in my hands and sends my flying down to the bottom of the pit once more. Now sure, once I’ve hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. However, falling back down to rock bottom time and time again…it really does a number on the body.
When I was born, my arm was missing from the elbow down. So right from birth I was immediately thrust into a difficult situation. I never knew exactly why until recently, but what I did know was that I was very different, which I thought was a bad thing. I tried desperately to be normal so society to accept me.
But you know what I don’t deserve to do? I don’t deserve to walk through life avoiding my feelings. I have no right to avoid facing hard situations because they’re uncomfortable. That is no way to live. My father may have lived his life being jaded, but I can not. I am no longer willing to risk what I care about because I’m afraid to have something worth losing.
As early as I can remember, I felt different from my peers. It was as if something was missing; like I had a secret, and if anyone found out, I would be hated and despised. It didn’t matter that I had no idea what the secret was; I just knew I had to wear many masks to assimilate into the world around me. I had to protect my secret at all costs.
It had been at least a year since we’d last seen each other—you met me at a time when I was younger and vacant, vulnerable. And emotionally unavailable. I want you to know that I was here for it the night we reunited—out of happenstance, out of my persistence to maybe make it up to you in some way.
This story doesn’t have a grand catharsis. No earth-shattering realization. And in that way, I find it comforting. I said no. Not because I felt obligated to. But because I wanted to. I said no- I left- and the world kept turning.
If you had asked me at age 4 what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have said a paleontologist. At 8, I would have said a superhero. At 14, I knew I was destined to be the next Lady Gaga (except, you know, only a gay black man, but I would have made it work). At 17, I wanted to be a drug and alcohol counselor. If you had told me that almost two decades later my 8 year-old self would have a lot more in common than any other persona, I probably would have gotten really excited and wondered when my powers would manifest and which room I would be sleeping in during my stay at the Xavier’s Mansion as I trained to be an X-Man.
Have you ever felt like you were trapped? That no matter what you did you were never going to get out? That if you ever tried to ask someone for help, you’d end up causing more pain and suffering for those around you that you love? I have.
Being a graduate student studying clinical mental health, you’d think that I would have acceptance concurred. Well, that’s far from the truth. I simply don’t. No matter who we are or what we have learned or studied, anyone can struggle with acceptance. Even sitting here writing this, I still have a hard time understanding it fully and accepting things within my life that I cannot change. But then again I am just fighting against it and wasting my time and energy.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you to see that I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. I believe that a lot of gay people have similar stories to mine. Real life is not like Love, Simon. In reality, there are those of us that have come from broken homes or have no basis for what healthy, loving and stable looks like. So many of us are late to the game and are stuck figuring things out well into our 30’s that a lot of heterosexual people get to learn in high school.
I feel like I am constantly in this inner turmoil. Being an introverted extrovert is extremely oscillating. Part of me wants to be around people, make friends and be in the spotlight. The other part of me wants nothing to do with anyone. I am terrified that no one wants me around. I do a lot of public speaking events, trainings, and meetings with different people for my job. I tell my story and my experiences. There’s videos and photos of me in many different organizations. However, I struggle to tell my truth in a meeting.
But now—as it’s come to be true for me, these things don’t ever really need to leave. Sure, they can fade and lose some of the initial sheen. But they can stay as long as you choose to let them. And, I guess, this serves to say that over many occasions now, I’ve chosen to let them stay.
In my own life, the difference between a positive and a negative sexual experience is my intention. If I’m desperate for validation, half-asleep, and feeling lonely, 95% of the time any sexual encounter I have is going to feel phony at best and downright unbearable at worst. If I’m feeling excited, intrigued, and full of passion, my sexual experiences tend to be of a much higher quality. My meditation practice has inspired me to bring my spiritual toolkit into the bedroom and onto Grindr with me.
I’d walk across hot coals, throw myself in front of a train, and even support Donald Trump if it meant protecting my kids’ well being and happiness. But what happens when circumstances for wellness are beyond me? When I can’t do what I was put on this earth for? When I am powerless? When I watch a child suffer and cannot help? This is my story about coping with a child’s illness.
My coming out story was nothing like the story of “Love, Simon” and that totally okay. When you take a wider look at my life, it much more resembles “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls than any sort of love story. That is the beautiful part of 2018. I can still watch a movie about someone who’s coming out story is existentially different than mine and still be able to enjoy, praise, and connect with the story on a different level. The gay community is made up of an almost infinite amount of moving parts. The variables that go into making just one individual are vast and ever changing.
Those feelings have always been there, even if I couldn’t name them or look them up in an incredibly intimating medical index. In a moment, sitting in my therapist’s dimly lit basement office, I feel a deep power in knowing. Knowing that there is a reason I wake up some days feeling like I’m living underwater and other days feeling as though my veins are coursing with electricity. Oscillating between the two extremes all the while. The miracle is this: that all of these feelings have a name. “Borderline Personality Disorder,” says my therapist. “Everything I’ve just read is an indicator of Borderline Personality Disorder."
I am choosing to be a mom who is more than just a mom. Who is imperfect. Who is no longer allowing herself to be defined only by her ability to fit into the definition of what a perfect wife and mother looks like, according to our patriarchal society. Who believes in the power of women to be anything we want to be. Who is deciding that the best thing she can do as a mother is to show her children what a strong, independent, authentic, empowered woman looks like, in spite of the fact that our society has never wanted women to know their own value or worth.
Who can say they haven’t thought about marriage? Okay. If you can, then tell me have you considered how others feel about marriage? The person you just hooked up with the other night has been dreaming about getting married to another person his whole life.
You remember these things. And if any were to ask and say, “Where have you been?,” there’d only be one answer. I’d lift my hand to wipe an invisible strand of hair from his eyes and say, “Right where you left me.”
Nobody really tells you what it’s like to be a gay man. There isn’t really a guide or any type of manual, you are just thrust into living and told to do your best. As a gay man, I’ve found that doing my best is not always what is best for me or all that it is cracked up to be. My best doesn’t always translate to “the best” according to other people, either. Sometimes, it doesn’t even translate to a positive notion for some people; some people may find your “best” to be mediocre or lackluster. How would you even know, though, if nobody ever tells you?
What do you say to an unconscious, dying man? What do you say to the man who has loved all of us unconditionally? How can I be strong and ready to make decisions, if the man who inspired my dreams is withering away?
I have to believe we can come to a place where there is no longer a need to “come out”, where you can just “be” from day one. I think what straight people don’t understand, even the most well meaning ones, is that essentially queer people have been robbed of a large chunk of their lives.
Before I get your Andrew Christian undies in a bundle, I have to say: I don’t believe in irreparable mistakes. They are tremendous lessons that allow us to find purpose in our lives. That being said, leave your Beyoncé egos at the door, for these are my truths to live a happier, healthier, and more vibrant gay life. Let us begin…
Moving in with a significant other is a beautiful, beautiful thing - but keep in mind, this should be a choice and not out of convenience. The difference between a choice and a convenience is simple; think long and hard about why you want to move in with your significant other. Conveniences that make you want to move in with your partner are: cheaper rent, makes sharing clothes easier (same sex couples typically), and easier to see each other with busy schedules. If any of these reasons are your defining factors, DO NOT DO IT!!!
It is perhaps sad, and extremely enlightening, how easy it is to emasculate most men. One little remark about how their appearance or interests may be straying towards the feminine could completely derail their sense of self and cause them to withdraw or lash out. That seems to be the default of most men, to retreat further into themselves and bury their emotions, or to externalize their pain by putting down or even physically hurting others, many times women. Men are not allowed to show vulnerability, so their pain is internalized, and they become ticking time bombs of pent up emotion.
Hey Eustace, it’s your housemate David! Glad to see you moved all your stuff in. I normally don’t go into the tenant rooms, well, my guest’s rooms. I want you to feel at home, you rent, but please, consider yourself a treasured guest. It’s just that you left the door open and the dogs smelled your take out. I got to them RIGHT BEFORE they were about to devour the nachos.
My pack was mean girled up by a table just off the dance floor. They were watching a twink, who clearly had too much booze, perform the wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man version of Dua Lipa- New Rules. After analyzing and demeaning this poor kid from hair-to-heels I had a revelation…we are a bunch of fucking bitches.
Sure, it’s 2018, and sure in gay marriage is legal, but let’s face it; there are still too many people who look at gay men as faggots, who are just disgusting. They gay community, still has many fights to face and is still fighting to survive in a straight man’s America (or even world). I make this point, because as a gay man, I want to ban together with other gay men, and find ownership in society. I have yet to feel completely welcomed by my community, because I am not seen the majority in the community as an equal, because I have this thing called Cerebral Palsy.
I am. Those two words “I am” are the most powerful words in the universe. They are the start of who you are, how you feel, and what experiences you create for yourself. In today’s world, the LGBT community has paved the way for future generations to come, but in some way or another, some of us have felt left out. The pressures that originate within the community have left us feeling self-conscious; hiding behind the “mask”, feeling as if we have to be promiscuous to “fit in” with others, and using drugs/alcohol to feel confident in ourselves, leading to addiction.
Can I get a moment of free time? I think that's been my problem lately. I don't have a free space in my life. I don't have a house situation that allows me a free moment to myself. I work with a bunch of people who can't give me a moment of free time. After I spend weeks dodging calls from my parents, and wondering if my boyfriend thinks I'm dead, I am basically left with about 8 minutes of free time a day.
In addition to the gay community, Hollywood reigns supreme in this town. Anything that isn’t essentially perfect is also viewed as less than, and those of us who don’t fit the traditional mold of what a man or woman should look like is either ignored or ridiculed for being different. For someone like me, with a glaring defect that he can do nothing about without surgical intervention, my already battered self-image can’t help but take more hits. However, while there is a great deal of hardship to overcome in regards to being born with this condition, there are still many gifts that comes with being born with this condition.
That’s what trauma can do to you; and you never took an issue with any of my issues. I remember the first time I had an anxiety attack around you. I had called you after a car almost ran me off the road, and after I told you what happened I didn’t want to burden you and tried to get off the phone, but you wouldn’t let me. You stayed on the line for another hour.
The journey to seek help wasn’t easy, because as a deaf person, many mental health professionals leave the bulk of costs to the patients. Things like interpreters are required in order to receive any kind of mental health treatment. I had moments where I didn’t want to seek the necessary help because of the communication barriers, but I mustered up the strength and overcame my fearful reluctance.
I wasn’t a great person to be around at that time. I often let my anger and frustration out on others, especially my girlfriend at the time. Obviously that wasn’t fair, and I just didn’t feel like myself. And when you stop feeling like yourself, I think something is wrong. When I realized I wasn’t feeling like myself, I decided to follow my heart, and go with my gut instinct to start a new chapter in Atlanta.
There is a level of trust that comes with hookup culture. You trust that the guy you are talking to is actually real. You trust that this person won’t share your pictures and interests with other people. You even trust them with your address when it finally comes time to meet up. For years, I have spent time on Grindr and Scruff chatting with men who appeal to me and I’ve never given much thought to how much trust I give them. The thought that I could be inviting a thief into my safe space is something I never expected to encounter. Unfortunately, I recently found myself at the center of just that.
My eternal love for this television program goes beyond the TV show itself, however. Will & Grace played an integral part in my coming out story and in my overall acceptance and love of myself as a gay man. So, when the reboot was announced and Will & Grace aired again, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the impact it had on my adolescent mind and how it, quite literally, gave me the courage to be the person I am today.
So you’re ready to come out as gay. Congrats. I’m proud of you. But I’m also terrified for you, scared that you aren’t ready for being out of the closet at Wheaton College, your school that will consistently rank in the Princeton Review’s Top 10 Most LGBT Unfriendly schools during your undergraduate years. This decision to come out, which you naively view as inconsequential, will blow up in your face over the next two years.
In the aftermath, the smell of an unscented lotion has always had the worst impact on me. It was never appealing to me beforehand with its metallic undertones, but it became especially nauseating afterwards. I hate the feel of lotion too. The physical product may have healing remedies inside it, but the gooeyness of the texture always makes my skin crawl. I hate the sound pushing down on the tube makes as it squirts out. I just hate everything about it. But what I hate the most is that it reminds me of what that monster did to me.
For LGBT people one of the most important factors in ensuring their healthy well being is whether they are surrounded by people who love and support them unconditionally. I can say, with complete assurance, that I have been blessed with an amazing amount of love and support from my friends, family, and community, and it all started with my mom. I am beyond appreciative and full of gratitude for being embraced by you when so many others like me are shunned and cast out by people who claim to love them. Thank you for being my biggest ally when I needed you most, and for still being that shining beacon of love and acceptance.
Watching as my friends fall more and more in love with each other, I realized all of those failures I have are meaningless. Yes, they have provided me with memories I will never forget, and taught me lessons to carry with me into future relationships, but they are only part of my past and have little influence over my future. My friend and I have been in similar predicaments, where we were hopeless romantics craving intimate, romantic love. Each rejection emboldened us with a sense of disparity towards love which made us give up.
A true diva is any person who stands out in the crowd, shining with the personality, confidence, and drive to be who they want to be without letting anyone stop them. By setting this example for all those who witness, a diva inspires strength, offsets loneliness, makes us believe in ourselves, and most importantly, brings us hope.
That's the great thing about identity. You can always reinvent yourself whenever. It's even more exciting when you come to terms with your identity. It's been refreshing to start to think about a new look for the new year. I'm keeping Connor around until then. Might as well kick off 2018 as Ace. New year. New identity. New look.
Healing from a broken relationship is like breaking a bone; you can't cut off the cast after a week because it hasn’t had enough time to repair properly. Most of all, I learned that I need to learn how to love myself. For so long, I looked to others for validation when the only person I needed to accept me is the man I saw looking back at me in the mirror.
Ever since getting sober, I had come to find out I was quite the alchemist. You see, alchemists are able to transmute base metals into gold, and that's exactly what I found myself doing. I was able to transform all that pain, all that suffering into something quite incredible. I found my golden light again. My life had new meaning, and I found myself having the whole world in my hands again. I wasn't going to screw this up.
My lung collapsed on the operating table. At 22 years old, I was fighting for my life and just moments away from death. When I woke up, I had tubes coming out of my stomach and tubes going into my veins. I looked down to see 17 staples holding me together and a doctor telling me how lucky I was. A power greater than myself had saved my life and showed me compassion through others that I thought would never accept and love me.
Like with many things in my life, I just learned to accept the consequences later. Like the amount of total sweat and regret I felt when I woke up from a Sunday Funday fog on Monday morning. All of this brings me to my point. It’s hard feeling inadequate as a semi broke gay in West Hollywood.
Integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. The state of being whole and undivided. It seems so simple and unassuming. Be honest, have strong morals. Be steadfast and unwavering. At times, my mind still cannot grasp the full meaning of these definitions. I mean, what does it mean to be whole and undivided? It's like I can hear the words and I recognize the meaning of them individually, but when assembled together, they become another language altogether. One I cannot fully understand.
It has been a long journey in my life to figure out who I am. From being the ugly duckling in my school, to literally getting beaten with sticks because I was hated. My peers pretend to gag as I walked passed them in the halls, they called me nasty names, tagged me I posts saying I was "uglier that the ugliest hobo alive", I wasn't a very liked kid. I didn't really have many friends, and if I did they didn't last long. So, I had learned the hard way to try and be with myself.
With the current stereotypes about the gay community, it can hard to unpack the notion of a friend with benefits. There is a general preconceived understanding of the gay community that it is extraordinary to find gay men who are friends and have not been romantically or sexually involved at some point. It is a stereotype, gay friends for solely companionship sake does not exist, though it could be deemed rare based on the rate of occurrence.
After years of suffering in silence, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in October 2015. This disease has forever changed the course of my life and made it impossible for me to continue my work as a commercial real estate broker, a job which requires constant traveling and time on my feet. I’m hoping the documenting of my experience motivates others to get help.
I was certain that one of the benefits of getting clean would be finding a loving relationship. Fortunately, that has not been the case. I say fortunately because the love I have gained for myself from months of failed dating experiences has been instrumental in my personal growth.
In the gay community though, it seems like it is difficult or impossible to be bisexual. I’ve come across people that think that I am gay and am just afraid to commit to being gay, and others that say believe bisexuality doesn’t exist. There are internet forums and chat groups within the gay community where the mention of anything straight is blatantly shut down as being ‘gross’ or something unnatural. In my experience, bisexuality is not met with open acceptance, but more with a muted hostility.
Like many addicts, I had not realized how after almost a decade of misuse, alcohol had become my primary means of coping with every situation. I drank when I was sad; I drank when I was anxious; I drank when I was stressed; I drank when I was excited. In sobriety, I had to learn how to not only deal with these emotions, but to experience them. I’d spent so many years blunting them with a sheet of alcohol.
Some days, I wake up and barter with my subconscious: If you don’t want to kill yourself, you’ll need to sacrifice today’s peace of mind. So I would. But there would be days when the urge to kill myself was delicious, even intoxicating, and I’d settle for hurting myself, banging my head against walls, cutting myself, anything, really, to quell that voice which so often whispers its dreadful nothings in my ear.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t find myself desirable, it’s just that I’m the guy who studied communications in college, which some people would view as the major you choose when are not sure what else will get you through those 4 years. This man is a doctor. This man is the type that Ali Wong, the comedian, would tell you to trap.
As an openly gay man, I never thought my best friend would be a heterosexual male. Thankfully, my best friend is just that and it has become one of the most fundamental aspects of my adult life.
Your body and mind both begin to repair themselves during the process of getting sober, but there are some blemishes on your brain that you can’t scrub out, no matter how much support and clarity you have. This rings true for an alcoholic like myself who is still an extrovert and craves the social interaction that is innately intertwined with drinking. Even now as I am preparing to add another mile-marker to my sober travels, I still find myself caught off-guard and insecure when I least expect it.
Like any addiction, my eating disorder made me behave strangely; I retreated into myself and felt always alone. When I ate too much in public, I made excuses to go home so I could remove the sustenance from my body. When I went to meals with friends, I lied and said I’d already eaten and watched enviously as they ate ‘normal’ food without thinking twice.
Though I am not afraid to admit that I am mentally ill, I understand why people are: Mental illness is still stigmatized. Nationally, we mostly speak about mental illness in the wake of mass shootings, or after suicides. Historically, when people suffered from mental illness, they were shipped off to devastating institutions. As a result, people might worry that they’d lose jobs, friendship or romantic relationships if they were honest about their mental health issues.
The mass shooting in Orlando at Pulse Nightclub happened the night before my graduation. Some of the most formative years in my life were book ended by one of the most formative experiences in US history. I can’t remember how many times I watched Lin Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award speech. “Nothing is promised,” he said. You see black in times like these.
Early sobriety in many ways, felt much like my time in India: I was navigating terrain that was so far beyond my comfort zone, where all of my preconceived notions were constantly being proven wrong. I was in a place where the only constant was what I wanted to most escape: Myself.
I keep my feelings to myself, placing them in an air tight container to keep everyone around me happy. They don't understand what it's like. People don't want to hear about how I really feel, that would ruin the euphoria of their life – a selfish bliss achieved by ignoring the plight of those around them. You see, it's only when someone dies that people are encouraged to reflect and wish that they would've done something more – asked, and meant that one simple question.
If you’re a heavy drinker, that decision can seem impossible. I always ran with a hard-partying crowd. For someone young, the thought of losing access to the social situation they’ve always known is terrifying. Whenever I would try to become sober – which happened at least ten times before it actually worked – the voice inside my head would incessantly shout: What if I’m less funny when I’m sober? What am I even going to talk to this person about if I’m not drunk? I can’t dance until I’ve taken a few shots! Sleeping with someone without alcohol?!
“Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….”
Dating is hard enough. There is no need to make it even more difficult than it already is. Respect other people. Communicate. Know what you want and state it. Decide whether you want to be in a relationship and don’t waste someone's time. Don’t mistake fear for intuition. And for god sakes, don’t ghost people. If all else fails, just remember this- be yourself and don’t be a dick. Because karma really is a bitch.
The hardest thing in a friendship is understanding that at some point, you will have to let them go. Whether this be a move, or a new relationship, or a shady mistake one of you had partaken in. But it will happen to all of us, one time or another. But I don’t know what is worse, the official friend breakup, or the final meeting that occurs weeks or even months later.
Being with someone with an anxiety disorder is like being with anyone else, it’s about learning your partner and figuring out how they see the world and how you can see the world together. Anxiety, like any other mental health issue, is different for everyone that experiences it.
For two years, I worked at a psychiatric hospital with most of our clients homeless and addicted. A former client explained to me that it’s impossible to be sober while on the streets. Drugs dull your situation as well as protect you (uppers keep you awake at night to guard your belongings and downers allow you to sleep during the day when it’s safer). It’s hard to keep doctor appointments and refill prescriptions when you don’t know where you are sleeping that night.
Chester Bennington was a powerhouse. He had an unforgettable voice, an infectious stage presence, and a whole lot of pain. He spent his career sharing that pain with us so that we didn’t have to be alone, and I’ve only cried today thinking about how he thought he was alone. He made me and so many other people ok, but he couldn’t be ok. And that is the real tragedy of suicide.
The friendship card, ladies and gentleman is a form of blackmail, usually provided by a best friend. Though the actual time the friendship card is passed is unknown when your BFF holds the power, consider it over.
I know there are a lot of people out there who feel alone and invisible some, maybe all, of the time, and there are so many words of wisdom out there from “anonymous” or dead people. It feels like my responsibility, as a survivor of a darkened heart, to share a fresh message of hope.There is a fine line between being alone and being lonely. That line is called clarity.
I’ve noticed an addiction. Not one to alcohol or drugs, but more of a social addiction; an addiction to going out. Week after week, almost day after day, my friends do the same things at the same bars and house parties with the same people and it makes me want to pose a question: If you do the same things you do during a special event that you do every other day, did you just waste that special event?
At that meeting, a friend of mine, who is no longer with us, shared about not being able to decipher the true from the false. He made the point that the only difference between people in the “loony bin” and us, is that we’re sitting in here talking to each other while they’re sitting in there talking to themselves...
All over the internet I’ve been seeing advice pieces for millennials. Idealistic perspectives that make building a career seem like finding a glass slipper. For most people, job hunting isn’t this much of a fairy tale, but more like a pebble in your shoe that you need to get rid of.
Since then, they have been blocked from all social media and any ability to contact me by phone. I have limited interactions at family gatherings to a “hello” and “goodbye” when I choose to return them. I took the power back. This was not about revenge or getting even. It was about protecting myself and realizing that sometimes those close to you do not deserve the right to be there. It was about ensuring I had people in my life who wanted to be there not because they felt obligated by blood, marriage, or some other possibly meaningless connection. Through these relationships I found the ability to gain enough respect for myself to stand up against those who did not share the same respect for me.
Finding my newly discovered sobriety to be my most cherished possession, I began what has now come to be a four year journey into my sexuality and my, at the time, crippling fear of being gay. After many conversations with psychologists, awkward interactions with family members, compassion from understanding friends, endless thinking and writing, and finally what has now come to be several forays with the same sex, I am ready to share what I have learned about gay love.
If life taught me anything, it's that the ride will continue, and life moves on whether you are ready or not. Yes, your age of innocence is over and you have to decide whether or not to sink or swim. And yes, it isn’t always clear what the right or wrong path is. But you keep moving; ride that rollercoaster with confidence and class.
That was it. Everyone left me and I had nowhere to turn, nowhere to run, no one left. After losing my job on the summer bay I had found myself at the far too familiar place of rock bottom. The people that loved me that had 'abandoned' me gave me a special gift by their absence. The gift of room. Room to grow.
The next day I found myself in a treatment center. When I told my daughter that I was “going away for depression for 30 days,” she wouldn’t even look at me. I knew then I was powerless over how others perceived me. My secret was out. Bring on all the shame and guilt. Everyone now knew that I was “a junky piece of shit,” which is how I saw myself. My friends and family would start to tell me how they missed “the old Candice,” but I had no idea who that was. I knew Brooklyn’s mom, Mike’s ex-girlfriend, the girl who climbs the corporate ladder. But I didn’t even know what my favorite color was.
Like life outside the rooms, at least in my hometown, idea of sexual exploration seemed to be only okay with one person, and only if you were dating with the intent of possibly getting married or at least perusing a longer-term relationship. A little more rope seemed to be granted to men, but for the most part sex was seen as a distraction to recovery, which it very well can be to many people and was to me in the first couple years, but in turn the idea that an individual could have the ideal of not wanting a romantic relationship, wanted multiple partners of varying genders, practices, and fluidity…well, it just wasn’t talked about
I have always been highly aware of my mortality. At the age of ten, I wrote a poem about death. I was ahead of my time, I still am. I questioned the existence of an after life. I worried about what life would be like without me here. I wondered what death would be like. I envied all the people who would survive without me and get to experience more time, more love, more life than me
My life went from Bering Sea badass to full blown junkie very rapidly. Hidden from me was that passion I had for life. Taken from me was my ability to live. I was at war with my addiction and it was winning.
I woke up on the morning of September 11th, 2009 feeling the deepest pit of shame in my gut I had ever felt in my 20 years of life. Truly embarrassed, I walked into my home group that night and picked up my final surrender chip. That was when the real work began
I couldn’t stomach my meal and I certainly could no longer stomach this man. A false sense of entitlement stemmed from his luxurious upbringing; money does not make you better than anyone. Money cannot buy you kindness, but if it could, I doubt someone of his nature would ever splurge on it
I discovered my core reason for my use; my low self-esteem and self-worth. I began to work on ways to improve those in a healthy way. I learned that happiness can exist in every moment you are in, if you let it. I worked on thinking more positively and finding the silver lining to every situation. I took responsibility for the fact that I made choices in my addiction that negatively affected myself and those around me whom I loved, and I began to make amends for those mistakes.
No good can come from our continued sharing of articles harshly demonizing one another. It only furthers the difference between us and recharges the debate. Like the earth and the clouds slowly becoming more polarized against one another, our opinions, if they are not well informed, will eventually have to strike to relieve the buildup. If we work to alleviate the pressure buildup that comes from constantly sharing misinformation, we can hopefully live in a world where it doesn’t feel like lightning could strike at any moment.
This has developed a sense of stability. Same surroundings, same people, same meetings. My sobriety is strong. It is stable. Yes, there have been a lot changes: boyfriends, lovers, houses, jobs, sponsors. But, I grew mentally, spiritually, emotionally. I love differently, I live differently.
Even with how bad I felt after that, and knowing I had a serious issue, I kept up my partying and using and drinking. I just didn’t care. I was aware I had a problem, but I felt I could live with it. I believed this was how I was supposed to be living. My only role model encouraged this behavior from me, but I didn’t feel good on the inside or out.
In a sense, I knew Max's death was coming. He'd go in and out. And his path of active addiction would only lead to one destination. His pain has been alleviated. His suffering has come to an end.
I came into sobriety as a young, baffled, broken gay boy. I never considered myself a joiner and, honestly, didn’t like people that much. But what staying sober and participating in my own recovery has done at some deep level is change who I was and what I was about. Today, it’s an honor to say I’m a part of something that is actually impacting and helping people that are just like me. This new life is something I couldn’t have imagined and I’m so glad I traded in my old life for the one I have today.
If this sounds like an absolute nightmare, you’re right. However, this is the reality of the very real process by which thousands upon thousands of dancers, singers, actors, and all other manner of performer attempt to gain employment. All the while juggling multiple side jobs, abject poverty, and the constant notion that they might not be good enough to make it. Couple that with the societal notion that their profession isn’t a “real job” you have a perfect storm.
I often wonder how differently things could have turned out for me, had one small circumstance been different. I confront this thought daily as I take an inventory of the many blessings I now enjoy, and remember the struggles I somehow managed to survive. What I’ve come to understand about my path as a recovering drug addict is simple: every experience has value.
I pressed the eject button with no regard for a parachute. I have some good ideas about why I did that, but I really don't know for sure. I haven't been to therapy yet, where I'm sure this story will be a big topic of conversation, so until I get a better answer, I'm using this one: when you run out of cocaine, you just don't feel like dancing.
I started drinking alcoholically when I was 15 years old. I discovered hard drugs when I was 16. I started toying with the idea of killing myself when I was about 13. I’ve felt out of place since for as long as I can remember.
The feeling of ecstasy bursts through me like an orgasm of epic proportions. All because of a song. It's not that I can't control myself. I just don't want to. That is what I feel when I have a manic episode. I'm more than happy. I feel unstoppable, on top of the world.
Millennials have been labeled the loneliest and most depressed generation that has ever lived. Members of this generation are increasingly living alone, moving to new cities, working more, and spending less time face to face with friends and more time on social media.
This has been a tough year. We lost many people. Celebrities, loved ones. Let them stay in your heart and memories. Let this past year be a reminder of how precious life is. Keep our loved ones close to us. Say, “I love you,” to them.
Here’s what the next four years are going to look like: people complaining, people protesting, people complaining about the protesters, just like it has been in the past few weeks. Our voices aren’t going to change anything. Just like they didn’t change the Electoral College vote. Want to change the country? Fight it within! Educate the masses! Don’t spread lies with those fake articles! Donald Trump is going to complain about SNL, the people, he may even complain about this article. But guess what? This bitch doesn’t care what Donald Trump says!
I’m just listing what we need. I’m asking you to take part in it. Do drag! Write that book! Act in that play! Sing those songs! Make us laugh, cry, sing, dance! This is your time to shine! And it doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman, trans, gay, straight, religion, color of your skin… America needs you to be as creative as possible to make this country livable in what could be a dismal four years!
I will hereby make a, what today seems like, radical claim. For the sake of reflection, I will suggest that those who are dispositioned towards so called “political inaction” and tranquility, while others suffer, are not to be loathed.
I'm not really sure why I'm writing you a letter. Maybe it's because I live in a society where what you did to me is inconvenient for other people to accept, so my silence is easier for everyone. I'm sick of it. I don't want to be silent anymore. My voice matters. I don't know if it matters to you or not, but it matters to me.
By Susan Heide
Growing up in a household with alcoholism, violence, abuse and mental illness cemented my thinking for many years. I thought if I could be perfect and fix or control the problem, the chaos in my home would stop. I continued this pattern throughout my life with the other alcoholics in my life in addition to my mother, including my son and my boyfriend. It was the creation of my own version of insanity. Repeating the same behavior over and over and expecting a different result. It wasn’t until I entered the rooms of Al-anon that I learned differently.